Embrace Boredom - a little story about getting into the Zen and Dish Washing.

in boredom •  3 years ago  (edited)

We have been housesitting a great house near the beach, 30 minutes away from Amsterdam City center for the past 3 weeks. Everything about the house is great: It's location: 500 meters (0.3 mile) to the beach, amenities: great bathrooms, beautiful decoration and interior design and the roommates: an old purry furry cat and a bitsy bity rabbit.

One thing however the house didn't come with was a dish washing machine.

"Aaargh", was my initial thought when I noticed the lack of this first world luxury machine. But now, after 3 weeks of doing the dishes, I found the job actually quite soothing. It was always a bit difficult to get to it at first, so most of the times I did yesterday's evenings dishes in the morning.

But when I finally started, it didn't take long before I entered a sort of Zen state. Despite how boring the job seems, the repetitiveness really helped me get into the zone and drift away with my thoughts. It was just me, the soap, dirty dishes, hot water and an occasionally meowing cat.

Then it got to me: "I should have these moments more often". When I am in Amsterdam, I occasionally do the morning walk to the office. This is also said to be a great way to activate your mind, by moving. What really helped with the soap and water dishes was the fact that I couldn't touch any 'connected device' for a while and stay away from the distraction.

I dove a bit deeper into the internets and found some alignment:

  • UK Author Neil Gaiman recently chatted in Seth Meyers' Late Night Show(1:40) about 'embracing boredom' as a tip for young writers, as he says: "Ideas come from daydreaming. They come from drifting".
  • The British Psychological Society in England showed in a research on the matter that workers given a very boring routine job to do were much more creative immediately afterwards than workers who were not bored.

So how to embrace boredom?

I think it is simple. Find a space to get bored. Either by doing the dishes, or just sit down for a moment, leave your telephone at home, don't touch your computer and, yes, stop steeming for a (little) while :)

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I fully agree, I have most of my greatest ideas while walking the dog, or listening to my Wife...... I jest!

You are right, somehow these repetitive/boring works makes your brain function higher.

I usually go to drive around the city at late night to find new ideas / solutoins for my actual problems. I got a lot of great ideas during driving.


Yeah, driving works too. And sleeping! Sometimes I wake up with great solutions to fix problems. I decided to have a paper and pen nearby to write notes down while in bed.

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

and need well sleep
when you do not sleep enough head bad thinks :)

I think I would target sit down than do the dishes that's my daughters job lol

You summarize Find a place to get bored
I am not so sure "bored" is the word I would use to describe quieting the mind
I would personally say "Find a place to get quiet/still/calm". But perhaps the wording really doesn't matter and it is more the sentiment of your meaning and the actual experience of what happens that is important.
I believe what you are describing is the same process as why mantras are recited, chants are sung, beads are counted, meditation is practised - Washing dishes can be a profound meditation... etc.
It is to keep the "monkey mind" sufficently active and distracted that we can actually hear our inner voice, the voice of clarity and intuition; the font of ideas, what many refer to as Spirit
I wil leave you with this to ponder: Where do great ideas come from? Inspiration: In-Spirit-ions. And just what are "ions"? :)

In the business of Western culture we rarely take time to just sit and think. That to me seems like the greatest benefit of mindless, repetitive tasks. My favourite boring job is mowing the lawn.

Its nice to know that you now know how to wash plates manually. We do it very often here.

Loved this. I have found these moments in "boring" activities as well. Brushing my teeth is another big one!

dish washing machine are really bad for the environment :( and i do find myself that dish washing is easy, fast and really ZEN.
that being said, in my last trip to Amsterdam didn't get to see the seaside, is there a couch available at this wonderful house you talk about?!

i like to blast some music for dish washing, laundry and other similar tasks ^_^ because i'll take my boredom with a side of music

I read a lot of Buddhist writings, and many modern masters say washing dishes mindfully is a great pracice. Instead of trying to be somewhere else, be with the experience. Feel the water, and the heat, and the sponge, etc. Not 100 percent sure who talked about this but Joseph Goldstein and Gil Fronsdal come to mind. If you havent already checked it out, Gil's free podcast from the San Fransisco Zen center is great. @nonlinearone

wow thank you so much for advise thank you so much

wow thank you so much for advise thank you so much

I like it ...it is a pleasure to read :)
Thank you!!


Most times I'm not bored but I know I could do that for a living!

Boredom is a sign of a healthy, vibrant mind. There's no better time to let your creativity flow, unprompted by external stimuli.

It's moving meditation. Encouraged in yoga :)