I have a memory of sitting on the floor in my elementary school library, listening to a special guest who was there to talk to us about dental hygeine. I guess she was a hygenist from a local dentist’s office because she wasn’t someone from the school. Her hair was neat and she had an overly enthusiastic, “talking to children so they’ll be interested” voice, but I still liked her. She sat on a child-sized chair, which meant when she brought out the model of perfect, plastic, bright white teeth and a giant toothbrush they were right at eye level. She showed us how to brush the teeth and gums in circles. She even let a few of us take a turn. After that, she brought out the dental floss and went through that routine. That’s the first day that I ever remember hearing that I should floss my teeth.
In my twenties, I got married and moved to Seattle. I went for a dental check up at a new office. I didn’t like the dentist, but I had a great hygenist and she was a committed advocate of flossing. I think she talked about it for half of my cleaning. She said something like, “Do you brush your teeth twice a day?” I made a sound something like aaah-haaa. “Well, it would be better for you to replace that second one with flossing. You’re only cleaning two sides of your teeth when you brush! People are shocked when I say that, but it’s true. The floss gets the other two sides that your brush can’t reach.” That made as much of an impression on me as the lady in elementary school. Still, I remained only an occasional flosser.
Then, the day came when I had my first cavity. It was two cavities, actually. They found some dark spots on an x-ray between two of my back molars. I’d have to get fillings. I went to the appointment and it was really unpleasant. Nothing hurt, exactly, but I didn’t like the smells, the powder that came off the drill, the grinding, the hands in my mouth or the ache of my jaw when hinged to extra-wide. I didn’t ever want to have to do that again. It wasn’t just knowing I should floss, it was having the experiencial knowledge of the alternative that motivated me to chage my behavior. I began flossing regularly.
Experience is a great teacher. Things that reach us or affect us at an emotional and experiencial level have a much greater impact on what we do and how we respond than mere theory, ideas, or principles. Sometimes things happen in our lives that change us for the better. Sometimes experiences do the opposite. How do we have the kinds of experiences so we’ll benefit and develop into the kind of person we want to become?
We can’t leave it up to chance. As my teacher says, we need to have experiences that are consciously created so that we can connect with what we need to grow. If we spend time each day in a state that lets us feel, understand and experience attention and focus, peace, balance, nourishment, or healing, then it will gradually change us. Sometimes we need the experience of patience so we can weather difficulties we’re facing. The experiences we have stay with us. Yoga is a practice of consciously created experiences. It’s a time-tested system that uses movement, breath, visualization and meditation and when applied in an individualized way, these tools become the means to changing our behavior and way of thinking so that we can have meaningful relationships and lives. If you’d like to know more about this practice and how it can help you, let’s get in touch. I’d be happy to help you experience your best self.