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Of Tooth and Mind...

Paul MacCormack


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As I write this post I am but a few scant hours away from getting three wisdom teeth yanked. I have had a virtually nonexistent relationship with my dentist over the past number of years, so it was not a great shock to learn that three of my chompers were to be banished from my mouth forever.
While I might lament my lost teeth, that is not the reason for telling you about them. I have found the behind the scenes story this week to be much more interesting. Its the story that the mind plays in an endless loop prior to life events akin to a tooth extraction. Its all of the what ifs, the endless scenarios, and all of the negative possibilities that our minds conjure up as we try to deal with the situation.
The following story by Ajahn Brahm fits my current situation to a tee...
"A member of our monastery has very bad teeth. He has needed to have many teeth pulled out, but hed rather not have the anesthetic. Eventually he found a dental surgeon in Perth who was willing to extract his teeth without anesthetic. He has been there several times. He finds it no problem.
Allowing a tooth to be extracted by a dentist without anesthetic might seem impressive enough, but this character went one better. He pulled out his own tooth without anesthetic.
We saw him, outside the monastery workshop, holding a freshly pulled tooth smeared with his blood, in the claws of an ordinary pair of pliers. It was no problem: he cleaned the pliers of blood before he returned them to the workshop.
I asked him how he managed to do such a thing. What he said exemplifies why fear is the major ingredient of pain...
"When I decided to pull out my own tooth -- it was such a hassle going all the way to the dentist -- it didn't hurt. When I walked to the workshop, that didn't hurt. When I picked up the pair of pliers, it didn't hurt. When I held the tooth in the grip of the pliers, it still didn't hurt. When I wiggled the pliers and pulled, it hurt then, but only for a couple of seconds. Once the tooth was out, it didn't hurt much at all. It was only five seconds of pain, thats all."
Posted ImageI have tried to stay particularly mindful of all the times this week my mind let fear get the better of me. Each time my mind started to come up with difficult scenarios I just sat back and acknowledged their presence, let them be, and endeavoured to move on. Not letting the fear of what might happen frees up a great deal of energy that you actually need to deal with the situation itself.
So whether its getting your teeth ripped out or dealing with unruly turf, just sit back and be present. Try not to get swept away with all of the negative outcomes that most likely will never happen.  It will go a long way in keeping you focused and in the end will make you a better superintendent.


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