May 24, 2014

The Art of the Smile. ~ Rand Herz

Photo: Ryan Lee Run Lin/Pixoto

There is one striking similarity among the enlightened: they are all ridiculously happy.

Okay, perhaps using the word ridiculous is a bit of an exaggeration, but the mark of an enlightened individual is, generally, an outward appearance of contentment, satisfaction with life and a gracefully pleasant air. Naturally, this should be reflecting an inward state of tranquility as well.

This is all epitomized by the smile.

Such a simple aspect of our physical features and yet so telling, the smile is one oft-overlooked by many and yet can make a world of difference. It is one of the first places that people look when speaking to someone, along with the eyes. And it can communicate oh-so-much.

We can give it a try just now. First, realize where our expression is. Maybe this requires a mirror. Maybe we can just feel how our mouths are shaped. And recognize our moods.

Next, we can relax our faces. All parts of the face—the cheeks, the eyes, the temples, the forehead, the chin and neck, nose and ears.

Then ever so slightly, allow the corners of the mouth to raise. No need to part the lips, no need to scrunch up the eyes.

Just a small, slight smile.

If you feel the facial muscles somewhere begin to tense, or if any tension is found anywhere in the face, just release it and relax further. Any feelings of anxiety, tension or stress, just release.

And continue.

The process of relaxing in meditation may seem never-ending. The road to samadhic states is long. Press on. Keep that slight smile.

In Japanese Zen traditions, especially, this is referred to as the half-smile. Practitioners of Zen, from samurai to monastics, would sit quietly and simply smile slightly. Of course, there is much more to meditation than simply smiling. There are countless practices to explore, discover and refine the inner being. But retaining a serene, tranquil smile during meditation can greatly assist with the focusing process and the development of the mind and spirit.

Few people realize how the mood and the physiology is mixed.

There have been several excellent speeches (many through the TED platform) on the connection between the two. Evidence shows (which means this is becoming scientific) that certain postures and physical movements are associated with positivity. Smiling is one of these.

Just by turning your mouth upwards, you can generate positive feelings. Similarly, by frowning, we generate neutral or negative feelings.

Think of a cup. A cup catches and contains. When we smile, we are forming a cup with our lips. We are catching and containing qi, prana or, to use the English words, spirit or aether.

If we aren’t smiling, this energy is simply passing through us. Filling our bodies with this essence of life, and learning to keep our spirits vital, is a key to longevity, happiness, strength, and almost every other good thing one can think of.

After practicing the half-smile for some time, we may realize that the face becomes smooth and serene.

Many advanced meditators seem to keep their youth so well. No wonder! Relaxing the face and allowing the muscles to unwind helps to relax the skin, too. This creates an outward visage of great tranquility. It is one of the many benefits of meditative practice.

We don’t have to be grinning like an idiot, but we should keep the half-smile. Keep ourselves lit up. Shine our light. And we will enlighten others, too.


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Apprentice Editor: Marcee Murray King/Editor: Travis May

Photo: Ryan Lee Run Lin/Pixoto

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