Dental Surgery: A Lesson in Mindfulness

from our family

 

It was rather surreal, but not wholly surprising. I believe the greater consciousness that surrounds us is constantly communicating with us, whether we heed it or not. I’ve learned to pay attention, much of the time, and when I do I often find myself in awe at how life is a beautiful orchestration of circumstances from which we can learn and hopefully grow.

So, there I was yesterday morning, sitting in the dentist’s chair. A circumstance dreaded by many, myself included. But this one even more so, since I was about to have surgery. It’s not so much the discomfort that I dreaded, but the unexpected. I rather like being in control over my body and faculties. Always have been. I’ve never taken an illegal substance, and after I consumed my first alcoholic beverage at the legal age of 21, I made a vow never to get drunk enough to lose control over my faculties.

The narcotics were offered in the pre-op visit. I declined. I’m a yogi, right? I’d be fine. I had my rings of crystal beads encircling my wrists and a large tear-drop of turquoise hanging from my neck. And, I’d had a morning yoga class before hand. I was ready. Or as ready as I chose to be.

The shaking started when I sat in the chair. As I waited, I thought about how nice it would be to have the warm wrap of a blanket. As if reading my mind, but more likely reading the jitter of my crossed legs and clenched hands, the surgeon kindly asked, “Would you like a blanket. We keep it cool in here,” before she reached for her needle of Novocain and began the process of pricking my gum line 1,000 times, then pausing before she declared, “The roof of the mouth is the icky one, are you ready?” Another 1,000 jams of the needle and I was as numb as could be. In the face, that is. Now the shake was worse than ever.

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the bathroom. But waiting another hour to pee was just not an option. I had consumed a full cup of tea — lavender laced chamomile — to calm, the nerves before my visit.

“It’s the epinephrine,” the assistant declared as she escorted me the the lavatory.  I guess 2,000 shots in the mouth has that effect on some of us.

Yet, somehow I knew the worse was over, which was reiterated by the surgeon as I wrapped her offer of fleece around my body and began to settle into my fate. For the next 45 minutes, I entered the role of passive observer. My life, or rather mouth, in the hands of the surgeon and her assistant.

“I hope you don’t mind my singing,” the one with the binocular oculars declared as she readied her scalpel. “My patients on pain-killers seem to think it’s great, but the others have to endure it.” Who knew I would also think it was great, alongside Michael Jackson crooning from the beyond. Turns out, when the surgeon wasn’t singing, she was talking. And, instead of thinking too much about my mouth being cut apart, I listened.

Without response, because, my mouth was at her constant mercy. It’s rather interesting to be the passive observer and have no option of contributing. It reminds one of how strong the impulse to interject can be.

So I listened while she cut a flap of skin off the roof of my mouth, “You’re one of my thin skinners, but no worries, I got a beautiful piece,” then tried not to look at the flap hanging from her hand while she hummed Madonna’s “Lucky Star.”

“Breathe. Take a deep breath, you’re doing great sweetie.” Someone passing by the window, if it had been open, might have assumed I was in labor. I myself was beginning to wonder if I was in yoga class. I’m constantly reminding my own students to breathe.

“When I was Tufts,” she told her assistant, “I took a class in mindfulness because I had already finished all the credits I needed to graduate but still had a semester to finish. It was one of the best classes I ever took. I think every kid should take a mindfulness class. It was so much more useful than learning about Chaucer’s writing style, which I don’t remember and will never use for anything.”

And there it was, for a good ten minutes or so the two of them carried on a conversation on the benefits of mindfulness, while I listened and reaped my own benefits. “Breathe, sweetie. You’re doing great.” My own mouth gapping wide, with no capacity to form words, while my mind silently agreed. Yes! Yes! I’m so glad you feel the same way! 

“You did great,” the surgeon declared as she jammed silly putty bandaids to the roof of my mouth and my lower gum line.

“Thank you,” I slurred through the Novocain. And I meant it. There was a lot more I wanted to say, but because of the circumstances a heartfelt “thank you” would have to suffice.

19 thoughts on “Dental Surgery: A Lesson in Mindfulness

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