Tales for the Journey – The Lazy Smile



     Smiles have enjoyed notoriety through many venues over the years.  A familiar statistic says that it takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 muscles to smile, so we should just smile more.  It takes a lot less effort.  A man pointed out to me years ago that a spiritual person doesn’t smile.  I don’t agree with that concept of spirituality.  There are the smiles that simply paint a picture of false contentment or joy.  You know the ones.  “I’m going to smile if it kills, because that’s what I’m supposed to do now.” 


     Technically a smile is a facial expression that takes place when muscles are flexed usually near the corners of the mouth.  The eyes can smile for that matter right around the edges.  Among us humans, the smile expresses pleasure, joy, happiness, amusement, but it can also be an involuntary expression of anxiety, often referenced as a grimace.  Studies of cultures around the world show smiling as a means of communicating emotions.  The most common cause for the smile is happiness.  Animals share a resemblance to smiling by exposing their teeth when the teeth aren’t a threatening warning snarl or a sign of submission.  Our dog “Khyi” often “smiles” particularly from a gentle tummy scratch.


     What about the practical side for our journey through life?  When a smile indicates happiness some studies show a decrease in heart rate along with an overall sense of relaxation whereas fear and frustration increase the heart rate, raise skin temperature, and cause clenched teeth.


      Given that a true smile, not a smile from anxiety, is usually a sing of happiness and contentment in life, ask yourself these questions, “What makes me smile?”  “What makes me happy?”  Then, the next time we face situations that cause an increased heart rate, clenched teeth, and sadness, revert to a thought of what brings happiness into your life.  Pause a moment and think on those things, activities, other living creatures, or people that bring contentment into your life and Gently SMILE.  


      In a book titled “The Art of Happiness”, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, thoughtful speaker, and statesman once said of happiness, “If you desire happiness, you should seek the causes that give rise to it, and if you don’t desire suffering, then what you should do is to ensure that the causes and conditions that would give rise to it no longer arise.  An appreciation of this principle is very important.”  He also stated, “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”   


     So, as adversity, stress, strain, and tension creep into our life pause a moment, think on the people, places, and things that bring us happiness, then put on a simple smile, and find your inner space of harmony and contentment.  Have you smiled today?Well smile… it takes less effort than a frown.

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