Mindfulness lives in the sink

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The antibiotics didn’t work, so next I’m going to try doing the dishes.

The illness I referred to in my last post two weeks ago — the one that I said has been impeding my consciousness, shrinking my world down to its most selfish and short-sighted concerns — is still going strong even after taking the whole course of pills prescribed by the doctor. It’s been almost a month altogether.

If it doesn’t get better in a few days I will consult modern medicine again, but in the mean time I’m going to start treating the symptoms in my own way. The coughing and fatigue are annoying, but by far the worst effect of this bout of sickness is that I’ve become a lot more reactive and stressed than normal, which I described in the last article as being stuck in the “lower latitudes” of the overall human spectrum of consciousness.

This lowered consciousness causes all kinds of secondary side-effects. I’m less patient about cleaning up properly, which leads to house-clutter, which in turn creates more mental clutter. I haven’t been especially pleasant to be around, which leads to a correspondingly ill social life, and a growing feeling of missing out. The mental fog makes writing a lot more difficult, and being more reactive means I’m quicker to throw out ideas before I give them a chance to develop. Together, these side-effects create an exaggerated sense that my life and all its little duties are beyond my current capacity to meet.

I normally derive a lot of my sense of stability and peace from the habit of mindfulness — the way in which I walk across parking lots and make tea — and since I’ve been sick it has not been very appealing. I tend to want all the normal moments to be over, or to not happen at all.

A month is a long time to be in such an impaired state and I’m alarmed at how far I’ve fallen in that respect. It’s normally very easy for me to just let my attention settle on an ordinary moment, and find that it reflects some peace or beauty back to me. But right now it only takes a few seconds before something annoys me: the pain in my chest, or the weird clamminess I have, or how it is almost mid-April and still freezing.

If my compromised physical state has created a compromised mental state, then I suppose that treating my current mental state is only going to improve my physical state. It certainly can’t hurt. I need a single, regular place to apply deliberate mindfulness every day.

Signs have been pointing to my sink. My mother’s dishwasher broke months ago, and she never bothered to fix it, because doing them by hand was almost as easy and nothing about it can break down.

A friend of mine (let’s call her “Lily”) positively loves washing dishes by hand. She finds it so gratifying that she feels cheated when houseguests try to help by doing some themselves.

A few weeks ago, as I was turning on the dishwasher before we left my place, she said something like, “Dishwashers are what’s wrong with the world.” Something about that sounded right. I asked her to explain.

“Life is composed of primarily mundane moments,” she says. “If we don’t learn to love these moments, we live a life of frustration and avoidance, always seeking ways to escape the mundane. Washing the dishes with patience and attention is a perfect opportunity to develop a love affair with simply existing. You might say it is the perfect mindfulness practice. To me, the dishwasher is the embodiment of our insatiable need, as a culture, to keep on running, running, running, trying to find something that was inside of us all along.”

We used to have to spend a lot more time and attention maintaining our basic possessions. Dishes had to be washed by hand, stoves had to be stoked, clothes had to be mended, and meals had to be prepared from scratch.

Little was automated or outsourced. All of these routine labors demanded our time, and also our presence and attention. It was normal to have to zoom in and slow down for much of our waking day. We had no choice but to respect that certain daily tasks could not be done without a willing, real-time investment of attention.

My sickness led me to being reactive and mindless and so I’m going to reclaim a little bit of it back by un-automating one thing. I’m not going to use my dishwasher for a month. I’ll do all dishes by hand. Dishes have to be done, and so every day I’ll need to bring my immediate attention to bear on the soapy water and white plates.

This is experiment no. 15. It will last for a month, starting today, then I’ll decide whether to bother with the dishwasher again.

I want to see whether this commitment leads to my patience and mindfulness returning in other areas.

I’ll report occasionally on my findings on the experiment log. As always, you are welcome to join me, and you can let me know how it’s going in the comments section.

“It helps to cultivate patience,” says Lily, “and the enjoyment of a task which we usually discard as “not worth it”, too boring, too mundane, blase. It gives us the chance to take a little peek into the tiny but enormous world of simply noticing what is around you, and engaging fully with it. If you are someone who is naturally averse to washing dishes, you abhor it, you avoid it at all costs, you grudgingly go through it as quickly as possible… Well then, this is the perfect opportunity to engage fully with those feelings, and to gently scrub them away, until what you are left with is the realization that life is an amazing, and beautiful, and precious gift, no matter what kind of activity you are engaged in. You are surrounded by great textures, and images, and formations of light, and sounds, and smells, and everything, all the time.”

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Photo by R/DV/RS

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{ 85 Comments }

The Happy Potamus April 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I’m pretty new to your site. I just got recommended over here by MMM not long ago. I love your perspective. Framing my thoughts correctly translates in a very real way to my quality of life. I look forward to reading through some older posts, and it’s good to be reminded that other people also struggle with mindfulness on occasion :)

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Eddie April 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I am going through a similar, mentally-debilitating sickness right now that’s been affecting my position on the human spectrum of consciousness (which I love reading about!) in a big way for a significant and frustrating period of time now.

I know writing about my tumultuous mind state is therapeutic for me but find writing is becoming more of a task than it usually is. I’m finding a lot of peace and energy in accepting my current situation and making myself vulnerable by opening up to some really special, thought-provoking and inspiring people in my life.

Your writing has got me stopped and thinking a lot in the last 6 months. I sincerely hope you have lots to read that provides the same inspiration and challenge that you do to your readers.

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Linn April 8, 2013 at 1:12 am

There are times when being mindful are harder than others, but at some point we just have to pick ourselves up and at least try (just like you are doing here). And if we are persistent, I believe we’ll succeed.

I won’t give up the dishwasher for a whole month, but at least tonight I’ll use my hands instead. Who knows, I might like it! :-)

Hope you’re feeling better soon!

