Cultivating Appreciation - Knowing You Have No Toothache
A while back some nasty bacteria set up camp around my lower right wisdom tooth. The sensation was one I’d never felt before. Swollen gum tissue had displaced the tooth, so much so that the only teeth that articulated in my entire mouth were the infected one and the upper one opposite it. And when those two teeth came together, shock waves shot through my mouth.
My dentist thought the tooth itself was fine, and the infection was nothing antibiotics couldn’t cure. I’ve managed to avoid antibiotics for most of the past 33 years, only taking them three times during that period. So I opted to try to cure the infection through natural means. Colloidal silver and hydrogen peroxide rinses kept things at bay for about a week—things even improved a tiny bit—before the infection exploded and rendered me unable to eat at all. So I realized I needed to call in the elite team—amoxycillin.
A useful side note: The reason I’ve avoided antibiotics is the inevitable yeast infection that always accompanies antibiotic use. When I told my doctor, also one of my yoga students, that I was taking antibiotics, he suggested I come to his office and pick up some saccharomyces boulardii, a beneficial yeast that takes up the space where the irritating yeast usually roosts and keeps the bad stuff out. I took it, along with the antibiotics, for nine days and there was not even the slightest suggestion of a yeast issue. Amazing!
Even in the first few days of antibiotics, my diet was still all about puree. The bacteria were quite stubborn; they would not leave peacefully—and not nearly quickly enough. But slowly, the ability to chew returned. Bean soup became accessible. Then came pasta with pesto from last year’s garden. Each new food I added was a cause for celebration. It would be another few days before lightly steamed veggies returned to my available menu, and it was pure bliss when it happened. Garden greens never tasted so good.
Remembering Simple Pleasures
Like so many small pleasures in life, we don’t appreciate the ability to eat normally until we can’t do it. Once normal eating returned, I did not want to miss the opportunity to appreciate this simple pleasure that we so often take for granted. Every time I’ve eaten a meal since the infection abated, I’ve reflected on the pleasure of not having a toothache. Even when I’m sitting in meditation, driving in my car or reading a book, I remember that I no longer have a toothache. I stop and take a moment to feel the gratitude that arises. And at least some of that gratitude goes to my old nemesis, the antibiotics.
We often focus on what’s wrong with our bodies—we’re not the “right” size or shape, we can’t do Upward Bow with straight arms, our hamstrings are tighter than someone else’s, we’re getting older and can’t do what we used to do without paying for it—the list goes on and on.
We each come into the world with a set of genetic propensities, and then proceed to walk through our lives cultivating habits that create strength or flexibility in some areas and weakness or inflexibility in others. Injuries along the way can create chronic discomfort or at the very least, fragile areas that need to be treated with care. Comparing ourselves unfavorably to others, to our former selves, or to some made-up cultural ideal is not constructive. It also ignores the many, many joys we can access right here and now in our bodies—the ability to see a clear, blue sky; to hear a bird singing; to feel a breeze on our skin; to taste delicious food; to smell a blooming lilac bush or to walk in the woods.
Do You Have A Non-Toothache?
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that appreciation of our bodies—not only when we are experiencing pleasant sensations, but at the times when things are just going along as usual—can be a source of happiness. He says, “If we are not aware that we are happy, we are not really happy. When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”
Do you have a non-toothache today? Enjoy your non-toothache, and thank your body for all the pleasures it provides you every day.