Kind smiles are attractive and they’re medicine for the mind, the soul and the body. Genuine smiles are uplifting, and if we look deeply, they’re also quite transcendental and slightly mystical.
If we’re sensitive, we can easily tell the difference between the real ones and the fake ones, even without highly developed psychic abilities.
We take them for granted too often but if we care to look a little closer, they can unlock a new and very useful dimension to our process of awakening, and help us with one of the hardest parts: Staying alert and mindful.
Besides the practical benefits to spiritual growth, there is plenty of scientific evidence to confirm our intuitions about smiling. Smiling is how we express kindness and joy.
Smiling at Science
Smiles are universal and instinctive. Ultrasound images of infants in the womb have shown that even unborn babies can smile. Research confirms that smiles make us feel good, and stimulate the hardwired reward mechanism in the brain, releasing endorphins.
Kind smiles are contagious and suppress the conscious control we have over our facial muscles, like the Zygomatic Major muscle, and so we smile automatically when we see someone else smile. New discoveries about mirror neurons show that when we observe something like a smile or an uplifting creative activity, we actually mimic the other person’s neural patterns.
Research reinforces what we already know intuitively – smiling helps us heal emotionally and physically, and fight depression. We know that smiles are important for effective marketing and customer service too – even the put-on smiles have a positive effect.
Real and put-on smiles have been given names to help us technically differentiate them. The real ones are called Duchene smiles, and the put-on smiles are non-Duchene.
Scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman wanted to know whether those forced smiles can help us cope with stress. Their method was interesting. Test subjects had to use pencils or chopsticks to hold up their smiles while performing complex tasks. What were their findings? “There are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress.”
It’s not exactly news to the awakened.
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. – Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s fascinating research, but we don’t need scientists to know what smiles are all about. Even so, we take them for granted, and we might easily forget that they also point to a deep esoteric truth.
Oneness Pours through a Radiant, Genuine Smile
Genuine smiles remind us of our true nature, on the deepest level. Just like laughter that comes straight from the belly, they remind us what it feels like to be an authentic human being. The human smile is unique … so much is communicated through those pearly gates. And even the gummy gates bring joy – the young and the very old.
The bubbling well of life’s vital force bubbles up from within and splashes out onto a face for everyone to see. Smiles are part of who we are, at our very core.
It’s easy to get hung up on trying to become more spiritual, more awakened, and more enlightened. Smiles remind us that it’s not as complicated as we like to pretend. Enlightenment and the awakened states are natural and intuitive.
It’s true that we have to work on ourselves, but the ‘work’ part is more about staying alert in our minds and hearts to negative patterns that stand in the way. When we drop those, what remains is our natural state – the smile, and the deep feeling of serenity and connectedness to everything.
If you are unhappy you have a reason to be unhappy; if you are happy you are simply happy – there is no reason for it. Your mind tries to find a reason because it cannot believe in the uncaused, because it cannot control the uncaused – with the uncaused the mind simply becomes impotent … whenever you are happy, you are happy for no reason at all, … happiness is just the stuff you are made of. It is your very being, it is your innermost core. Joy is your innermost core. – Osho
Smiles can Lubricate the Wheels of Spiritual Growth
One of the most difficult obstacles to spiritual awakening is that we have the habit of forgetting to watch our thoughts and emotions as they arise. When they do arise, and we’re not conscious of them, we tend to get carried off by the train of thought and lose our state of serenity and equanimity.
We obsessively attach those thoughts and feelings to our sense of identity, out of habit, without even knowing that we’re doing it.
For example, we see someone do something violent and degrading to someone else, we might say to ourselves:
“That makes me so upset! People like that don’t deserve to be called human!”
Unconscious ego identification with our automatic reactions drag us down from higher states of mind. Instead of compassion and love, we’re feeling anger, and we’re judging. True – what happened wasn’t good or right in any way – but we’ve let it creep into our inner world, and ruin our peace of mind. Instead of making things better, we’re actually adding to the problem in a subtle way. We’re not yet conscious enough to separate the feelings, and lift ourselves up out of the situation.
As just about everyone who is into self-realisation knows, the key to maintaining our awakened state of compassion and love is mindfulness. We need to stay alert and keep vigilant – always staying within our own business of waking up.
A Useful Technique is to Use a Trigger and Associate that Trigger with Remembering
For example, some people use doorways as a trigger. Each time they go through a doorway, they remember to stay conscious and alert, no matter what happens on the other side. Over time it sinks in and becomes a new and useful subconscious habit.
We can use anything as a trigger: Switching on a light, crossing a street, or when the wind blows. We can also use a smile or an act of kindness, offered or received. Smiling can be one of the best triggers, because of the inherent nature of smiling.
If we can gradually train our minds to see our own natural state – our higher, evolving consciousness – each time we see someone smile and use it as a trigger to remind us of what we’re trying to achieve, it can be a wonderful catalyst for personal and spiritual growth.
We’d love to hear your experiences around smiling or setting reminder triggers. Here’s a challenge for you:
Each time you smile or see a smile, tell yourself to remember what you’ve just recognised in this article. Remind yourself of those wonderful, positive feelings you associate with awakening (and what that means to you: a capacity for joy, a sense of freedom, less suffering, etc.) Feel it in your gut. Make it real and authentic, and visceral – take some time to explore it fully.
Keep on doing it very deliberately for some time. Smile at yourself in the mirror and let the reflection remind you. Become mindful when you see a smile on TV, or on a billboard, or a magazine. Add it to your routine, or your mindfulness regime.
Always remember to relax about the whole process – it’s as natural as smiling, after all.
Let us know how you go in the comments below.
With deep love and respect for your very unique and tender process of self-realisation.
Unity, Peace and Love