The Inner Smile
by Caroline Robertson
Are you smiling or frowning to yourself?
Smiling is the secret to health and serenity according to several
spiritual traditions. The Inner Smile practice propounds that when
we smile like a Buddha, the world beams back. Naturopath, Caroline
Robertson visited The Tao Garden to experience some smile therapy.
The Smile Solution
Theresa believed “peace begins with a smile.” A sincere
smile shines from our soul, making the world a warmer place. As
Joseph Addison expressed, “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles
are to humanity.” A genuine smile puts us at ease whilst a
frown creates unease, promoting disease and depression according
to modern and traditional medicine. Smiling to others and ourselves
is a gift of love. The universal language of a smile speaks straight
to the heart, bypassing the intellect and ego. To nurture loving
relationships Ayurveda advises one greet others with a pleasant
face, Buddhism encourages friendliness to all (maitri) and Taoism
teaches that giving ourselves a grin is the best medicine.
inner smile spreads like a relaxing elixir making us receptive to
transform negative energy into positive. Conversely, a scowl suppresses
our immune system by increasing stress, contracting channels and
blocking energy. Research by French physiologist Dr Israel Waynbaum
indicates that facial muscles used to express emotion trigger specific
brain neurotransmitters. Smiling signals happy healing hormones
such as ecstatic endorphins and immune boosting killer T-cells whereas
frowning triggers the secretion of stress hormones. Smile therapy
actually lowers the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline
and produces hormones which stabilise blood pressure, relax muscles,
improve respiration, reduce pain, accelerate healing and stabilise
mood1. If you’re feeling down the stress hormones secreted
with a scowl may increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system,
increase susceptibility to infections, and exacerbate depression
what if we don’t feel like smiling? Can we fake it till we
make it? Though a heart-felt smile has a deeper effect, even a surface
smile tricks the brain into releasing happy hormones according to
facial biofeedback research2. And the more we smile, the more we
want to smile concluded a study where people allowed to smile found
cartoons funnier than those suppressed from smiling by holding pencils
in their lips3. This is because each time we smile we reinforce
happy neural pathways that fire more spontaneously with each subsequent
use. Self- love smiling circuits then release healing nectar and
self-hate messages release poisons that breed disease according
A Smile Trial
often do you smile? Try a smile trial for a minute. Relax your face
and let a subtle ‘Mona Lisa’ smile spread from your
eyes to your lips. Now frown and sense the emotional and energetic
shift. Feel the difference? Considering it takes only 26 muscles
to smile and 62 muscles to frown, why wear the strain of a scowl?
As motivational speaker Les Giblin felt “If you're not using
your smile, you're like a man with a million dollars in the bank
and no check book.”
seem to have a cultural element. Japanese rate so low on the smile-o-meter
they’re being encouraged to smile to increase profits. “Japanese
are truly hopeless at smiling. That's caused the loss of many business
opportunities,” says Makoto Tonami, president of Mac Corp.,
owner of beauty salons offering thirty-minute smile sessions using
exercises and a machine to uplift the mouth muscles and spirits.
Britain has sorry smile statistics also as recent research revealed
that if you smile at 100 people, 70 people will smile back in Bristol,
68 in Glasgow, 18 in London and only 4 in Edinburgh4. Writing this
in Thailand I noticed how people go out of their way to smile to
others while in many other places I’ve found people often
avert their gaze as if avoiding a smile ambush.
easy to share a smile with others, since it’s the second most
contagious facial expression next to yawning. Smiling faces are
always beautiful and the most endearing accessory. Whereas if people
wear an ugly expression meticulous attention to grooming and clothes
are overshadowed. But smiles do more than increase your face value;
British researchers found that receiving a smile could give more
pleasure than sex or eating chocolate. And receiving a smile generated
much higher levels of stimulation to the brain and the heart than
being given money or having a cigarette.
underestimate the power of a smile. Use yours and you’ll find it
helps to disperse sadness and dissolve stress. So when dressing
in the morning remember author Jim Begg’s advise, “Before
you put on a frown, make absolutely sure there are no smiles available.”
The Cellular Smile
smile glows from our deepest layer of self-love, radiating like
sunlight through clouds and embracing everything as an extension
of oneself. Starting as an inner hug it spreads to soften the whole
body, melting malevolent energy to emerge from benevolent eyes and
lips. The smile says, “I accept and love you unconditionally.”
Our being warms to this kindness, dissolving walls of psychic and
physical isolation that prevent wholeness and health. Just as others
respond to our loving smile, our cells soak up smiling rays, creating
new cells from the inner love affair.
Master Mantak Chia has taught the inner smile for the past 40 years.
He explained its significance to me on my recent visit to his Thailand
retreat, “In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant
inner smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and longevity.
Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your
own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony
with yourself.” The smiling energy emanating from Mantak Chia
was reminiscent of enlightened souls such as the Dalai Lama. He
has an aura of contentment and kindness that put me at ease immediately.
Mantak Chia also explained that as sickness starts from negative
emotions settling in the organs, the inner smile breaks this cycle.