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Jack April 8, 2013 at 3:14 am

I had a cough and cold this winter for the first time in several years. Two things helped a lot. Vicks vaporub on the soles of my feet (covered with socks) and chest and throat before going to bed one time helped a lot. Putting a small pot of water on the stove to boil and then setting it on a cutting board of the table and then putting a small towel over it and my head and breathing the warm vapor for a timed 5 minutes followed by gargling with a half a glass of water with a small amount (1/8 teaspoon or so) twice a day for several days finally finished it off. I also inhaled a bit of the salted water in each nostril a few times to clear out the nasal passages. I’m feeling fine now and hope you also recover quickly and fully.

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M April 8, 2013 at 3:38 am

In this part of the world, we wash dishes by hand, we hand-wash clothes, it takes over an hour to make coffee (people start from raw seeds, roast it, and grind it using mortar and pestle.) All these ‘tasks’ provide opportunities for people to be constantly engaged and also spend time at home.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:01 am

Here it’s normally the opposite. There’s an automatic way to do everything, and so we don’t expect to have to spend much time or attention on routine tasks. It is not healthy.

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Ningus April 8, 2013 at 3:43 am

People often find houseworks/labour works to be such big burdens. If we slow down our lives more, we will find that all works create joy as much as occupying ourselves with works such as some desk works, especially when we are mindful when doing them. :D

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DiscoveredJoys April 8, 2013 at 3:46 am

I have a half n’ half attitude to the dishwasher. I use it, once a day, as an economical way of cleaning up. It uses less water and electricity than several bowls of washing up. We even use stainless steel pots and pans because they are alleged to be ‘better’ than aluminium and can go in the dishwasher.

However whenever I cook from scratch (rather than just heating stuff up) I find that the ‘washing of the bowls and pans’ by hand is part of what makes proper cooking mindful and satisfying.

Best of both worlds or a cop-out?

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Rob Bartlett April 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm

We use the dishwasher regularly (every 2-3 days when it’s full or when there are no clean forks), but when I bake, I hand-wash the dishes and utensils that I used. I do this while waiting for the goodies to be done, and then usually hand-wash additional things. I leave the kitchen in better shape than when I started. There is a sense of accomplishment at completing such a simple task that has a clear start and finish, and I’m not impatiently waiting for the baking to be done. When I feel that I make progress, whatever the task, it improves my disposition.

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Maia April 8, 2013 at 4:01 am

Hi David,
Whatever it is you are experiencing I hope you feel better soon. Sending you lots of healing energy.
Washing the dishes will hopefully help you  I read somewhere before that some people have washing the dishes as their meditation.
I wash the dishes manually too, but I have to admit that I could do with enjoying the task more sometimes and really turning into a mindful action.
Take care, and get well soon!

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Mike April 8, 2013 at 4:04 am

God, I know what you mean, David. I just recently got over whooping cough and I was quite frankly an utter pain to live with while suffering that illness. Being sick can reduce you to your baser self at times, when notions of mindfulness and being graceful become fanciful and unrealistic. The truth is that you can’t be Gandhi all the time. Sometimes you will get sick and be a dick to people – a fact of life.

On a much lighter note, over Easter I completed the Northern Circuit in Tongariro National Park in New Zealand – including the Tongariro Crossing. I was inspired to do it after seeing your photos of the experience. An amazing place and a great experience. I figured that if a Canadian like yourself can travel across the planet to have that experience, I can get off my lazy ass and drive up from Wellington, where I live. Well worth the experience. Thanks for the inspiration.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:05 am

The Tongariro is so beautiful. I can’t imagine climbing the Devil’s Staircase in my current condition though.

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Michael April 8, 2013 at 5:00 am

Our kitchen is too small for a dishwasher, so we have done the dishes by hand for years. Mostly I do them and I’ve found another benefit from doing dishes by hand. It is one of those activities in daily life where you get instant gratification and can see immediate progress.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:07 am

Yes, that’s what I noticed right away. Doing a good job of it is immediately rewarding. It doesn’t feel like “putting in” for some far-off reward of being a better person or something. Unloading the dishwasher, by comparison, makes me feel lousy because it does a lousy job and cleaning the dishes and I have to dry them anyway.

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Donna April 8, 2013 at 5:09 am

Hope you feel better very soon, David – it really has been the longest bleakest winter, and everyone’s immune systems must be stretched by now. Try to rest up all you can – viruses only give up and go away if you give them time and space to burn out, in my experience.
I’ve been having a very specific type of mindful appreciation just lately – the old dog, always slow, had a small stroke, and for a whole day I sat with her in her bed and thought about her never coming out for walks with me and the other dogs again….but, tough old girl, she rallied and recovered, and now, on her (short) walks, when I turn and look back and wait for her to catch up, or quite often walk back to her and give her a hug, it’s with the very conscious feeling that this is all a gift, this time with her, and I hold on to it with all my heart, and try to fix the image of her in my mind forever.

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Debbie April 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Donna, that’s a beautiful story and wonderful imagery. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:09 am

That warmed my heart. I think the length of the winter is affecting many immune systems here. It’s mid April and it went down to the minus teens last night. Unbelievable, even for here.

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Kobe Bryant April 8, 2013 at 5:23 am

Hey David hope you get better soon. I’ve found the best way to overcome the symptoms you describe is with manuka honey, echinacea drops in water, and eating raw garlic with a salad or whatever other foods you happen to enjoy to mask the bitter taste. After a few days of this you should be in good shape and ready to write more inspiring articles.

All the best,

K.B.

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Kobe Bryant April 8, 2013 at 5:26 am

also try reducing your intake of milk, fruit juices, bananas and wheat. I’ve found these tend to make it worse.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:10 am

Ah I would love to find some manuka honey here. It was everywhere in NZ.

