June is here and that means it's summertime. It's time to enjoy longer days, warm nights, and hopefully the gift of fewer obligations that will allow for a slower pace to relax, read a book, or get together with friends.
Or maybe... just maybe... do nothing.
Yes. I said "do nothing". Does that sound wonderful? Or a little scary?
If you feel like you're always trying to keep it together, follow a strict routine, or you're busy taking care of everyone except yourself, it's time to give yourself permission to do nothing. At first, that may sound absolutely delightful! Try it and you may admit it feels a little scary. When you stop and intentionally give yourself time off from your "to-do" list and obligations, you're all of a sudden in a quiet space alone with yourself and your thoughts. You may welcome this or you may be scared of this.
I'll be honest. After hearing about the suicides of designer Kate Spade and then CNN's chef and author Anthony Bourdain this week, I wondered how a reflection encouraging people to be alone with their thoughts would be perceived. I started trying to think of new ideas to write about for this month's reflection. I concluded that this is the perfect subject to confront. We live in a loud and complicated world full of manufactured images that tell us a busy life is an important life which will make us happy. This can leave us feeling the pressure to put a lot of time, energy, and money into being busy and keeping up with others. Feeling sad, confused, lonely, or angry may feel wrong or uncomfortable to admit to ourselves or others, but they're important feelings to allow time to surface and explore.
In light of this week's suicides, I want to be sensitive as I invite you to be alone with your thoughts. I encourage you to seek professional help if you sense that time with your thoughts is taking you to a dark and dangerous place. For those who are needing to unwind or sort through things, think about what giving yourself time to "do nothing" looks like for you. It may mean giving yourself time to sleep, cry, hang out on the couch, or go for a walk. It may mean allowing yourself time to feel confused, lonely, sad, or joyful and grateful for the life you have and the friends and family who surround you.
If you lead a very busy life, you may need to schedule time in your calendar to "do nothing". Here are a few suggestions to schedule time for yourself this summer.
- Consider taking Fridays off for the summer to give yourself time to "just be".
- Set boundaries with family or friends so you can carve out a few hours for yourself.
- Set a timer every day for ten minutes to sit in silence.
- Take a time out from technology, which can cause anxiety.
- Recognize how much TV you're watching and assess the right balance for your mental and spiritual health.
When you allow yourself quiet time, you're leaving open a space for God's grace to emerge. Sometimes that means allowing feelings to surface so your heart and soul feel cleansed and ready to move on. Sometimes that means moving through an issue slowly so you can better discern where God is leading you. Sometimes it means stopping to recognize all of the good in your life and allowing for a moment of gratitude.
In light of this week, keep in mind that God's grace can also come in the form of professional help. God put a lot of amazing people on this earth who are skilled to walk us through pain and sadness. Cooperating with God's grace can be about seeking out a family therapist, psychologist, spiritual director, or compassionate friend. Or it can be about offering to get help for a friend or family member.
Most importantly, when you make time to do nothing, make time to do nothing with God. Let yourself rest in the arms of a loving God.
By the way, if you're going through a life transition, you may be interested in our online retreat that starts Monday, June 11th. You can jump in on the retreat even if you're a few days late. Register here.
I would love to hear your comments. Do you ever schedule time to allow yourself to "do nothing"?