Monday, October 3, 2011

Inner Smile

"In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself." -Mantak Chia


The last few years of work were difficult for me. I found it hard to keep from descending into a deep depression. I would sit at my desk thinking all sorts of terrible dark thoughts. Finally I realized I had to do something. The first thing I tried was a service dog. I took Spike to school and through some hard work he graduated a Service Dog. The paper work was all done so he started accompanying me to work. He was a very good boy and helped me get through one winter. Unfortunately the stress was too much for him, he had some issues with wearing his vest - it was pinching him and I didn’t realize it – and by the time I did figure out what the problem was he was just spooked. To this day if I put the vest on he flinches and cowers. We couldn’t seem to really get past that and since I couldn’t bear to see him that way so he retired. (someday I’ll do a whole post about him as a Service Dog – it was an interesting experience).


2009-1211-152_workIn his little bed by my desk 2009-1211-151_workCoffee break time

Spikes retirement left me with a big question, “now what could I do to get myself through the last few months before retirement?”. After reading “Eat, Pray, Love” I found myself investigating Buddhism and stumbled across Smile Meditation. Well, it wasn’t as good as Spike (he really was fantastic) but I could “carry it with me” so to speak. It helped… along with the knowledge that retirement was on the horizon.

The Inner Smile mediations are simple exercises that you can use any time of the day to help calm and refocus your energies (see the link for details). Once you have mastered it, or at least gotten comfortable you can start to include a half-smile as you go about your day. Believe it or not this can actually change your outlook and how you feel about the events of the day.  I have gotten out of the habit, but after watching a program about India last night I was reminded of this healthy way of being and will try to remember to re-incorporate it into my daily life.

'Half smiling' mindfulness exercises by Thich Nhat Hahn

Half-smile when you first wake up in the morning

Hang a branch, any other sign, or even the word "smile" on the ceiling or wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as your reminder. Use these seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining the half smile. Follow your breaths.

Half-smile during your free moments

Anywhere you find yourself sitting or standing, half-smile. Look at a child, a leaf, a painting on the wall, anything which is relatively still, and smile. Inhale and exhale quietly three times. Maintain the half smile and consider the spot of your attention as your own true nature.

Half-smile while listening to music

Listen to a piece of music for two or three minutes. Pay attention to the words, music, rhythm, and sentiments. Smile while watching your inhalations and exhalations.

Half-smile when irritated

When you realize you're irritated, half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining the half smile for three breaths.

extracted from

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh