Inner smile meditation began as a Taoist principle and is still one of the most well known neidan (internal alchemy) practices. The idea here is that you take time while meditating to smile inwardly at each of the main bodily organs to activate the energy of loving-kindness and awaken your connection to the five elements. This will ease both emotional and physical tensions. You focus your internal energy on feeling good and allow your inner smile to radiate from within you. This is an easy meditation practice to employ and only requires 15-30 minutes of focused meditation per day.
How to Practice Your Inner Smile Meditation
There is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to meditate; however, the following tips will help you get the most out of your practice:
- Keep an upright posture with your spine straight yet relaxed, shoulders back and down and chest open.
- Breathe deeply. Focus on the rise and fall of your diaphragm and rib cage. Let go of any thoughts about the past or the future. Bring yourself only into the present while experiencing the process of breathing.
- Place your tongue gently to the roof of your mouth behind your teeth. Be sure it is in a spot that does not feel obtrusive or strange.
- Gently smile. This should be a relaxed smile as though you are smiling to yourself about a private joke (think “Mona Lisa smile”). It does not need to be a big, wide smile. Just enough of a smile to relax the face and soften those worry lines. You will immediately begin to feel more positive.
- Once you have your relaxed smile, focus your attention onto your “Third Eye” center (between your eyebrows). Feel your inner energy start to gather as you focus on your center. Allow this energy to rise within you as you go deeper into meditation.
- As your energy gathers together in the center of your brain allow it to move forward into your eyes until they become “smiling eyes”. Imagine your happy place or looking at someone or something you love. This will help you to feel the warmth of kindness and happiness in your eyes. Feel that love radiating outward. Think of anyone you know who could use a little extra loving energy and smile it to them.
- With your “smiling eyes” look inward to a place within your body that needs some TLC and strength. Maybe you have been sick or suffered an injury and you need to feel some internal healing. Maybe a part of you needs some rejuvenation. Either way, send your inner smile to that place and allow that part of you to be open to that energy.
- Feel the energy of a smile (you can also visualize it as a bright, white, loving light) filling every dark corner of your body that is ‘frowning’ or ‘crying’.
- There is no time constraint here. Smile into whatever part of you needs it until you notice yourself feeling better. Place focus on the part of you that needs healing so that its energies can be used to soak up the inner smile you are sending.
- When the area you are focusing on feels rejuvenated and the inner smile therapy feels complete, turn your focus and inner smile to your bodily center, behind your navel. Allow your renewed energy to gather there, becoming strong and bright. Let this energy flow into the rest of your body, back into your eyes and back into the center of your brain.
- As you complete your inner smile meditation slowly release the soft smile on your lips and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. You forgot about these during your meditation didn’t you? This is the point.
Inner smile meditation is not supposed to be a forced act. If you feel yourself having trouble holding the smile on your lips or keeping your tongue to the roof of your mouth stop for a moment. Relax. Breathe Deep. Reset. Try again. This is all about finding the balance between effort and relaxation. Meditation in all of its forms takes discipline and practice.
Be mindful when you are practicing your inner smile. If you find that your mind is wandering take note of it and bring yourself back into your meditation. Sometimes it may be that you are not in the right state of mind to meditate at the time you are attempting to do so. Employ yourself elsewhere. Take a walk. Read a book. Go for a drive. Do something to relax and put your mind in a tranquil state. Do something that helps to make you feel positive. That way when you meditate with your inner smile you will have something to root your smile to. The more you practice this meditation the easier it will become to do it no matter your mood or mental state.
Maintaining your gentle smile during inner smile meditation is important to your success with this practice. Connect with loving-kindness. Connect with compassion. Connect with yourself and your own inner strength. Allow yourself to be awed by you and what you are capable of. The key principle to reaching a more disciplined capability with inner smile meditation is that you must connect with yourself and allow yourself to let go of the negative feelings that get in the way. Remove all thoughts of “I am hurt” or “I am unhappy” or “I am feeling negative”. These cause an inner frown. Use the power of a smile to provide momentum towards positivity, enlightenment and healing.
It helps to look at inner smile meditation as self-appreciation as well. Think about your mind and body’s abilities to heal themselves after physical and emotional injury or illness. Inner smile meditation can be used to show thanks to yourself for your own resilience. Allow yourself to be both gracious and accepting of gratitude. Make a point to smile at yourself often. Be thankful for yourself and be gracious to yourself.