One of my favorite instructions to give in a yoga class is, “Turn up the corners of your mouth.”
I had a revelation sometime last year that I wasn’t getting the most out of my greatest asset – my smile. I just didn’t smile at people, more specifically strangers, as often as I could. Passing someone in the store or the gym, exchanges with the clerk at the check out counter were all missed opportunities to smile. It’s not that I was unhappy or rude or shy; I just didn’t think about it. I had never really noticed before that moment that I wasn’t smiling. So, I immediately set out to smile at everyone – intentionally. The results were pretty awesome.
People often seemed a bit surprised to find me smiling at them, and they almost always smiled back. I liked to image they would go off into the world smiling intenionally too, just because they were reminded how good it felt. They say your brain doesn’t know the difference between a genuine laugh and a forced one. It responds the same way to both, and all of your cells benefit. You can change your whole state of mind (and being) just by laughing, even if nothing is funny. I think smiling is the same way, and most of us don’t realize when we aren’t smiling. We’re just caught up in the fluctuations of our thoughts, and opportunities pass unnoticed. The more I smiled at other people, the more I noticed how good it made me feel.
I just had one of those experiences a moment ago. As I paid for my lunch and the cashier told me to have a nice day, I smiled. She, with a hint of surprise and delight, smiled back. I was already having a great day, but suddenly I felt lighter and my mood lifted to an even higher level of contentment. As my mind registered awareness, I immediately took a deep breath and checked in with the tone of my inner body (a practice I’ve been focusing on lately) to see what physical sensations I could pick up. There, in the very center of my chest, was a little vibration. The more I focused on it, the more it grew. Our mutual smiles had stimulated my heart chakra*, or at least made me more aware of it. That’s when I had a new realization: Our faces are super sensitive, super subtle translators of internal vibration. Not only do they translate and relay our own state of being, letting others know when we need help, they also hold the power to help us shift the vibration in others. Think about when someone you really know well is sad. You can see it written all over their face even if they’re trying to hide it. When you share a smile or mirror their painful expression you show them they aren’t alone. Suddenly they are connected; their sense of safety and security is strengthened. Likewise, if you laugh at someone who is in pain or your face reveals your contempt then you convey separatness. You enhance their feeling of insecurity with a simple look. Our faces are perhaps our most dynamic and subtle communicators. As an actor I know this well.
In that moment I shared a smile with the cashier I understood that smiles are clear, profound communicators of compassion and community. They carry a special vibration that has only one meaning: love. They are a direct clear, signal from our truest Self. Whether you are the giver or receiver, you feel it. You get the charge, the upliftment, the sense of security and connection. Notice it next time. When you smile at someone or someone smiles at you, notice how it feels in your body. Notice the affect viscerally. It’s amazing. Try it out, try intentionally smiling. I promise it’ll uplift you, and you’ll be surprised with the positive experiences that arise from it. Today, this is my mission: change the world one smile at a time. You can’t start a loveolution with a puss-face.
*anahata chakra – a.k.a heart chakra (or for our purposes: coeur); the vortex by which vibrations of love and compassion enter and exit the body; the first of the upper chakras and the central integration point within the human being.