A perfect day has a particular kind of ease. I don’t just mean sleeping late and being fed grapes while lying supine on a chaise lounge. Effort can be involved, like chopping wood or walking up a hill; the ease is more a sense of being in alignment with time, and what is. Time is passing, and it is OK, because all that is happening within it is full of meaning. An example of this: at one monastery where I spent some time, there was meditation at 6:00am, breakfast at 7:30am, work from 9am-11:30am, lunch at 12:30pm, meditation at 1:30pm and 3pm, dinner at 6pm, meditation at 8pm and lights out at 10pm. That’s 2.5 hours of work and the rest sitting, walking, eating, study and sleeping. Even to me it might sound incredibly monotonous and boring, but I remember it as a beautiful, full and even social time. At that particular moment, WORK was stuffing meditation cushions with buckwheat hulls in preparation for a retreat that was still months away.
The ease! of doing a thing in “good time” (for someone who starts everything at the last minute).
The ease! of three hours of work, not hurried, but with the energy of knowing, “this is temporary.”
The ease! of knowing at 12 that “today’s work is done,” nothing hanging over to the next day.
No tabs open on the computer. No unanswered emails. One week of this, and the “normal” life outside the monastic community begins to feel like a kind of collective madness. One I willingly re-entered. What I learned at the monastery, paradoxically, is that I don’t need to be in a monastery to have a perfect day. There have been times when a few things aligned to let me stumble into that quality of time. A long, northern, summer day of walking outside, with hours left of daylight to go back after supper and get an evening swim in a nearby pond. The day after a night full of love, I am empty and full simultaneously. That’s the feeling.
Some things that make up a perfect day for me:
Waking up rested, early. Lying in bed with eyes closed, remembering the dream. Lots of pillows.
Stepping outside, hands warmed by a cup of tea or coffee, being able to see trees or water.
Sunlight warming my face, even if it’s cold outside.
Physical exercise that feels pleasurable (for me, long distance walks, especially in unfamiliar places).
Walking in fresh snow, crunching. Sliding into cold water. Warming up afterwards.
Satisfying work (on a film set, or as a hospital chaplain). Meaningful connection, friends or strangers.
Food is not at the top of my list, but I am always grateful to have a good meal. Proud when I make it.
A bath. The bath is next to the window, open. It is raining or snowing. The lights are off. Steam.
Live music of any genre, but can it feel like Meshell Ndegeocello at the National Concert Hall?
A satisfying, fulfilled tiredness at the end of the day, to make me grateful for my bed.