Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bliss in the dentist's chair

From Mandalas in Nature
© Sharon L Richardson - All rights reserved
Used with permission
The building is old, probably built after the 1906 earthquake. The elevator creaks as it carries us to the thirteenth floor. The bathroom is small and not too clean, the paper towel dispenser empty. I wipe my hands on my pants and head for the waiting room.

How tiny it is! Dimly lit, the black and white decor looks like something from a Mickey Spillane detective novel, but the neat, young woman behind the counter is no gum-chewing Mike Hammer moll. Ordinarily, I might feel claustrophobic, but I'm still in walking meditation, and the serenity of my earlier morning meditation stays with me.

Although I'm early, and before I've settled into one of only two chairs, the surgeon's assistant calls me to an equally tiny operating room, where I will sacrifice two wisdom teeth. This room, too, is sparsely furnished, the reclining dental chair narrow, with no support for my neck. I ask for and receive a pillow.

Artificial flowers in a vase of clear glass marbles stand on the windowsill. I wish they were real and notice, gratefully, that they are not dusty. I ask if the blinds can be opened so I can see the sky. The doctor adjusts them himself.

This is definitely a no-frills office. There is no overhead monitor, no offer of earphones and a favorite radio station, TV show or movie to distract me during the procedure. I am grateful for that, too.

The doctor asks how I am. I smile and say truthfully, "Fine. It's a beautiful day." We make eye contact, and I see again the peace I noticed in his eyes the other day, when I met him for the first time. This is a calm man, a man who is comfortable in his skin and his work. We exchange a few words, and I ask him to keep me informed throughout the procedure. "Tell me what you're doing as we go along." He says he will. In the beginning, he remembers. Later, when it's all over, he takes a moment to tell me what he forgot, or perhaps chose not to tell me, during the procedure.

Holding peace through a chemically induced panic attack

Yellow blossom with red center
Credit: Mandalas in Nature
© Sharon L Richardson - All rights reserved
A few days ago, during the consultation, we discussed my fear of epinephrine, the synthetic adrenaline in the numbing medication, and how, physiologically, it mimics panic attacks, from which I suffered terribly as a young woman. He explained his reasons for preferring this drug over other numbing agents and prescribed Valium to mitigate its effects.

I have chosen to accept his wisdom regarding the epinephrine, but not the Valium. (See Monday's Zen and the Art of Tooth Extraction.) I had Valium, or a generic version, once before and it knocked me out physically, but not mentally. The panic attacks for which it was prescribed kept coming. In a stupor that caused me to pass out repeatedly, I had no physical, mental or emotional resources left to respond to the persistent sensation that my ever-faster-racing heart was about to explode. I was a terrified mind in a body I could not move.

Monday morning, trusting in my ability to calm myself with meditation, I decide not to take the tranquilizer. So far, all is well. I have been in a state of utter peace all morning, and continue to feel--well, to be truthful--I feel bliss.

I have never been more relaxed in a dentist's chair. When the chemically induced panicky feeling begins, I feel slightly detached. I notice my rapidly beating heart, my shallow breathing, and gently lay my hands over my chest, Reiki style, feeling immediate ease. The doctor asks if I am all right. I smile crookedly, through the mobile side of my face, and nod yes.

While my heart continues to pound, I feel none of the usual fight or flight panic, not even when the lower tooth breaks and he uses a shrieking drill to grind away the rest of the tooth. I come away feeling happy and at ease, my mouth stuffed with a wad of cotton between my now-void gums, my tongue thick as a caboose, the right side of my face swollen nearly twice its size.

Who knew one could feel joy after having wisdom teeth pulled?

Pink blossom
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
Blue sky is brilliant in the noon-time sun. Union Square is lively with people; chandeliers in an upscale jewelry store sparkle brilliantly. Plants in the new sidewalk mini-park on Powell Street seem vibrantly healthy and green. Cable car drivers ring their bells.

This comfort and feeling of well-being after a visit to the dentist for a routine procedure would be remarkable any day. After having wisdom teeth extracted, it is nothing short of a miracle, all because of the simple of act of spending a few minutes each day focusing on nothing but breath.

For years I struggled to meditate properly. Often as not, the struggle to clear my mind and attain total detachment and emptiness left me more tense than when I began. Then one day I discovered a simple secret that changed meditation for me forever. I'll share a bit of that tomorrow. For now, I am grateful for the power of meditation--this simple, small, regular practice--how it restores, informs, educates, and heals.

I know a number of you who read me regularly also meditate. How does meditation help you through difficult events? I'm interested in all stories, no matter how big or small the event. The more we share, the more we can learn from one another, would you agree?

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


kario said...

"...I struggled to meditate properly." That phrase struck me so solidly. I love that you chose to do what you knew was right for you and I am so pleased that things turned out the way they did for you. I, too, judge my meditation, but I know that all of those years that you invested in meditation, "properly" or not, led you to this point. I am sustained by the one time I really dropped in so deeply that I KNEW I was meditating the 'right' way and I continue to seek that. However, I also know that not judging my process is important as well.


Sharon said...

I'm still trying to develop the habit of meditation, breathing as you describe, finding the deep well of peace it can bring. I'm aware that when I do it, I'm in and out of focus on breathing, thoughts of work or tasks at home, back to breathing, am I doing this right, how do I empty my mind, back to breathing... I think, whether I ever magically empty my mind or not, I will try it again, and hopefully, again as many times or as often as I allow myself the time... because only good can come from calming 10 minute breaks.

Jim Thomson said...

Really Good Post

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Deb Shucka said...

I am beyond impressed at this. The miracle of your bliss in the face of what is horror for many of us. And your amazing story-telling skills. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

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