Monday Zen: Wash Your Bowl

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

One night, I used a plate and a bowl for dinner. The next morning, they were still sitting on the counter. As I was about to leave, I realized: I should wash these. As I was rinsing the bowl, I remembered this story.

Leo Babauta says about it:

“There is something profound and yet minimalist about this advice. It’s: don’t get your head caught up in all this thinking about the meaning of life … instead, just do. Just wash your bowl. And in the washing, you’ll find all you need.”

When I decided to clean my bowl, I thought it was a small gesture. A sign of tidiness. But when I did it, I found out something more: it’s enough. All I need to do is wash this bowl right now. Nothing more, nothing less.

I think that’s why I like doing dishes. It’s satisfying. Mindful. There’s the water, the scrubbing, and you always get an immediate result. Then, it’s on to the next item. Nothing more, nothing less.

We can transfer this to all our activities. Folding laundry. Sending an email. Getting coffee for a friend. Most tasks are small. So just…be there. And life will be fine.

Are you done eating?

Then you had better wash your bowl.


About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.

Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.

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