a dishwashing meditation

mindfulness meditation

“If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.” – Buddha

I try to remember this every time I walk into our Basque kitchen and see a pile of dirty dishes that need to be washed. According to Bodhipaksa, the quote above is from Buddha’s Dhamapada writings in a section called “Hell”. The irony is not lost on me. Washing the dishes is a hellish experience and a drain of my time (no pun intended).

But something dramatic has changed.  I am living a simpler, less stressful life.

I don’t gripe as much about clean up now that I have less “stuff” to deal with. My lovely apartment has no dishwasher. I have surrendered to doing the dishes and have decided to make positive use of this time and wash the dishes with all my heart. And that’s where mindfulness meditation kicks in.

my dishwashing meditation

First, I prepare to have an efficient and joyful experience. I light a candle and put my favorite apron on.  I place a square plastic tub in one side of my dual sink and fill it with a combination of lavender dish soap and warm bubbly water.

I then create order by sorting and stacking the various dishes and cups so that I may soak, wash and rinse them in groups. I give the groups a quick rinse with water to get most of the crud off and throw the silverware into the bottom of the tub so they may soak the longest. Then I start submerging glasses, progressively washing from cleanest to dirtiest, ending usually with pots and pans.

I focus on my senses as I wash. As I scrub the dishes with my favorite brush, I feel the warm water on my hands. I hear the sound of the suds and focus on making sure each item is quickly yet meticulously scrubbed. Sometimes I admire the beautiful china we eat on, or the modern clear coffee mugs we hand-picked for coffee time. And I love the smell of lavender soap.

I often feel grateful and say a little “thank you” to the universe for another lovely meal. In my present moment awareness, something my daughter may have said earlier comes to mind or I realize that my dog Charli is laying right next to me on the floor right on my foot. These things make me smile.

When I am ready, I rinse everything in batches.  I try to use the water as minimally and efficiently as possible, just because. I do this by creating a cascade where the water that rinsed the top dish flows down to each dish or glass progressively. Often the whole process will take 15 minutes or less. By the time the dish rack is full and I have wiped all the surfaces down, the kitchen is filled with the lovely aroma of my scented candle and dish soap.

I am renewed and relaxed.

I conclude my dishwashing/mindfulness meditation session by hanging my apron, using an opulent hand lotion a friend gifted me (because I wouldn’t buy it for myself) and say a quick “Namaste” to the kitchen. Until the next meal…


  1. Steph G.

    I really like this. Can you do more meditation articles? It’s my New Years resolution and I am finding sitting in the dark chanting boring.

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