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Mary Woolson April 8, 2013 at 6:03 am

I really enjoy your posts. This one caught my eye because I too believe that if we are mindful when doing even the most mundane tasks, we can experience our own zen moments. Here’s an article I wrote on the topic. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you feel better soon–whip up some green drinks–they can work miracles! http://ezinearticles.com/?Turn-Household-Chores-Into-Moments-of-Zen&id=7525876

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Lizzie April 8, 2013 at 7:07 am

Hi David. I’m with Lilly. I am 57 and have never used a dishwasher.The washing of the dished is so peaceful and gives me alone time to go thru my thoughts of the day and days to come. The fact that my hands are in warm water is also very relaxing, as is the smell of the lavender dish soap I use. I am very particular about my dish and cook ware, some need to go in the drainer, some need to be dried right away and put where they belong, all part of an amazing ritual for me. People have always asked my why I don’t use the dishwasher ( I actually do use it, for storage) and I always tell them I just love washing dishes. But it’s so much more than that : ))

Are you still vegan?

Lizzie

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Patricia April 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

Hi David, I like the idea of using washing dishes as a mindfulness activity. Even though I have and mostly use my dishwasher, I’ve always enjoyed washing dishes…the warm water and the soap on your hands; the clean and sparkling plates as you place them in the rack… actually can be a satisfying activity. As for you illness, if this involves your sinuses, I’d suggest purchasing a homeopathic item ( that you can by in a CVS, if they have them in Canada) called Sinus Buster. I had an infection and the antibiotics made me so nauseous I had to stop taking them. I was amazed to find this nasal spray got rid of the infection. Hope you feel better soon…when you do feel better, it will feel like someone just turned the lights on…look forward to it!

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cj April 8, 2013 at 8:01 am

Sure hope you are well soon. How irritating to feel so badly for so long. I was just pondering illness recently. I wondered if when we are ill we feel like everything sucks and stop caring about many things because our body is trying to say that it’s not worth the trouble and go lay down. Conserve your energy type of thing?

I like the idea of trying to enjoy and be patient about the mundane. At the same time, I want to chose the mundane wisely. I can be present on walk, while teaching a young guitar student, while talking to a stranger, but I will try to avoid items like cleaning or design systems to minimize the time they take. I still like the idea of gradually replacing the inane with the meaningful.

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Kenneth April 8, 2013 at 8:25 am

Baser consciousness, so true. I recently read a book called Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, MD. He was in a coma for 7 days with bacterial meningitis, brain cortex function completely shut down, yet he vividly remembers being “elsewhere” during these 7 days. One of the places he was at was a lower consciousness level, other places were beautiful and full of joy and light, and he even went into the Core of the Universe and communed with God. Highly recommend the book.

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David April 9, 2013 at 7:15 am

I’m not sick enough to see God yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

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kara April 8, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hi David,
Hope you feel better soon, had a flu like bug myself this winter that lasted over a month.. It was not fun, I feel for your situation, it’s like a grey wash covering everything else in life when we feel down like this, and we lose the pleasure of things and activities. Mindfulness is where ever we focus, but dish washing is a favorite, just watching the hands move in front of you can be very interesting, listening to the water, the clank of the dishes, contemplating who’s hands are doing the washing..take your focus off of the illness and deliberately place it on something you love. Sometimes I even take the Alphabet and for each letter I think of a positive word to describe life.. just in those moments everything changes and I forget the things I don’t like and remember the things I love. Best to You!

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Pete April 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

David,
I do agree that life is made up of mostly mundane moments and its up to us to find the beauty in them. My wife and I have been engaging in a similar experiment with the non-use of a major household appliance. Our clothes drier broke and was determined to be beyond repair back in the Fall. We decided to start hanging our clothes in the basement (Live in Michigan, so outside’s a no go until Spring). We figured it would take a few paychecks to save for a new one. By the time we had saved, my wife and I both came to the realization that taking the time to engage in the mundane task of hanging our clothes was really an opportunity to practice mindfulness. We haven’t “broken down” yet and decided to replace our clothes drier. Here’s to the beauty and simplicity of the mundane!

Best,
Pete

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A. Julie April 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

The sick-feeling seems to be going around. Two months here; a couple of weeks ago I got some stuff to treat the symptoms, but the fatigue is hanging around (I know it’s not just stress) and I swear I never really kicked that sinus infection. Time for antibiotics.

This is a lovely meditation, though, and a set of experiences I can relate to – from illness robbing mindfulness to the pleasure of taking my time to do something. Like you, I’ve gotten a little careless about cleaning up… but I’ve found, oddly, that those slightly-longer cleaning-up bouts mean that I’m not just finding in-between moments to pack one more task into my day. Instead, since it has to be done, and will take a little bit of time, I have found myself happily resigning to slowing down undertaking the simple tasks of caring for my home.

Stoking a stove gives rhythm and pace to time in ways that are lost to most of us. But it’s a really nice thing to orient around, when you get a chance.

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Julie Zipper April 8, 2013 at 9:41 am

A Julie~!! Read my post below, we posted around the same time :) I just moved through a sinus infection, myself. The natural cures I put into action were a daily neti pot, drinking Apple Cider Vinegar (and steaming with it), and taking mega doses of Vitamin C. Along with my meditative insights, it healed fairly quickly. Hoping the same for you, whichever path you choose! :)

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A. Julie April 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Hi! Thanks, other-Julie!

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Julie Zipper April 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

Hi Brilliant Soul~! Sending you love, healing energy and lots o’ hand-washing mojo. One of my favorite go-to sites for all natural remedies: http://www.earthclinic.com … Cliff notes: drink Apple Cider Vinegar. Thanks for keeping up your stellar, inspiring writing while down South. Another suggestion… wherever your “pain” or “sick stuff” seems to be localized… spend some meditative time breathing in and out of that center. As you do, simply ask what it has to say to you, what’s the message. Let it talk to you. After not being sick for 4 years, I finally came down with a champion of a cold/sinus infection. I did that technique focused on my sinuses and heard that it was congested pleasure… that I spend way too much time in the shoulds and “getting stuff done” and my joy and bliss were aching to play. I’ve spent three weeks following my joy and I am like a 4-yr old at Disney Land. Wow~ wow~ wow! I can’t believe that I can work AND have this level of joy and adventure. Thank goodness my snotty sinuses got the message to me! That, and my cold went away pretty quickly after putting it all into action.

