Washing up, the act of cleaning dirty bowls and dishes, became a meditating ritual for me a year into starting the business.
It was by no means intentional. I never liked doing washing up. In college, my roommate and I would wait until the very last mintue, when we could smell the mold on the dirty dishes in the sink, before we'd go into the serious discussion of whose turn it was to do the dishes.
We didn't have a dish washer at home when I was growing up (very few did in Taiwan back then), so washing dishes had always been an unpopular chore. I'd take the trash out, wipe the table, run to the store… anything I could do to avoid having to put my hands into the sink and scrub the dishes full of grease.
Exactly why I surprised myself when I started to enjoy doing the dishes.
The first two years when my wife and I started our businesses, we spent a lot of time at home – including 99.9% of our meal time to save money and keep ourselves healthy. It was a pretty dramatic change for me, moving from Tokyo where I used to eat all three meals outside, to eating at home 7 days a week. Unfortunately, I am a slow, and pretty terrible cook, so my job naturally was to clean up after meals – washing up included.
I wasn't super excited about it at first, but it was my end of the deal. So multiple times a day, you'd find me in front of the sink washing away. It's pretty amazing how many dishes two people would use in one meal. Frankly, the thought of doing the washing up always depressed me a bit the few minutes before I really had to do it.
As more and more stress piled up from the business, I was unable to sleep much, and my mind was always on the business. I was never present no matter what I was doing – walking the dog, grocery-shopping…etc. I constantly felt like my head was spinning and my mind was going to explode from having so much running through it at all times!
Then I discovered one thing: I was a lot more present when washing the dishes. For some strange reason – maybe the feeling of running water through my fingers, the act of cleansing, the repetition of picking up and putting down, the organizing of plates and bowls, or the sense of accomplishment – I felt calm, a lot calmer, when doing the dishes.
It's an almost zen like feeling. I was liberated from… things. Things that bothered me. Things that needed my attention. Things that required more planning. Things that didn't go right. Things that didn't happen fast enough. Things that should have been done differently. I was free from them for 20 minutes every time when I soaked my hands in warm water and just washed the dishes.
Nothing bothered me. The world was just me and my little battle with the dirty dishes right in front of me. I was, in a flow.
I am a lot less stressed now compared to a couple of years ago. But occasionally, when things get tough, when I feel like screaming in my head, when I know I need time and space for myself, I'd put on my headphones, turn the music all the way up, go to the sink, let the water run,
and wash up.