Idle Time Is the Angels’ Playground

I just read the words “Idle time is the devil’s workshop” for about the thousandth time, but it just now struck me how cynical, fear-based, and diametrically opposed to my own worldview this proverb is. Maybe it’s because I recently took almost a week off — five days filled (or not filled) with lots of idle time…and no sign of the devil!

Those days off were wonderful. My wife and I relaxed, took afternoon naps, went to the beach, explored a nearby town we’d never visited, played tennis (for the first time in about 16 years!), went on a real date, ate yummy food, played board games, saw the new documentary about Mr. Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which is so good that it merits at least an entire blog post of its own — for now, I’ll just say: go see it!), spent an afternoon doing volunteer work, discussed long-range dreams, and enjoyed in-the-moment experiences.

I also spent some time on my own, during which I finished reading a novel and started another (both by Paul Auster, whose novels I’ve been consuming voraciously of late), finished reading a nonfiction book (The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan — which feels like a life-changer for me) and started another (Daniel Goleman’s Focus — so far, so good), and watched the All-Star game (which turned out to be one for the ages — complete with classic match-ups, a ninth-inning game-tying home-run, and extra-inning heroics). I also spent a lot of time lying in the hammock, watching the clouds, daydreaming, and doing a whole lot of nothing!

In other words, I was largely idle. And it was absolutely idyllic.

I emerged from my “staycation” feeling rested and renewed. I got inspiration for creative projects. I also enjoyed the idle time while I was in the midst of it. And during all that idle time, I somehow managed to stay out of trouble. I never had to fight the urge to do anything mean or hurtful. I never felt the devil working within me. If anything, I experienced the exact opposite: angels of joy inspiring my mind with creativity and filling my heart with love and appreciation.

I know I’m not alone in this type of experience. In small chunks of downtime or during extended vacations, millions of people all around the world enjoy the soul-refreshing experience of idle time each and every day. And our lives and our world are enriched because of it.

These experiences run exactly counter to the “devil’s workshop” proverb, which assumes that people are inherently bad and that, left to our own devices, we’d get up to all sorts of devilish mischief. From this perspective, if our hands aren’t restrained (literally by manacles or figuratively by constant work and busyness) we’ll end up hurting others.

How cynical! How ludicrous! And how patently untrue!

The way I see it, idle time merely allows your true self to flow to the forefront of your life. And because I believe that most people are inherently good, I believe that idle time provides a space for that goodness to emerge. To use the Abraham-Hicks analogy, our true self is like a cork in water: unless you’re doing something to actively keep it down (such as running yourself ragged through overwork or lowering your vibration by complaining), the cork will rise to the top.

This doesn’t mean that we should spend the rest of our lives in a hammock — never working, never taking action, never taking out the garbage. A full, joyful life includes all sorts of inspired action — such as creative endeavors, traveling, working, learning, and giving back to others. (There are also many things that, like it or not, ya just gotta do — such as taking out the garbage.)

But a happy, healthy, balanced life also includes plenty of idle time — time to rest your body, recharge your soul, let your “cork” float up, take stock of your life, and simply enjoy the present moment. Rest assured, idle time is nothing to fear. As long as you are a good person (and you ARE!), leisure time will allow your true self to shine brighter than ever. It will inspire you to live an even richer life. It will make your loved ones happier, and it will make the world a better place.

So I hope that sometime soon (and on an ongoing, regular basis) you allow yourself some time to step away from it all. Time in which your hands aren’t busy. Time in which you invite your angels into your heart and mind — and let them play.

5 Life Lessons from Bird by Bird

As part of the Your Soulful Book writing program, I recently re-read Anne Lamott’s modern classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

The first time I read this book — over a decade ago — I was primarily focused on learning to write better. This time around, however, I was struck by the subtitle’s truth: so many of these “instructions” really do apply equally to life beyond the page.

Of the book’s many profound life lessons, here are five of my favorites:

“It is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. Reality is unforgivingly complex.”

I’m not sure […] Continue Reading…

No Pain, No Pain

Sometimes we learn from people who model what we want. Other times, we learn from those who model what we don’t want!

