I received a phone call from a friend the other day who was having difficulty with all the suffering and death that was going on in the world. He was worried that his anxiety and despair was overcoming his usual optimism. I asked him if he was finding anything to smile about. He seemed put off by the question and answered: “No, I’m not smiling! It’s too dark to smile.” I then asked him to go look in a mirror, note what he saw, then smile at all the goodness he could remember and tell me what he saw while doing so. He came back smiling.
When I look at the flowers and budding trees awakening from their winter sleep, I can’t help but smile. I’m reminded that the seasons of soul we humans experience are a jumble most of the time……The winter darkness, spring blossoming, summer fun and autumn harvest can all take place in a few moments in our lives. The coldness of an unkind word, the flowering of a smile, the excitement of an event and the apparent loss of life can all take place in a day while taking months in Nature. Looking at life from the place of a smile is really different from that of a frown.
Today, while writing in my journal, I began reflecting on how Brother Sun and Sister Moon smile on me all the time even when I feel overworked, stressed, uncreative and unappreciated. I began looking into my metaphorical mirror to see how much or little I was smiling. I came up short. I realized in that moment of reflection I too was frowning and complaining way more than I was smiling and encouraging. It surprised me and has prompted me to share this eureka moment with you. I’m even smiling now as I’m writing and wondering if you’re smiling too.
We humans are creatures of habit, and in the day to day running around in our so called ‘adult lives,’ we get emotionally lost in the shuffle of negativity, push, shove, anxiety, blame, shame and overwork. We end up doing things that don’t inspire or bring Life to Life. We cop out to passionless activities to pay the bills, half-truths to keep us afloat and frowns to keep us focused. Does any of this sound familiar? The thing is, we don’t have to live this way! What I keep hearing is “Take the best and leave the rest.” If there’s a heartfelt smile, it’s the best. If not, well?
Thich Nhat Hanh, a noted international teacher says: “Sometimes, your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” This is what I experienced this morning as I reflected on my place in the universe. I consciously smiled at my foolishness, at my self righteousness and holier than thou attitude. I smiled at my arrogance of ‘knowing’ and my judgements on those ‘unenlightened’ ones that don’t know. The surprise was, by simply stopping in that moment of awareness, a smile of recognition appeared and changed my day.
It’s strange how a simple smile can pry open the heart enough to change our disposition, our outlook on life and allow us to enter into a place of revelation and joy. The simple switch that needs to be flipped is our inner awareness. To become aware that we are ‘not’ smiling is the key. Early in our lives most of us were conditioned and habituated to keep a rather flat affect, a sober unexpressive face. This habitual pattern gets interrupted when something prompts a smile. To become a flower, a person of heart, a smiler; we simply need to consciously awaken to it.
A simple smile is a key to opening the heart. When we make the conscious effort to smile, our chemistry changes. Endorphins are released creating a pleasant mood which allows us to see the world from a vantage point of optimism and appreciation. New possibilities emerge, creativity is stimulated, new perspectives are seen. Optimism then generates intention and a willingness to experience new ways of being and doing. Doors open, courage reappears and it’s a new day.
Smiling is easy, contagious, enlivening and empowering. It’s at the heart of Abundant Life.
- Today and every day become conscious of your inner disposition. Notice your moods, your inner dialogues, your sour notes. Also notice what prompts your inner and outer smiles.
- When you notice a mood, an emotion that’s negative or even neutral; stop, reflect on a better emotion, an optimistic, forgiving, understanding, reverent, serene, alive moment and notice how it triggers a smile. Also notice how you can stay conscious of this.
- Smile at others today and see how many smiles you receive in return. It’s an amazing way to be fully alive. . . . Are you smiling yet? Feel the wonder, the serenity, the aliveness!