Buddhist Antidotes to Laziness, so You Can Surf More and Work Less

You could travel more. While we’re at it, you also have time to meditate.

The Tibetan Buddhist tradition organizes laziness into three types. The first is procrastination, the second is the laziness that comes with being too busy, and the third is the laziness of low-self esteem, or lack of faith.

Each one of us has within us, right here and now, all that we need to live the life we dream of. If you’re reading this blog, that dream life likely includes the freedom to travel and surf the world, and the spaciousness to meditate daily.

So why aren’t you? You’ve gotten lazy.

sunset over the desert mountains
Sunset over Pescadero, Baja Sur, Mexico

The Laziness of Procrastination

We’re creatures of habit. We fall into routines and habits even when they aren’t conducive to our best health, wellness, and happiness. We waste time and money moment to moment putting off what we could do now until tomorrow.

“I’ll meditate in the afternoon” turns into “I’ll meditate before I go to bed” which turns into “I’ll meditate tomorrow” which turns into “I’ll meditate at least once this week.”

We say things like, “we should go on a trip together someday” and “I’ll use all my vacation hours this year” and yet we fail to turn those statements into action.

We put off the travel and the surf trips under the assumption that there’s always more time, another summer, another day. We live our lives as though reaching retirement age in good health is a given, as if we’re guaranteed a far-off day of death.

The time to surf is now. The time to meditate is now. The time to establish new habits and new routines that invite us to take advantage of our health and ability is right now.

The Laziness of Busy-Ness

What’s more important than living your dream life, realizing your full potential and finding freedom and happiness? Our priorities are backwards, and they’ve been that way for so long, many of us don’t even realize it.

We fill our days with hours at a dead-end job (and as we’ve heard Lama Marut say, “all jobs are dead end jobs”).  We spend our money accumulating meaningless and impermanent things. And we waste both time and money on meaningless experiences (I’m looking at you, ‘networking happy hour’).

By reordering our priorities and becoming more mindful, we move from a mindset of lack to one of abundance, and we find that we have more money and time than we currently believe.

The Laziness of Low Self-Esteem

Buddhist tradition says the third type of laziness is low self-esteem, or lack of faith. How are those two things related?

At some level, we’ve let the yoga retreat to paradise pass by because we’re not sure we’re worth the investment. We’ve skipped the morning meditation because we’re not quite sure it’s going to work. We don’t believe in ourselves, and we don’t believe in the teacher or the teachings.

When we say that we don’t have enough (time or money) we’re saying that we’re not enough. When I feel compelled to work longer hours, anxious about saving up more in the bank, guilty about not spending enough time with my keyboard, it’s out of a subtle (or overt) fear that I’m not ok as I am, with what I have now.

In a worst case manifestation, I skip the meditation, forego the weekend travel, and end up perpetuating a cycle (work harder to get more money for happiness!) in which I feel even more miserable, and further removed from the experiences that could actually make me happy.

sunset over the pacific ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean in Todos Santos, Baja Sur, Mexico

The Solution to Laziness

The Instagram life of a blissed out yogi who travels the world to surf and meditate in exotic locations isn’t just a total joke. Somebody’s doing it. Why not you?

There’s a solution to what we’re calling laziness here, and thankfully, Tibetan Buddhists have laid it out for us in an easy to follow four-step path.

1. Faith

Have faith that your dream life is worthy, and that it’s a much healthier way of being than what you’re doing right now. Imagine what it would feel like to wake up and begin each day with meditation. Convince yourself, logically at first, that by making that daily commitment you’ll achieve a more stable, clear, and spacious mind.

Remember the feeling of contentment and happiness that comes from those moments when you’ve felt such clearheadedness, presence and awareness. Trust that you’ll get there through meditating.

Have faith that you won’t miss out on life by taking the trip or spending time on retreat. Trust that the life that’s worth living is the one outside of the office. Have faith that your self-care ultimately benefits others.

2. Aspiration

Desire to get really good at meditating. Desire to be clear headed and content. Desire to live a life of world travel, to surf more, to work less. You have to really want it. Want it for the sake of all beings.

Imagine what it would feel like to be so good at meditating, that meditation was no longer a chore but total bliss. Imagine what it would feel like to have completely dropped attachment to the dead-end job, the idea that your home should be bigger, your car should be newer, or that you should spend each of your days working harder to get those meaningless things.

Imagine what it would feel like to be so free from material objects that you could pack a small bag and head out towards the point break on a moment’s notice. It will take some steps to get there, but you could do it if you wanted to.

3. Effort

Be willing to make the effort that overcoming your laziness requires. It takes effort to swim upstream against a society that says contentment is dependent on titles and promotions, square footage and so much shit that you have to rent a storage facility. It takes effort to say, no thanks, I’m no longer going to spend my time on that.

With faith in yourself and the path, and with strong aspiration, effort becomes a little more joyful. It’s no longer a sacrifice to skip the Starbucks and save for the surf trip instead. It’s no longer tedious to spend time on our meditation cushion instead of the couch in front of the TV.

Effort becomes joyful when we have a strong goal in mind. Right effort becomes habit in each and every moment, and soon, it’s just how we live our lives.

4. Flow

Once effort is habit, it transforms into flow. Through effort, we arrive at a new way of living, one where it takes no effort to make better choices. We no longer stress about making it to our cushion, it’s just what we do.

When we first learned to surf, every session was fatiguing. In body and mind we flailed about, struggling to get the timing all right. But through that effort, one day, we paddle in, stood up, and experienced connection. A connection that was effortless. This physical and mental pliancy, as the Dalai Lama calls it, is a direct result of effort.

To have arrived in this state of flow is the final antidote to laziness. We wake up and meditate, we have clear priorities. We fully understand that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, and we’re not only committed to no longer wasting our lives in an office far from the seashore, but we’re doing it. We’re traveling more, surfing daily, and meditating. We are free.

Sara-Mai Conway is a yoga and meditation instructor with Baja Surf Yoga who splits her time between San Juanico, Baja Sur, and Austin, Texas. She has crafted an intentional life of freedom. In gratitude for the teachers who showed her the way, she works to share this possibility with others.  

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