Inner Smile

Here's a sigh to those who love me,
And a smile to those who hate;
And, whatever sky's above me,
Here's a heart for every fate.

Lord Byron

Waiting for external conditions to give us joy is like sitting in a car waiting for someone to give it a push. We would move the car more readily by turning on the engine. We would be happy more readily by learning to activate the engine of our emotions.

When we experience an emotion in response to an external event, we combine a perception with a thought. The combination generates an emotion in us. Let’s say someone we care about smiles at us. We perceive the smile with our vision. We interpret the smile as an expression of warmth toward us. The interpretation is a thought. Our mind/body responds by releasing chemicals that induce certain changes in our body that we interpret as a pleasant emotion. We might think to ourselves that we feel the person’s love.

What if the loved one frowns at us? We perceive the frown. We interpret the perception, and we experience an emotion. This time it’s a bad feeling we’d like to be rid of.

One might think that we are at the mercy of those around us. If our emotional well being is entirely dependent upon our external circumstances, we are going to be in for a world of hurt. Even people who love us are not going to smile and be nice all the time.

The good news is that we store perceptions in our memories. We can remember a time when a person we loved smiled at us. If we can’t remember that, we can still conjure up the image as a fantasy. The mental image held vividly in mind can create the same emotional response as the real experience.

Just as we can call up a memory at will, we can direct the character of our thoughts. We can choose to think positive thoughts or negative thoughts, loving thoughts or hateful thoughts. Which we choose largely dictates the quality of our emotional experience. It may take practice to think more positively and more compassionately, but just as you must train a puppy to behave the way you want it to, you must train your mind to behave itself. Otherwise, like the puppy, your mind will just make a lot of messes.

The inner smile meditation is a tool for training our puppy mind.


Sit comfortably in an upright position. If using a chair, sit with your feet flat on the floor. Put your hands on your thighs or folded comfortably in your lap. Keep your head nicely balanced on your spine and relax your shoulders. Allow your eyes to close. Take two or three slow relaxing breaths. Exhale slowly and completely, then wait for the inhaling to begin on its own. Relax.

Bring forth in your mind the energy of smiling. Use your powers of visualization to create an image that makes you feel like smiling. You might imagine before you the face of a loved one beaming love toward you. The image could be of your own smiling face, or a memory of a time when you felt love and peace. Perhaps you would like to imagine the beatific face of a divine being shining love upon you.

Hold the image in mind as you continue to breathe slowly and calmly. Feel the welling in your heart as the image stimulates your emotional response. Allow your heart to open to the smiling. Allow yourself to smile back at the image. The change in your facial muscles may be very slight, but let a peaceful, loving expression overtake you.

Become fully aware of the feeling of smiling energy in your mind and body. Register this as a state that is readily available to you. This pleasant emotional state can be summoned, just as you would summon a memory. You need only remember to smile inwardly.

Continue to feel the smiling energy. Let this pleasant thought and feeling course through your body. You can place your inner smile anywhere in your body. You may want to focus your inner smile at each of the chakras (energy centers). Working down from the crown of your head to the base of your spine, or from the root of your spine to the top of your head. The seven major chakras include the crown, forehead (third eye), throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral, and base chakras. Smile into each area and allow the loving energy to swirl.

You may also practice smiling into the various organs of your body. Send your inner smile to your heart, lungs, stomach, liver, kidneys, your glands, and so on. Direct your love to parts of your body that you don’t think about much, or that you don’t like about yourself. Be whole in your compassionate smiling self.

Cultivate the loving feeling that arises with a smile.
Awaken the love energy in your heart and mind.
Move into the flow of love that fills the universe.
Fill yourself with loving kindness.
Share your smile and your loving heart with people in your life.
Grow the circle of your compassion wider and wider, so that it includes yourself, and those you love.
Include those you know that you didn’t think you loved.
Grow it wider so that it includes people you don’t know,
and wider still to include people you don’t know, but you didn’t think you could love.
Send your smiling energy to the most pathetic and unlovable.
Shine that smile into their hearts.
Wish them greater wisdom and wish them awakening awareness of love.
Expand the scope of  caring to include all beings in the universe.
Know that the force of love pervades the universe, seen and unseen.
When you love, you attune to that great force, you come into accord with the divine unity.

Develop the habit of using your inner smile to activate your loving heart. Use it to relax your mind and body. Use it to make friends with your world.

Reference: Mantak & Maneewan Chia. Awaken Healing Light of the Tao. Huntington, New York: Healing Tao Books, 1993.

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© 1998-2002 Tom Barrett