Zen and the Art of Dishwashing

I love washing dishes. Not the home alone, drain on both my mental health and water type, but the workplace kind with steam, rushes, and clashes.

After flogging yourself around a commercial or industrial kitchen, sometimes it feels quite calming to focus on the dish area.

You have to accept a basic fact when washing these dishes. That no matter how hard you work, or how fast you go, there will always be another dish to wash. You have to let go of the control you usually have over your aspect in the workplace. You can work hard and that is all you can do.

There is no stress involved and, in the long run, no pressure. You let yourself dissolve into the water and evaporate into the air. The crashing of the plates become crinkles in the atmosphere.

Zen monks and nuns sometimes engage in manual labour as a means of meditation. It allowed them “to preserve inner silence while moving the body“.


It interests me that something so essentially chaotic can be mindful and calming, as the echo chamber that is the world collapses around you until you are the only one left. Scrubbing. Scrubbing at that piece of scum.

It is something I have only truly experienced while working in the dish area of a kitchen. I believe this to be one of mental blocks stopping me from leaving these types of workplaces.

Kitchens find this way to unsettle even the calmest person. I think I am trying to get at some truth here, but am only grazing the surface.