When it comes to dishwashing, I'm hot and cold but mostly cold. I often put it off for as long as I can until necessity forces me to scrub the crusty wok. But on occasion, I get a deep sense of satisfaction from dishwashing. The task and motion of cleaning allows to focus on the moment quite effortlessly, and I enter a meditative state.
What is the factor that determines whether I enjoy or resist dishwashing?
After observing myself for a few weeks, I realized something. Dishes are much more pleasing to clean during or right after cooking. The moment I begin eating, the charm begins to wear off. By the time I'm finished with my meal, I feel 50/50. I will probably wash my plates, and leave the pots and pans for the next day (overnight soaking is always a fantastic excuse). The next day? Forget it. Dishwashing is the last thing I want to do.
I lost the flow. Flow has become popularized in our millennial jargon as an optimal state of being in which our mind becomes synchronous with the task of our body. The sense of passing time is lost, and we become fully present in the moment. But what I mean by flow is slightly different. In order to enter this flow state of being, our actions must likewise flow from one movement to the next in a effortless string of causality.
This idea of flow has existed in many cultures for a long time. In the mid 17th century, the legendary Japanese philosopher-swordsman Musashi talks about it in the context of the way of the sword in his Go Rin no Sho (The Book of Five Rings). Flow is also at the core of many forms of martial arts, including tai chi, aikido, and capoeira. The ideal sequence of events feels seamless: one moment flows into the next, and one movement into another, until boundary is lost between all events. Cut vegetables, sauté, wash cutting board and knife, season, throw away the peels, check rice, and so on. Every action holds a relevant beat within the larger groove of cooking.
What happens when I cut out one of these tasks and save it for later? Now I have a cutting board, knife, and a pile of pots and pans in my sink. I certainly don't want to wash them first thing in the morning because that would interrupt my morning flow (shower, brush teeth, change, ginger water, breakfast, coffee, makeup, and so on). After a long day of work or classes? That would be my precious downtime flow. I don't even want to think about doing the dishes so I'm just going to eat leftovers. I think deserve to be a degenerate for just one night.
The Art of Dishwashing is seeing individual actions as part of a larger flow of events.
Rather than viewing "tasks" as interchangeable pieces for a game of mix and match, I've started trying to think of them as beats within a larger groove. Dishwashing is just a part of what makes my cooking groove. Cooking is a part of my home groove. Failure is a beat within the groove for success, and all of these things flow through my pursuit/groove of happiness. The more mindful I can be of this flow, the more I've lost the distinction between various tasks - and therefor of time. When approached with mindfulness, every moment flows into the next without a sense of interruption or resistance. And without this resistance, I feel perfectly content to wash my dishes. Think of a close friend you haven't seen in years, but whose presence would wipe away those years in a snap of a finger. We have a remarkable ability to retain the sense of groove over a lifetime of events.
I wonder how far I can ride this flow. A day would be a feat, and a week would practically make me a Jedi. But I also find effortless flow in the music I love, and wonder how I can apply what I learn from music to life, and from life in turn to music.