The Calming and Smiling Practice
Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Please do not think we need to be solemn in order to meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot...If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work."
It's a beautiful sunny day here in the UK today, and we're all coming to terms with the government's announcement that for the next three weeks, at least, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus all UK citizens should stay indoors. Many of us are feeling daunted by the prospect of this. Fortunately we are still allowed out for one lot of exercise each day. Many of you around the world will be living under even tighter restrictions and perhaps don't feel you have much to smile about at the moment. This post will share with you the mindfulness technique of breathing and smiling, which will be another simple, quick way to lift your spirits, lighten your mood, and bring a bit of sunshine into cloudy days stuck indoors.
Calming and Smiling is such a simple, beautiful practice, and remember that a smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face and your nervous system. The practice is like this: as you inhale feel the breath calming your body and soothing your mind. As you exhale do a half-smile (like the Buddha) and feel a wave of relaxation spread over you. It's really that simple!
You can also incorporate the calming, smiling practice into your yoga practice. Below are some simple ideas to get you started. You could also use them with Warrior Pose, Bridge Pose, and many other dynamic versions of the poses.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that even though life is hard, even though it is sometimes difficult to smile, we have to try. He relates how a friend asked him, "How can I force myself to smile when I am filled with sorrow?". He replied that she must be able to smile at her sorrow. He said that a human being is like a TV set with hundreds of channels. If we turn sorrow on we are sorrow. If we turn a smile on, we really are a smile. We cannot let just one channel dominate us. He says that we have the seed of everything in us, and when we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling, with awareness, we are our true selves, we have sovereignty over ourselves. I love the idea that a smile helps us to regain our sovereignty. We can't always control our circumstances, but we do have a choice in how we respond. We can breathe and smile.
In the next few days I will also post a longer Breathe and Smile Meditation (from my forthcoming Yoga by the Stars book), and the Ten Mindful Movements practice which incorporates the breathing and smiling practice too.
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Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.