The Kitchen Sink of Mindfulness

In his book The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation Thich Nhat Hanh offers everyday moments where we can practice mindfulness.


From The Miracle of Mindfulness

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes, one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes.  At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing?  But that’s precisely the point.  The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality.  I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions.  There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

While washing dishes, you might be thinking about the tea you’re going to drink afterwards, and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea.  But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes.  When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life.  Just as when you’re drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life.

I encourage you to apply this practice to any mundane activity.

We can even apply it to childcare. 

  • diapering
  • bathing
  • feeding/nursing
  • observing children’s play

Instead of hurrying we slow down and become present. This meets the child where he/she is. Children are in the moment. Children are not in a hurry. They are not thinking about what they are going to do next. This is why they are so darn happy.

When my children were small this book seemed perfect for a mom. During these years I stepped over and around my meditation cushion more times than I sat on the thing. I used my creativity and my weekly RIE class to find the moments where I could become present. Nursing, diapering and watching my children play became my meditations. On this Sunday as my teenagers happily “hang out” and ignore me, those mindful moments are so vivid and fondly remembered by me.

As my children grew into early childhood, spent most of their days in school and out of my care, I began to notice the following.

  • How hard it was to get back into my practice.
  • I began to notice that I prefered tripping over my meditation cushion rather than sitting on it.
  • As I watched myself NOT sit, I became aware.
  • I slowly started to accept that I chose avoiding it rather than the discipline of confronting the self that waited for me on the cushion.
  • And through that year of awareness and acceptance I eventually got back into the action. I sat. Not consistently but regularly enough.

Now my toddlers are 13 and 15 years old and I have time to sit. And I have time to sit consistently. And in the early hours of the day, while they sleep – I sit.

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