Dental Dharma

April 12, 2010


I have been getting some dental work done.  I needed a couple of crowns.  I hadn’t had anything like that done in years.  About 3 weeks ago the first tooth was shaved down, and I decided I would try to practice meditation while it was happening.  I had some moments of sort of knowing I was breathing, but mostly I tried to avoid choking.  Mindfulness can be hard, especially when you really want to be on a desert island or, heck, stuck in traffic, or anywhere but in that chair.

This morning it was better.  I figured out how not to breathe through my mouth despite having my mouth wide open, and how to concentrate on my breath while the dentist drilled his heart out.  I also learned to keep my tongue away from any gunk he puts in there- it is going to taste bad, that’s just a fact.  It’s a lot easier to meditate when you can breathe and when the most bitter flavor in the world isn’t eating a hole through your tongue. 

It was a good practice, though, both times.  Bringing yourself back to the present is challenging when you’re sitting on your zafu in a quiet room, but there is great benefit from learning to control the mind in tougher situations, too.  The fact that for seconds at a time I was able to stay with my breathe despite the drilling and nasty tastes in my mouth helped me understand that I have progressed.  I could never have done that just a short time ago. 

When Moh Hardin was here in January, he lead us on an awareness meditation, that involved walking up to stuff and just checking it out.  Truly paying attention, letting go of self-consciousness.  It was something I did all the time as a little kid, but hadn’t done, not really, in forever.  It is good. 

Now I find myself walking up to an iris and really looking it over, knowing that it will only be here a short time and then it will be gone, so now is the time to look and pay attention to it.  Now is the time to wake up.  Or else I take a really good look at the texture of the wall paper in some restaurant bathroom or the dimples and sharp textures of a brick in some wall.  Those things are going to be here for a while, but even they are fleeting. 

It’s important to understand that I am fleeting, too.  I am awake and aware, but now and only now.  And sooner or later I won’t be awake and aware at all… I will die and become part of the dirt and the bugs and the flowers. 

I hope someone will stop and look at the dirt I become in a bunch of years from now, and be awake and aware and alive in that one moment in time.  They will not see me or know I used to be made out of that dirt, but maybe they will have a little moment of presence when they will breathe in and find out they are glad they are alive.

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One Response to “Dental Dharma”

  1. Tammy Says:

    Just taking time to say, “hi, I read your blog today” 🙂


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