I hate doing dishes. Can I just get that out of the way now? Sweeping for some reason is weirdly relaxing to me. Even cleaning windows has some satisfaction in it (when they’re really grimy I secretly pretend I’m doing a Windex commercial complete with voice-over). But dishes I simply hate.
I’ve always liked reading about Zen. I wouldn’t call myself a serious practitioner, but from the moment I was introduced to the idea of living in the now, it made real sense to me. The practice of being here – not dwelling on the past and not harping on anxieties of the future is a brilliant way to live. Letting go of my desire to categorize everything into “like” or “dislike” doesn’t serve me and my rational mind knows this. So why is it so difficult to put into practice? On those rare occasions when I have actually found myself in the here and now without judgment, experiencing the present moment for just a moment, I experience a bliss like no other.
So back to the dishes. There is no rational reason I should hate doing the dishes. It really isn’t all that different from the myriad of other ordinary activities that find their way into my daily life. I’ve tried forcing myself to let go of this judgment “What’s your problem, Jenn!? Stop it already.” I’ve tried charming myself into liking it–convincing myself that, “look, dishes are fun! Warm soapy water, soft sponge, lemon scent. How nice!” Doesn’t work.
So when I started practicing Alexander Technique, I was really shocked that my desire to categorize activities into like and dislike began to diminish. I won’t pretend that wouldn’t rather be reading a romance novel on a beach somewhere, but by taking any and all activities as moments to release tension and allow for more freedom in my joints, I automatically throw myself into the present moment without trying to.
That sounds nice, you say. How’s it done? It’s easier than you think.
I start by giving myself permission to stop, just for a moment. This stopping is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. If I go in full blast, with all my impatience and that negative but familiar response I have to doing the dishes, it’s unlikely I can separate myself from my intense dislike towards the activity. When I have taken a moment to stop and have given myself some space, I become aware of my neck, and allow it to be free and easy (which instantly makes my head feel lighter and my breath open up) before plunging my hands into the water. I become aware of my arms over the sink, and I release any excess tension in my shoulders, elbows, and wrists, so that my fingers soften and lengthen as I make contact with the plate. I think of my balance over my feet and of letting my knees gently release forward so that I am not locking or bracing, and suddenly my lower back begins to soften. The activity becomes (almost) enjoyable because I am enjoying, in the moment, how my body is feeling. I don’t have worries about the past or future because I am experiencing the now. In a few minutes the dishes are done. I didn’t even have time to think about how much I hated them.