Mindful about dentists.

This has come into its own popularity lately:  mindfulness.

According to the website Psychology Today,* mindfulness is “ a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.”  The article goes on to explain this means we live in the present moment, not dwelling on regrets from the past or fears for the future.  It involved honestly observing one’s current state of being, and acknowledging it for what it is.  They attribute it to eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.

I was mindful of mindfulness this morning because my Monday has already had a ton of stress, and as I write this it isn’t even 9:30 AM yet.  How can that be?  One word:  Dentist.  Yeah, I have serious anxiety about going to the dentist.  Thankfully, it is almost always just a cleaning.  Only once in the last several years have I needed work, and that was relatively minor.  But just going, the (irrational) possibility all my teeth will fall out when the hygienist probes, thinking about the whine of the ultrasonic cleaner, the whizz of the air-powered polishing tool, the scrape of the stainless-steel-hand-tools-of-torture . . . it is too much for me.  Bottom line:  I experience a normal week’s worth of stress in the few hours leading up to the appointment. (FYI - all’s well.  No torture, no follow-up appointment.)

So that brings me back to being mindful.  I don’t like being stressed about going to the dentist.  I want to discipline my mind so it doesn’t cause me so much stress and reflects my faith in God.  While eastern religions may leverage the idea of mindfulness for their own purposes, the definitions and descriptions in the Psychology Today website more accurately reflect Biblical truth.  Allow me to illustrate:

Being aware of what is happening in the present:  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8).

Observing one’s thoughts and feelings:  “. . . taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Moving past regret:  “As far s the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12).

Not fearing the future:   “Seek first the Kingdom of God . . . And do not worry about tomorrow.  Each day has enough worry of its own” (Matt. 6:33-34)

Honestly acknowledging the present moment for what it is:  “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1).

So, why do I continue to suffer dentist stress?  Well, first of all, I’m human and that means I will still suffer the effects of living in a broken world.  While I am a new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), I still do and think things I don’t want to.  And I don’t do and think the things I should (Rom. 7:19-25).  

Often, my feelings about what is real (going to the dentist) are so big I forget they are not truthful (going to the dentist is healthy practice, good stewardship of my body, and honours the God who made me).  It overwhelms my mind and my faith.  I'm a work in progress.

Is mindfulness something we should embrace?  I think so.  As Augustine said, “All truth is God’s truth.”  The practice of living in the now, setting aside the past and moving with hope into the future is a Christian one.  It assumes the Creator God is working all things according to the counsel of His will.  Since life has purpose and value, reflection on the events (and how I feel about them) of today is an important discipline. I need to pause to remember I am living in the presence of the living God. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us,

Because of His great love we are not consumed,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning,
Great is Your faithfulness (Lam. 3:22)

Graham Bulmer
Lead Pastor
Graham and Sharon Bulmer bring many years of pastoral, teaching, leadership development and administrative experience to the Q50 Community Church plant. They served in Latin America as missionaries for almost 15 years, and have pastored here in Canada.