I’m sure you already know all that and have tried all that, but I’ve got a rescuer complex. Thanks for allowing it some playtime ;) With absolute love and admiration~ Julie

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Louise Altman @The Intentional Workplace April 8, 2013 at 9:50 am

Hi David,
The zen of washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, walking is a long held practice in many Buddhist traditions. I just finished a post on mindful work – from the moment we get up, till we arrive home. It’s based on the wonderful work of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, called Work. As he says,
“there is no enlightenment outside of daily life.” One might “argue” with that put as he says every thing in life provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
We can think of these “tasks” of life as mundane, or tedious, or as opportunities to come home to ourselves and fully inhabit the present moment.
Thanks for the article – and feel better. ~ Louise

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SirEvidence April 8, 2013 at 9:52 am

I actually prefer doing dishes by hand. I feel mindful of the fact that I am living, I AM life and in control of little things such as washing dishes – hopefully, also in control of bigger things in my life. The dishwasher wants to take that control away from me, but I won’t let it… simply because I think it’s a useless device that, without my stooping down to being a servant to it, makes me feel that it controls me. Dishwasher “tell” people that it’s okay to pile the dishes up until there are none left in the cupboard. Then, if one is mindful, one will discover that preparing the encrusted lot to go into the dishwasher is actually a form of slavery of life bowing to the mechanized robot! But that is me. Other members of the family argue that time can be better spent, and, being also mindful not to let the dishes encrust and accumulate out of control, they find that the wise use of robotic devices in our age, as compared to going to wash dishes and clothes to the river, is a darn GOOD thing – mindfully speaking. Hope you get better soon!

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John April 8, 2013 at 10:02 am

David,

This is a brilliant post. I’ve been reading your site for a couple weeks now. This past weekend I was able to reflect on similar aspects of life while building a fire pit. Being mindful of what we have can do wonders for our mental health I believe. You can check out my post at practicalcivilization.com.

Cheers!

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Trish Scott April 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

Know how you feel. I had the flu ALL of January and into Feb. It was below freezing most of that time so I couldn’t go outside without real discomfort. I’m usually okay with reduced circumstances but that thing really got on my nerves. I had to keep reaching inside to find my joy bubble and was not always successful. And having to be mindful about being mindful is something I don’t normally have to do. It really sucks. All I can offer is, this too shall pass. All my best to you David.

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Pete April 8, 2013 at 10:14 am

Hi David,
I’ve been having a similar experience this past month… have lost all motivation, struggle to get out of bed in the morning, can’t seem to stop the chatter in my head. It’s funny because for the 3 previous months I was so at peace with everything, nothing phased me, and I have no idea what caused the change. Maybe it’s a bug or something too. I guess it’s natural to not be on the northern end of the spectrum of consciousness all the time.
Anyway, bring on Spring, sunlight and a northern swing! Hope you feel better soon.

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Abby April 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

Truly, I find washing the dishes by hand more meditative and relaxing then LOADING and UNLOADING the dishwasher. That’s far more unpleasant to me than just getting them washed and away. There is something satisfying about taking something dirty and seeing it get clean before your own eyes, with your own hands. I think you’ll find you enjoy it.

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Tiva Joy April 8, 2013 at 10:27 am

David, I do hope you feel better soon. It is miserable when your body is not at 100%. That is such a long time to be sick… Your body is sure is telling you something!
Bless you soon!

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gem April 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

Dear David, I do hope that you are able to shake this soon. I hope that you and anyone else going through this takes it easy! Stay home from work! Let the chores slide! Stay in bed, sleep, read, watch old movies from your childhood. Drink herb tea with honey and other home remedies that you like, there are many out there.

It really upsets me that so many people can’t or won’t take the time to let themselves recover. The fact is, it is more generally accepted to go to work or school sick rather than staying home for a few more days or another week and we really must reverse this. I have watch my friends get sick again a month or so later, and again do the same thing. I have watched friends barely escape hospitalization (and financial ruin) because they gave themselves pneumonia. We really can be a most moronic race.

Please everyone take care of yourselves AND each other!

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Dan April 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

I sense an internal contradiction in your latest blog: you should apply to your being ill the same focus, time and attention that you propose for doing the dishes. I think your approach is spot on, but the very fact that your are frustrated with your illness is the same as if you were frustrated with doing the dishes. Just forget the dishes for now. Healing is a process (in this case a natural one), just like doing the dishes or any of the other old-fashioned “chores” that you describe. It just takes time. You need to apply the same focus, attention and patience to getting well – any amount of frustration, impatience, stress, physical exertions or anything that takes you away from the basic “rest, eat healthy and regularly, and drink lots of liquid” is simply counterproductive. I do not know what you ails you (and I am not a doctor), but I understand that for many types of viral colds, if untreated it would last, let’s say, seven days, then with medication you may be able to bring it down to a week!!! In short, nothing will really help (other than dealing with unpleasant symptoms) aside from the basic “rest, eat healthy and regularly, and drink lots of liquid.” Nature has to take its course. And don’t sweat the rest: your body needs the focus, so take care of it. The rest can be done when you are back in health. Wishing you a prompt recovery.

