Recently during a private session with a student we went deep on the subject of smiling even though you dont feel like it. This beautiful soul was in the very early stage of grief having just buried someone she loves very much. Smiling was not easy for her. And yet, in the midst of her deep sorrow and real pain, she was talking to me about all the things she was so very grateful for - in particular the love and support demonstrated by her family, friends, co-workers and "strangers."
We dove deep into some of the teachings by Saint Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh and the scientific evidence that smiling - even faking or forcing a smile - reduces stress and makes you happier.
In 2015, The Huffington Post reported that scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman conducted a study * . The evidence proved that smiling, even if one is not feeling happy, can slow heart rate and decrease perceived levels of stress. Smiling calms our nervous system. Another beautiful and easy destressifying technique!
Saint Mother Teresa continues to be one of my sacred archetypes. She sits on my right side at all times (the Blessed Mother balances me on my left). Mother Teresa has always been there for me guiding me and I just "know" she will always be there. Always. I personally practice these lessons daily - that we should - “Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other- it doesn’t matter who it is - and that will help to grow up in greater love for each other." And this gem, a mantra I use all day - "peace begins with a smile - do it for peace."
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master that my teacher, davidji, introduced me to during teacher training. I immediately fell in love and became a student. I have read many of his books - most recently -"Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm" - but there are so many that I love. He is lovingly referred to as Thay ("teacher" in Vietnamese). Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Dr. Martin Luther King. Thay teaches us that “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
We concluded our session together with this beautiful and simple meditation taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay teaches that in breathing in, we give our attention (awareness) to our breath. We feel the calmness for as long as we are breathing in. Breathing out we smile in order to relax all the muscles in our face and we begin to notice and feel the calmness, the peace, the joy and the feeling of relaxation setting in.
Here is his meditation that can be practiced all day long , anywhere you want - eyes open, eyes closed - I encourage you to try it especially when you become aware of your thoughts and your feelings:
You might say:
Breathing in, I feel calm…..calm
Breathing out, I smile …..Smile
Namaste - I send you peace - may peace be with you, flow through you and flow all around you today. Be peace. Smile even when it's hard - do it for peace.