In case you have never had the dubious pleasure of the procedure, it involves bright lights, needles in gums, many tools, poking, prodding, drilling, squirting, gouging, vacuum suction, plastic moulding, unpleasant tastes, noise and a lot of action in your mouth. In broad terms I can say with a measure of confidence that it has very little to recommend it. This was my third round with the dentist in as many weeks as there were a few complications with which I shan't bore you.
However, as I lay in the chair feeling the first needle pierce my gum, I wondered if there was any way to enjoy the experience, or at least not to hate or fear it. It occurred to me that it was a great allegory for how Life can get at times, with wave after wave of unwanted and unasked for stimuli and experiences coming our way. I took that on as my project for the session.
The first thing was to stop feeling fearful of what was to come. Although it seemed inevitable that the dentist (Life?) was going to touch the odd nerve, I trusted him enough to know that I would get through the experience without him putting me through more than I could manage.
The next piece was to relax and let things be. I could feel how tense I was, bracing myself for the onslaught. As with all stuff that comes our way, whether we asked for it or not or wanted it or not, the fact remains that it comes anyway and we are called to respond to it. It is as it is, so our challenge is just to let it be and accept that it is in our lives, whether we like it or not. So I consciously let the tension go out of all parts of my body whilst the dentist, Dr George Parker, worked away. He was thoughtful enough to ask me every few minutes how I was doing. Perhaps that's a question we can ask more of ourselves - a kind of periodic check-in with ourselves to make sure that we are coping. If we aren't, what will we do about it?
The third part was to know that this would eventually pass. Thankfully, with dentists' appointments, one does generally know that they will end some time. One cannot necessarily feel that confident with Life events, but the reality is that they do all pass eventually, one way or another. Somehow I derive comfort from knowing that I will eventually get over an illness or injury, or that a difficult situation will eventually be resolved. The moment I can accept that something will pass and I rather engage with the present than demand that the situation be over, it becomes easier to be in it.
So, having stopped being fearful, feeling trusting and relaxed, letting things be and engaging in each moment of the experience, knowing that it would pass, suddenly things were easier. (It also helped to distract myself wondering what gift was in this for me!)
The last step was to look for some gratitude. I felt grateful that Dr Parker was being so thoughtful and trying to minimise my discomfort. I felt grateful that the pain in my tooth with which I had lived for weeks through the various procedures would finally be resolved. I was grateful for the professionalism of Dr Parker and his assistant. And I was grateful for the opportunity to transcend an experience I would rather not have had.
So, did I get to enjoy root canal treatment? Not really, but I came a lot closer to enjoyment than I have in the past.