In my previous post, I discussed someone who falls into the latter category: a guest on the TV show This Time Next Year who justified her inability to find love by claiming that “Men don’t want to commit” (Once again, using myself as counter-exhibit A, I’ll borrow Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers’ one-word catchphrase: Really!?!) This time, I’m using another counter-example from the same show (which really is a great, inspiring show 99% of the time — I promise!) to address one of the most pernicious attitudes out […] Continue Reading…

1 DO + 1 DON’T of Romantic Relationships

If you’re looking for love or would like to improve the romantic relationship you’re already in, Valentine’s Day can be the best time of year…or the worst! It seems like everyone is talking (and frequently giving advice) about love and romance. And while much of this is wonderful — a celebration of love — a lot of it is negative, self-defeating, and untrue (or at least not necessarily true).

Everyone’s experience of love (and everything else) is different, so I’d never want to dismiss or downplay what someone else has been through. But over the last 16 years of being in […] Continue Reading…

A Timeless Message of Hope

I wasn’t planning on writing a timely post for Martin Luther King day this year, but I saw something yesterday that inspired me to do so: I watched David Letterman’s recent interview with Barack Obama, and when the far-ranging conversation turned to civil rights, Letterman recalled walking with John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, 50 years after the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

As you may already know, during the first march (a legal, nonviolent protest against discriminatory voting regulations), state troopers attacked the unarmed marchers with nightsticks and tear gas, and even beat Amelia Boynton (one of […] Continue Reading…

David Cassidy’s Last Words

Last month, former teen idol David Cassidy died at the age of 67.

The world has lost some pretty big rock stars recently — including Tom Petty, Walter Becker of Steely Dan, Malcolm Young of AC/DC, and Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens (not as well known as the others, but one of my all-time favorites) — but none of their deaths haunt me as much as Cassidy’s.

This might seem odd since I wasn’t even a fan of his. I never watched The Partridge Family, and I don’t really know his music. (I only vaguely remember hearing “I Think I Love You” as a kid, but that’s […] Continue Reading…

Inspiration from a Young Mother

The stories in our new book, Goodness Abounds, follow two basic guidelines:

They have to be true stories about goodness.
The “good-doer” has to be someone other than the author.

Because of guideline #2, these stories aren’t about authors “tooting their own horn” (which is fine in many contexts — but that simply isn’t the focus of this book). Sometimes, though, even while they were shining a spotlight on other people’s goodness, I couldn’t help but admire the authors themselves. This was definitely the case with Jerri Eddington’s story, “The Baby and the Bus Driver.”

In this piece, Jerri pays tribute to a bus driver who […] Continue Reading…

The Empowering Alternative to Nature vs. Nurture

Where do you stand on the “Nature vs. Nurture” debate?

What do you think makes us who we are: Is it the genes we inherit from our biological parents? Is it our environment and the way we’re raised? Or is it some combination of these factors — and, if so, which factor has the  biggest influence?

You could make a convincing argument for either position: On the Nature side, you’ve probably heard stories of twins raised separately who went on to live remarkably similar lives. On the Nurture side, you can clearly see the effect of environment and upbringing by observing how frequently people […] Continue Reading…

4 Kinds of Dreams

There are four kinds of dreams. You’re probably already familiar with the first three:

Literal Dreams – the kind you have when you’re sleeping. (A fascinating topic, but not the focus of this post.)
Emerging Realities – the goals and visions that you’re actively working toward manifesting. (These are the “dreams that you dare to dream” that really do come true – works-in-progress where there’s actual progress!)
Pipe Dreams – far-fetched fantasies, unrealistic flights of fancy, or downright impossible dreams. (This is the kind of dream that, I believe, gives dreamers a bad name!)

But there’s a fourth kind of dream that’s rarely discussed…but often experienced: velleities.

Merriam-Webster defines […] Continue Reading…

Ego and Soul: Opponents or Partners?

I love to read for so many reasons: for inspiration, for education, and just for the fun of it! I read because it expands my world and introduces me to new people and new perspectives. I read, as C. S. Lewis said, “to know we are not alone.” And I read because, every now and then, an author takes a thought that I’d had, but hadn’t been able to put into words, and articulates it far more eloquently than I could’ve done. I recently had this experience (again and again and again) while reading Jodi Chapman’s new book, Soul Bursts.

I love so […] Continue Reading…