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 April 8, 2013 at 11:19 am

Hi David, I agree that getting sick can be frustrating to us all–but I also agree with Dan’s comment that it might be useful to apply the same level of conscious awareness to your illness as you are to your sink. Of course it’s not easy, and when you’re not feeling well it makes it even more challenging (and you’re probably calling me self well chosen adjectives right now :-) ) But I think you know what I’m talking about. And while I’m not expert at rising above all my experiences, I did use my recent “cold” to learn a few things and then blogged about them. For anyone who might want a few perspectives: http://smartliving365.com/lessons-from-catching-a-cold-and-other-tips-on-how-to-be-kind-to-yourself-while-being-sick/ Thanks for reminding ME of these things! I truly hope you are feeling better as every day goes by!

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Kimolisa April 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

LOL. I’m camp Lily all the way. I always thought of dishwashers as unnecessary invention, as one can get the job done in no time and one knows the job is done. Then again I grew up without one so it’s not something I would adopt into my life. There is a zen to washing dishes and there are some life lessons one can learn from it, like
1. small consistent scrubbing for a long period produces the same result as intense scrubbing over a short period of time;
2. it will be easier and quicker to wash right away before the food gets dry and stuck on;
3. Sometimes you need to let a pot or pan to soak before washing it

Once again, a great read.

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Deb April 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I had a similar kind of illness in January. A nurse from one of the hospitals recommended NutriBiotic Maximum Strength DefensePlus Grapefruit Seed Extract 250 mg. Take one tablet daily for two weeks or longer. Give it a week or two and you should see results. Grapefruit seed extract is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal. You can even get the oil and put a few drops in a neti-pot when you rinse. It has eliminated my long term chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, respiratory issues, etc. Best of luck.

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Betty April 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Over 2 years ago something changed in my brain. Over night
I woke with intense pressure in my head and, ears. I had brain fog
big time. I also suffered neurological symptoms of numbness, dizziness,
stinging, heavy sensations in my head, and face. I was prescribed
two rounds of antibiotics. They didn’t help.

I still suffer from these symptoms. Yet, they are not as pronounced
and, the dizziness has gone. I should say in the beginning the fatigue
was unbearable. Too, concentration or short term focus were out.
I love to read but, had to give it up. I lost the ability to read any
complex material. It required more energy than my brain could handle.

I was a mindful, prayerful Grandmother. I lost these abilities too.
I spent my days on the couch. I didn’t have the energy to cook, clean,
or, do much besides breath and, wish I were dead.

Ever so slowly I gained energy. I learned that most all foods aggravated
these brain symptoms. My diet was reduced to very bland white rice
and, plain fresh meat. It has taken quite a lot out of me. I am not the
same person. Too, I found out who I could rely on during this tough
time. The answer. My husband. Not my adult children. They developed
an attitude since I was no longer catering to their wishes and, baby
sitting for them. See I look fine on the outside so, they lost patients
and decided I was just depressed and, needed to snap out of it.

Now, I have learned how to help control these symptoms. It is basically
an energy problem with my brain. Perhaps caused by my bodies
inability to detox correctly. Thus, I have to be very careful with my diet.
That too has changed me. I use to love to cook great meals. Nope. I
can’t eat them. So, I don’t entertain either.

I guess the point of sharing is to say suffering does lower us to a more
self serving human. It does stink…I’d like to be more of my former self.
But, I am forever dealing with this brain and, don’t have control over
how I am going to feel on any given day.

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steph in berkeley April 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Dear Fellow Reader,

I’m the commenter following yours. I wrote about one of my worst flu-like illnesses. Nothing like what you’re experiencing, but I understand your prayer. It’s all we can do to take care of ourselves when we are sick. And you’re doing what sounds like a pretty good job. I hope you continue to get better, or if you do not, that you learn new ways to find peace and satisfaction.

Take care.

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steph in berkeley April 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

In the summer of 2011 I had a flu that was so intense and lasted for so long that I came to pray for liberation from this life. To make matters worse, the intense coughing led to an infection in the cartilage of my rib cage. I have never experienced so much pain. I could literally not move without help and without crying. That lasted nearly two months. When I read your last article, it was the place I went mentally to relate to the lower levels you described. Once you have an illness like that, you never forget it. And frankly, I’ve been much more wary of becoming sick ever since.

I guess I’m getting off topic, so on to dishes. I enjoy dishes. I didn’t always. But the procedure has become an art of sorts. One thing I enjoy about the act, is it’s one way of exerting total control in one area of your life. You decide when, how and how well to wash/dry/put away your dishes, and it is undoubtedly an act of self-care. It’s a safe and affirming act. But we each find similar processes that work for us, and it’s not the sink for everyone. Incidentally, I still use my dishwasher, but there are plenty of pots and pans and other odd items that don’t belong in one. I get enough washing doing these. Thanks for another thoughtful post. Like all of your readers, I wish you well soon.

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Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce April 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Feel better, David. Funny you use dish washing as an example. My mom always said “while you are washing dishes….wash dishes”. What a Zen-like comment from someone totally not into that stuff normally! But she was right, and so are you.

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rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) April 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm

David,

I hope you feel better soon!

The more I read your writings, the more they sound like a Zen Buddhism which I’ve been practicing for over 3 years. I suggest that you make your mindfulness unconditional. In other words, just be as mindful as you can be. Don’t compare your current mindfulness with your past mindfulness and decide that past is better or worse – it’s just different.

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Anjali April 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

David, you’ll be fine soon!! It must be the crazy weather there…

You know, you’re still at a pretty higher level of the spectrum than most people (me) are on a good day! So don’t be too hard on yourself :) I have found that I enjoy doing dishes and washing my clothes once I’m doing it, but before I start I kinda dread the tasks. But yes, it is actually quite weirdly therapeutic and peaceful. If I’m in a phase when I’m terribly upset about something or too elated about another, while washing my clothes I just feel normal and grounded.

Okay, but don’t end up becoming a dish washing addict like your friend hehe… and don’t worry! you probably just need a dose of spring..

big hug & much love

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Cecilia April 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Does your experiment include drying them too?

