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Mindful : August 2014
Plaque. Cavity. Implant. Root canal. The terminol- ogy alone can send the most even-tempered person into a cold sweat. Australian dentist Fern White is well aware of this, which is why she built her practice on mindfulness. So far, Nor th American dentists haven’t shown much interest. “The dental industry is pret ty obstinate,” says Debbie Holexa, who instructs dental students at Mesa Community College in Arizona and is also a mindfulness instructor. That’s why Fern White’s an innovator. When she took over a practice called Beacon Cove in Melbourne, Australia, six years ago, she decided to make it a more compassionate place with maximum attention to people. The first thing she did was keep the number of patients sheseesinadaytonomore than eight. And she books 75 minutes with each one. “For those who are open to it, we star t with breathing exer- cises,” says White. “All of us, including my assistant, close our eyes and sit together. We take deep breaths. And for the ones who are into it, we medi- tate for five or ten minutes.” White recognizes that this is unconventional, and some patients think it’s a bit much. She doesn’t push. She talks about it from the perspective Implanting Mindfulness of an immediate physical ben- efit. “The ones who are really stressed, I say, ‘Look, physio- logically, you can’t be stressed if you breathe slowly, because your parasympathetic ner vous system will kick in.’” When they understand that connecting with the par t of their ner vous system that carries on many bodily functions automatically can be grounding, they usually follow along. During the exami- nation, her assistant will touch the patient on the shoulder or hand, if they’re receptive. “I think the patients come out a lot calmer,” says White. Her philosophy ex tends to her staff, too. She hires people she is sure will empathize with patients and be open to using mindfulness and body work. Ever y morning they have a huddle, incorporating yoga stretches or some qigong to help them feel more connected as a team. While she’s not yet seeing her ideas catch on with other Australian dentists, she’s been vocal in suggesting yoga practices as a way for them to take better care of their bod- ies. “There are plenty of neck, back, and shoulder injuries in dentistry, because of the way we work,” she says. “So that’s really where I hope to bridge the gap with colleagues.” ● 16 mindful August 2014 16 mindful August 2014 now Illustration by Gavin Potenza UPCOMING 2014 TEEN MINDFULNESS RETREATS WWW.IBME.INFO Virginia Summer • July 6th - 11th Young Adult Wilderness • July 11th - 20th (Emigrant Wilderness, CA) Southern California • August 2nd - 7th Colorado Wilderness • August 14th - 19th Nashville • Sept. 26th - 28th Virginia New Year’s • Dec. 28th - Jan 1st Mass. New Year’s • Dec. 28th - Jan 1st Come unplug and tune in! Our retreats teach teens the basics of self-awareness, mindful communication, and techniques to calm and focus the mind - the foundations for success in all areas of life. Each day includes mindfulness meditation, small group discussions, yoga and creative workshops- arts, music, nature and sports. “The teen retreats are one of the most inspiring aspects of how mindfulness practice is unfolding in the West. The transformation that happens here is amazing.” -Joseph Goldstein, Founder, Insight Meditation Society MINDFULNESS EDUCATION INWARD BOUND Transformative Retreats for Teens