My husband recently got us new toothbrushes. They’re these fancy electric toothbrushes that are set on a two minute timer. When I first used the toothbrush I didn’t think much of it. However, this toothbrush has taught me some important lessons in just a few uses.
Please don’t think I have terrible dental hygiene. I mean, I might, but don’t let what I’m about to share with you create judgements around my hygiene. Prior to this magical electric toothbrush I used to spend my tooth brushing time as a way to get other things done too. For instance, in the morning I would start brushing my teeth, bite down on the toothbrush, leave the bathroom to pack my bag for the day, put on my shoes, etc. and then I’d go back to brushing. I’d use my tooth brushing time to multitask. I’d scramble around the house with my toothbrush just hanging out of my mouth. In all honesty, was I actually taking good care of my teeth? Was I intentionally packing all the things I actually needed for my day?
It’s not just during my tooth brushing time. In general I have this terrible habit of multitasking. I used to express pride in my multitasking abilities. I can do five different things at once! Look at how productive I am! But was I actually being productive? Or was I just doing a bunch of things with half-assed effort? My mind is literally like my internet browser. I’ve got too many tabs open at the same time. But why?
This new toothbrush forced me to change my routine. The first time I used it I found myself trying to bite down on it while I also pulled back my hair. Nope. That wasn’t going to happen. That darn thing vibrated my whole mouth and it did not feel good. Well, I guess I’m just brushing my teeth now. I also found myself trying to walk around while brushing, but then toothpaste started to dribble down my face. Okay. Looks like I’m gonna park myself in front of this sink. Another great thing about this toothbrush is the built in two minute timer. For two whole minutes I have to stand in my bathroom, in front of my sink, and only brush my teeth. IT IS THE ONLY THING I CAN DO IN THAT MOMENT! It sounds totally insane, because for most people this is probably a regular part of their daily routine, but this is new for me! At least twice a day I spend two minutes focusing just on brushing my teeth. A small signal to slow down a bit has become the greatest way to start and end my day.
Perhaps it’s the toothbrush epiphany, but I’ve found myself disconnecting from social media a bit lately. It’s so busy and loud and truly taking me out of what’s actually happening in front of me. When you step away from the action of constantly checking your phone you begin to realize how prevalent it has become. The other day I had to step out of someone’s way as I was walking downtown because they wouldn’t look up from their phone while walking down the sidewalk. Every time I drive by a bus station just about every single person is staring at their phone. Have we lost the ability to just be without letting visual and audible noises from a phone fill our space? Have we lost the skill of speaking words or communicating with those around us without a phone being involved?
This isn’t me coming down on society, because I’m 100% guilty of this too, but it seems like the moments where we slow down physically is when the mind runs rampant. We have the desire to just fill the void. I notice this in just about every yoga class I teach. The moment I get quiet vocally and ask students to slow down physically half or more of the students’ eyes start to wander and the focus (that I can perceive as an outsider) gets lost. Again, I am not innocent in this situation. I can barely drive my car in silence. I don’t like cooking or cleaning without music or a podcast in the background. I get bored after running a couple miles because my mind is too distracted!
Physical and mental quietness is freaking hard! But my daily habits, and perhaps yours as well, aren’t helping the situation. A yoga practice can absolutely guide us in the right direction. For me, yoga is all about awareness. The first step to getting comfortable with getting quiet is simply being aware of the discomfort. You might be asked to hold a yoga posture for a while and if your first reaction is to fidget and adjust, just be aware of it. Perhaps the simple awareness can calm your desire to adjust. Same goes for a seated meditation. Trust me. Meditation is no easy feat, but it gets easier with time. When in meditation your mind will wander. It just will. Let it start with awareness. Be aware of the wandering and move on. Rather than tracing the wandering and heading toward the origin, think of it as a tiny blip on the radar and that blip is going to pass on by. Just like your desire to fidget in a posture or fill silence by checking your phone. Let that blip pass you by.
Perhaps a seated meditation practice isn’t your thing. However, I think we all can benefit from slowing down, becoming aware, and settle into some discomfort. And if meditation isn’t your thing, perhaps a fancy electric toothbrush will do the trick.