I’m OK about the washing bit, but the drying is one of the few household tasks that happens all by itself …

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Dan April 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Your friend is a genius.

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Yitzhak April 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Every one of your experiments is enlightening, truly.

Best of luck!

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Lan Chi April 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I’ve always loved washing dishes by hand. I don’t feel cheated when others do dishes for me or with me, though. Instead I feel thankful that they are pitching in and helping me with one of life’s most secret simple pleasures. As for the act of washing dishes itself, I love running the water all soapy, dipping my arms in up to my elbows and gently rubbing away at food, sauce, and liquid on each dish. I put each dish slapdash (but gently) on the dish drain and see how I can pile them up in interesting, compact ways. Sometimes I listen to music while I do dishes. Other times, I sing classic songs from the 1950s. At the end, I always feel a sense of satisfaction and enlightenment, no matter how tired or busy I was before I had to do the dishes. I also find the same enjoyment from ironing clothes, finding ways to compact trash, and sorting through mail for recycling, but that’s another story. :)

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Andy April 9, 2013 at 1:55 am

As a reader who looks forward to your posts, I appreciate the effort it has probably been taking you to keep up with your writing. Just as insightful and helpful as ever.
I get what you mean about the difficulties of being in that southerly zone. Unlocking the door to my apartment can be frustrating enough…trying to focus and think productively usually seems impossible.
I also couldn’t agree more with your friend Lily’s point. Thanks for sharing that bit of wisdom.

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Zsuzsa April 9, 2013 at 3:44 am

Awesome article, as always. :)
Funny thing, I never ever had a dishwasher. Never particularly wanted one, or felt the need. For a single person it is not so important, after guests it’s a bit more stuff to do but I always took it as part of the closing ritual. And after reading this I might not even want one. :) What I also realized people with dishwashers use much more dishes – making one dirty will not cause you more work then. But after all the more dishes you have the more water you use… we should be rather very conscious about this.

About long-term sickness: I hate it. I am very impatient so after 3 days I start to sink into a “this will never get better” depression. And it is so hard to realize and enjoy the small steps forward, that my headache is not that terrible as a day earlier – it is hard to be happy about something being less bad as earlier. I want all the symptoms to go away at once.
Just keep up! It will get better. (And for cough: put fresh ginger into your tee! Better than any pills.)

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D von Wilt April 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

I think all house-chores can have that kind of effect. No wonder it has connections with the astrlogical sign of Virgo – the one to make the synthesis of all the previous individual signs. Virgo is the mindfullness sign and so is the 6th house.

I’d say washing the dishes is not a must. Maybe you like to dust. Maybe to sweep. Maybe to clean altogether. Maybe you occupy yourself with clothes. Or with pets. All those have this similarity and doing all of them would consume your whole day – no wonder in the old days somehow it was decided that the men would work and the women would stay at home and take care of all that. It could have been the other way around, but it’s just too much to be done.

I don’t think dishwashers are evil. If you can use modernities and still use the free time you have to come back to yourself and meditate – for example – i think it’s still quite good. Or even better, ’cause then there’s no distraction.

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Renata April 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

My mother used to say to me: “Nothing is better to anguish and bad feelings (when you can´t recognise which are the reasons for it) than make a cake. By the use of our hands, mix different ingredients and turn them into a beatiful, tasty and comforting cake. It a is very constructive experience”.

It works for me, sometimes. So I share it with you!

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Bev April 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I find myself living in one of the most materialistic environments. By default, I hand wash my clothes, my dishes, my floors. I walk home along an unexpected park and borrow linen, invite friends home who come with food, wine, laughter and sticks of furniture that make home beautiful. And they take me to the opera (something I dreamed of but never did in the West, for no reason)… and maybe I feel less puzzled when everyone says I look happier and more alive than I remember. Thank you David, this posting made me mindful.

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Paul Esche April 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Nice article. My dishwasher failed a few years ago. It was never replaced. Microwave was about fifteen years ago. Never replaced. For me it’s much easier to add thought and awareness to food when it’s done slowly.
(I live in Florida, USA so I wasn’t so open-minded when it came time to replace the air-conditioning)

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Padmini April 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Bathing a new born Buddha,’ – a lesson in mindfulness and being completely present in the most mundane activities , realising that the most powerful and real moment is the Now.
Good energies your way:-)

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Susan C. April 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

My father ruined dishwashers for me. His constant critique of my loading technique apparently left permanently unpleasant associations. What a gift! Now I enjoy water play every day at the sink. Thoughts: see how little water you can use & still get good results–notice how a lesser flow actually adheres to the surfaces, even curved ones. Determine clean-ness by feel. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds smell positively divine. You’ll need hot water to cut grease. Otherwise? Not so much. Harvest your grey water for later use in drought abatement. What an opportunity for peaceful engagement awaits you….

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Cristina López Mayher April 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hope you are feeling better. I just wanted to suggest to be mindful as well of all the water that is running down your sink. Water is a scarce resource and many people dont have access to it. So.. while you get that peace of mind and recover (which I really hope you do), try to do it with as little water as possible, acknowledging all those moments when you can be washing while the water is not running. A good act for the planet.
Get better!

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Theo April 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Whilst I agree with the high importance of mindfulness, I believe there can be too much.

Forcing a situation to become interesting by simply becoming aware of our surroundings may do good the first few times in that particular situation, but if you’re trying to appreciate the same thing over and over then it does more bad than good.

The reason we as humans are so good is because we can block things out. We can become used to the wonderful and amazing and we forget to appreciate it. By becoming used to it, we utilize things to their full potential. A dishwasher can save what, 10 minutes of work? 10 minutes a day which could be spent doing something else more productive, which could still invoke being mindful.

I’m not saying its bad to be mindful, it’s not. But there is a point when it becomes ok to ignore things that may seem amazing when broken down into their origins, as overdoing this would hinder what you set out to achieve in the first place.

