Washing dishes

After several decades on Earth I know a thing or two about washing dishes. I've done it at home. I've done it for a living. I did it in the military. I've kicked them out of the way until they started kicking back. I've tossed them out windows onto smelly mounds that only the toughest rodents dared approach.
As a teenager I refused to do dishes. A hollow act of rebelllion against the fates. As an upwardly-mobile slave of the system, I preferred "more important" activities. As an overworked parent I rushed through it in an unconscious daze. Now, as autumn approaches and minutes grow long as the years grow few, dishwashing has become a meditation, a gift, a moment to celebrate being here... now... today.

Why it matters

  1. A ready supply of mediation materials is willingly provided by others.
  2. There's no need to purchase incense, mats, towels, magazines, CDs, designer clothing...
  3. You will not waste hard earned money on goofy books by Deepak Chopra.
  4. Few will bother you during your practice.
  5. Your life partner will love it, and may brag about you to friends.
  6. There's no need to drive to a dojo or heath club and sit in a crowd of sweating, silly strangers.
  7. You get to choose the music.
  8. No one notices if you burp or fart, so let it rip.
  9. Your thoughts will be pure.
  10. Your life will be simple.
  11. Your dishes will be clean.

Elements of the practice



As with all martial arts, master dishwashing begins with the correct posture. Center yourself before the sink, balancing lightly on both feet with your knees slightly bent. Your weight should be a little more on the balls of your feet than your heals. Your head should be held high with the chin slightly tucked. Your neck should be relaxed. Bring your stomach in.
Using your diaphragm, breath softly and without effort through your nose. Slowly loosen your shoulders, stretching them back and down. Relax your jaw and smile very slightly crinkling the corners of your eyes and mouth. This smile should be more inward than outward.
This posture increases stamina, prevents stretched tendons, strengthens your core, relaxes the upper back and neck, prevents a host of other maladies commonly afflicting the uninitiated, and puts your hands in range of the dirty dishes. 


One of the original four elements, water is fundemental. It's a combination of oxygen (a catalyst) and hydrogen (an explosive), but combined it quenches fire due to the mystery of molecular bonding.

Water is the only molecule known to expand as it freezes, thus creating the strange phenomenon of floating ice. Scientists theorize that floating ice in the primeval oceans may have created the unique conditions in which life on Earth began.

Water is the universal solvent, capable of cleaning dirty dishes, washing away foolish civilizations, and cooling (or heating) entire planets. When in its liquid form water is gentle, yet given time it wears down the mightiest mountains. We are water. For all these reasons and more, use water wisely. 



  1. Fill your sink with just enough water and a little dishwashing liquid.
  2. As the sink fills, add dirty dishes.
  3. Minimize wasted movements, maintain good posture, and avoid loud noises.
  4. Avoid clanging, shattering, and splashing.


  1. Carefully remove one item at a time, wash it and place it aside.
  2. As before, minimize wasted movements, maintain good posture, and avoid loud noises.
  3. Continue until all items are washed.


  1. Drain the sink.
  2. Turn the water on again and set it to a reasonable force and temperature. Avoid overuse of water.
  3. Set each rinsed item aside to drip dry.
  4. As before, minimize wasted movements, maintain good posture, and avoid loud noises.
  5. Advanced meditators may turn the water off between each item to minimize waste. Some find this breaks the meditative process, in which case do not revel in blame or shame. Simply continue, using as little water as you can.
  6. In any case, this is an excellent time to appreciate the wonder of instantly-available, clean, warm, indoor water. Thank the gods of your choice for plumbers. 


  1. Select a hand towel and dry the items one at a time.
  2. As before, carefully minimize wasted movement, maintain good posture, and avoid loud noises.
  3. Place dried items away where they belong.
  4. Once all items are dry, wipe down the counters and neatly hang the towel to dry. 


  1. Breath. In a world of curved space there is no finish. Your meditation is continuous. Breath again...
  2. Celebrate. You are fortunate indeed to have become a mindful dishwasher.
  3. Relax. Take comfort in knowing that more dirty dishes will arrive soon enough, providing additional excellent opportunities for mindfulness. 
"After enlightenment? The dishes."
-- Ancient, anonymous (probably female) Buddhist practitioner