Although I have a dishwasher, I wash dishes nearly every day in my kitchen sink. There are items that just do not belong in the dishwasher. Lately, though, I’ve been electing to wash more items than necessary in the sink.
I used to think it odd that my father enjoyed washing dishes by hand. But, over the past six months, I’ve come to find the ritual calming as well as gratifying. It’s a time to check in with my present state of mind and to focus on nothing but the kitchen sink.
While washing the dishes one should only be washing dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There is no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future – and we are incapable of actually living in a minute of life.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
For a brief period, I pause to focus on the here and now. I am practicing the discipline of mindfulness. I complete one task at a time… wash one cup, one dish, one knife, etc.
I quiet my mind. No fretting. No obsessing. No planning. No worrying.
Recently I discovered a long-neglected bamboo plant. I relocated it to the windowsill above my kitchen sink after researching how to nurse it back to health. I must be intentional as I care for it.
This plant will sit as my visual reminder to practice mindfulness… and not only while at the kitchen sink.
Where and when do you find time to pause?