Practicing Mindfulness One Dish at a Time

Living presently and listening mindfully | By: Sabrina Thomas | October 10, 2019

It is safe to say that in this day and age, we are all busy. It is easy to become caught up in our everyday tasks; we go to work, we make dinner, we clean, we pick up kids from school, and more, and more, and more until we go to sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. With such a recurring pattern, our brain can slip into “autopilot mode”, and we begin to go through the motions mindlessly.

Some of us even enjoy staying busy all the time. I am the type of person who thrives on having every second of my time being taken up. Since I was younger, I have been used to having every single second of my time being taken up, especially in college. I’ve worked two jobs, worked towards my degree, participated in athletics, and had multiple internships; I barely had enough time to sit down for a meal.

Rebecca Z. Shafir is a speech/language pathologist, author, and executive function coach, who studies mindful practices. Shafir states, “Just as we have learned to manage external interference by tuning out, it has become somewhat of a challenge to tune in deeply enough to the messages we need to listen to -- those of family, coworkers, and customers.”

As a society living in a fast-pace, “must-do-now” environment, our brains feel the need to multitask to try and utilize time optimally, a catalyst to our mindless autopilot. Being mindful and focusing on the present may take more time and effort, but it makes for more quality interactions, and more success.

It is crucial to keep the end goal in mind while practicing mindfulness; an example I like to use from Shafir is the goal of washing dishes. While washing dishes, a task that is fairly easy to become mindless doing, Shafir invites us to not see the end goal as having clean dishes, but instead see the end goal as cleaning one mug, then one plate, then one spoon, and so on until all the dishes are clean. This challenges us to take the time to appreciate the little tasks in our lives, helping us become successful in all aspects.

Mindlessness is something found especially in the workplace. It is tempting to want to go through the motions of everyday work tasks, and only half-listen to coworkers while thinking about the work to do and the future. Practicing mindfulness can impact life greatly in all aspects, not just interpersonally. 

Rather than think about all the things that have to be done, think about all that is currently being accomplished. Being able to work on a single project, and put every ounce of thought into the present tasks creates an environment of mindfulness, and an environment of success. Of course, we must think of the end goal of each and every single one of our tasks. It is amazing to think about the amount of dishes we could clean if we focused on one at a time.

Believe it or not, practicing mindfulness can take a lot of effort. It is a challenging habit to break, but taking it one task by one task can really help in the end. So please, enjoy each sip of coffee in the morning, listen intently on how your child’s day at school was, and appreciate each and every washed dish.

Read more on Rebecca Z. Shafir

Shafir’s books, The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction , Speaking with Power and Persuasion