Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Throwing out the microwave has helped improve my mindfulness practice and skills in real life. Microwaves are cool. They cook things superfast. Anything from warming up a cup of coffee, cooking a frozen dinner or even making popcorn. They make life easier because they are fast and they cook food "good enough". Some people have suggested there are health risks with microwaves, but that wasn't really my reason for eliminating it. The problem I was having was that because it was "efficient", I tried to be efficient too, by doing everything at the same time. And I have noticed that when I try to do too many things at the same time, I don't pay attention and I don't do any of them very well. I don't do them mindfully or with intention. And if we are being honest here, which we are, it wasn't really a planned choice to go microwave-less. It was a coincidence that at first seemed like more of an annoyance. I moved into a new place and it had its original kitchen from the 50's. Original... like sink (without garbage disposal), stove, oven and cupboards. Nothing else. Originally I thought I would just buy a microwave when I got a chance, not thinking it was a big deal.
Not surprisingly, suddenly not having a microwave, after having one everyday of your life up to this point, is hard. What does a person do when their coffee gets cold? Duh, put it in the microwave. What did people do before microwaves? Well, I realized I could put it in a pan and warm it up that way. I sort of felt like I was either camping or reliving the pioneer days. It was a strangely proud moment for me. I had to stand at the stove and stir my coffee in the pan so the milk wouldn't burn. I couldn't make toast, sweep the floor and make my daughters lunch. I could just stand and stir my coffee. I noticed it's color and it's rich and roasty toasty smell. I think I actually enjoyed my coffee more than I had in a long time. I noticed how warm it was now and felt the steam rise up onto my face.
This was kind of cool. Yes I had to slow down, but it almost felt like time slowed down too. I still got everything done AND I didn't feel totally flustered by the time I dropped my daughter off at school. That was new! It felt like I had actually lived those moments on this morning, even though I had done all the same things the day before that and the day before that. Back in the day when I had a microwave, all those mornings sort of combined into one big foggy sort of memory. All of these "mundane" moments are what make up our lives.
There is joy and beauty in the simplest of tasks. Imagine cooking veggies in a pan. The sound of them sizzling in the pan and the smell of the onions and bell peppers as they cook. The vibrant reds and yellows and greens and the warmth of the flame as it cooks the food. It is a chance to engage your senses and notice the lovely little details. When you microwave some veggies, they get hot and you can eat them, but they are not the same. I really love that feeling of cooking and paying attention to what it is I am doing. I swear the food actually tastes better.
Microwave-less mindfulness helped me not burn food, as I reminded myself " be here now" or "notice what is happening now" or simply "pay attention". It also spilled over into other parts of my life as I had such a great feeling when I did pay attention to this moment.
In maintaining the spirit of honesty, I will admit that sometimes it's just a pain in the butt when the kid asks to have her mac and cheese warmed up and there is not clean pan in the house or all you have is microwave popcorn and you really want popcorn. By the way, did you know you can make popcorn on the stove? The things I have learned!
I think you get the idea of how this simple change has made big improvements to my daily life. And that's only the stove. Don't even get me started on how much better things taste when they are cooked in the oven rather than microwave. But I will save the magic of cooking food in the oven for another day.
Getting rid of the microwave may not be your thing. I get it. But I bet there is something you can change to bring more mindfulness into your day. When you get the chance to notice all the little things that happen between the big things, life feels fuller. Those little things can add up to feelings of wonder, fulfillment and calm sometimes.
To learn more about Sara Cole MFT and her practice in San Diego, visit www.saracolemft.com. You can also find lots of other blog posts there to enjoy.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for over 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression, going away to college, marriage, etc. Sara also loves to help people get their anxiety under control. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.