When I was a child I remember Dad usually had this little bud of a smile on his face. Years later I came across a beautiful writing by Thich Nhat Hahn about smiling and talked about it with Dad. He said that’s what his mom (my beloved Nana) had advised him. “Put a little smile on your face. Everything seems a bit brighter when you have a little smile.” He took that to heart. This is a picture of my son Dustin with his beloved Grandpa Bob, my dad.
It is interesting to think of how that simple practice and habit informed Dad’s life. It takes mindfulness to be aware of whether we are smiling. A willingness to be present with what is. Just writing this post I’m “practicing” a small upturn at the corners of my mouth and aware of a subtle feeling of happiness. A bud of a smile isn’t big joy or outrageous laughter or delight in seeing someone. It’s an every day cultivation of contentment. In yoga we call this santosha. Click here for a santosha practice.
During walking meditation, during kitchen and garden work, during sitting meditation, all day long, we can practice smiling. At first you may find it difficult to smile, and we have to think about why. Smiling means that we are ourselves, that we are not drowned into forgetfulness. This kind of smile can be seen on the faces of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is the only moment.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind.” This line is like drinking a glass of ice water–you feel the cold, the freshness, permeate your body. When I breathe in and recite this line, I actually feel the breathing calming my body, calming my mind.
You know the effect of a smile. A smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face, and relax your nervous system. A smile makes you master of yourself. That is why the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are always smiling. When you smile, you realize the wonder of the smile. “Dwelling in the present moment.” While I sit here, I don’t think of somewhere else, of the future or the past. I sit here and I know where I am. This is very important.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”