Zen and the art of dish washing

Now in the lock down, I have rediscovered an old joy, the joy of washing dishes. In my twenties, when I first started living by myself in a flat, I first discovered that nothing calmed me down as much as washing dishes. I would stand at the sink, in good light, and clean for an hour every evening, and feel wonderfully relaxed after that. I would lose myself in the simple process of scrubbing everything in the sink, then looking at each piece once more to see if it needed a second scrub to get rid of some stubborn stain. There was nothing automatic about it, my mind was constantly busy, examining differently shaped objects, looking for spaces where food could hide, changing scrubbers according to need, sometimes simply using muscle. There was no reason why this should have been calming: the constant identification and solution of a stream of problems. But it was.

Gratuitous photo of the door to a beautiful bungalow on a cliff in Landour; a reminder of inner peace achieved on a holiday spent walking and eating. Yes I found more than one path to contentment.

Many years later when I re-read Robert Pirsig’s cult classic (for a certain generation) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it all came together for me. Zen, dhyana, is being mindful of the moment, immersing yourself completely in the simple flow of things, something that you find so absorbing, that it drives every thing else out of your mind. Zen can be anything: archery, chopping vegetables, mathematics, washing dishes, copy-editing a manuscript, cleaning out a cupboard, learning to play music just beyond your capability, mopping the floor. There is no need to listen to the obscure words of sages (If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, … Blake). The coronavirus has given me a wonderful new shot at achieving inner peace.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

27 thoughts on “Zen and the art of dish washing”

  1. I find this quite interesting, IJK, and a valuable lesson. Instead of trying to comprehend metaphors in written words, and deriving meaning through rampant interpretation of possibly innocuous writings of yore, just be there – in the present and soak in that essence. Thanks for this meaningful insight.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know what you mean but itโ€™s not washing dushes that does it for me. Gorgeous door by the way and very fitting since itโ€™s Thursdayโ€™s Doors over at Norm 2.0.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I was younger I read Zen and The Art of Tennis – basically all the same concept. It helped then as does mindfulness now. Anything that keeps the hands and the mind busy is very helpful for me at the moment.
    Lovely door too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As I started reading this post, mindful bartan-cleaning is what came to my mind and there you mentioned it in the latter part of your post. It amazes to think how one person’s utter dislike can be another person’s utter bliss. So similar human beings are, yet so different!

    Now, I’m thinking there could be maids who actually find joy in this activity. Much like, say a dress designer who likes sewing. Bad e.g. but still, you get the point….

    Liked by 1 person

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