Inner Smile Meditation
This is a variation of the Taoist meditation practice. The Inner Smile Meditation cultivates feelings of joy, well-being, and peace. It is a feeling/visualization meditation where you literally smile at yourself, offering genuine feelings of love, respect and joy throughout your body. It is simple but very powerful.
Begin by sitting up straight in a comfortable position. Legs crossed sitting on the floor, in a chair with both feet on the ground (even lying down if necessary), imagine your spine lengthening upward. Close your eyes. Roll your shoulders back, chin parallel with the floor, lengthen your spine and relax all the muscles around it. Your head rests comfortably and effortlessly on top, hips release down to the earth. Jaw slackens, eyes relax. Breathe deeply in through your nose, and out through your nose (or mouth if more comfortable). Retain a long, smooth breath throughout the practice. Now feel the feeling of a smile — visualizing a natural image of joy helps (I use a photograph of myself as a child, so happy, and easy to see in my mind). Really feel this smile and all the emotion behind it. The simple joy it brings. Feel this smile from the backs of your eyes beaming down toward your heart. Maintaining that smile, allow it to pour down from the backs of your eyes through the spine, to your heart and lungs, into your stomach and spleen (left ribs), and then your liver (right). Circulate that smile throughout your body, touching your kidneys, intestines, pelvic region, and down through your legs into your feet. Repeat the cycle again as many times as you like (it can be a quick scan of the body). Finish by bringing your palms together at heart center (Anjali mudra) and then up to the center of the eyebrows, or relax into a deeper state of meditation.
This visualization may come naturally or it may take time to “feel a smile” in different parts of your body. Practice imagining a picture or any image/symbol of joy. Just maintaining that feeling for a few minutes can make a big difference in your day! This meditation can be practiced formally as described above, or any other time. Bringing a smile to a difficult situation, rather than gritting your teeth through it, always helps.