7 Strategies for Renewing by ‘Running in Idle’
Referring to the art of doing nothing while sharing food, drink, conversation and laughter. Chilling or hanging out.
Adjective: Avoiding work or being lazy.
Verb: spend time doing nothing.
Running in idle
Recharging, turning inwards, contemplating, daydreaming
When I was first introduced to St. Thomas in the Caribbean, I was also presented with an activity or, non-activity, called “Liming.” I had no idea what it meant. “Perhaps,” I thought, “it is a culinary activity of some sort.” So, when I was asked if I wanted to go “Lime” for a while, I just said “yes.” Four hours later my friend asked me if I had a good time. “Of course,” I responded. By the way, I continued, “What does ‘Limin’ mean?” He laughed at my naivety.
“Liming” is an important part of island culture. It simply means to “chill” or “hangout” and usually involves food and drink, especially rum. It is a laid-back vibe and a carefree way of thinking.
“Limin” has served me well over the years. It may well be the essence of my creative recharging. For you non-islanders, let’s look at ‘limin’ as being idle or, as I like to think of it, “running on idle.”
Being Idle – Not Always Viewed as a Good Thing
Being idle has gotten a very bad rap over the years as expressed in the saying, “An idle mind is the Devil’s Workshop.” For those carrying what I can “business or motivational guilt” being idle is taken as being lazy, unproductive or being a no-good lay-about.
One of the major problems of our culture is the erroneous belief that – “If you bust your butt working, you will be rewarded.” But, at what cost?
Let me offer a different perspective. Being idle is consciously taking a retreat from distractions and providing our being with much-needed rejuvenation and mental nourishment.
I like the metaphor of a car running in neutral. It still takes a little gas to charge the battery. There is no overabundance of energy used going forward or backwards. No, you wouldn’t want to be in neutral and idle all the time. However, I can almost guarantee you don’t remain idle enough for your physical and mental health.
Let’s take a trip back in time to two of my ‘liming’ heroes:
The original “Limer” was Socrates. He didn’t write anything down; Plato, his student, did it for him. He also didn’t charge for his teaching. He sat around contemplating and asking questions. He loved drinking wine with his buddies. And, low and behold, he invented “philosophy” called the ‘queen of sciences because it has all other disciplines as its subject matter’.
Socrates turned inquiry inward by saying “Know Thyself.” He touted, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” He taught a form of questioning, still practiced today, that is a back-and-forth exchange of views moving, hopefully, from ignorance to knowledge. I suspect Socrates did not suffer a 40–60-hour workweek.
Another philosophical idler was Lao Tzu, the great Chinese sage of ancient times. He invented a philosophy called Taoism. Tao means “the way”, and its main idea was “do nothing”, an idea expressed in the two words “we wei.” Instead of forcing things in the wrong direction, you go with the flow.
The Industrial Revolution squashed any possibility of ‘running in idle’. Factories took over and the workday expanded to nearly 14 hours a day. There was little time to turn inwards and contemplate. Idling got lost and so with it, turning inward and guiltless contemplation.
Idling For a Better Life
Idling in neutral can greatly enhance your life. When you are relaxed, you get good ideas. Poets and philosophers need a lot of thinking time. Wordsworth and Coleridge used to go on epic long walks to get their minds moving. I have found that idling in neutral can connect you to your own inner poet or artist. Like Wordsworth and Coleridge, take a leather-bound notebook or sketchpad for drawing, doodles, thoughts, ideas and feelings.
Everything begins with an idea. The suggestions below will help you to run in idle.
Here are 7 Strategies for Renewing
- Stay in bed a little longer and simply gaze at the ceiling or out a window.
- Daydream: I’m pretty much of an expert at this. My grade and high school report cards reflect the dozens of reprimands I received from staring out the classroom window and imagining adventures, some of which came to be.
- Commit to five or 10 minutes to sit quietly and daydream. The only requirement is that you specifically choose something ‘positive’ to daydream about. Daydreaming can be healthy and healing.
- Go for a walk without your iPhone. Susan and I love to walk and just take in nature. We always come back feeling good about ourselves. Here’s one of my brain hacks to problem solving. It may be a mental block I hit while drafting an article or writing a book or, perhaps I’m putting together a new lecture or tweaking an old. I clearly write the challenge or problem on a piece of paper and immediately go for a walk.
- Exercise, lift weights or stretch. I really don’t like to go to the gym, but I do for a number of reasons. Of course, I get the benefit of exercise, but I also have come up with some good ideas while my conscious mind is engaged in lifting weights.
- Take a nap. An afternoon nap is restorative and really, a great pleasure.
- Pubs, cafes and bars are great places to ‘run in idle’. That is, of course, if you’re not caught up in your iPhone. ‘Hanging out’ in one of these temples of idleness can be a great pleasure.
- Meditate. Although I do meditate, I find this my least favorite. Honestly, it’s an effort listening to my breathing, but it does work to help recharge.
I wrote this paragraph in my journal and I apologize in advance for not writing the author’s name.
Self-awareness and reflection, recalling personal memories, imagining the future, feeling emotions about the psychological impact of social situations on other people, and constructing moral judgments. This idle state seems to be, in short, responsible for making us better, happier, more creative human beings.