The human has the faculty of smile. When I smile there is an immediate shift in my experience. Sometimes smiling happens spontaneously in the natural course of how things go. My smile is also a powerful tool to consciously create a certain deeper feeling tone for my experience.

When I smile I experience a pleasant sensation, like a brightening in my whole being. It is accompanied by a feeling of acceptance and opening up which softens me and dissolves rigidity. Smiling I become more easily aware of the many beautiful and healthy things that are within and around me in my life.

My first teacher Rajo said, “Your smile is like a safety belt: never start your ride without it!”tomas-smiling

 He often led us in the following meditation:

“Look into your body. Inside your body. Inside your body is space. This space is vast, unlimited. Look into the vast, unlimited space inside your body and smile into that space.

In the space inside your body there is silence. The silence is vast, unlimited. It is not touched by sounds or noises. Look into the vast, unlimited silence in the space inside your body and smile into the silence.”

Another man whom I regard as my teacher is the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay, as he is affectionately called by his students, encourages us to use the power of our smile in various ways to help lessen our suffering and heal us.

Some examples:

“Breathing in I smile to my body. Breathing out I calm my body.” “Aware of my lower back I breathe in. Breathing out I smile to my lower back” “Hello my irritation. I see you. I am here now. I will take care of you.” and smile to my irritation and nourish it with my smile, so that is calms down and perhaps subsides.

Thay recounts the following from a children’s meditation group: “Recently I was sitting with a group of children, and a boy named Tim was smiling beautifully. I said, “Tim, you have a very beautiful smile,” and he said, “Thank you.” I told him, “You don’t have to thank me, I have to thank you. Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.
“Instead of saying, ‘Thank you,’ you could say, ‘You’re welcome.’” If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. 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 . When I see Tim smiling, I am so happy. If he is aware that he is making other people happy, he can say, “You’re welcome.”
“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax, to be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth. This is not a retreat, it is a treat. 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 have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned in forgetfulness. This kind of smile can be seen on the faces of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.”(excerpt from Being Peace)
Thay continues:
“I would like to offer one short poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling: Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is a wonderful moment. “Breathing in, I calm my body.” Reciting 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. “Breathing out, I smile .” 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.

“Even though life is hard, even though it is sometimes difficult to smile, we have to try. Just as when we wish each other “Good morning,” it must be a real “Good morning.” Recently, one friend asked me, “How can I force myself to smile when I am filled with sorrow? It isn’t natural.” I told her she must be able to smile to her sorrow, because we are more than our sorrow. A human being is like a television set with millions of channels. If we turn the Buddha on, we are the Buddha. If we turn sorrow on, we are sorrow. If we turn a smile on, we really are the smile. We can’t let just one channel dominate us. We have the seeds of everything in us, and we have to take the situation in hand to recover our own sovereignty.

“When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling, with awareness, we are our true selves, we have sovereignty over ourselves. When we open ourselves up to a TV program, we let ourselves be invaded by the program. Sometimes it is a good program, but often it is just noisy. Because we want to have something other than ourselves enter us, we sit there and let a noisy television program invade us, assail us, destroy us.”
“Suppose you are expecting a child. You need to breathe and smile for the baby. Please don’t wait until your baby is born before beginning to take care of him or her. You can take care of your baby right now, or even sooner. If you can’t smile, that’s very serious. You might think, “I’m too sad. Smiling just isn’t the correct thing to do. ” Maybe crying or shouting would be correct, but your baby will get it—anything you are, anything you do, is for your baby.

“Whatever you are, whatever you do, your baby will receive it. Anything you eat, any worries that are on your mind will be for him or her. Can you tell me that you cannot smile? Think of the baby, and smile for him, for her, for the future generations. Please don’t tell me that a smile and your sorrow just don’t go together. It’s your sorrow, but what about your baby? It’s not his sorrow, it’s not her sorrow.

“Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.”