Meditative housework

I’m anxious, driven. I am always thinking, worrying. Pausing for quiet is hard. I have to really concentrate to shut my brain off and find peace. That’s why I like to wash the dishes.

Air drying

It helps that I don’t have a dishwasher. I’ve thought about installing one so the house is easier to sell someday. But if the dishes are to be washed, my hands have to get into soapy water.

Most of the time, I end up lost in thought while washing dishes. But have you ever really paid attention to how warm dishwater or a scratchy dishtowel feels on your hands? Have you ever paused to breathe in the scent of your sink as it fills with suds, as the leftover food smells are overtaken by your dish soap?

I iron my shirts, too. I like a clean, pressed look. But have you ever really felt your shirts’ fabric between your fingers, listened to your iron vent steam, felt the humidity building in the air?

When I focus on noticing these things, these mindless tasks become mindful. My worrisome thoughts drift; my mind quiets. I shed stress and I feel calm. And, strangely, these mundane jobs become sensually interesting.

I don’t do it often enough, but when I do I find that now can be pretty interesting and wonderful — and think that maybe the future over which I worry will be too when it gets here.

“The present moment is full of joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” —  Thích Nhất Hạnh


17 responses to “Meditative housework”

  1. traveller858 Avatar

    Deep stuff for a Wednesday. The funny thing is that it’s very easy to relate to. Mmmm certainly food for thought. Oh well back to my ironing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Just be sure to take in the steam!

  2. davidvanilla Avatar



    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks David!

  3. hmunro Avatar

    Beautifully said, Jim … and a wonderful reminder to be present. Thank you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I need that reminder too!

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I have a problem turning off the constant flow of thoughts too.

    Saturday is my day to clean my house. It’s routine and mundane, but the process allows me to shut off my brain for a few hours. The house gets clean and my mind does too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooh, a one-to-one correlation! The messier your house, the messier your mind!

      1. sobershutter Avatar

        As within, so without. I am screwed….

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    It seems like one of our most useful skills is being able to anticipate and plan for the future and learn from the past often is a source of turmoil. Too bad most of us can’t just see that ability as a tool and turn it off when it is not useful. I know I have that trouble at times also. It does help to do tasks that seem to help me be in the present. Which is actually where I am all the time even if my mind doesn’t think so.

    It is interesting to me how much of what goes on in the media is just endless speculation about what may happen. In sports such speculation is a big business. Just look what is going on now with people and there NCAA basketball predictions. Not sure why they can’t enjoy the games as they happen.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The media has so much more time to fill today — and has not staffed up correspondingly to fill that time with meaningful stories. So they speculate. And causing us to worry about the future is like feeding us crack cocaine, at least for many of us.

  6. sobershutter Avatar

    This is great stuff for staying connected to the moment and having your head where your hands are. I get so caught up is mental drama that even doing things I like become a chore.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It takes a lot of practice to be able to reach unmindful state. A great book about this is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I also recommend Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.

  7. bwc1976 Avatar

    One of my first ever jobs was washing dishes in the cafeteria of my college dorm, and it was “mindless” in a good way, I was able to get myself into an almost automatic rhythm that let my mind clear and felt really good.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Amazing, isn’t it!

  8. Jennifer Avatar

    Excellent post! I too, know my brain is constantly on, always thinking, planning, worrying or trying to fix problems (usually others’ not mine). I like ironing and washing dishes so I should think less and engage in those tasks or others that help shut my brain down.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a useful technique to give your worries a break.

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