"...just sit, just breathe, and if you feel like it, allow yourself to smile inwardly." Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p436.
"Smile to your whole body as you breathe in, and send your love and compassion to your whole body as you breathe out. Feel all the cells in your whole body smiling joyfully with you." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger - Wisdom for Cooling the Flames (2001), p226-227
Seated mindfulness practice can be reduced to bathing one's body in awareness as one's whole body breathes while smiling inwardly. The Awareness, breath, and smiling filling every cell, with this whole process supporting itself moment after moment - the inward smile of one moment giving more reason to smile in the next - smiling because one's whole body is smiling - naturally, peacefully, wholesomely. This practice can be tricky to put in place, however - especially the inner smile part, since actively smiling can seem fake, forced, or diplomatic, so here are 6 methods of kindling the inner smile as part of mindfulness practice which can be used alone or together:
1) Enjoying the relaxation of mindfulness meditation.
The increased sensations of lightness from letting go of our physical tension after sitting in minduflness meditation for 5 minutes or more can bring us joy and we can smile because of this.
2) It feels and looks nice to smile - it is a gift to our bodies and others around us.
Smiling has been clinically proven to increase our health and make our perceptions more positive.
3) Watching our automatic bodies - recognizing a deeper positive and wholesome dimension supporting our existence.
The life process is taking care of us whether we consciously recognize it or not. Watching the breath continuing automatically gives us direct evdidence of this positive process operating within every cell of our being, and this can be a great source of joy, bringing a gentle smile to our faces.
4) Sending gratitude to our cells and organs.
Our breath and our hearts have been working to keep us alive over the years no matter what we have done. Smiling lovingly to our organs and cells reduces the physical tension within and around them and allows them to continue operating more efficiently and safely.
5) Immersing ourselves in nature.
Recognizing that we are natural and a seamless part of a greater natural world means that a flower, a bird's song, or even the waves of our breathing, can comfort us and make us smile in awe.
6) Recognizing that we are consciously taking care of ourselves and deserve more inner peace.
After sitting in meditation for 10 minutes it is undeniable that we are looking after ourselves and that we love ourselves - otherwise we would have stopped doing it. The increased relaxation we are feeling from watching the breath is showing us that normally we have a lot of anxiety and fear - of 'tigers' we perceive on the outside or inside of us. We have been out in that wilderness like a panicking monkey most of our lives so it's time to return home to a safer place - to the inner peace which is our birthright - the joy which is the default natural experience of a human being.
The above methods can be summarized as 6 enjoyable activities which kindle our smile as follows:
- enjoy relaxing
- enjoy feeling beautiful
- enjoy the positive life process
- enjoy feeling cared for
- enjoy nature
- enjoy caring
We can make a guided meditation from these activities to be used 5-10 mintues into a formal mindfulness meditation like this:
"Recognizing I am relaxing, I smile gently as I enjoy the feeling of becoming lighter.
Being aware that my gentle smile is beautiful, I present my smile as a gift to all life in and around me.
Understanding that the life process in and around me supports me, I smile with my whole body.
Watching my reflexive breathing caring for me, I smile with gratitude to all my reflexively caring organs.
Understanding that my body is a product of nature, I smile at the awesomeness of nature within me.
Realising that my nature has brought me to this caring practice, I smile at my caring nature."