Take your time hanging out the washing and turn the laundry into a beautiful, mindful moment. Well, almost. By Victoria Jackson
On a particularly lovely sunny day I decided it would be nice to hang the washing out to dry in the garden. Yet as I did so, I became aware of how much I was hurrying through the task, strangely desperate to get back to my emails or yet more household chores. I grabbed at each piece of clothing, trying to hang it up as quickly as possible, tutting if it needed extra time to smooth out a sleeve or if I clumsily dropped a peg. Definitely more haste, less speed.
Why the rush, really? I guess it’s simply my habit to be always in busy mode. So I deliberately tried to slow down, thinking of Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous comment about mindfulness when doing the dishes: ‘wash the dishes to wash the dishes’, he said, urging us to be fully present with the act of washing up rather than desiring to be in the future state of being finished and having nice clean crockery (or laundry in my case).
I tried to apply that quality of mindfulness to my laundry task. I began to notice the different textures of the pegs in my fingers: the cheap plastic ones I bought as an impoverished student and the nicer old wooden ones my mum gave me, now smooth from years of use. As I hung the clothes up, the breeze caught them and billowed them out, releasing scent from the detergent.
As my senses engaged more fully, I took in the sound of rustling leaves in the hedge and felt a hint of warmth from the sun on my face. Who knew the laundry could become such a full sensory experience!
My thought pattens also changed. My mind was no longer hopping ahead towards all those tasks to come. Instead, as I picked up each item, I found the clothes themselves were full of memories and stories. My yoga clothes from classes the day before brought to mind particular poses we’d been working on; there was the quirky vest top my husband gave me knowing it would make me smile whenever I wore it; and a bunch of his t-shirts, all of them black because he loves the simplicity of a suit and a t-shirt for work.
After such a pleasurable, mindful moment with the laundry, those emails no longer seemed worth rushing for. Engaging my senses with mouse-clicks and keyboard tapping couldn’t compare to standing in the sunny garden listening to the birds.