How Smiling Meditation Changed My Life
By Billie Criswell
I have always been the type of person that one might associate with meditation…..or New Age healing and Eastern healing concepts. I was even, at one time, a self-proclaimed “hippy.” But the truth was, I had never so much as tried to quiet my mind– I was too busy being busy to even ponder the concept of slowing down.
At a certain point, though, it seemed that meditation came to me much as other things had in life: on a whim, as though I invented the concept. In reality, I heard the phrase “smiling meditation” in a movie I loved and watched nearly obsessively, and thought I could make up my own version of the practice. I figured I knew enough about meditation–it meant gaining control of my thoughts, something I had already been practicing for a couple of years, only without the actual meditation.
I am a big proponent of the power of positive thought, and had stumbled upon “The Secret” shortly after the book came out. After listening to the book on tape, my sister-in-law and I had been practicing positive visualization of the things we wanted, using each other to help the process along. Because I had already been practicing the art of filtering my thoughts and making them more positive, I felt that I could create my own version of smiling meditation. However, since the power of positive thought practices suggested you meditate at least 5 minutes everyday, I was way behind in the meditation department, and I had a lot of catching up to do!
I made up a version of smiling meditation that fit what I wanted it to be: an extension of my positive visualization in order to manifest the things I needed and wanted. My concept was that I would sit in silence for 5 minutes to start, and I would visualize my smile beginning in my chest and spreading to my whole body, until my mouth was smiling as big as possible. Then I imagined that my smile extended out to the entire world, and I would meditate on the love I was emitting and feel it coming back to me. If I lost focus, I would recenter on positive thoughts of what I was thankful for.
The aim of my meditation was to concentrate on those things that brought joy into my life, for which I could give thanks and praise. Through visualizing these, I would receive more to be thankful for.
It was more challenging than I had thought it would be. The first day, I was really motivated, so it seemed to go smoothly–and quickly! But in the days that followed, as I added a minute each day, and got stuck at only 7 minutes, I had more trouble keeping myself focused than I had anticipated. But I prevailed. I continued to center myself on my positive thoughts and visualizing “all good things coming to me now,” and I found that I was feeling more in control of my happiness than ever before. I was in a peaceful place with myself and my psyche.
It was around this time that I hit an emotional hard patch in my life. Within one month, my stepsister and a close family friend (both under the age of 30 years old) died very suddenly. The overwhelming feelings of sadness were so unsettling that I hardly knew what to do with myself. The urge immediately came to mind that I should, “give up on this stupid practice because how in the world could I find it in myself to smile?” Smiling seemed ridiculous. Worse, it made me feel completely guilty… smiling seemed like a farce, as well as unfair, because I had a pit in my stomach that told me I should be wallowing in the extreme sadness I was feeling. But just as soon as I thought of how silly the act of smiling meditation was, I realized the challenge therein, and had an “ah-ha moment.” What good was the practice of smiling meditation AT ALL, if I only did it when I felt truly happy?
The real challenge of smiling meditation was to smile–and to feel the feelings of happiness–when I felt defeated…and so too, goes life. Life at its hardest is when we feel like throwing in the proverbial towel; we stop being positive and experience a moment of weakness. I am surely not expressing that we can never have negative moments–certainly we are allowed to cry when we are sad and have times that disappoint or even devastate us–those moments move us forward in life and give us a base to jump off of. I found that by taking the time out of my otherwise dismal state of affairs, to remind myself that I could be happy and even smile, was my saving grace.
Smiling and feeling good, even when forced, is a vital part of the human experience. I truly believe that during the dark days that followed the heartbreak my family experienced, my grief was quelled by the fact that I pushed myself to smile and to feel happy. The fact was, I wasn’t feigning my happiness, but drawing it out of myself. There is an important distinction between the two; when I realized that I could be happy even in the face of great tragedy, I felt lighter, freer, and more in control of my soul and my universe. Without this tool in my life, I think I may have crumbled more often than I did. I drew a great deal of strength from within myself–strength I didn’t even know I possessed.
So while you experience the hardships that sometimes accompany life, take time for yourself and try drawing out those feelings of happiness and gratitude. Because the best way to give thanks is to enjoy the gift of life. This answer, while so very simple, is so very meaningful and can give you a helping hand to a better day… even if it doesn’t feel that way at first. You may surprise even yourself when you realize that your greatest strength lies within your very being.
Billie Criswell Bio:
Billie Criswell is a freelance writer and blogger from the Delaware Seashore. She writes on a variety of lifestyle issues, is a self-proclaimed foodie, and has been published online as well as in print. Billie has just completed her first book. Visit my blog at http://www.abilliontinypieces.com/
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