One of my first introductions into mindfulness came at a time when I really wasn’t ready for it. I was a minor Peace & Social Justice Studies, and one of the classes that fulfilled a requirement was a Zen Buddhism class. It was taught by a much older white gentleman who, while very well-meaning, didn’t really have a knack for making Buddhism seem relevant or accessible to most of us in the class. I certainly wish I would have taken to the philosophy as a whole a little sooner, but one thing I do remember, vividly, is reading about Tich Nhat Hanh washing his bowl in his monastery. Washing dishes resonated with me.
I grew up in an understandably messy household—-my mom worked two jobs and was also very actively involved in my life and helped out with extra-curriculars. So, she didn’t have a lot of time to clean the house. She also didn’t seem to be particularly bothered by the mess. I, however, was very bothered by the mess, and as soon as I moved out on my own, I became dedicated to developing a cleaning routine. For years now, I have spent every morning after my workout wiping down countertops, swiffering or vacuuming, changing cat litter, and, yes, doing the dishes. This has served as a calming and grounding routine for me and has allowed me to live in mostly tidy (and very disinfected) homes. There are times, admittedly, that I am not entirely “zen” throughout some of the cleaning process—sometimes it’s more speedy than mindful—-but dishes, almost always, serve as a time for me to slow down. The water on my hands, the swirling of the sponge, the sudsing of the soap, all of it centers me and makes me present. #win
However: one thing I am definitely not good at is putting dishes away. (Cue chuckles from anyone reading this who has lived with me). Putting dishes away (and, while we’re at it, putting laundry away) is on the top of my shit list. I can’t explain the psychology behind my disdain for putting the clean dishes back in their place (although sometimes I like to blame it on being short and never being able to reach high shelves where glasses are shelved), but it’s real for me.
And so this week (and hopefully all the weeks after), I am going to devote mindfulness to putting the dishes away. My plan is to never go to sleep with a dish in the rack. More importantly, I plan to be intentional and calm during the putting away process. I will breathe slowly as I return the dish wear to their respective homes. I will be grateful for the space I’m opening up in the universe via my empty rack.
If you also hate putting dishes away, I invite you to join me on this challenge. Or, perhaps you are a person for whom washing dishes is high on the shit list. In that case, I invite you to “wash your bowl,” zen-style. For me, I make sure that I never create a new dish (re: cook or eat) unless the sink is empty. If that doesn’t work for you, commit to never going to sleep with a full sink.
How do you feel about dishes? Will you join me on this challenge? xo