The Dentist's Chair

Sitting in the dentist’s chair the other day for an hour’s worth of work, I was reminded that dentophobia is a concern for 35 million Americans.  Friends with this condition are willing to put up with infections, cavities, periodontal disease and other dental maladies just to avoid their moment in the chair. I don’t have this fear, but there is an unnatural quality to the experience of having your bones drilled while you’re conscious!

As the bright light hit my eyes,  I began a series of evaluations of the dentist. I had been going to his partner, but he had retired recently, so this was a new encounter.

I’d asked him a question before we started. His answer was terse. I noticed a slight feeling of concern in my belly about his competency, an aversion to his style.  

Then the drilling began.

For the next 45 minutes, my initial perception shifted and I began to regard him in a more neutral way as a person going about his business.  Mostly, I placed my attention on the relaxed quality of my hands and the slow rising of my belly as I breathed. Then, I shifted my focus to the classical music coming out of the ceiling speakers.

As we were finishing up, I realized that he’d done the job in much less time than planned and that he had pulled off some close, delicate work without hitting the nerve, which would have led to a root canal. Now, my feeling toward him was one of respect and gratitude!

Many of us play out similar dramas in our daily lives.  We may have a friend, acquaintance, colleague or even a loved one who rubs us the wrong way. And somehow we talk ourselves into believing this is how that person is in all moments. We assign some permanent characteristic to him when it might be a momentary bad mood. And we can hold on to that belief for a long while, letting it calcify into a negative opinion.  

What would happen if saw the person who irritated us simply walking down the hall or sitting in a chair reading? Can we shift our perception of that person a bit? By noticing him in this moment, when he’s not lashing out, can we sense that what we may have seen earlier might have been a passing dark cloud?

And by continuing to observe, perhaps we can catch a quick interaction with one of his coworkers, replete with smiles and laughter. Maybe we can let go of our initial reaction,now seeing the person in this different light -as one who experiences joy as we like to experience it.

The ability to notice all of these passing moments with evenness and poise is the practice of equanimity.  It’s been a helpful tool in curtailing my need to judge people immediately. It’s given me a bit more room to meet folks where they are.

That’s our practice this week.

 Community Sits this Week:

 • Monday 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM Trumbull Library 33 Quality Street Trumbull

 • Monday 7:30 PM Sama Yoga 45 Grove Street, New Canaan

 • Tuesday 1:00 PM Ferguson  Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford (made  possible by a grant from Bankwell)

 • Wednesday  12:00 PM New Canaan Library 151 Main Street, New Canaan   

 Wednesday 7:30-8:30 PM,  Mindfulness for People in Recovery,Grace Episcopal Church, 5958 Main Street, Trumbull 

  • Thursday 7:00 PM Ferguson  Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford (in the Rotary Room)

Upcoming Events:

 • Mindfulness in Education Conference @ St. Luke's School  in conjunction with Spence School, New Canaan Saturday June 9  (registration at

CMP is a 501c3 nonprofit.. All of our weekly sessions are free and open to the public, but donations are essential to our sustainability. Checks, cash and credit cards are accepted and donations are tax deductible.

 Checks can be given to facilitators at our weekly sits or mailed to:

Community Mindfulness Project

P.O. Box 1713

New Canaan, CT 06840.

Credit card donations are accepted on our website:

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 We thank you!