I was reminded of the ‘inner smile’ when I watched the movie “Eat Pray Love” recently. Remember that bit where the Balinese spiritual teacher tells Julia Roberts to smile during meditation – yes, with her face, but more importantly inside too, in every part of her? Well, I’ve been focusing on cultivating the states I want to experience for a while now, and that movie moment set off a joyful little ‘ding’ of recognition in my head.
One of the elements classically trained singers need to cultivate in order to make the most beautiful sound possible is referred to as the ‘inner smile’. It’s one of those things that lies awkwardly across technique, interpretation and state of being, and which I found a bit challenging to reconcile myself to as a young singer! It took me a while to give it the importance it deserves, and to recognize the massive difference it makes to sound quality as well as to pure pleasure in singing. It felt too easy! (I was kind of into perfectionism and struggling at that point!)
It’s certainly not only relevant for singers though. It can add a whole new deepening sense of happiness to your life.
WHAT IS IT?
The inner smile is both passive and active. It doesn’t work if you try to force it – it has to be allowed, and yet the self-effort lies in remembering and making the choice to allow it.
Smiling on the outside doesn’t mean you’re going to experience the inner smile. We all know what a fake smile looks and feels like, right? Even a fake smile can produce positive emotional changes, but nothing like the yumminess of the experience of the inner smile.
Sounding strangely philosophical and a little bit woo-woo? Keep reading. Let me explain.
WHY DO IT?
Well, it’s more a case of why not?!
There are several wonderful things the inner smile offers us:
- we become more relaxed.
- we becomes more mindful, aware and present.
- our breathing is freer.
- it simply feels yummy (if it feels good does there really need to be another reason?)!
- it gets us out of the high or mid beta brain wave state – analysing, judging, often a level of stress and getting in our own way! - and into an open, creative, expansive state indicated by low beta or alpha brainwave state.
Noticed that depictions of the Buddha are almost always smiling? Essentially, we’re signaling “THRIVE” to our cells and genetic expression when we smile on the inside.
OTHER BENEFITS I’VE NOTICED
Some of the other benefits I’ve personally experienced:
- I’m more likely to see the humour in things and situations.
- it’s much harder to take myself and my life so seriously.
- connection with others and non-judgement are so much easier.
- there’s a different lightness of being.
- it’s impossible to feel any of the ego, fear-driven feelings associated with separation and self-absorption like competition, fear, jealousy, envy, powerlessness, frustration, blame or doubt, just for example.
- thinking constructively and creatively is possible, without the sense of trying or forcing.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Just try it.
There’s no need to think about it or complicate it.
Just take a moment now, bring a smile to your face and let it spread through your whole being. Or imagine a big smile radiating out from the centre of your body. You can use your breath to intensify the sensation. I feel it mostly in the middle of my chest, in my heart centre, and it sort of spreads through my body from there.
It gets easier the more you do it, and the length of time you stay in the happiness zone that bubbles up will increase.
TIME! I HAVE NO TIME!
No excuses here! And seriously – the less you feel like you have no time, the more important it is that you find moments to relax and slow down!
A good way to get started is to decide that, for a certain part of the day or in a certain situation everyday, you’re going to practise it. You could assign your time at the computer as your ‘inner smile time’, or cleaning up after brekky, or riding your bike, or as you fall asleep. It doesn’t matter. Assigning an inner smile time or activity like this will just help you to remember to do it! The more you do it, the sooner it will become your default way of feeling, and you won’t need to put the effort into remembering quite so much.
Sure – it’s great if you incorporate this into a daily meditation, but by doing it anytime, in any situation, in any place, you’re making that present moment juicy and wonderful and a pleasure to experience.
Treasure those moments. Give them space, recognition and importance.
Give yourself and the way you feel importance. Do this for you.