“If we are to have peace in the world, we need to have peace in ourselves.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

For those of you familiar with my work by now you should know how much love and reverence I hold for monasticism. I’ve spoken and written many times of this before, sharing various monastic practices and spiritual teachings by Christian monks and Buddhist monks – and all centers around the purity of love, compassion and being in service to others. Today I’ll share with you a beautiful practice by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk whose work I’ve always loved – it is called the Lazy Day, which is a essentially about the Art of Being.

Lazy Day is a deep practice initiated by him at Plum Village, a part of the tradition at his monastery. Once a week all need to take a day of rest, restrained from doing anything. There are no scheduled activities during Lazy Day, and it is a day meant to be an opportunity for the day to unfold in a natural way while still maintaining mindfulness. It is a day to practice being rather than doing. It is a day of nourishment with silence, nature, reading, music, writing, exercise, resting, noticing and witnessing – and presence.

Whatever your Lazy Day is is what it is – let it be that for you in its natural unfolding and just stay present with yourself. It is essentially a day offering you peace, and the time and the space you may need to do what you may truly want to do; perhaps you’d want to write a letter to a dear one or work on your craft or day dream a little more or just practice the art of doing nothing.

And what is the point of doing nothing?

Well, first me let take you back to the beginning, and the phrase “lazy day”. You see, the word lazy is very purposefully used here because it holds a negative connotation in our modern world; and this is precisely why it is used – to break down the barriers of our judgments in order to enter the soul of matter and into the wisdom of the Zen Buddhist teachings.

When we hold judgments and biases towards “words”, we immediately build walls around them upon hearing them, and this stops us from understanding the essence of them, and potentially enriching ourselves with new insight, wisdom and learning. When we stop and turn away from something due to its surface, we cannot see the essence of it; and there is so much we may miss because of this.

So why do we fear laziness? What does it mean to be lazy? This isn’t about sloth, this is about the forgotten art of resting and essentially, it is also about freeing the word laziness from its judgments – because a word is a word is a word, but spiritual development and growth are about shedding off of judgments and breaking down of walls, so that we can enter the soul of matter, and create doorways where once were walls and bricks.

Drawing by my brother who is a talented architect and an amazing guitar player 

The Zen Buddhist practice of the Lazy Day is similar to other spiritual traditions in which are emphasized the days or times of resting, such as in Christianity on Sunday, or the seventh day of creation, even God rested. The art of resting is essentially the art of being – which is about understanding the alivess, the gift of aliveness, the joy and peace we may have within, and understanding the essence of things, the meaning of things, touching the fullness of life and love through the present moment.

So what is the point of the doing nothing? The point of doing nothing is understanding the essence of everything. Doing nothing is actually extremely difficult. I always say that if you actually want to have a truly spiritual experience, instead of doing things like magic teas, herbs or ceremonies, go spend a night in a monastery; you’ll see yourself and feel yourself in a way you haven’t before, when you are left in that room in a full silence and all you have is your mind and your inner world without any distractions.

As human beings we give ourselves value and self worth depending on what we do and achieve; and we love our distractions and illusions and external stimulants. So to actually sit with our own selves is extremely uncomfortable, because all we then have is ourselves – our mind, our thoughts, our feelings and emotions, our intellect, abilities and creativity.

This is why you would see how creative people spend much time in solitude and as if “doing nothing” because within them are rich worlds of worlds of world of creativity and imagination that is just being nurtured, nourished and ready to be made into shape and form. Sleeping too is a creative aphrodisiac; and we all know that all begins with a dream, which is why the best of innovators, creators, change makers and genius scientists loved day dreaming ever since they were small children.