Anyway these are my barely coherent thoughts, I’m terrible at writing so well done if you made it this far.

P.S. This site is a really great collection of thoughts and ideas, David. Great stuff!

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Keone April 10, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I have been a longtime proponent of the “clean as you go” method, which brings a further level of mindfulness by reinforcing the habit of attending to small messes so they do not pile up and become big ones that seem overwhelming and that I procrastinate doing.

There is a sign my wife hung up with a smiling 50′s housewife that says “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” Her mentality is to do things when they reach a crictical mass state or when she has the motivation and free time to attend to doing chores around the house.

Your personal level of germophobia and anal retentiveness plays a huge part in whether or not this is acceptable, but when you factor the time spent scrubbing, polishing, dusting, sweeping, moping, cleaning, etc. over the course of a lifetime it amounts to a staggering sum.

Consider an hour a day graphed over the course of 30 years amounts to roughly a year and a half spent cleaning that you will never get back, and that is a conservative estimate since most of us spend far more than that over a longer period. Given that most of us are busy and have limited amounts of energy to devote to said tasks it is all about utilizing the tools at our disposal and becoming efficient at cleaning so it does not become a burden in our lives. I have noticed that doing dishes become a huge issue in every living situation I’ve been in and is ultimately a deal breaker in many cases. The cleaning of other people’s messes is a huge source of contention and is bad karma.

Therefore I have no qualms about using the dishwasher, although I make sure to maximize it to its full capacity when I do. The other reason I do it is because hand washing does not sterilize dishes and silverware, which is important to consider. Before I had a dishwasher I would use a bucket with cold water and a couple drops of bleach as a rise after washing dishes.

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Mark April 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

You’re probably too young to know about Zap comix but this post reminded me of one of R. Crumb’s cartoons, and now he has redone it in color and it’s for sale:
http://plasticandplush.com/2011/11/r-crumbs-mr-natural-does-the-dishes.html

Thanks for this, doing the dishes is one of my favorite meditations.

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Kristina April 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi David,

You may already know this, but your lungs and adrenal glands (stress moderators) are linked. If your lungs are taxed, your adrenals may be as well, hence you feel less able to manage stress. I got influenza this past winter, and while I was sick noticed a significant decline in my ability to deal with stress. If you haven’t already, talk to a naturopath, or look into taking adrenal adaptagens (sp?). That, and rest! Hope you feel better soon.

kristina

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onebreath April 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

This came at a perfect time for me – mindfulness is such a powerful way to approach life, and yet it is also challenging to maintain it in the waves that come in life. I find having both too much and too little to do cause me to step out of any experience and avoid being present. Of course, the trick is to realize there is never too much or too little, there is just this moment.

At this point, my mind always starts to spin a little. Thanks for sharing your honest view of life on this blog…

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Naomi Frances April 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Hey David,
hope you’re better soon, apparently spring is around the corner (in England at any rate). I know what you mean about the way that the cleaning just doesn’t get done if you’re ill. I get migraines, and in their aftermath there is chaos! And I loathe washing up, can’t stand to do it, I resent it, I hate it! So, I’m going to try the mindfulness thing with it, make it a choice, choose to see the craft in doing a job well, and thoroughly…..

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Bradley Herman April 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I agree wholly… Just wash whatever you’re using right when you’re done with it. Takes literally a few seconds and you always have everything clean. I make sure to wash whatever I use almost immediately, even if I’m in the middle of preparing a big meal.

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Kelkel April 12, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I abhor washing dishes. I have reasons. A week or so ago, I had a bit of an epiphany while washing out my coffee cup. This is the vessel that delivers my coffee. My coffee makes me happy and puts a smile on my face in the morning. Washing this cup will help bring me future happiness. I still am not a huge fan, I won’t lie, but I have gained a new appreciation for it. Thanks for reinforcing it. :)

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Cindy April 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I hate doing dishes…I even hate putting them in a dishwasher, although I have only lived in one place that was equipped with one. I just don’t like standing in one place for that long. It doesn’t surprise me that one of your posts will likely be the remedy to one of only a few annoyances I have left in my world. Thank you for shining the light of an opposite perspective for me to ponder going forward. I had never considered that in certain circumstances, standing in one place can actually move you.

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Tom Southern April 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

David, it’s concerning that you’re writing blog posts while under the influence of pneumonia. Shouldn’t you be tucked up in bed with love and comfort by your side? You’re amazing. Look after yourself.

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Garrett April 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I’ll go ahead and repeat what some others have already said, and that is that dishwashers are more efficient in a number of really important ways.

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L. A. Howard April 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

The more of your blog I read, the more I like your point of view. I’m sorry you’ve felt sick for so long, though. That really sucks. :(

Though I like your honesty, I have to disagree with you on the dishwasher thing. I use it because I can’t stand very long at the sink without getting major pains in my backside. For reasons wholly out of my control, my back has had far too much strain put on it for that activity to be fully enjoyable to me. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is in a lot of pain,” as the saying goes.

Mostly, I think dishwashers were marketed to busy moms in the 1950s and 1960s to make life just a little less hectic. While it may not mean much for a childless person (including myself, though I’m married), I can DEFINITELY see how it would be something of a necessity with a couple of young ones running all over creation!

All that to say this: It’s great to get satisfaction out of the simple things, and I completely agree that it’s a lost art! But on the other hand, I can also see how dishwashers in particular can reduce stress rather than add to depression. :)

Hope you feel better soon!

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L. A. Howard April 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Also, I hate chores with the fire of a thousand suns, so anything I can do to get through them as quickly as possible is a plus for me. :) (I do -not- find enjoyment in laundry, dishes, etc.)

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Martin April 17, 2013 at 10:49 am

Re: the illness; sounds like pneumonia – could be candidiasis, which masks as many other infirmities.

Re: doing the dishes; great meditation opportunity, equal to ‘chop wood, carry water’.

