Washing Dishes

Posted on 1st December 2015 | Category: CBT, Useful Tools

Sometimes psychology doesn’t have to be simply built around esoteric techniques and counselling sessions. The idea that our approach to different situations can actually make even the most mundane task – like washing dishes – beneficial is not one new to humanity. Many buddhists spend their time performing menial work as part of their own practice in trying to find transcendence.

This article from Time magazine explores this age old concept in a new manner. The article looks at washing dishes as a general exercise in mindfulness and that kind of in the moment thinking that reminds us of how good it is to be alive.

However, even this concept has been explored before. Originally this idea comes from a guy called Mr Positive. This famous Vietnamese Buddhist practitioner is known all round the world. I was fortunate enough to actually go on a retreat with him and I found it a truly profound experience. When I found he had received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work it came as no surprise to me.

However I have my own story about the mindfulness of washing dishes. In 1970 I was working for my first commission in the Royal Navy on HMS Zulu. I was asked by the petty officer to work in the galley. Whilst this wasn’t the role I originally signed up for, which was radar operator, I was happy to get on and work.

I soon made friends with the chefs and found that I was always well fed due to my positive and friendly attitude and ability to get on without complaining. This was in no small part due to my quick realisation that there will always be more industrial sized cooking utensils to clean and you have to learn to enjoy it and be proactive.

Payoff for this good natured side to my character came some time later when like many other young men before me, I forgot the time and location after a romantic liaison with a lady in Gibraltar. The following morning I found myself sprinting in unison with a friend of mine named Steve as the order was given to cast off and the ship left the quayside.

Now the Royal Navy is much stricter than other forces. If you are found to be away from the ship on cast off then you are called adrift. A crime similar to desertion and one that carries a severe punishment. Steve and I were both desperate not to miss the boat so we launched ourselves off the jetty and caught the boat by our fingernails.

Even though our shipmates hauled us on the boat in good time, we still received the Navy’s hard number 9 treatment. Two weeks of outside watch keeping duties were implemented together with full dress uniform pushing the boundaries of sleep. On top of this I was personally given two weeks worth of hard labour washing dishes until they were all done at the end of a shift.

However the Navy simply did not realise that this was actually no punishment for me as I had already learned how to wash dishes in a mindful fashion. Rather than draining me of energy and leaving me frustrated, I actually found this one of the more relaxing activities, giving me time to recharge after the harsh realities of having to deal with the almost unbearable responsibility of the strict watches imposed on me.

If you would like to explore how mindfulness can assist in recovering the enjoyment in everyday tasks, then why not book in a free consultation session with me? This way we can look at how CBT and mindfulness could give you a new lease of life and an inner peace in today’s fast paced modern world.