Lessons from a Micorwave Oven


by Patty Kayo

My Dharma glimpse came to me at about 2 a.m. the other day, when I got up to microwave heat a rice-filled thingy I use for neck pain, something I do just about every night. Like ten thousand times before, it was just me and the microwave in the middle of the night for two minutes on “high.”

I’ve owned this same microwave for 10 years. It’s installed above the stove, right at my eye level. And of course, I use it many times during the day, every day. But this night I became aware FOR THE FIRST TIME that it had buttons on it labeled “Popcorn” “Reheat” “Vegetables” and some others. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is a new and exciting feature! Who put those there, and when did they do it?

While being amazed and excited at the new microwaving possibilities in my future, the bell dinged, I opened the door, and then I also noticed FOR THE FIRST TIME there was a cooking guide inside the door. Say what?? Yes! A cooking guide corresponding to the new buttons on the outside!

I began to wonder how it is that I’ve been using this machine every day, several times a day, and not seen half of the prominently displayed features? What else is in front of my face that I’m overlooking?

As I wandered back to bed, I wondered when is the last time I actually looked at my family members’ faces. What did my daughter wear to school today? How often do I walk past my good people and look through them? In my reading this week, of Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism without Belief, he stated that we are unaware of the extent to which we are distracted because distraction is a state of unawareness. My microwave oven is trying to tell me the same thing. Wake up!

It only takes one second to actually look at someone and see them, but in my semi-conscious state I’m missing out on the here and now. If someone were to tell me that I had only another 24 hours to live, you bet I’d be looking at everything and everyone consciously and deliberately — awake!

I can never look at my microwave oven the same, now, since it spoke to me, without being reminded to pay attention.


Thank you, honorable microwave.


Patty Kayo Sensei is a Lay Minister with Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha.  For information about Bright Dawn and the Lay Ministry program please visit our website.   

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