The Inner Smile: A Meditation Practice

The practice of the Inner Smile is one that is found in Hindu, Buddhist & Taoist traditions. This practice is a wonderful way to release anxiety, to balance the endocrine system, and to increase within you feelings of loving-kindness and compassion. Here’s how you do it âÂ?¦

Find a quiet place to sit, either in a straight-backed chair (sitting near the edge, with your feet parallel, and directly beneath your knees) or on the floor (in a comfortable cross-legged position, or in “hero” position, sitting back on your heels). The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable, and for your spine to be in an up-right position. Let your eyes gently close. Take a couple of deep long breaths, and as you exhale say (either out loud or internally) “aaah.” As you exhale and say “aaah,” feel any unnecessary tension in the face, jaw, neck & shoulders simply melt away, like a series of thin silk scarves, flowing off of your body, down to the floor. Notice a feeling of spaciousness in your mouth, as though the roof of your mouth were the dome of a temple.

Now let your breathing return to normal, and float the tip of your tongue upward, letting it rest gently on the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper front teeth (you’ll find a “sweet spot” that feels just perfect!). Keeping your tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth (and with you eyes still closed), allow yourself to smile âÂ?¦ a very gentle, subtle smile âÂ?¦ sort of like the Mona Lisa âÂ?¦ as though you were just smiling to yourself, for no particular reason, letting your lips fill and spread. Notice how this feels.

Now rest your attention (your mind’s eye) at the bridge of your nose ~ that space on your forehead between the inner edges of your eyebrows. Notice that as you rest your attention there, energy builds âÂ?¦ which you may experience as a sensation of warmth or tingling. (But whatever your experience is, that’s just fine!) Keep a soft focus on that area, and then, slowly, draw your attention back from that point, into the very center of your brain (the space directly between your two ears). So now your attention, your mind’s eye, is at a place several inches behind that forehead point. It’s resting in the center of your brain ~ a place which in Taoist yoga is called the Crystal Palace, in the Hindu yoga traditions is called the Cave of Brahma. It’s the home of the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands: the “master glands” of the endocrine system. Simply energizing these glands, by holding our focus here, is in and of itself a wonderfully healing practice.

After resting your attention (still with a gentle smile, your eyes closed, and the tongue gently touching the roof of your mouth) for a couple minutes in this place ~ the center of your brain, the Crystal Palace, the Cave of Brahma ~ draw your focus into your eyes, and allow your eyes to become “smiling eyes.” As support for this, you can imagine that you’re looking into the eyes of the person who you love the most in this world âÂ?¦ and they are looking back at you. Let you eyes become filled with the energy of loving-kindness, of acceptance, of delight. Notice how this feels.

And now you can use your “smiling eyes” to smile ~ internally ~ at any part of your body that you would like: infusing that place, that limb, that organ with the energy of loving-kindness! You might like to begin with the hair on the top of your head, then your scalp, then your brain and eyes and ears âÂ?¦ working your way down, from head to toe, “touching” with the energy of a smile every single part of your body. Or you can choose to smile at a place within you that is injured or ill or numb. Or you can smile down at your heart, your lungs, your liver, your kidneys, your spleen/pancreas âÂ?¦ loving, appreciating these organs for all the work they do for you, night and day, with this energy of a smile. The possibilities are endless!

To end the practice, simply bring your attention back to the Crystal Palace, the Cave of Brahma ~ that place in the center of your brain, directly back from the forehead point. Take a couple of long deep breaths. Let your tongue relax back onto the bottom of your mouth. Open your eyes. Notice how you feel!

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