Do You Have a "Non-Toothache"?

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When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant. There are so many things that are enjoyable, but when we don’t practice mindfulness, we don’t appreciate them.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

About a year ago, I went to the dentist.

It wasn’t for anything too major… just an old filling that needed replacing.

The procedure went well, and I was out in half an hour. All was good.

Then I tried to eat some cheese.


Pain shot through the the tooth.

“OK,” I thought to myself, “I did just have a filling replaced. The tooth is probably just sensitive from the procedure. No big deal, I’ll just chew with the other side of my mouth for a few days.”

Except the pain didn’t die down.

If anything, it got worse.

Each small bit of pressure felt like I was getting hit with an electric shock.

I went back to my dentist. She took an x-ray and referred me to a specialist. The specialist took a closer look and decided I needed a root canal.

The root canal went smoothly. And they did figure out what happened in the process too.

Turns out…

It was really just a bit of bad luck.

The nerves inside that my tooth just happened to be higher up than for most people. And my slightly deeper filling bumped against them. So, every time I chewed, the new filling pinched the nerves. (Yeah, no wonder it hurt.)

Anyways, I was nearly done with it all.

All I needed now was for my dentist to put the crown on.

Of course, thanks to complications with our fantastic, most-excellent insurance company, we would have to wait at least 6 months for that.

But it happened.

And after 9 months and 13 different appointments, the whole thing was finished.

Today, things seem good. And most of the time I forget about the tooth completely.

Occasionally though, I do feel some slight discomfort.

And if I’m mindful enough in those moments…

They bring back Thich Nhat Hanh’s words. They remind me how important it is to appreciate the “non-toothache”.

For the truth is, we all have things in our life that are not going wrong. Things we don’t need to change. Things that are just fine.

It’s easy to lose sight of those…

Yet being aware and grateful for the “non-sickness”, the “non-injury”, or the “non-hardship” is valuable.

First, it gives you a proper sense of perspective.

For while focusing on problems is necessary, we can easily take it to the extreme. We can get tunnel vision. We can only see what’s bad, broken, wrong, or flawed.

If you can only see the bad, it’s very hard to create the good.

You’re unable to see and take advantage of the abundance of opportunities around you… even in the midst of difficulty.

And second…

It just makes life more enjoyable.


Try it.

Copy out the quote and reflect on it. What are the “non-toothaches” in your life? What things in your life are already perfectly fine?

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