I just got back from the dentist.
My teeth feel good and I am feeling happy about the fact that my switch to a non-toxic toothpaste seems to have been good for my teeth as well as my body.
As I was sitting in the chair having my teeth cleaned, my mind wandered to childhood dentist experiences.
From there, it was a small step to think about how ingrained a habit it is to brush our teeth. It’s the thing that we are taught as children that seems to stick throughout life.
The biggest benefits of tooth brushing, unlike other daily habits (showers, getting dressed, wearing makeup, shaving), are long-term. Brushing our teeth is not just about going out with clean teeth, but about saving the teeth for our entire life and caring for our body as bad bacteria from our mouth can be harmful to our whole system.
Meditation is like brushing our teeth in that:
We smile more and frown less.
We look better.
Our bodies are healthier.
We benefit from long term positive impacts.
People around us, especially those closest to us, benefit from it (whether it is our fresh breath or our calm demeanor).
As I was reclining in the chair trying not to twitch, drool or flinch, I started to think about meditation as a habit, like brushing our teeth.
What if, I pondered:
We raised our children telling them twice a day to go meditate for five minutes?
In the classroom, after lunch, kids were given five minutes to meditate?
In offices where people now go to the bathroom with their toothbrush to brush their teeth, we could also (I’m not suggesting replacing dental hygiene) go to a meditation room for five minutes?
Instead of offering someone a knife at lunch so they could look in the reflection to find the spinach caught in their teeth, we could say, “You seem stressed, do you want to go meditate?” Or, “You have this huge, looming deadline, I bet the best thing you could do is to step away from the computer and meditate for five minutes.”
And what if twice a year we went to someone to get a “tune up” on our meditation practice as regularly as we now go for a dental cleaning? Imagine if insurance would cover that!
I know that for some people, tooth brushing is already part of a multi-tasking activity, squeezed in frenetically among getting ready for work, getting kids out the door, checking email for that last time before going to sleep and rushing to work. I am suggesting that the busier we are, the more frenetic our days, the more we need a few minutes of absolute calm and nothingness.
Maybe the first step is to commit to absolute calm and mindfulness while brushing our teeth. Set a timer and commit to brushing for two full minutes. Many electric toothbrushes even have a two-minute timer setting as a feature.
Focus on the feel of the brush.
Consider the gift to your body of clean teeth.
Experience the opportunity to breathe through your nose.
Feel the satisfaction of spitting out the gunk from your mouth.
When you finish, stand still for one more minute, take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Commit to being present in whatever comes next in your day.
After a week or two of this, perhaps it will be possible to take it a step further.
Find five minutes each day to just focus on breathing or 10 minutes to sit and mediate, or practice HeartMath™, or another stress management technique, as you wait for your coffee to brew, the computer to boot up or the traffic light to change. Just this alone can change everything.
Then, let’s pass it on. Let’s teach children to meditate the same way we teach them to brush their teeth every morning and night. This is an amazing gift to offer to the next generation. Just as our dental health and hygiene have improved, so too will our mental health and hygiene.
And then, who knows what we will achieve next.
Author: Wendy Kuhn
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Paul Huxley/Flickr