Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dentist

This afternoon, I had to make a somewhat urgent visit to my dentist. Apparently, I had chipped off a bit of a molar. Nothing serious, really, and all taken care of pretty easily, but still... It's the dentist.

I sat in the dental chair waiting for the assistant to take my x-rays, and I noticed a variety of dental tools arrayed on the dentist's tray. That's when it always hits me: a kind of sickening fear as I anticipate the pain that must be coming soon. Of course, in that moment, I am merely falling victim to my thinking mind which is imagining the future, based on a remembered past of other dental visits.

So I close my eyes, and I start to meditate. I feel the breath coming in, and going out through my nose. Much better. Now I'm getting in touch with a present-moment sensory reality and I'm not at the mercy of my thoughts. I feel fully the weight of the lead-lined blanket that she velcros around my neck to protect me from the radiation, and I am comforted.

Waiting for the x-rays to finish processing, I continue a more formal meditation practice, and I can see clearly how my mind wants to tell stories about the catastrophe to come, how I must surely need a root canal this time, and so forth. After the assistant gently polishes my teeth, Dr. Seikimoto comes in, and we exchange pleasantries. He takes a quick look at the damage, and tells me that I have indeed chipped my molar and he also tells me that he'd like to clean out an old filling in the tooth behind it. 

And so he does. Quickly, gently, and professionally. The whole time, I am just being with the the different sensations as they present themselves. Even the dreaded needle for injecting the anesthetic is doable. No root canal. No catastrophe.

It may not seem like much, but these little ways of reducing suffering can add up to a much happier life.


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