Genuine smiles remind us of our true nature, on the deepest level possible. Just like laughter that comes straight from the belly, they remind us what it feels like to be an authentic human being.
Where do smiles come from?
The bubbling well of life’s vital force bubbles up from within and splashes out onto a face for everyone to see. Smiles are part of who we are, at the very core.
It’s easy to get hung up on trying to become more spiritual, more awakened and more enlightened. Smiles remind us that it’s not as complicated as we like to pretend. Enlightenment and the awakened states are natural and intuitive. Just like smiling, we can’t really force it.
It’s true that we have to work on ourselves, but the ‘work’ part is more about staying alert—in our minds and hearts—to negative patterns that stand in the way. When we drop those, what remains is our natural state—the smile, and the deep feeling of serenity and connectedness to everything.
From where does this delight come when you are not doing anything? It comes from nowhere, or, it comes from everywhere. It is uncaused, because the existence is made of the stuff called joy. It needs no cause, no reason. If you are unhappy you have a reason to be unhappy; if you are happy you are simply happy—there is no reason for it. Your mind tries to find a reason because it cannot believe in the uncaused, because it cannot control the uncaused—with the uncaused the mind simply becomes impotent. So the mind goes on finding some reason or other. But I would like to tell you that whenever you are happy, you are happy for no reason at all, whenever you are unhappy, you have some reason to be unhappy—because happiness is just the stuff you are made of. It is your very being, it is your innermost core. Joy is your innermost core.
One of the most difficult obstacles to spiritual awakening is that we have the habit of forgetting to watch our thoughts and emotions as they arise. When they do arise, and we’re not conscious of them, we tend to get carried off by the train of thought and lose our state of serenity and equanimity.
Unconscious ego identification with our automatic reactions drags us down from higher states of mind.
We obsessively attach our thoughts and feelings to our sense of identity, out of habit, without even knowing that we’re doing it. For example, when we see someone do something violent and degrading to someone else, we might say to ourselves:
“That makes me so upset! People like that don’t deserve to be called human!”
Unconscious ego identification with our automatic reactions drags us down from higher states of mind. Instead of compassion and love, we’re feeling anger, and we’re judging. True—what happened wasn’t good or right in any way, and it’s inexcusable—but we’ve let it creep into our inner world and ruin our peace of mind. Instead of making things better, we’re actually adding to the problem in a subtle way. We’re not conscious enough to separate the feelings and lift ourselves up out of the situation.
As just about everyone who’s into spiritual awakening knows, the key to maintaining our awakened state of compassion and love is mindfulness. We need to stay alert and keep awake.
Use a trigger to remember
For example, some people use doorways as a trigger. Each time they go through a doorway, they remember to stay conscious and alert, no matter what happens on the other side. Over time, this sinks in, and becomes a new and useful subconscious habit.
We can use anything as a trigger: switching on a light, crossing a street or the blowing of the wind. We can also use a smile—and this can be one of the best triggers, because of the nature of smiling.
If we can gradually train our minds to see our own natural state—our higher, developing consciousness—each time we see someone smile, and use the smile as a trigger to remind us of what we’re trying to achieve, this can be a wonderful catalyst for growth.
The process is very simple and easy to implement. Here’s how:
Each time you smile, or see a smile, tell yourself to remember what you’ve just learned from this article. Remind yourself of those wonderful, positive feelings you associate with awakening. Feel them in your gut. Make your smile real, authentic and visceral.
Keep on doing this, very deliberately, for some time. Smile at yourself in the mirror to remind yourself. Become mindful of when you see a smile on TV, on a billboard or in a magazine. Add smiling to your daily routine or mindfulness regime.
Always remember to relax about the whole process—it’s as natural as smiling, after all!