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.