Getting Intimate with your Dentist
My Dinner Plate project is a portrait project about people who have had something to do with my one plate of dinner. It is a practice in gratitude for people in my life who have helped me in this way. Some of the people I know and some I don't. My dentist and his hygienist have been working on my teeth since I was a kid but do I really know them?
No one else goes digging around my mouth every six months! When Bruce, my dentist and Cheryl who cleans my teeth came to my studio on two separate shoot days they both talked about the intimacy of cleaning someones teeth. I had never really thought about it before but they were so right. I mean you are lying down in the chair, their face is like six inches from your face and they have their fingers or some other tool in your mouth. Very intimate. Bruce the Dentist, said he can feel when someone is looking him in the eyes but he doesn't want to look back thinking it will make the situation feel more awkward. He keeps staring at the teeth but not their eyes. Cheryl said some people get really uncomfortable and some are fine. They open wide; no problem, or it takes a bit of coaxing.
Intimacy is so different for everyone. The dictionary definition that comes up first is:
1. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group. (and I will add with ones self)The second:
2. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history (and I will add with ones self again.)
I believe that when we are more intimate with others, things, places or subjects we will have a richer experience with them. This kind of intimacy can make our lives more full and alive because we are taking the time to get close, see clearly and gain wisdom about something or someone. We aren't just skating through life with a dull sense of being or a lack of a deep connection to people and experiences. Who wants a dull life? This does not mean we have to be all touchy feely by the way. Not everyone is comfortable with that but it means finding a way to connect and be present to what is in front of you and in that moment. It means letting go of what is expected from yourself or from others and just letting your mind be clear and your body be in a place of feeling.
Today I was teaching mindful photography to a woman and we were at the beach photographing for our session. I talked about how we often come down to beach and notice the beauty in the big picture; in the grand landscape. " But," I asked her, "what do you really see? What details make up the scene?" We started to look at color, textures, shapes and light and got intimate with the rocks, sand and seaweed. We noticed the way the shadows played on the shells and the light on the water. We had a great time. We got to know the beach and each other in a richer and fuller way by getting to know the details and getting to know what each of us found important to photograph. We let go of what we "normally" expect from a visit to the beach and were just with what was there at that moment. If we went again in an hour our experience would be different and just as amazing. When we can do this kind of practice it allows us to see the beauty in more things. We are not going in with expectations about how something "should" be but going in with what is.
Next time you are angry, see if you can get intimate with that feeling. See where you feel it in your body and notice the thoughts around the anger. What are you actually angry at? Can you look at it from another perspective and shift the anger in to curiosity? I have heard that our emotions change every 15 seconds so we can actually shift fairly quickly from a negative feeling to a positive one. When we start to get intimate with our emotions we can better control them and have a more positive response to situations or people verses reacting all the time. We know how that can turn out. So if you know what anger feels like; tension, tightness or heat, then you might notice it when you feel those sensations coming on and say "Oh, Hi Anger, I know you," and decide to calm down and have a more positive experience.
Getting to know your body is important and can be learned through sitting really still or through movement like dance or yoga. Getting to know your thoughts can come through slowing down, sitting in meditation or by reflecting on past experiences and how you reacted. Next time you are in the dentists chair, see if how you feel about what is happening and if you are nervous, uncomfortable with the closeness or freaked out, see if you can look at the positive. Having healthy teeth allows you to eat and that is why I am grateful for Bruce and Cheryl and asked them to be a part of my Dinner Plate project. Not many people would dig around in my mouth for a living. Thanks for getting intimate with me guys.