People often ask “so what did you do today?”, as if you need to climb Everest each day or earn millions to earn your place in society. It doesn’t matter what you achieve, it only matters what kind of person you are when no one is watching, and what kind of world lives within you. People often like to keep themselves busy, busy, busy with titles, status and achievements to prove themselves. And the doing never stops, it’s never enough, it needs more and more, again and again, higher and higher. But how about the next time someone asked you “so what did you today?” you just said a gloriously calm “nothing”. Try it. Say nothing, and see how liberating it feels as your voice begins to let go of your own judgments towards yourself.  

Of course, we know quite well, it wasn’t actually nothing. “I walked by the sea shore in the morning and listened to the waves and felt inspired and romantic, I watched a movie and laughed, I day dreamed and imagined beautiful things – actually day dreaming is my favourite hobby! I watered the roses in my garden, and I then took a nice long shower, took care of my body with applying moisturizer and nourished my body with drinking water and eating well, and exercised a little, and yeah – oh right – I also have time to talk to you now!”

Sitting still and focusing on self can feel difficult. To refrain ourselves from doing something in order to feel important or worthy is a hard task. But we need to understand being rather than doing, we need to understand that action is in non-action; because true power is in the ability to do nothing. Is a flower lazy? Is the sun? Is love?

We think that when we are not doing anything we are wasting time but that’s not true. We are building our inner value; we are getting in touch with our emotions and we are understanding our inner world, our inner wild lands, our thoughts – we are creating peace and space for our selves within us.

You may often hear spiritual teachers say “your job is to just be”, to be what? To be alive, to be peace, to be joy, to be loving. This is what the worlds needs most – and this is what we are essentially training and nurturing the space for with the lazy days – we are nurturing the space for the present moment.

In our modern world we often function out of a production based mentality. We focus on endpoints and outcomes, which leads us to approach the world, and ourselves and one another, from a quantitative lens. We measure our life, and ourselves and one another, by tasks accomplished and external output. It is about the do, do, do, act, act, act, achieve, achieve, achieve. And we base our sense of self worth and self value on that also – on the quantitative things. So when we are not doing anything quantitative, we may feel not valuable and not useful.

In our society everyone is over scheduled, including children. Children are over-scheduled, everything and everyone is over scheduled. This causes so much pressure, stress and worry and we often carry burdens of responsibilities on our shoulders; we soldier through life thinking that we need to take care of all because if we don’t the world may fall apart.

Lazy day is a day when you can do what you like to do, but that is not a “lazy” day. Lazy day is a day when you refrain from doing anything you are used to doing because you had to do it rather than because you want to do it; so it is about giving yourself the freedom to do what you excites you just for the sake of it. It is about breaking habits and patterns, and turning the lens inward. It is about changing your own narrative that you need to do something to feel purposeful or worthy or loved. It is about feeling alive and realizing the gift of aliveness. It is about resisting everything inside of you telling you you are worthy only if you achieve some outcome. And – it is about understanding that you need to begin thinking in terms of being rather than doing.

What we miss in our world is the present moment. Because when we miss the present moment we miss life and the fullness it offers us. Practicing growing in presence essentially helps us to see that fullness depends much less on what gets done in life, and much more on whether or not we experience life as it happens and whether we notice it. We can only love what we appreciate; and to appreciate something and someone, we need to truly see them, hear them, witness them.

To build a deeper connection to spirit, life, nature and the divine, we don’t have to go look for the faeries and call in things – all we have to do is just spend some intentional silence in our room. Truly sit still, and notice – notice how everything around you is part of a greater consciousness and unites it all together; how all is imbued with spirit. This is shamanism. This is spirituality – this shift and expansion of perception. And this all can happen within a room with four walls, if we only know how to see.  

It is about noticing and witnessing. It is about noticing, truly noticing, how all is infused with life and love, and spirit moves through all, and all in interconnected. And then you understand how a grain of sand is the desert and the world; and how a wave is the ocean is the starry sky and the Milky Way; and how in each pearl is itself and the reflection of the other pearl and of all others – and it is the necklace of life itself.

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Cover photography by me of me and the wild flowers in our gardens. 

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