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Dahlia Smith April 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

It may take you a little longer than a month to get the full benefit of washing dishes by hand, at least it did for me. Just being in the kitchen is now a “zen” experience for me starting with my decision to do the dishes by hand. It took me quite a while (maybe 6 months) to get to the point of feeling genuine pleasure in the process and realizing the many benefits of it. Now all kitchen chores are a practice in mindfulness for me. And I look for opportunites to enjoy this practice in other areas of my life, including walking through parking lots.

When I was a child my dad often asked me and my siblings what to get Mom for Christmas. We always chimed Get Her a Dishwasher. His answer was the same everytime… “She already has six” and he held out his arms as if he were about to embrace all of us at once. Years later I mentioned to my mother my father’s possible lack of consideration for her. She laughed and said that he knew she would not have one in the house. It was her “one on one” time, in the kitchen with each of the childen; her way of keeping up with things, a daily check up and check in. I never forgot that lesson…

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Amelia April 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

I moved into a place in October that did not have a dishwasher. This was the first time in many years I had lived somewhere without one. I had a new roommate and we did not have the same kitchen standards at all. Being non-confrontational, I just let her have the kitchen. I wasn’t doing any real cooking there anyway because of my schedule. I would clean it maybe once a week (while she was gone and I would have the house to myself for several days) because I couldn’t stand it anymore, she’d wreck it on her first day home and slowly add to the mess until she’d leave again…. On the first of March, I moved into a brand new house with my long term boyfriend, also without a dishwasher. Since I moved in, I get an intense satisfaction from not only hand washing the dishes but from all the little aspects of taking care of a house. All of these little moments are when I get to take my mental breaks. I love my job, but being there requires mental energy for a solid 8+ hours a day, not counting driving time. My relationship is amazing and more fulfilling than I ever imagined I would find, but it is a mental challenge for both of us. That’s part of what makes it so awesome, but the ability to take a bit of a break is always appreciated. I can take care of these simple tasks, completely zone out while I am doing them for the most part, and when I’m all done there is immediate gratification. I can cook anything I want in my kitchen at any time because it is all ready to go. Every part of my house is available for maximum comfort at any time. This house came with a well taken care of yard with all these charming garden spaces and flower beds. I don’t know anything about gardening, but I figure I can get out there and dig around in the dirt, throw out some seeds and see what grows.

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sadie April 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm

i was diagnosed with fybromyalgia 8 years ago, and when im having a bad time with it i tend to get almost to breaking point then suffer persistant coughs or earache…… these symptoms hurt like hell but also i believe they happen to expell bad energy in my physical and mental self. please read up on fibromyalgia and get help NOW if u think u have it. i was treated for my physical symptoms in various ways for years…. nothing helped me though, i got worse & worse. eventually i sought mental health treatment, thats where im at now. with hindsight i am certain that both my head and my pain etc needed treating at once, i also believe fibro mental issues(what u described is “fibro fog”) should be treated first and taken very seriousely…… i think its to late for me now to ever regain a confident ME, but maybe i can help u, so i say please get advice & help asap. i came across what u have written totally by accident…….. or did i?
good luck….. sadie xx

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myriam May 1, 2013 at 5:33 am

I suffered similar symptoms… I went to a holstic doctor …she made me take some allergy test… Delayed reactions testa and I turned out to be allergic to many of the foods I was eating which was not caught by the regular test given by my allergist…. Find out if all of a sudden you became allergic to some of the food you are consuming… Get better….

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Helen May 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Have you ever come across Fly Lady. http://www.flylady.net
Her whole blog is based on starting with shining your sink, to bring order to your life.

Your very first BabyStep is to go shine your sink. Don’t listen to those voices that tell you that it not going to help your messy house. This is exactly where I started, and this little habit has changed my life! Take this BabyStep in faith and go do it. Here are the directions for shining your kitchen sink.
Day 1 – Shine Your Sink

After you do this, you will keep it shiny by drying it out after each time you use it and making sure when you go to bed that it is shining so it will make you smile in the morning. This is how I get to hug you each day! That shiny sink is a reflection of the love that you have for yourself.

Our FlyLady system is all about establishing little habits that string together into simple routines to help your day run on automatic pilot. You can do this!

Not sure how to shine your sink? Read FlyLady’s FLYing Lesson on how to shine your sink.

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Mrs. M May 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I am a Fly baby. I found Flylady when they were still new and I started to take the baby steps. My son was in elementary and my daughter in preschool. Dear Son graduates in two days and Dear Daughter just entered the National Honor Society. (toot horn now)
I also thought of the Flylady program while reading David’s article.
I return to Raptitude every few weeks to read David’s new articles. I’ve really enjoy his writing.

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Ellen May 18, 2013 at 1:34 am

Gross . Have you ever smelled a dishwasher when it’s mid- cycle ? Especially after a fry up ? Ewwwwww.

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H. Mines October 23, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Ah. Washing dishes.
Existing.
So many people forget how to simply exist. No one ever seems to understand why I take pleasure in things like doing the dishes or sewing things by hand. I am currently in college, a place run rampant with young people searching for gratification and meaning, dazed with new ideas, loud ideas, and neon signs. Quite honestly, all I really ever feel like doing is taking long walks (or even spend a few days) in the forest with my notebook. Learning to balance this incessant desire to simply exist in the forest (which began immediately after a 12 day backpacking adventure in the Adirondacks) with college and work has been… interesting, but I am sure I’ll eventually find balance (the people I love are usually what call me back, and I am okay with that).
Although I am ten years younger than you, I have a challenge for you: go and find a tree. Sit in it for at least 30 minutes. If you can’t bring yourself to climb it, sit under it, look up into its branches from different angles, etc. Document your findings. Try to figure out what it is like to be a tree. There is something about trees that remind me of simply existing and enjoying it. It might sound crazy, but still… try it.

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