I remember a day that I was undergoing a root canal and had planned to use self hypnosis to deal with the pain of the surgery instead of chemical anesthesia. My dentist had become so accustomed to me using hypnosis for minor dental procedures that he assumed I was ready to go before I had put myself in the necessary mental frame. With a mouth full of dental devices and an approaching drill, I felt a moment of "not ready!" panic and then let it go in order to find a place in my body that was pain free and as far away from my mouth as I could get. I intuitively dove as if off a high dive in my mind down to my ankle and observed the operation from that perspective. I knew what was happening, I could hear and feel the vibration of the drill, but I was not "in" the experience of the root canal surgery. I was in the pure "observer" place, away from physical and emotional pain.
This is an interesting example of how our mind creates the reality of our experience. While you may be thinking that you could never have a root canal without anesthesia, I assure you it is possible if (and this is a big if) you were willing to believe that you could do it and took the time to learn the skills. Perhaps the most difficult part is the willingness to suspend our limiting beliefs, especially the ones that are unconscious. Research clearly shows that beliefs affect outcome. What people expect to happen tends to happen, in clinical research and in everyday life. Learning to use this human phenomenon to our advantage and becoming aware of our limiting beliefs allows us to expand our possibilities for change and growth.
The position of "observer", a place of detached attentiveness, allows us to notice things that might otherwise go unseen because of emotional reaction or ego or cognitive involvement. There is no judgement, no fear, no ownership, but simply a pure state of awareness. It is a surrender to what is, an allowing of things to be, and allowing them to be okay. I was not actively participating in the experience of the root canal; I had stepped outside the event to have a different experience of the event. This process created an altered reality for me, one with no pain.
In Native American tradition, medicine men often fast in preparation for training experiences because of their belief that you can only take in new information when you are not already full, that fullness is a form of distraction that obscures our ability to observe and learn. And so an exercise to obtain wisdom might be to sit still in a meadow or on a hilltop for a day or two and just notice what goes on around you. We may not be willing (or believe ourselves able) to create the necessary arrangements to sit in a meadow for a day or two. Our lifestyles tend to be very full of distraction and busy-ness that seem to preclude taking that much time "off" to observe. But we can utilize smaller chunks of time and shift our perspective to a place of observation in a way that encourages the practice and can free us from unwanted pain. Next time you are sitting in your car at a railroad crossing or standing in a line, instead of distracting yourself with what is next on your list of things to do or being annoyed at having to wait, use that time to just notice what is around you. Stop thinking for a few moments and just observe, just notice, just breathe. Cultivate this practice at intervals when it is convenient to the situation. Then cultivate it daily, making time for it for a few minutes in your day. For many people, this process of observation serves as a powerful tool to seek wisdom and understanding in order to solve a problem, decrease pain, or gain new awareness.
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