The Joy of a Non-Toothache

by | Apr 11, 2019

From Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

When I have a toothache, I discover that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing.  I had to have a toothache in order to be enlightened, to know that not having one is wonderful.  My non-toothache is peace, is joy.  But when I do not have a toothache, I do not seem to be happy.  Therefore, I look deeply in the present moment and see that I have a non-toothache, that can make me very happy already.” 

This quote has so much applicability! There are two keys to really unlocking the joy of a non-toothache:

1. When you have a sucky situation (i.e. toothache), try to embrace it, experience it to the fullest and tell yourself you are going to use this sucky experience for greater happiness in the future.

2. When the toothache goes away – spend time each day reveling in your non-toothache. Don’t allow life just to go back to normal.

These “toothaches” can be big things like injury or illness, or they can be small things like waiting in a long line. A relatively minor toothache I experienced over the past 9 months related to our office space – we gutted and re-did our entire floor of our building. From late August until mid-February our firm was cramped into small, beige, dim, horrible office space. It was really a buzzkill. It was a toothache. Being in our new offices is fantastic! Firstly, because they are kick-ass. But also, because we are enjoying our non-toothache.

Another toothache was breaking my clavicle skiing in 2016. It really hurt! For months! Not a day goes by now that I don’t appreciate the lack of pain. When exercising I think about how great it is to be able to do whatever exercise I’m doing, reminding myself of my prior injury.


  1. Good post!

  2. Couldn’t agree more! Frame of mind is easily in your control and another reason why I am teaching and emphasizing gratitude everyday with my daughter. Great post.

  3. One of the best IFODs so far, John. Really boils down to humility and appreciating all of the good instead of whining about what are, for most of us, minor and transient challenges.

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