“By transforming destructive emotions into positive energy
the inner smile removes the cause and symptoms of disharmony,”
subtle inner smile is different from a superficial smile set on
a fake face with hidden motives and meaning. The inner smile is
as innocent and natural as a blissful baby’s smile. It doesn’t
impose, demand or expect anything in return. Nor is it a spiritually
superior or condescending smile but accepts everything as it is.
A genuine smile as opposed to a posed mask makes a significant impact
on people’s lives according to Dacher Keltner, a psychology
professor at the University of California. After studying college
yearbook photos since the 1960’s, Keltner found people with
Duchenne smiles, those which involved the eyes, were happier since
graduation than the phoney mouth smilers. Keltner concluded, “Happy
smiley people cheer others up around them, which in turn makes them
more stable and less prone to depression or divorce than those who
faked it in their yearbooks.”
laughing has significant benefits, as evidenced by the word-wide
laughter clubs, excessive or loud laughing can cause excess surplus
chi and increase blood pressure according to Chinese medicine. A
mild smile is a more sustainable and inward expression. The soft
smile dissolves hardened patterns without struggle or force, gently
coaxing a shift in stuck energy. Attacking problems with aversion
and aggression only increases resistance and abusing our frailties
makes us weaker. Alternatively, sending ourselves loving smiling
energy empowers us towards strength and restoration.
inner smile arises from a loving intention, surfaces on the face
then suffuses our internal and external reality. Though a smile
may feel fake initially our psychophysiology responds with happiness
anyway. As respected Monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains,
“ Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes
your smile can be the source of your joy.” Eventually our
being is saturated in smiling benevolence and it becomes a constant,
effortless expression of our inner bliss.
feels so good why don’t we do it more? Negative thoughts become
entrenched in our energy and imprint themselves on our fa?ade. Helen,
a recent participant in an Inner Smile Workshop observed- “Its
easier to remain closed and blame externals for our problems. The
inner smile requires us to look inside ourselves, accept ourselves
and extend that loving energy to everything.”
we smile least when we need it most. Depression, pain and stress
often rob us of the healing humour that can transform our state.
Though smiling may be the last thing we feel like doing, it will
do us the world of good. When we smile at our pain, worry, troubles
and perceived inadequacies we dissolve compounding tension. As Allen
Klein, author of The Healing Power of Humour expressed, “The
hardest thing you can do is smile when you are ill, in pain, or
depressed. But this no-cost remedy is a necessary first half-step
if you are to start on the road to recovery.” Smiling puts
everything into a brighter perspective as we observe the psychodrama
of life objectively. As Charlie Chaplin understood, “Life
is a tragedy in close-up and a comedy in long-shot.”
many experience in practicing the inner smile is the tendency towards
negativity. We can catch an inner frown from others negative outlook
or our own. When you get tense simply remind yourself to smile again
and any inner wrinkles will soon smooth over, uplifting others energy.
Strengthen your inner smile by practicing it in difficult situations
such as during exercise, traffic jams, long queues and when annoyed.
doesn’t take any extra time or effort like other meditation
practices, nobody can say, “I don’t have time to smile”.
Smile as often as you remember to, knowing it will override negative
reactivity and reawaken your core unity of self-acceptance.
A Smile File
practicing the inner smile install smiling energy into your cellular
memory by creating a smile file. Scan your past for moments of joy
and laughter. Then recall your capacity for happiness by reliving
that emotion. One can also visualise a peaceful natural scene to
imbibe serenity and dissolve stress. Seeing a smiling baby or your
own smiling face is another useful image. Looking at funny old photos,
jokes, cartoons and movies can help to recapture one’s innate sense
of humour. Start the day with a smile by writing smile on your ceiling
and invite more smiles into your life by playing with kids, giving
to others and finding the humour in all situations. If you can’t
conjure up a smile frown for as long and hard as possible until
you get tired and flip to the other extreme of a smile.
Emotional Detox Smile
organs store emotional garbage so to clear up inner clutter Mantak
Chia recommends first smiling to major organs to detoxify negative
emotions. This “refines and recycles harmful energy into healing
energy,” says Mantak Chia. Our organs work hard to maintain
our homoeostasis so we can thank them with an inner smile. The specific
order for the inner smile follows the organs cycle of creation.
The inner smile can be practiced at any time and for any duration.
Familiarise yourself with the location of all the major organs before
the practice to establish a strong mental connection with them.
You may feel more in touch with your organs if you place your hands
over them as you send your smile as well as visualising them. Feel
the grateful response from your organs as they release blockages
and receive loving energy. Open your eyes if you choose to make
the healing sounds then close them to resume. To clear your negative
emotions follow these simple Inner Smile Steps-
Mantak Chia also teaches special postures to cleanse each organ.
Begin by closing your eyes and relaxing your whole body. Breath
slowly and smoothly, letting go on the exhalation.
Smooth facial muscles and focus attention on the third eye.
Feel inner joy. Visualising a peaceful scene, a smiling baby or
your smiling face may evoke this feeling.
Gather this bliss behind your eyes and watch it internally as
it travels down your body.
Let the smiling energy flow like a sweet stream down your nose
to wash over your lips.
Raise the corners of your mouth slightly in a sublime inner smile.
