The Qigong inner smile technique was developed a few thousand years ago to aid in healing the body and bringing about more happiness and inner peace.The inner smile was a cornerstone meditation for preventative health. It helps to tranform emotional stress before it manifests physically in your body. When you smile, 80 muscles in your face are activated and it sends a message to the body that you must be in a good mood and you must relax. It shifts your nervous system from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic which is assocated with the ‘rest and digest’ response in the body. This therefore enhannces your immune system.
In more modern times smiling and laughter therapy was popularised by pioneer Norman Cousins who wrote a number of best selling books on health and healing. These books explored the relationship of the body, mind and the emotions and their effect on biochemistry. The qigong inner smile is similar to what Cousins believed to be true, but takes the idea further in the way it advocates developing this smile more from an inward place rather than being stimulated by an external factor. This way it comes from an intrinsic place and therefore more reliable than from an extrinsic place which is dependent on conditions.
There are two forms of healing.
In chinese medicine it is said there are two ways to heal. You can heal through pain, surgery, chemotherapy, pharmaceuticals. Or, there is healing through pleasure, massage therapy, Qigong, smiling, doing things that you like, laughter, group therapy such as being around good friends. Baiscally, things that generally feel good to the body and mind and emotions. The inner smile is part of healing through pleasure.
The doll maker-a Taoist tale
There is a famous story in China called ‘The Doll Maker”, and this doll maker was the most reverered doll maker in all of China. Everyone wanted his dolls and noone could understand the secret as to why his dolls were so popular compared to other doll makers.
When the day came that this famous doll maker was lying on his death bed, one of his apprentices was at his bedside and asked “Please master, can you tell me the secret as to why your dolls are so good?” The doll maker asked him to bring him one of his students dolls. He took the doll and he very subtly lifted the corners of the dolls mouth into a slight smile. Then he passed away. Then that student went on to became the doll master.
A serious business of not being serious
The Taoists say “We have a serious business of not being too serious”. When we are too serious, our body reacts by going into contraction. Muscles tighten up, blood flow is restricted and the organs don’t function as effectively as they could. When we can create some lightness and perspective, we can let go of our past more easily and be in the present moment more. This gives us more power to go into the future with lighter energy and therefore allow us to be more productive and happy in our life.
Studies on smiling.
Some researches did a study where they looked at 1950’s baseball players photos, and they compared the players who were smiling in the picture, to those who were not smiling. They were curious to see if there was any correlation between those who were smiling and logevity, which most of the researches thought there would be no correlation what so ever. But, the results revealed there was a tremendous correlation between those who were smiling in terms of how long they lived and the quality of their life. The players who were smiling lived on average 6.7 years longer than those who were not smiling. The is a big statistical variable in science.
More research was done at the University of California Berkeley and Michigan where they looked at year book photos and tried to determine life success such as finances, relationships and other markers. The results concluded that they could predict life success based on whether or not people were smiling or not smiling in their photo.
The biochemistry of smiling.
When you smile, endorphins are released, and one study aimed to find out how many endorpins were released that was comparable to experiencing a financial windful. It was concluded that in order to get the same amount of endorphin rush as a genuine smile can give you, you would need to suddenly come into an unexpected $40,000!
Listen to this tallk about these studies here.
Try this experiment now
Lift your eyebrows as if you are surprised, and look up. Now try and be in a bad mood as you are doing it. Can you feel genuinly mad or sad as you are doing this? Probably not right? Want to know why? Because you have just activated a flurry of feel good hormones in your body that affect your brain chemistry. Sounds too simple, I know, but it works though. Practice this regularly and it will become a habit within your body and over time your default grumpy moods can shift into something more postiive and productive. So, once again, the ancients knew something that we in the west are only just starting to figure out with scientific evidence now. By practicing the inner smile every day, you teach your body and mind to be more at ease, to notice what is right in your life rather than what is wrong. You help your body balance its hormones better as well as improve your immune system. You cultivate kindness and compassion towards yourself and others and the over all result is an improved quality of life. Who doesn’t want that?
