Wax On, Wax Off

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Remember the Karate Kid? Not the tricked out Jaden Smith one, but the 1984 Ralph Macchio classic? At one of the film’s pivotal moments, Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san zen basics by instructing him to “wax on, wax off”. Recently, I’ve been trying to embrace the simplicity of life by culling it down to the basics. And one of my worst basic skills is washing dishes. Actually, let’s make that my absolutely worst skill. I am simply not good at it. So much so, that I have been asked at dinner parties NOT to help wash dishes. So…dishes tend to stack up in my house. And I grumble and moan and eventually, bitterly wash them. It is never a pleasant experience.

So, I thought, why not introduce zen to the art of washing dishes? I rolled up my sleeves, plastered a smile on my face and rather than starting the ordeal with a moan and a whinge, I turned on Pandora and took a deep breath.

First, the Indigo Girls Galileo came on. I grabbed my smiling face sponge Scrub Daddy I bought after watching an episode of Shark Tank and got to work.

It took me the entire song to wash and dry one wine glass, giving it a restaurant quality shine. I was still a bit bitter, and still grumbling a bit. The Zen hadn’t flooded my body and my hands felt raw and chapped.

A few dishes later and a few songs later, time somehow slipped away and I felt myself simultaneously washing and bawling to the Beatles Here Comes the Sun.

Even though I had heard the song innumerable times in my life, the lyrics suddenly resonated. Perhaps it was the combination of washing and drying, but the words imprinted.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun And I say it’s all right.”

The lyrics and the melody were so…simple. I was suddenly transformed. I felt… zen. I was totally in the moment. Maybe it only lasted for the three minutes of the song, but I felt it.

For the first time in my life, I felt it.

And, when all was said and done…I had an empty sink.

Moral of the story, if you are searching for Zen…. forget the Gregorian chants and Ravi Shankar on the sitar….just look for Paul, George, John and Ringo.

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  • Christian

    You know, Colette. Now that you are embracing cooking and finding the zen in washing dishes…you may soon be whispering to yourself, “I’ve think I’m finding my inner chef.” Here’s to our next cooking lesson! P.S. I’ll wash the dishes but you have to invite John, Paul, Ringo and George to keep us company. Love you!

  • Peter Taylor

    A monk asked Zhaozhou to teach him.
    Zhaozhou asked, “Have you eaten your meal?”
    The monk replied, “Yes, I have.”
    “Then go wash your bowl”, said Zhaozhou.
    At that moment, the monk was enlightened.

    I copied this from Wikipedia. It is a famous Zen koan about washing dishes. You never know where you will find the Sun. It’s so wonderful that you did. It’s alright.

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