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Benefits of Mindfulness in Education - Part 3:

Washing the Dishes

One important way to firmly establish Mindfulness is to extend it beyond the formal practice sessions of Mindfulness of breathing. The practitioners select a routine activity such as brushing their teeth or washing the dishes and develop the ability to be fully awake from moment to moment and live in that experience with full attention.

Benefits

Such development of Mindfulness in daily activities compliments the formal sitting sessions and strengthens the overall results. In addition, certain routine tasks conducted with Mindfulness helps to dramatically improve the patience and emotional maturity of the practitioners.

This second benefit needs to be further explained.

We subconsciously and consciously broadly categorise activities of our lives as what we 'like' and what we 'dislike'. We 'like' to listen to our favourite song or eat our favourite Ice Cream. We 'dislike' cleaning the toilet or washing the dishes. Our daily emotions swing between these likes and dislikes most of the time like the pendulum of a clock.

When we are faced with our daily chores such as washing the dishes or the toilets, we do those at least with a little resentment as we don't 'like' to do those activities. Such resentment could result in mild stress, animosity and even restlessness in daily living.

However, we cannot avoid and run away from the activities we dislike all the time. Learning to cope Mindfully with the routine chores we dislike will immensely help us to mature emotionally and also to reduce some of the stress inducing factors of our lives.

In fact, a recent study at Florida State University found people who washed the dishes while attending to awareness of their mind and body experienced a 27% reduction in nervousness and a 25% increase in feelings of inspiration!

There is a little known third benefit connected to developing mindfulness in those daily activities we categorise as chores or routine, dull day to day work. In situations involving such work we wish to quickly finish those so that we will have more time for those activities we 'like'. So people tend to rush through the work or 'switch off' their mental and emotional faculties while doing such work. They may think about other things, future and past events or of other people and as a result be only partially awake at those times.

In time, as years go by, that partial wakefulness becomes a habit and a state of mind we tend to use whenever we do boring routine activities.

When we are in that partially awake mindset, we may fail to notice many things including various opportunities in life. Creativity and ability to produce optimum results in any area of activity will develop and nurture much better when we are fully awake.

Routine

This third benefit will be especially invaluable to school children.

Let's understand the methodology of developing Mindfulness on a routine task such a washing the dishes by school children.

'The Mindfulness teacher asks and guides the students to wash the dishes at their home as an important part of developing overall Mindfulness in life.

1. He first explains that as washing the dishes involves repetitive, slow physical movements it is an ideal activity to develop Mindfulness.

2. The students are asked to be aware of the stains of food on the dishes. What colours and shapes do they see? How do they feel when looking at the dirty dishes?

3. They are gently guided to be fully aware of the feelings without reacting - as if they are observing another person.

4. They are asked to just observe the thoughts running through their mind; "When I finish this, then I can relax" or even "This is stupid". To be aware non-judgmentally, without getting carried away by those thoughts.

5. They are asked to begin the cleaning slowly, feeling the sensation of water touching the skin and their hands gently rubbing and scrubbing the plate, applying minimum pressure. They are asked to observe how the bubbles form due to soap and water, sometimes sparkling as a result of light reflecting. They will feel the smell of the soap and how the smell of the plates change with washing.

6. The students are asked to wash each dish as if they are doing that activity for the first time in their life with full of attention and freshness.

7. Most importantly they are advised to let go of the urge to quickly finish doing the washing. Just to settle down into the moment of Washing the Dishes. To be fully alive in that moment.

This important exercise in Mindfulness is called 'Washing the dishes to wash the dishes'. Schoolchildren gradually learn to become fully awake in the present moment.

Aruna Manathunge can be contacted at [email protected]

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