Try the qigong inner smile mediation (script below video)
Sit in a relaxed comfortable way with your back straight. Keeping your eyes open, lift your eye brows up to brighten and lighten the face and bring a smile to your lips, and then let your whole face relax and close down your eyes. Bring focus to your breath. Slow down the breath with a long inhale and long exhale. Relaxing through the shoulders, arms, hands. Bring relaxation to your hips and legs and into the feet. Relax your tongue and let go of your jaw. Breathing normally now, just observe your breath going in and out.
Introduce a subtle smile
Feel the corners of your eyes and corners or your mouth very gently lift into a smile. It is a subtle smile-nothing that is forced, but just feel a sense of lightness come over your face. Have an inner intention of bringing lightness into your body mind and soul, as well as all the organs in your body. When we have pure intention, we are giving information to the body which happens through your body posture and your facial expressions and therefore brings a biochemical change within your body which activates the healing response.
Take some long slow deep breaths. Breath into your lower belly and feel your rib cage expand. Have a little pause at the top of the breath, then let the breath go naturally as your belly moves back towards your spine and your rib cage contracts. Try not to force the breath into something that feels unnatural. Be easy with the breath.
Where are you in your body?
Bring some attentiveness to the body by feeling where it is. Be aware of your level of comfort or discomfort without trying to change anything. Feel where your body connects to the surface that you are sitting on. Notice your feet connecting to the floor and your back straight. Relax through your hands with them resting on your lap and feel the breath coming in and out through your nose. Posture and breath influence your emotional state, so if you feel you could make some adjustments to your posture to enhance the energy flow through your body, do so now.
Notiice the sounds in the room. Notice the light behind your closed eyes. Giving your whole self to this moment in time and being aware of where you are in an emotional and physical sense. Notice any smells or sense of taste in your mouth. Just observing without feeling like anything needs to change right now. Observing your five senses offers you a doorway into the present moment, when you pay attention without thinking.
Imagine golden light
Imagine a beautiful golden light on the horizon that is coming from a sunset, and imagine it is shining on your face. You can even notice one partiuclar ray of sun shining on your face-your own connection to the universe. See this ray of sunshine hitting your face and how it very subtly lifts the corners of your mouth into a warm smile. This smiling energy reminds us to bring lightness into our perceptions of our life and that when we embrace this lightness our life can flow with more ease. Feel connection to the universe where light comes to you, and your own inner light shines back out.
Smile into the heart
Turn your awareness inwards and begin to allow this golden light shine into your heart, and bring smiling energy into your heart centre. Smiling is the practice of gratitiude. When you are in the state of gratitude there is a state of inner smiling that is happneing automatically. So, you don’t have to keep the smile physically on your face, but just cultivate that inner state of smiling-that ease and easy flow of energy that feels light within. Feel a sense of appreciation and compassion for yourself and others using the smiling energy to power the lightness in your heart. Imagine your heart like a red rose blossoming into sunlight and beaming red hues of light from your heart to the rest of your body and beyond. When you shine light inwards there is a blossoming of positive energy that unfolds from within. This red light represents love and compassion.
Pick up the smiling energy
Anytime you feel you need more smiling energy into your body, lift your eye brows and imagine more golden light coming into your body from absorbing it through the face and into the head and down into the body. Then, when you feel you have gathered enough, gently relax the eyebrows down again and continue to breath slowly and deeply. Smile to the heart and bring healing energy to it. When we smile inwardly it is a way of bring appreciation for all the work your body does without you having to think about it. The heart beats 100,000 times a day and brings blood to 3000 miles of arteries. Thank the heart for all it does, and in return, the heart moves with more efficiency. The heart beats with more effortless energy.
