"... but if we never let ourselves do nothing at times, our inner resources will drain away,
and we shall move through our days with a pervading sense of unease.
We shall not, in short, be happy."
I marvel when the Universe puts just the right book in your hands at just the right time. I've savored this book and truly hate to return it to the library today. I will likely have to purchase my own copy because I know I will read it again and again.
It is a book of non-guilty pleasures and it's completely countercultural, though profoundly spiritual. Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living by Roger Housden has validated what I always knew to be true—but just couldn't seem to get my life choices wrapped around. It's ok to fall in love with the world and all that's in it AND lighten up on yourself. It's perfectly wonderful to commit these "sins" and, in fact, keep on doing so because they will ultimately deliver you to your truest self. Yes, really.
Here are the 7 Sins:
1. The Pleasure of All Five Senses
2. The Pleasure of Being Foolish
3. The Pleasure of Not Knowing
4. The Pleasure of Not Being Perfect
5. The Pleasure of Doing Nothing Useful
6. The Pleasure of Being Ordinary
7. The Pleasure of Coming Home
Which sin speaks to you? Which one does your heart and soul urge you to commit right now?
I'll admit that the very first one that grabbed me was #5. "The Pleasure of Doing Nothing Useful." What we might call Idling. Time wasting. "Moodling," as author Jennifer Louden calls it. I'm a Worker Bee from way back. Raised with a never-say-die work ethic. (Both sets of grandparents come from farming, need I say more?) I took my first job when I was 15-years-old and have been working hard at something ever since.
This Pleasure is a growing edge for me. For many years, I've been all about making my life matter, using my talents, making a difference in the world, doing what I am "called" to do. As sacred as this sounds, it's wearying to think that you MUST always be pointing yourself in a certain direction all the time. Being useful. Being creative. Being productive. Sigh ...
The teacher voice in me is relentless sometimes. The conditioning to turn information into something useful for the benefit of others runs deep. I go to the beach. I struggle with just sitting there. Surely I should take pictures to turn into blog posts or to put on Facebook! Surely, I should have brought my journal to write down brilliant insights that I can turn into the next book!
Pleasure #5 invites me to let all that chatter go. To give myself permission to receive, to love leisure, to enjoy mindless walks and traipsing around my town for no other purpose than to do it, to lounge on my deck and watch the sunlight move through the trees or listen to the waves at the shore. Does that sound like someone being lazy to you? It does to me except ...
... except that Roger Housden gets this. And invites us to stop all that chattering nonsense and look at this Pleasure with new eyes and an open heart. Let the old storyline go. Grab onto the joy that's latent within the Pleasure and give yourself over to it because it will transform you. Invite you deeper. Re-introduce you to your true self. That's what it's doing for me, anyway.
Roger's right. When I do nothing, I open up to the Universe in unexpected ways. Gifts are given. Aromas pour in to an empty vessel (me) and they ferment there like good wine. A clear agenda and mapless walking energize and rejuvenate me. At this stage of my life I am unlearning much of what I've been taught and realigning with ancient wisdom, like this thought of Lin Yutang (from Housden's book): "If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."
And this is how Pleasure #5 works: (Housden again) "If we are not useful, after all, what else can we be but useless? Even taking such a simple break in routine as spending a morning with your feet up, gazing out of the window, can begin to dispel that misunderstanding. A fully lived and passionate life is not only, or not even mostly, about being useful or useless, it is about being. Being what? That we shall discover only when we lay down our arms and rest awhile from being everything we think we are." (my emphasis)
There you go. Well said.
Do you by chance hear freedom calling through any of the Pleasures? I'm eager and ready to commit more sins and partake of non-guilty pleasures. Care to join me?
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.