Last spring I got a new job that came with dental insurance. I haven’t had dental insurance for a few years, so I have some catching up to do. I commenced this past fall with the most painful dental experience I have ever had, that required 5 needles worth of novocaine. I was practicing meditation regularly, and in my fearful and stressed out state – in a chair with a mouth full of scrapey metal, pressurized cold water and latex clad fingers – I started meditating to relax.
It was awful. The technique I use regularly is a body scan where I move my attention from the top of my head through my face, arms, torso, legs and feet, and then back again. With so much happening in my mouth, I couldn’t get past the face. Full awareness of the fact that at any second the dentist could do something that would cause me agony, and precise attention to the onslaught of uncomfortable sensations was not soothing my anxiety at all. Quite the opposite. After several attempts to scan the body, and getting wholely stuck at my face, I decided to start from the bottom and scan up. And I was so pleased to find that I could pay attention to my feet! I could feel the sensations in them, and they were far enough away from all the action, that it was grounding and anxiety relieving to keep my awareness on them. I dropped the body scan, and adopted the foot meditation. I have been back to the dentist a few times since then, including tonight, and the foot meditation has become a go to.
In tonight’s foot meditation, I was aware of how warm my feet were in my snow boots. An itchy heel from wool socks. Random tingles and pinging sensations. Pulsing. Some subtler sensations that I don’t know how to describe. I tried to feel each of my toes individually, but was unsuccessful. Now this awareness was punctuated by the discomfort in my mouth. When the fear would increase I noticed that I would start to pay attention to what I could see (the ceiling). But the eyes are too close to the mouth and the fear did not abate unless I moved my attention back to my feet.
Tonight I am grateful for my feet, grateful that they are so far from my mouth, and that I can feel them.