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How To / The Zen of Dishwashing

Getting tired of washing the dishes? Find out how to go deep at the sink in the spirit of our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

1. “Chop wood, carry water”: Challenge yourself to realise that to wash dishes can be a pleasant and deep encounter with life in the present moment. It’s not lost time. It’s not a chore.

2. No Striving. If you’re washing the dishes just to get them clean and get on with something else, you haven’t yet attained the Zen of dishwashing. Thich Nhat Hanh says there’s only one way to wash dishes: “to enjoy washing dishes.”

3. Release the tension. Holding your breath? Tension in the jaw? Shoulders up tight? Hand squeezing the sponge like your life depends on it? Which muscles would need to reconfigure to allow yourself to smile?

4. Connect your mind to the present moment, and the feel of water on your skin, dish in your hands. Release any resentment. Smile to any lingering regrets or anxiety, and gently bring the mind 100% to bear on what’s going on right now.

5. Check-in with your body. Can you feel the soles of your feet on the floor? How’s your back? Allow 100% of your body to participate in the act of dishwashing.

6. Connect with your ancestors. Are these your father’s hands you’re scrubbing with, or your grandmother’s? Who taught you to do the dishes? Did your great-great-grandmothers have the joy of warm water, sponges and soap?

7. See the galaxy in your spoon. Where has this metal come from? Or the glass? Or the clay in the plate? What were its previous lifetimes? Where will it be in 10,000 years?

8. No mud, no lotus. As you scrape out the grimy leftovers, or throw away the peelings in the compost, visualise what flowers they may nourish next year.

9. Nourish compassion. Be gentle with yourself and the dishes. Transform it into an act of love, freely given. Touch gratitude for having food to eat, soap to wash, and loved ones still alive to make dishes dirty!

10. Forget all these points so you can scrub in peace and freedom.

This article is based on a Twitter thread by Sr True Dedication.

Sr True Dedication is one of our dynamic young dharma teachers of Plum Village. She will be giving a dharma talk at our third and final online retreat of the summer, ‘Love is the Way‘. Please join us for three days of mindfulness practice, Aug 7-9.

Join us for a three day online retreat, Aug 7-9

Join the conversation

  • Thank you for these helpful reminders. Number ten especially made me smile 😊I will try to apply them to all my ‘chores ‘ 🙏

  • My gratitude to you all! ☺️ Now I’m looking forward to doing the dishes and with a touch of humour too! 🤣

  • In 1993, I had the privilege to attend a silent retreat with Thay. He taught us the miracle of mindfulness. “Wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” It has stayed with me all these years.

  • My dishwasher broke over a year ago. Have been telling friends that i found i enjoyed washing by hand. Glad to see i’m not crazy. I also put on music to wash to.

  • I struggle with my daily tasks and have carers to help me; but this helps me greatly overcome helplessness- and add to the list – sending love to my assistants by washing my dish.

  • I felt very happy that I already do several of the points, but, of course more practice is always needed. Fortunately, plenty more dishes coming my way …

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    What is Mindfulness

    Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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