Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Smile

Practicing My Smile! 
Once upon a time a dear friend and I had a conversation about the expressions we wear in the world. We had both noticed that we often look as if we are angry or frustrated or bored or unapproachable. We realized that we scowl more than we smile, even though our feelings in the moment in no way match the look we present to the world. Since that revealing conversation, I have been more aware of looking pleasant, even when I am waiting in a long line or when my ankle hurts from walking just a bit too far. I admit I don't always live up to this personal goal, but I am working on it, and I recently I have received some help along the way. 

Smiling in The Morning
My first reminder comes from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who makes me smile just thinking about him and the abundance of wisdom he shares with the world. On my bedside table right now is a little book called Present Moment, Wonderful Moment, Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living. This book highlights everyday, ordinary activities like washing your hands and turning on the computer with simple verses called gathas and a reflection on the specific verse. 

The first verse is about waking up.
        Waking up this morning I smile.
        Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
        I vow to live fully in each moment
        and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion. 

The reflection about this verse says, "Your smile affirms your awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. How many days slip by in forgetfulness? What are you doing with your life? Look deeply, and smile. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind. " (p. 7)

I smile at the idea that a smile is a sign of my determination to live in peace and joy, for often I think the expression on my face is one of determination. I am determined to accomplish the task I have set out to do and to do it efficiently and successfully. I am determined to keep moving on to the next thing without interruption or delay. What a wonderful concept that by smiling I announce my determination to live in peace and joy and to cultivate an awakened mind.  I don't have an awakened mind, however, and therefore, I need to practice smiling. The spiritual practice of smiling! 

Practicing an Inner Smile
My second lesson in smiling comes from another book, Roaming Free Inside the Cage, A Daoist Approach to the Enneagram and Spiritual Transformation by William M. Schafer, Ph.D., which introduced me to the Daoist meditation practice called the Inner Smile. Schafer says the Inner Smile is a "wonderful antidote to the Inner Frown." My Inner Frown often manifests as an Outer Frown, but not too surprisingly, the Inner Smile becomes an Outer Smile, and I feel the peace and joy I say I want to create and live. 

Here's how to do it:
      Put your fingers to the corners of your mouth and rub them
      outward along the smile line. Feel your face soften.
      Gently place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your
      mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. Do it 
      gently, don't push. Rub your fingers along the smile
      lines some more. Feel what happens inside your face. 
      Can you feel your mouth soften? Now let the softness
      fall from your mouth down inside your chest. You can
      let the smile go right to your heart. Take a full breath.
      Feel the softness…Draw the next breath all the way down
      into the belly, under your solar plexus. Keep smiling.
      Let yourself feel how present, joyful, and aware you
      are this very moment. p. 46. 

It works; it really does, and the inner smile spreads, becoming an outer smile. Try it. What's the worst that can happen? 

An Invitation
How do you look to the world? Is that the way you want the world to see you? What happens when you are intentional about smiling? I would love to know. 



  1. I love it -- light, free, fun, attractive, easy, and so much more. The St. Paul new life woman!!!


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