The Importance of Being Idle

‘We don’t have to search anywhere. We don’t need a purpose or a goal… In aimlessness, we see that we do not lack anything, that we already are what we want to become, and our striving comes to a halt. We are at peace in the present moment, just seeing the sunlight streaming through our window or hearing the sound of the rain. We don’t have to run after anything. We can enjoy every moment.

‘If we think we have twenty-four hours to achieve a certain purpose, today will become a means to an end. The moment of chopping wood and carrying water is the moment of happiness. We do not need to wait for these chores to be done to be happy. To have happiness in this moment is the spirit of aimlessness. Otherwise, we will run in circles for the rest of our life. We have everything we need to make the present moment the happiest in our life, even if we have a cold or a headache. We don’t have to wait until we get over our cold to be happy. Having a cold is part of life.

‘I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. We have a responsibility to bring peace and joy into our own lives, even though not everything in our body, mind, or environment is exactly as we would like. Without happiness we cannot be a refuge for others.

‘The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping… Ask yourself, What am I waiting for to make me happy? Why am I not happy right now?

‘We don’t need to become anything else. We don’t need to perform some particular act. We only need to be happy in the present moment, and we can be of service to those we love and to our whole society. Aimlessness is stopping and realising the happiness that is already available. If someone asks us how long he has to practice in order to be happy, we can tell him that he can be happy right now!

‘The practice of aimlessness is the practice of freedom.’

-Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching’, pp.153-155.

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