Based on a Taoist practice, the inner smile meditation generates feelings of loving-kindness and compassion towards ourselves. Normally we offer a smile to other people, but with the inner smile meditation, we offer the smile to ourselves and direct it towards our internal organs, to heal and to nourish.
To practice this simple meditation, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your legs crossed. Place your hands on your knees, with the palms either facing up (for openness and receptiveness) or facing down (to calm the mind). Keep your back straight and take a few deep breaths to centre yourself. Now smile a little, genuinely but gently. Literally turn the corners of your mouth up. It’s a bit like the "Mona Lisa smile", the sort when you’re smiling to yourself – not an ear-to-ear grin.
Generate a feeling of happiness and imagine what a smile makes you feel like. If you are having trouble with feeling happiness right in this moment, remember a time when you were happy, or something that makes you smile, like the face of a child or someone you love deeply. This feeling will be different for everyone, but could feel like a lightness in your body or your heart, a feeling of expansiveness or a radiating sense of wellbeing.
Focus on the third eye – the space between the eyebrows – and let the smiling energy gather there. Then you can let that smiling energy flow through into your brain, and then through all the organs of the body. If you want to focus on a particular organ that you feel is not functioning at its best, you can send the smile to that part. Feel that part of the body opening up to the smile energy. Otherwise, let the smile energy cascade to the heart, the kidneys, the stomach and the digestive tract as a whole, to the bones, blood and the nervous system. As Ketut says in "Eat, Pray, Love", "Even smile into your liver".
As with all meditation, it’s important to find a balance between effort and relaxation, and it’s particularly important not to "force" a feeling. If a certain part of the body doesn’t feel as if it’s opening to the smile energy, don’t get frustrated – this is counter-productive! Simply take a few deep breaths and move on. You can always return to that part later. It may give you insights into what you need to work on health-wise.
You can do this meditation for as long as you like, but anywhere between 10 minutes and half an hour is ideal.
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