My husband greeted me at the door with the tragic news. “I think the dishwasher’s broken . . . . stopped mid-cycle, no water coming out . . . ”
My first reaction: “&*#$!” After fiddling with it for a few minutes, thereby confirming his report, I made note of the inconvenient and truly awful timing: “This had to happen on a Sunday (audible sigh). I’ll call the repair guy tomorrow first thing.” Then I rolled up my sleeves and began to unload the (over)full dishwasher of (dirty) dishes to begin the chore of washing each and every one by hand.
I started by filling an old dishpan with warm water as I pulled out the long-forgotten plastic drying rack that was wedged behind the ice skates I last used in about 1974. (It’s always good to keep these things around . . . never know when they might come in handy.)
Adjusting the temperature of the water from the faucet, I figured I might as well settle into the task, enjoying the feel of the water on my chilled hands. Slowly the TV commentary from the next room settled into the background, becoming a dull steady drone of sound I scarcely noticed.
A quick swipe of the sponge removed remnants of last night’s dinner. Plates gleamed clean as the rinse water cleared away the soapy film. A few rough patches became satisfying mini-projects. A harder scrub and a short soak if needed, and tougher bits of food just melted away.
After filling the dishpan 3 or 4 times with dirty dishes, I was surprised at how truly satisfying the task had become! I felt like I do after a good yoga class – satisfied and productive, but also relaxed. My mind drifted back to a time when I was 9 or 10 years old, polishing my mother’s entire set of silver, all 12 place settings of it. It took me 2-3 hours, and I earned a whole dollar! I remember loving that job – the feeling of removing tarnish to reveal the sparkling product of my hard work. So satisfying!
What I was doing was a mindful meditation. It was a reminder of how everyday life offers opportunities literally every second. All we need to do is tune in to the task at hand. We may have lost a little of this with the invention of timesaving appliances. Jobs that require focus allow us to slip into mindful meditation without deliberate effort. Simply pressing “start” on a machine takes away the down-and-dirty connection that certain daily chores used to give people. Those tasks offer sensory experiences that help connect mind and body.
Not everyone is capable of simply sitting still and breathing. I admit I sometimes struggle with impatience when I try that. I am much more successful at walking meditation or everyday living meditation. Maybe you are that way too.
I may choose to wash dishes by hand once in a while as a reminder, but don’t be disappointed if I don’t cancel the installation of my new dishwasher. I think I can find other cleaning jobs to use as practice.