The Evolution of a Smile

frownfrown2  smile

About 10 years ago Master Johwa introduced me to smiling as a meditation for spiritual growth.  I remember it rather well.  It took so much effort to simply smile for no reason that it is actually incredible when I think about it.  I resisted consistently for a long time and we had many conversations about it.   The first step I took wasn’t very noble.  I would smile for appearances and for the sake of avoiding having to talk about it anymore, lol.  When I was alone I wouldn’t smile at all and now that I think about it I always had a stern and serious look on my face.

After some time I would use smiling periodically with the intention to release some steam when feeling angry.  It seemed to work pretty well and I would say at the very least it is much better to smile when angry than not to.  I remember while working one day my co worker saw me smiling and said, “Wow Matt you look so happy all the time”.  I remember being so stressed and angry at that time I let out a laugh and figured at least while smiling my anger isn’t bothering other people.

Later I smiled as a sort of affirmation to be happy.  I wanted to be happy and people who were happy and seemed to go through life easier than myself were usually smiling.  I did that for some time on and off.  At times I could see that I was trying to appear happy to others.  I would smile to try to make myself feel good or to appear happier than I felt to others.  It was always short lived and disappointing.

After that I developed a little more sincerity about smiling.  I wanted the real thing of happiness and not just an appearance of it.  I began to smile wider especially when I was upset.  A valuable thing I learned is that if you do it sincerely in the hardest moments you can get really big benefits.  I found that if you smile wide when really upset or even while crying you can discover something new about yourself and your emotions.  When I went through a hard time several years ago and was crying I forced a smile the whole time as wide as I could.  When I did that I felt energy inside my body and chest.  Then the energy washed upwards like a wave and it literally felt like it splashed warm water into the front of my brain.  When it did tears came pouring out.  I didn’t really appreciate it then because I was so focused on my emotions but looking back a valuable thing to learn from that is my emotions are distinct from myself and seem to operate like a system.  It’s almost like a living machine.  I guess I was to invested in the machine to really get the most benefit possible at the time.  I think there is great fear in distinguishing between me and the machine.  I feel a deep sense of identity with it and want to take it seriously and pamper it.  I also want others to do the same and if they don’t it makes me angry.

Smiling widely is the most effective for me so far.  If I stretch my smile so that the muscles behind my ears are pulled back as far as possible there is an effect.  I try to imagine the muscles meeting each other in the back of my head and sometimes even passing each other.  I noticed that when I do this my mind gets quieter and it gives a sense of brightness in my head.  It gives a very clear feeling of a distinction between me and my thoughts and emotions.  When that experience comes it is an important time for me because it reminds me not to be afraid of not identifying with the machine of emotions and thought.   During the week there were times when my attention was pulled from myself and the machine started churning out thoughts ceaselessly.  At that time I am my thoughts and emotions.  When I stretch my smile back and bring my attention back to my breathing and my heart I step out of it a little.

When ever I have talked about smiling as a practice to others in the past the most common response I would get is, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that because I don’t want to be fake”.  I understand the logic but disagree with it wholeheartedly.  From what I can tell so far that logic comes from our emotions to be recognized a certain way by others.  We may think that we are the ones making that choice but these days I believe that choice is being made for us.  Maybe we don’t recognize this because we are so identified with that desire we think it is ourselves.  However, when I practice diligently there is a hurdle that is overcome and a new sense of Self maybe there that has no problem smiling at all.  If that is our true Self then not smiling maybe much more fake and forced than smiling.

It seems strange to people if someone is smiling to much.  I felt that way before as well.  Isn’t it strange that we all want to be happy but criticize others as being strange or weird for smiling to much?  My wife bought a women’s magazine the other day that had an ad with two models sitting in a slouched manner with a rather blah and depressing look on their faces.  She is younger and from another country so this style of advertising seemed strange to her.  She saw it and laughed then asked why they look like that.  I realized then that being serious and depressed is actually accepted as looking cool and trendy.  It’s a little frightening when we stop and look at how the simple things we take as common place are going in such a different direction than our inner and natural state.

Looking back I think I can say that my reluctance to smile was to hold on to an image of myself that I thought was appealing to others and gave me a sense of security.  If I am macho it is accepted by men and appealing to women while keeping me emotionally distant and safe from getting hurt.  Lol, I think that must be right because it felt uncomfortable to read that back to myself.  Now smiling is a practice of bringing out and enjoying my sense of true Self with hopes that eventually that is all that there will be one day.  I am really enjoying it now more than ever and as it evolves more I will update this posting 🙂

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