Smile into the lungs
Now bring that smiling energy into the lungs on the left and right sides of the heart. Breath golden light into your face, direct that golden light down into your lungs. Sending postiive healing energy to the lungs, and just breath a little bit slower and a little bit deeper. Sending gratitide and appreciation for all the work the lungs do. Breathing 24 hours a day-taking in energy, keeping you connected between your inner body and your external environment.
As you smile into the lungs, imagine sunlight shining into white flowers. White is the healing colour of the lungs. As the golden light travels down into your lungs they light up with a brilliant pearly white colour and radiate the colour from your lungs to the rest of your body. Smile to the lungs. Let your breath be slow deep and full.
Smile into the liver
Smile now to your liver. Raise your eyebrows and draw more smiling energy in, then settle them back down slowly and relaxing into the liver, on the right side of your rib cage. Feel the lightness of the smiling energy into the liver. The liver is connected to kindness and generosity and when you smile into the liver it helps to bring about feelings of abundance in your life and that there is enough for you and that we can share what we have. The liver is assoicated with bright green light. As the golden light travels down into your body, feel it transform into bright green light in the liver and radiate out througbout your body, like sunshine shining through the forest. Bring this quality of energy to your liver-cultivating healing energy. Your body is the sacred temple that holds your spirit and your life force. Going through each of the organis is a way to cleanse and purify the internal energy, so that your spirit or best energy shines forth.
Your liver does over 500 different functions for your body, from digestion to detoxification-your liver does this all without you having to consciously think about it. It is all an automatic process. Send some gratitiiude and appreciation to the liver. Smile to the liver.
Smile into the spleen
Bringing your attention over to the left side of your rib cage where the spleen is. Bring shining light into this area and see it transform into a brilliant yellow, and radiate throughout the rest of your body directly from the spleen, like sunlight shining into a yellow flower. Send postive smiling energy into the spleen and the stomach which rule and control digestion. Smile healing light into the stomach and spleen as you continue to breath deeply and slowly. Feel the warmth from the sun relax into this area, and if you need to, gently lift your eyebrows again and bring more golden light in through your face and feel the golden light seep down into your spleen and stomach and transofrm into yellow light. Once again relax your eyebrows and sink more into your breath.
The positive emotions associated with the stomach and spleen is inner balance and harmony- a sense that we are grounded and feel connected to our centre. Smile to the stomach and the spleen.
Smile into the kidneys
Now direct smiling energy to your kidneys, which are at the back of the abdomen, just above your lower back on each side of your body. The kidneys are associated with blue light, like sunlight shining on blue flowers, that blossom into the light. Feel the universe shining positive energy onto you and through you. Slow your breath down with your intention to bring healing light within these organ systems. Smile to your kidneys-sun light shining on the surface of brillant blue water. The postiive emotions associated with the kidneys is inner peace and tranqulity- a sense of stillness and deep vitality that is calm.
Now, anywhere in your body where you might be feeling tension or pain or other problems, smile to those areas. Smile with your presence and self compassion. Ask for healing light to enter into these areas of your body to bring about regeneration wellness.
Smile into the whole body
Now smile to your whole self. Bring the radiant energy from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, to the tips of the fingers. Feel a sense of wholness and integration. Experience yourself as one energy. Sense the integrated intelligent energy system throughout your body and around it. Take a long slow breath and bring your hands over your lower belly and centre and inhale the energy into this area. Feel all this energy in your centre underneath your hands. Focus your mind on your lower belly and allow your attention to be one pointed here-imagining swirling revived energy in this energy centre. Start to make a little circle with your hands here to centre the energy more. When you are ready, open your eyes and stretch.
Journal about your experience
Take some time after this meditation to write down your throughts and reflections on your experience with it. Perhaps some realisations came to mind as you were doing the meditation which affects how you conduct certain parts of your life from here on. How did your body feel as you smiled into each organ? What sensations did you notice? Keeping a meditation journal is a great way to bring about more self awareness from your meditation practice and cultivate a deeper knowledge of yourself and how you navigate your life.