Mindfulness, Washing Up, and the Fear Of Missing Out

sink with dish towel
Photo by Jim DiGritz on Unsplash

Washing up, eating, and showering might seem like great times to focus on something else. After all, these habitual actions don’t require much mental focus and we’re just doing the same thing over and over, right?

Where’s the Fear Of  Missing Out on the present moment?

A modern phenomenon is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This describes a neurotic pattern of worrying that whatever I choose, like going to this event rather than that party, or just staying home when I need rest, I would potentially be missing out on something else. It leads to a reluctance to commit to anything until the last minute (if that’s a commitment at all), and perhaps a painful, constant comparison where we’re looking for something better than the present moment all the time.

So while it might seem relaxing to watch TV over a meal or think over something else while washing up, where’s the sense of FOMO for the present moment? When not fully present, we’re actually missing out on being alive in that moment, and missing potential insights that will lead to greater freedom.

That said, every day we do certain things so much that just “being mindful” might not be enough to keep our attention. On our last creative weekend, we got Martin, long time Clear Sky resident and decades-long meditator and parent, to share some of the questioning and curiosity he has used to bring mindful states to everyday tasks.

1) While doing dishes, take time to really notice how you clean a pot or glass.

In order to be more mindful, I had to ask myself, “What am I aware of while washing dishes?”

This led to a fabulous exploration into just how to do the dishes mindfully.

Perhaps most importantly, all the while I am tracking the physical, visual & mind senses operating in the moment, taking pleasure in the beauty of the result, feeling the satisfaction of knowing everything is good to go for the next meal.

As a selective cleanliness nut, I have developed a habit of neglecting some areas of daily life, but doing dishes is not one of them.  I have a consistent routine which works well not only for doing the task but also helps me to maintain a concentrated focus. Some examples, though not my complete, list follow:

  • First, rinse and/or scrape everything to get rid of major food debris and organize and stack like with like
  • Fill sink with hot! water adding enough detergent to do the job, but not to create too much excess suds
  • Rinse thoroughly all kitchenware – checking that they are perfectly clean & stack in drying rack and/or dishwasher

2) When I am putting food on my plate, am I taking what my body needs or eating more out of habit?

How appetite drives us,  especially around food!

So often, I can tell my level of security in other phases of my life by what and how much I put on my plate. This tells me whether I feel confident, easeful, anxious, stressed, peaceful, angry, wide awake, sleepy, distracted – any one of these factors can be an influence in how much and what I take for a meal. Here is what I have noticed:

  • When I’m feeling something is missing in other parts of my life, I’m likely to take more than the body can digest completely to fill the perceived gap.  
  • When I’m at ease and tuned into the body, I take just enough, almost all the time.
  • And if I’m angry or stressed, I can feel the body saying no! and I’ll take the bare minimum.

My take away: What I’ve discovered over time is that the more conscious I am of my state, the more I tend to use the food experience to modify a negative state or, alternatively, to enter into a feeling of enjoyment when all is well. Being mindful of what my body is asking for, then, regardless of what’s coming up mentally or emotionally, keeps me on track for healthy living. And that leads to a wholesome kind of joy.

3) When I shower am I really present?


woman showering in waterfall
Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Does your mind wander in the shower? Or are you present with where your attention goes?

In order to better track what is happening so I can be mindful around showering, I ask myself, “What am I aware of when I’m in the shower?” Here are some of the things I’ve noticed:

  • There’s the anticipation of the sensations on my skin before I’m even in the water
  • I tend towards impatience when I’m waiting for the water coming out of the tap to warm up so I can get
  • Then, stepping into the waterfall I experience the bliss-inducing warm water flowing over the body, energizing and waking up the entire body including the interior as well.
  • Feeling the refreshing cleanse, symbolically cleaning out the mental and emotional drudge left over from the drowsiness of sleep, waking up body and mind to begin the new day. It can feel like being reborn and with an open ended range of possibility to come.
  • Finished, I am fully awake, and I step out, vigorously dry, and moving on with purpose to embrace whatever will come.

Our series of blogs on mindfulness is designed to give real examples of applying present moment awareness, bringing the meditative mind to everyday situations.

Comment below if you’d like to share some observations or insights you’ve had from bare awareness / mindfulness practice.

Edited by Andy Rogers and Dan O’Brien

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