While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes!

Ok well it looks like I’m ahead of the game for once…it’s only Tuesday and look at me, already getting my weekly post done – no procrastination from this Hagsaeng Naebu! Actually though, as you may have noticed, I didn’t post last week (along with one of my classmates ahem Worden ahem!) and somehow, though it’s still unclear how, Master Pearson stumbled upon this little fact. We received a nice strong reprimand this morning from our dear instructor along with the addition of a second, separate post assignment for this week – ‘dems the breaks, as they say. Although, as  discipline from Master Pearson goes, it could have been much much worse I suppose. People have been kicked out of his tutelage for even more minor infractions.

Ahhhh so what to post…After our modified meeting last weekend, there is so much to tell. Mr. Walsh, we missed having you there and I have to admit you really missed a good one (yes, I’m rubbing it in!). It was amazing how much more we were able to pack into the day. My hope is that this means we are finally getting into a rhythm for classes and Master Pearson is discovering how to best utilize his time with us so that no moment is wasted. It was nice, though tiring for sure, to just go back to back to back to back with classes. But I think in reality, what made the difference was the fact that we weren’t stopping as much for sleep and food and food prep and clean up. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that we are given the responsibility to cook and prepare meals for one another, in fact it’s one of the highlights for me of our time together. It has been really awesome to discover various international cuisines and hone my skills in the kitchen – and after all, it all fits in right? The Samurai practiced arts that were pure aesthetics, like origami and ikebana. These beautiful crafts were practiced with the same mindset and diligence as sword fighting and archery. I think cooking falls into this category of art.   My concern is how long it seems to be taking us to do it.  Master Pearson made a delicious meal for us on Saturday evening in under half an hour whereas the same thing took Ms. Doll and myself well over twice as long to do the month before.

So where might this efficiency come from?  In my opinion it comes from mindfulness and awareness.  In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific writer, Thich Nhat Hanh celebrates the subtle art of true focus.  In one famous chapter he describes the act of washing the dishes as an act of mindfulness.  Since we wash quite a few dishes during our meetings, I recently turned Hanh’s words for inspiration to make this part of our time with Master Pearson both faster (naw that’s not the right word perhaps)…more efficient and more productive.  Hanh writes…

“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance this might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves…There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first way is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second way is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes…If while we are washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash to wash the dishes.’ What’s more we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes….If we can’t washes the dishes, chances are we won’t  be able to drink our tea either.”  

The point is that washing the dishes is simply something that we must do. It is part and parcel of the ukideshi model upon which our training is based.  We minimally owe this small service to Master Pearson (and much much much much much much much more if he would let us!)  for spending this time and sharing his teaching with us.  But it does not have to stop there.  Washing the dishes, scrubbing the mats in the dojang, cooking, etc.  These can all be practices that can help us improve as martial artists (in the same way that origami, ikebana, the tea ceremony, calligraphy, haiku, and bonsai were viewed by the Samurai).

I would suggest that we start to use Hanh’s approach in our own work – particularly during our time together as Hagsaeng Naebu .  Perhaps, if we worked away in the proverbial kitchen without chattering away (even about relevant things – as Ms. Doll and I did last month – the ingredients we were using, suggestions on how to modify the recipe in the future, etc.), perhaps if we viewed the kitchen as simply an extension of the dojang, requiring the same discipline, mindfulness, and awareness that is (or at least should be) present within those walls, then these things will cease to be chores and will truly become practices.

Just my thoughts…

Requirement (partially) fulfilled.


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