Seems a strange concept, having a ‘day off’ at a monastery. But there it is, from afternoon Sunday till early Tuesday morning everyone is on their own. Help yourself to food, watch a video, do your laundry, sit in the sun, catch up on sleep, go somewhere (several car-pooled to go surfing at the seaside 30 miles away), chat, do emails, sleep some more (since sleep deprivation seems part of monastic practice).
Entering the kitchen, I was confronted with a mess: espresso machine left uncleaned, an empty jam jar, cheese unwrapped, crusty egg pan on the stove, half-sliced loaf of bread, dirty dishes and cutlery … well you get the picture. The Inner Critic instantly concluded that all conventions of courtesy, mindfulness, and good housekeeping had been forgotten and I, apparently, was the only one to know better (sarcasm intentional).
And so … I quietly prepared my lunch, put food away, washed the utensils I’d used, wiped the counter, turned oof the light, and found a sunny garden bench. Much later, after the evening movie, two of us — the oldest, it turned out — got up without exchanging a word and began to clean, wipe, wash, sweep, and tidy. No mumbling or judging — simply doing what had to be done.
Back in 2001, when I first joined, I’d have made a fuss and acted the judging elder. How much smoother communal living becomes if I put aside my indignation and quietly offer my services. This way no anger, guilt, or agitation; instead the satisfaction of having made a contribution.