Simultaneously feel this soften your eyes.
Place the tongue behind the teeth to connect the energy circuit
for the entire practice.
Relax your jaw.
Swallow your saliva and feel your throat open and relax as you
smile to your voice box. Thank them for giving you the power of
balance and speech.
Visualise your thymus like a blossoming flower and smile to it
with thanks for strong immunity and healing energy.
Let the smile radiate to the happiness centre of your heart. Feel
your heart soften and fill with red love nectar. Release cruelty,
harshness, hastiness, impatience and hurt from the heart on the
exhalation. You can also say Haaw to release negativity. Send
a smiling love letter to your open heart. Thank it for giving
you compassion, kindness, joy and good circulation.
Gather the loving energy from the heart and spread it to your
lovely lungs. Sense every cell relax as it releases grief and
depression, exhaling the sound Sssss. You can also visualise them
as glowing white wings carrying you to your higher mission. Swelling
with smiling sap let your spongy lungs soak up joy, love and courage.
Thank them for oxygenating your body.
Smile to your liver as it emanates a forest green hue, releasing
grey murky light on the exhalation. Release anger and resentment
with the sound Shhh. On the smiling inhalation absorb kindness,
forgiveness and acceptance. Thank the liver for its role in assimilation,
metabolism and purification.
Send pure smiling streams to your stomach, pancreas and spleen.
Visualise these organs basking in a golden yellow light as they
relax to release worry and anxiety while exhaling the sound Huuuu.
Feel faith, fairness and present-minded consciousness saturate
this region. Thank the organs for maintaining healthy digestion,
immunity and blood sugar levels.
Keeping your body relaxed, send the loving smile to the kidneys.
Visualise them like deep blue ears, releasing fear and stress
from them whilst exhaling the sound Choo. Smile to them as they
fill with soothing security, wisdom and calm. Thank them and the
adrenals for filtering blood, balancing water and increasing stress
resistance. Strong kidneys also give us the willpower to act on
Smile to your orgasmic sexual area. Fill it with a tender loving
energy, appreciating the pleasure and power it gives you. Thank
it for producing hormones that nourish the mind and body.
To finish smile up your spine, washing the whole body with golden
nectar flowing from each vertebra through the nervous system,
bone marrow, bones, muscles, skin and hair.
The smiling waterfall rises to your crown showering your whole
body in smiling ecstasy.
Allow the energy to flow back down behind your eyes and pool into
To complete the practice spiral energy around your navel. Men
place their palms left over right and spiral clockwise 36 times
whilst women place their palms right over left and spiral counter
clockwise 36 times. Next reverse the direction and spiral back
24 times. By storing the smiling energy in the navel you will
avoid accumulating excess heat in the head or heart.
Once we are filled with an inner smile it naturally overflows to
others. The smile resonates with outside vibrations and reverberates
back to us as a collective smiling wave. This creates an endless
exchange of loving energy, invigorating and uplifting us on all
levels. To keep this smiling circuit flowing remember to smile as
often as possible. Smile to your past, present and future so you
may continue on the spiritual path. Send an inner smile to those
you love, hate, empathise with and are indifferent towards. Extend
it to your house, family, work, community, teachers, well-wishers,
country, continent, earth and universe. Send a special smile to
the natural world of plants, animals, water bodies, mountains, the
sky and planets.
The inner smile is considered a complete, non-sectarian spiritual
practice that will benefit everyone. When consistently practiced
it can nurture the enlightened awareness that we are all part of
the same smiling energy. For world peace may we all share Paramahamsa
Yogananda’s prayer to, “Let my soul smile through my heart
and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles
in sad hearts.” Wishing you a lifetime of smiles.
|Chart of organs
||Hate, cruelty to love, compassion
||Grief, depression to joy, courage
||Anger, resentment to forgiveness, acceptance
|Stomach/ Spleen/ Pancreas
||Worry, anxiety to faith, fairness
||Stress to security, calm Deep
Caroline Robertson is a Naturopath, Homoeopath
and Ayurvedic consultant practicing at Ayurveda Elements, Sydney.
After suffering from over-seriousness for many years her main ambition
is to smile more. Special thanks to Tao Garden, Thailand for their
generous hospitality on her recent retreat there. To contact Caroline
about Tao Gardens or Ayurveda courses or consultations phone (02)9904
1.Hodgkinson L. (1994) Smile Therapy, Optima.
Klein A. (1989) The Healing Power of Humour, GP Putnam and Sons.
Ornstein A. Sobel D. (1987) The Healing Brain, Simon and Schuster.
2.Strack, F., Martin, L.L. and Stepper, S. (1988) Inhibiting and
facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobstrusive test
of the facial feedback hypothesis. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 54: 768-777
3. Davis & Palladino, 2000 In a research study, participants
were either prevented or encouraged to smile by being instructed
how to hold a pencil in their mouths. Those who held a pencil in
their teeth and thus were able to smile rated cartoons as funnier
than did those who held the pencil in their lips and thus could
4. Comic Relief fundraising campaign that took place in December
2002. StudentBMJ 2003;11:87-130 April ISSN 0966-6494
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