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Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Meditations: Do The Dishes

Wait - don't X-out of this yet! This one could be just for you. And your significant other. And your mom, your dad, your best friend, and ESPECIALLY for the guy that's teetering on the brink of road rage because he can't accept the moment he is in.

This Monday Meditation is called "Do The Dishes". Yes, you heard me right. Doing the dishes (or any household chore or mundane activity) can actually be done as a form of meditation. As long as you do it with awareness and attention!

In the Zen tradition, one is encouraged to perform every action with total, one-pointed mindfulness. I once read that when Deva Premal (if you don't know this spiritual musical artist - check her out - especially her Love is Space album) was a young girl, she would repeat to herself whatever she was doing at any specific time to help her stay in the moment. So imagine, when she was setting the table her mind might sound something like this: "I am walking on the cold floor with the basket of bread. I am putting the bread on the dark wood table. I am looking at how many forks are on the table. I need another fork. I am walking to the kitchen to get another fork..." and so on.

By getting in the habit of doing this, you make it very difficult for other distracting thoughts to keep you off track -- thoughts that create worry of something to come, or thoughts of regret for something that happened in the past.


The next time you have a meal to clean up try this:
1) As it may be easier to accomplish this meditation if alone, send anyone else out of the kitchen (they'll be thrilled!).

2) Pick up your first dish and begin washing it. Focus exclusively on the dish and the sink. If thoughts intervene, return your focus to what you are doing. When the dish is clean, slowly and mindfully place it in the rack. Pick up your next dish and continue in the same manner.

3) Your mind may stray but try to stay in the present moment and the task at hand. Notice the movement of the water, the soap suds and the comforting warmth of the water on your hands as you rinse a plate. Notice the dishes, the glasses, and pots. Approach the experience as if it is the very first time you have ever washed the dishes.

4) Even though it will take much longer than usual, wash every item in this manner. Although exaggerated, try to bring this level of awareness and deliberate attention to more and more of what you do throughout the day. Keep your mind present and engaged.

For me, I know this will be challenging. I typically look at meal cleanup as something I want to get over with as quickly as possible so I can get to my other priorities such as helping my kids with homework or relaxing with my husband.

Maybe I'll begin practicing this meditation with the breakfast and lunch dishes. Once I get that mastered, I'll move on to the dinner dishes!

Happy (or should I say, "Mindful") Cleaning!

This meditation was adapted from The Meditation Bible by Madonna Gauding.

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