The Power of Root Canal

October 14, 2008

Over the weekend, I had an experience of a Root Canal which last night caused me to gain some insight into pain.  It caused a little bit of insomnia and made me understand the nature of insomnia too.  I was thinking of what I was going to say.  I rushed head-long into the future.  My body was on the bed but my mind was with the blog, but first, the Root Canal.  I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’.  Basically, it’s about the concept of time as in the now.  It’s funny that we don’t think of spending time in the Now.  We are busy worrying about the future and regret the past.  These are two concepts of time that preoccupies us.  We worry about projects, where we have to be etc.  Now is also a time concept but it is also a much harder concept to grasp.  Now is especially hard to practice in the time of multiple tabs browsing, and multi-tasking.

I was worried and became anxious of the appointment already weeks before and now in the car driving in the 6 a.m. fog.  But the fog also taught me a lesson.  It didn’t allow me to look too far into the future.  I just had to worry a few hundred feet ahead of me.  I was worrying about how much I had to pay and the pain it would cost me.  All that worry disappears as I sit in the chair, when the long needle injects the numbness into the gum.  I felt the cold drop of liquid from the syringe.  “This is going to hurt a little,” she said.  The root canal is not performed in the future or the past.  It is performed in the now.  I was sitting in a chair not moving.  I might as well be tied down.  All of my energy is focus on that tooth.  I had to control my breathing, but not too much control but a relaxed breathing.  I thought about the future briefly and I started to choke on my own saliva because I forgot to swallow.  I was anxious for it to be over so that I can go out to the sunshine.  I was not living in that moment.  But I had to live in that moment to get through to go into the sunshine again.  Doctor Adjaj was my Indian mystic and dentist.  The assistant is also a Gypsy mystic from Romania, although they did not know that they perform these roles for me.  We were practicing in a three person Sangha of meditation in the moment of now.  The Gypsy informed me that the tool is hot.  Smoke came out of my mouth.  She handed him the paper pointer.  He wore a plastic ring with pyramid foam to hold all of the pointed metal drills.  The procedure of root canal is so specialized.  This is what he does all day.  They even have a special name for people like him call Endodontist.  He uses all the elements of air, water, fire, gel, and compounds.  The procedure is to go into the root of the tooth deep down and suck out all of the nerves that are dying, some even have become abscess.  The procedure is painful to remove the pain.  But once it’s done, the tooth can survive, with less feeling and almost dead.  His work is like a sand painting of the Tibetan monks.  He can’t take it home and put it on a wall, nor does he care to.  Once it is done, the work belongs to me and I walk out into the world.  I was so admiring my Mystic Adjaj until he said, “Is someone going to help us with the X-Ray or we’ll never gonna get out of here.”  Already, he was thinking about the future.

I thought this is a perfect metaphor for looking at pain and suffering in life.  We all have to perform this root canal on our being, our soul sometimes.  We have to dig deep down into the root and remove, drop the emotions and some of the illusions, our misinterpreted perceptions in order for our life to survive.  It is like we are not aware of the tooth until it begins to hurt.  I can tell you all about it but you will not feel it until you have gone through it.  That is the moment of now which makes it real for you.  Sometimes children can’t understand it because they have not suffered enough, they have not grown a wisdom tooth, nor have a root canal.  When we were children we didn’t have such concepts as suffering much.  It is like a tooth.  Teeth can survive a fire, and even death.  It is the living that decays it:  the sugar, the food, and the bacteria of life that destroy it. 

I lost some sleep thinking about this post.  And I don’t know if it was worth it.

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2 Responses to “The Power of Root Canal”


  1. Duc, I am mesmerized by your post, and if it gives you any comfort for losing sleep, it caused me to really think deeply — as well as laugh🙂 Let’s talk about what made me laugh out loud first…

    ….sometimes the future is so bright in our minds that we forget to swallow right now
    ….your Indian mystic and Romanian gypsy mystic that did not know who they truly were (at least in your world)

    Now, to the philosophy elements of your post, which I thought you wove together so perfectly, started with the quote about past regrets and future anticipations — when all that means our life now passes us by. I think about this a lot, as I try to capture the fleeting now that quickly becomes the past and fret about the future. I don’t ever carry a watch, subconsciously because I feel that if I keep track of time, it will all pass me by too quickly.

    And about purging the pain…the negative elements that are “rooted” so deeply…you totally hit the root on the nail. Sometimes to move forward, we have go suffer through the pain of letting go of the emotions and experiences of the past that tie us down with negativity.

    Your commentary on what kills a tooth is so interesting too; I never thought about it in that perspective…how ironic that what we do when we live kills our teeth, yet they live on forever after we have become ashes. This is quite the irony of life🙂

    I sincerely appreciate the sleep you lost over this post, as I shall bookmark this commentary to read again when I feel that my now is slipping by once again. Thank you for the wonderful insight🙂

    I hope you get some rest this weekend!


  2. I have been blogging about the place of suffering in life recently – and will be doing more of that this week🙂 I see we are on the same page. You may also enjoy:
    http://www.squidoo.com/strength-suffering

    In the spirit of Anthony de Mello, you may also like: http://www.squidoo.com/anthony-de-mello


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