(TRIGGER ALERT: Description of oral surgery including photo!)
It began with a toothache. The decayed molar I had been keeping at bay, pain-free, for 6 months, through cod liver oil, high vitamin ghee, raw milk, and bone broth, took a turn for the worse. Here in India, besieged with air pollution, asthma flareups, having run out of probiotics, and away from my usual regimen and supplies, the poor tooth caved.
I chewed on cloves, megadosed on turmeric and vitamin C, but alas. Action needed to be taken. In yet another Arjuna moment, I had to face a decision. I walked to my neighborhood dentist and requested an extraction.
“Good news, madam, we can save your tooth,” declared the kind woman dentist.
Bullshit. I had been reading up on root canals and decided I was not a good candidate for one. They inevitably harbor bacteria, and anyone facing trauma in an autoimmune condition is at risk for the spreading of bacteria systemically. Basically it’s keeping a dead object in your mouth for primarily cosmetic reasons. Keeping teeth does stabilize the bone, but there are other ways of doing this. After doing my due diligence I decided the safest, least interventive route for me was an extraction and a partial.
Partial what? A denture. A fake tooth. You know, like your grandma’s.
It only took a few minutes for me to get over the shock to my ego. Soon, I started embracing the idea, just like I embrace my graying head of hair, bald spot or not. I’m eager to spread the gospel of partials as a healthy, inexpensive alternative to harmful oral surgery.
500 rupees ($8) and half an hour later, the deed was done, the dead tooth in a little baggy. I won’t tiptoe around the violence of an extraction. It takes brute force to yank a deep-rooted molar out, decayed or not. My kindly dentist yanked and twisted with all her strength, resting between attempts and shaking her arm out, as her assistant held my head tightly so it wouldn’t move. I surrendered to the forces, sat in Svastikasana, palms folded under the vinyl bib. The head hold felt surprisingly comforting as she squeezed my temples against the extreme wrenching from the dentist.
Walking home with the bloody cotton wad in my mouth, I reflected on the role of teeth. They say teeth, as the hardest substance in our bodies, represent the last vestige of our past life. They carry a ton of karma. Solstice in Pune occurred around 10:30am, the exact time of the extraction. So this was a huge letting go, as the planet shifted into the longest night, a renunciation, a relinquishing, of the old stories, the intergenerational trauma, that I can’t help but carry.
As soon as I got home, I went to our altar. I rinsed off the rotted tooth that had served me so well and placed it on the altar. I lit candles, and rang bells and bowls for energy clearing. I did a eurythmy Halleluiah in four directions, clearing all obstacles that prevent me from seeing the highest. I thought about burying my tooth in the garden, but a roommate had just come home and it wasn’t the right time to explain what was happening, so I put the tooth back into its little ziplock.
After a soft food lunch and nap, I took yet another step toward ego-annihilation and went to a nearby medical clinic to get a prescription for a steroid inhaler. Over the past week, the asthma had gotten worse, I had succumbed to use of the rescue inhaler that a student had insisted on giving me out of concern, and just as anticipated, the rescue inhaler had become less and less effective. As Prashantji points out, you can’t be pragmatic if you’re being dogmatic.
I was missing Geeta Iyengar’s lecture on the Bhagavad-Gita that day, but friends shared with me later the highlights of her talk. She pointed out that “gi-ta” (song) backwards, “ta-gi,” means surrender. She discussed how the book is primarily about dharma, duty, and thus the surrender to duty.
Why was this an Arjuna moment for me? I had to let go of my attachment to what I believe is best, my stubborn determination to be my own healer at all times. My holistic measures in retaining my tooth (my truth) could take me to a certain point and not beyond. My ability to curb asthma on my own was only partially effective. Just as Arjuna could argue endlessly against going to war, I could go on and on about how ineffective and destructive allopathic medicine is. So much for ideals.
Does this mean I am now stuck in the limits of allopathic medicine? Not at all. I did take a huge step in accepting an oral antibiotic for the very first time in my entire life to deal with the infection left behind by the tooth. I even took a pain pill (also the very first time I’ve taken anything stronger than aspirin), when the local anesthesia wore off and my jaw was throbbing. But today, no pain. And I’m replacing the antibiotic with mega-probiotics. I may or may not take the steroid inhaler, but I have it in my pocket as an option, along with ayurvedic herbs which will be my first line of support.
For those who do not know me, these decisions are HUGE, for I am one who has spent my entire adult life fighting the medical industrial complex. Funny to think of these as growth, but for me, it represents an ability to compromise, to respond to the specific circumstances, to accept my limitations, and to surrender to my duty to take care of myself.
Entering longest night, I bless my limitations, I abolish ego attachments, I surrender to what is required. Shanti, shanti, shanti, om.