My current philosophy of life can be summed up in the two words above. This philosophy has been largely shaped by two books by Tom Hodgkinson – How to be Free and How to be Idle. I highly recommend them – particularly the first as it helped me change my life from stress driven land living to chilled out living afloat.
Before I moved onto my boat I was your typically driven career woman. I worked long hours and even when I was off duty I would fill my days with activities. In fact any period of inactivity would make me quite anxious. I took as my mantra the old Victorian work ethic; the more you do, the holier you are. The devil finds work for idle hands etc etc. What is amazing is that most of society, including the Church still live by this lie. It helps keep our capitalist world turning, the workforce willing and our congregations subdued and exhausted if we are convinced that the harder we work the more valuable and worthwhile we are.
But what would life be like if we all did less? If we spent significant amounts of time smelling the roses or sharing a pint with our neighbours or sitting still, being aware of the present moment and what a gift breathing is!
Less activity would mean less pollution, less interfering in other peoples lives, less war, less stress, less heart disease, less road rage, less crime, less mental illness. I could go on…and on and on! In my life afloat I have found that my shoulders have dropped from being somewhere around my ears as my whole body has slowly relaxed. I no longer use a diary as I make very few set appointments. The whole pace of life slows when you can only travel at 3mph.
Learning to be lazy has taken discipline though. I still find when I am sitting in the sun, watching the world float by, that all the ‘worthwhile’ jobs I could be doing march through my brain and endeavour to lever me out of my lounger. I still jump in to help boaters at locks even though they haven’t asked for assistance. I realise that I am boosting my own ego by offering help – showing I know how to do it well – rather than being motivated by any sort of altruism. I still look for ways I can ‘get involved’ to make me feel significant or useful.
However I am getting better (or worse if you actually believe in the work ethic!) I am better now at recognising my internal slave driver and telling her to go to hell where she belongs. When I catch myself about to leap up and do something, I am practising just pausing and becoming aware of what is driving me. I am loving taking leisurely walks and actually noticing and rejoicing in the bird song, the colour of the leaves, the other people walking past. When cruising, I am slowly letting go of the need to ‘get on’. If someone is working the lock slowly then I am getting better at waiting without my blood pressure rising. I’m even practicing occasionally saying ‘No, after you’!
My health has improved, my self esteem has improved as I am no longer relying on achievement or applause to boost it and I am slowly finding my own natural rhythm of life. I highly recommend idleness to all my readers – I would start a movement except that I am becoming too lazy for all that activity!