October 18, 2012

Chaval al ha'zman

Ohhhmm. It has been decided that I need to chill. Mellow. Unwind. “Mom, take a chill pill,” my kids say.

As for my husband, well, he has perfected this part of his life—and he owes this peace of mind to meditation. He eats lunch, davens mincha and then heads off to meditate. Every day. Our Golden Retriever is an ideal contemplation companion; the dog is so silent and mellow, he could pass for a shag rug—even if a cat were nearby. Every afternoon, the two of them retreat to a cool, darkened room and practise tranquility.

I am always too busy to make time to meditate; yet if I made time to meditate, maybe I would not feel too busy.

I decided to research this hypothesis and try meditating. I entered the room that afternoon accompanied as always by a frantic energy. The dog must have sniffed my sizzling electrical current as he gave a forlorn sigh then rolled onto his side. Here I was, determined to silence my chattering mind and arrest my flickering thoughts. 

I lay down and started to breathe deeply, trying to calm each part of my body: my legs, back, arms. Deep breathing in. Slow exhales out. My fingers, my neck, heavy, soft. I was actually feeling drowsy, hushed, still. My head, jaw, mouth. I loosened my jaw and upon breathing in, I sat bolt upright and bellowed, “The dental hygienist. How could I forget?”

The guru husband stayed inert in his deep contemplative state. The guru dog opened one brown eye in disapproval, then buried his nose in his fluffy tail.  I slapped my cheeks to become alert and grabbed my watch. 1:10 pm. I remembered that I had an appointment for 1:00. I stood upright and raced across the room to get my phone, dialed the dentist, was told that I could still make it, brushed and flossed, flew down the stairs and ran out the front door. I was blinded by the blazing sun, blinking in shock at the intense heat.

I arrived at the dentist frantic, nervous, sweaty and breathless. And when I slipped into the dental chair and lay way, way, back, I thought ‘hmmm, this could be the perfect spot to meditate.’ Shielding myself from the bright spot light, I closed my eyes and went a little deeper.

“Open wide,” the hygienist ordered. I popped my mouth open like a baby bird. A steel instrument probed, the suction tube suctioned and then her cell phone rang. Much to my surprise, she answered it. And then she had a long conversation with a friend, leaving my mouth agape while the suction tube suctioned. Was I expecting professionalism? Here in Israel?

“It’s my birthday,” she explained, repositioning the suction tube.

“Mazal Tov,” I winced as she scraped, scratched and probed.

“We are going out to dinner tonight. To celebrate.”

“Shounds shlike fun,” I sloshed back, understanding that this was not a good place to meditate. I almost expected an invitation to her birthday dinner.

She hummed and sang and prodded and flossed. And then she said, “Yesh lach shinayim chaval al ha’zman.” If I were to translate this literally, it would be something like ‘your teeth are a waste of time.’ Now that’s either a back-handed compliment or a shocking insult. But I knew better because here in Israel, everything is backwards: writing, reading, the dates—and compliments. She really said I have super awesome teeth.

I left and my mind buzzed as I rushed along the busy street, thinking about everything I had to do. I realized that I seriously can’t find the time to meditate and concluded that I am not chilled. But I have clean teeth and they are chaval al ha’zman

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