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    Volume 9 Issue 11| March 12, 2010|

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The Meditating Masochist

Aasha Mehreen Amin

One is often told that the first step to meditation is to clear your mind of thoughts. It is hard for those of us not so initiated into this process to understand how one can actually stop one's brain from having thoughts without a lobotomy or something. A friend once told me one way of doing this is to just focus on one object, anything would do - a pen, a rose, a knife maybe? No probably not. But jokes apart, I have been trying to do this many times and in one case actually succeeded, only the results were not quite the 'total peace of mind and relaxation' one is supposed to achieve after a successful session of quiet meditation.

It was after much trial and error during which I tried a glass of water, the good old rose, a person in particular, a dog, a cat, a garbage can -that I realised that the only time I was really focused and when my mind practically refused to wander off no matter how much I wanted to, was when I was sitting on the torture chair at the dentist's chamber.

I don't know what other patients think about but when I am there sitting on that chair that the masked doc raises up or down at will all I think about is what is he going to do next. Will he start with that ear-splitting drill to hone away at my poor tooth or will he stick that sharp, pointy needle into the inside of the tooth to apparently 'clean out the pulp' ? Everytime he asks me to open my mouth my hands clench, my heart misses a beat and starts thudding away and I become cross-eyed trying to figure out which lethal-looking instrument he will ask for and start to chisel, poke and drill with.

In fact it is while he is asking his attendants (they are all masked so I feel like an alien abductee) to give him some TF which let me tell you is not Torturing Fork but Temporary Filling mixture, that I have an epiphany of sorts: Dentists are not really such demons after all. They are actually the most skilled artisans, restoring decrepid, decaying structures, rebuilding them after years of bombardment by dreadfully sweet things that stick forever, irregular brushing, non-existent flossing and general negligence. They replace what is no longer there, they create new structures and make them look real. If you have ever witnessed a root canal procedure -I am quite a pro might I mention- stop focussing on the near-death experience as you see that thin sharp needle being scraped along the inside of your tooth. Again and again. Think about the sheer hard labour that goes into it, those hours of scraping out the pulp, drying it with that pump and air device, stuffing in the cement and then honing and filing it to perfect smoothness. This is followed by the extraordinary skill of taking measurements of the tooth to-be, based on the gap that has been left by the just demised predecessor. The only legacy of the real tooth is a thin little structure that gives you a rather sinister smile if you dare to do so. Thus the newly made tooth must look as off-white or yellow or brownish as it was before. More importantly it must match the other yellowing teeth. Otherwise one may end up with one dazzling white tooth or a trio of flashing whites in case of a 'bridge' which come out prominently every time you take a picture of yourself smiling at the camera. It also makes you self-conscious and you end up giving people only half a smile from your 'good side'.

But if you have an expert dentist at your disposal such worries are needless and soon you will have teeth that look completely authentic and smiling is no longer an awkward gesture.

Back to that issue of focussing on a particular thing. True, dental experiences usually heighten anxiety and give you an unwanted adrenaline rush due to the fear factor. But if you try really hard and look beyond the anaesthetist's needle jabbing into your gum and ignore the array of sado-masochistic instruments on display, you may look at your experience from a new light. Your tooth is the object of attention from the most talented of sculptors who will devote endless hours to recreate the glory of the Coliseum in your mouth. In that you are as privileged as say, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. You have focused on a negative and ended up in a sublime state of satisfaction and maybe even a little narcissism. This is to me successful meditation. Successful, until the bill is handed to you. Then your mind really does go blank.

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