Once you've created a quiet, calming external atmosphere you must establish that same quiet and calm within yourself. If the room is conducive to meditating, but your jaw clenched, your neck stiff, shoulders tense, your back stiff, your stomach upset, you will not be able to circulate the chi energy and complete the microcosmic orbit.
A relaxed mental attitude and the thirty-six deep abdominal breaths will help to calm your mind and begin to relax your body. But to achieve full calmness means more than simply relaxing tense muscles and jittery nerves. To gain a deep and lasting state of relaxation requires that we develop a feeling of peace in our innermost parts. Only when our vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and stomach, nervous system and circulatory system are feeling relaxed, can we psychologically feel serene. To reach these organs, the ancient Taoist masters discovered a simple secret, the "inner smile".
Healing Power of a Smile
Have you ever walked down the street grumbling or worrying about things you have to do, your relationships, your job, your whole life? When you glance up someone smiles at you, and before you know it you're smiling back. In only a split-second you've dropped your troubles, you stand up a little straighter, and walk on knowing everything is going to be okay. A genuine smile has tremendous power.
When you smile at someone it makes them feel good about themselves. When you smile at your plants they feel your loving energy and they grow. When you go home, pat your dog on the head and smile at him, your dog will wag his tail to show you he's happy. But if you go home, yell at him and kick him, he'll cower, growl, or bite. If you scream at your loved ones they'll feel defensive and unloved.
A true smile is a sign of love, a transmitter of energy which has a warming, healing effect. It is a vehicle for music. A person who does not smile is like a guitar which is not played: the guitar sits in the corner, begins to warp, it's strings stretch out, and gradually the guitar cracks and decays. The non-smiler, likewise, does not develop his ability to give and receive love. His dark countenance and serious approach to life is often coupled with ulcers and other medical disorders as his life slowly crumbles for lack of care and love.
On the other hand, the guitar that is polished and played has its strings changed regularly, the bow adjusted and is kept safely in a case. A well-loved and tended guitar brings life and light to the musician, and often outlives its owner. The smiler, too, brings joy to people's lives, and leads a happy healthy life that may be soundly remembered long after his or her physical passing away.
Unfortunately, while we all recognize the difference between cheery people and glum people, and while we associate happiness with health, and sadness with sickness, we still do not acknowledge the power of smiling or understand its full potential. In short, we don't take smiling to our organs and nervous system seriously.
Why, for instance, if a smile is associated with health, aren't there doctors who specialize in smiling? If Saturday Review editor, Norman Cousins, used old Marx Brothers films to laugh away his rare connective disease, then why can't doctors and nurses use smiling energy to help heal their patients? Perhaps our hospitals should hire clowns and jesters to make their patients smile. More important, why hasn't smiling been used as preventive medicine? In smiling at our friends, families and loved ones, why have we not learned to smile to ourselves?
In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness, and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.
One look at our western society shows that we do not know the secret of smiling. The lack of harmony within ourselves is tragically apparent. We are plagued with an increase in physical and emotional illness that ranges from cancer to anorexia nervousa. Our loves are always shadowed by a world filled with violence and self-destruction. Both the individual and the collective society are threatened by rampant drug abuse and nuclear waste. Somehow, somewhere, we've lost sight of the Tao. We've broken the natural flow of life, and with it the power to heal ourselves.
The complexity of global problems can be so overwhelming that most people simply give up trying to understand the whole picture of their life. Our heads reel from an overload of information that spews out from television, newspaper, radio and computers. The challenge is to simplify all this information into digestible form. This process of literally "digesting" reality is made difficult to the extent that we've separated our minds from our bodies.
If the body is healthy, it can easily assimilate the stress of modern living and even find it a creative challenge. But many people ignore their natural balancing mechanisms between the body and mind. They attempt to digest the world with their minds, piling up concepts, thoughts, and desires like giant mounds of mental baggage.
They ignore the fact that their body must carry this extra mental baggage around twenty-four hours a day, and eventually tires of the extra weight. Exhausted, the body gives up prematurely resulting in heart failure, stroke, arthritis, or liver dysfunction. The collapse is blamed on a poor physical body, but the overstressed mind is the true culprit.
Proof of our ignorance of the connection between body and mind is seen in the fact that most of us don't even know where our bodily organs are, much less their size, shape or functions. And if we happen to know intellectually, we still don't experience our organs in a tangible way because we ignore their constant subtle messages. For instance, we think we are satisfied when our mind is pleased: our intestines may be rebelling from over-eating, our lungs may be taxed by smoke, our kidneys may be overworked from coffee, but in our mind we've had a delicious meal, a good smoke, and a great cup of coffee. We are numb to our organ's feelings and thereby block what is potentially our deepest experience of good health.
We're like the irresponsible automobile owner who spends all his time waxing and polishing his car only to drive over bumpy, dusty roads. He avoids cleaning the spark plugs or changing the oil, then uses leaded instead of unleaded gasoline. When the car breaks down, he curses, complaining that he is not a mechanic, and then blames the car manufacturer when he's told the car needs a complete overhal.
We are really no different. We spend all our energy (and money) making certain our outer selves are presentable, then we abuse our inner selves by eating an imbalanced diet, drinking, smoking, and worst of all, denying ourselves love. And then we're shocked when out of the blue our lungs collapse, our kidneys fail, or we're told we have cancer.
Some people have an astonishing ability to convince themselves that their health is not caused by their own behavior, and quickly blame their illness on bad genes, old age, fate, etc. But most people are simply unaware that their illnesses are the direct result of accumulated years of stress and seemingly minor abuse of the physical body, especially of the vital organs. These vital organs are intimately connected to every aspect of our mind. Our body is the filter for all our perceptions, feelings, thoughts, as well as the storehouse for our memory, our very sense of identity.
Most people fail to realize that even if our mind temporarily stops functioning, if we cease to think or feel, our organs can continue to work. But the moment your spleen bursts, your heart stops, or your liver malfunctions, your life is in serious danger.
The brain is the boss, but organs do the work. Imagine your organs are working in a factory, your mind is the boss. If the boss is never around, or if he ignores the workers' grievances (he's so concerned about his own affairs that he can't see that the workers have poor working conditions, they're overworked, and under paid) the workers will eventually become so discouraged and frustrated that they'll either go on strike or quit altogether. The factory shuts down, no goods are produced, and the boss is left trying to negotiate with the workers. But his power is diminished if the workers have already shut down the factory. It may never open again, and cause the boss to lose his livelihood. (Remember, the problem did not occur overnight.)
How to smile down with the Inner Smile
To practice the inner smile begin by closing your eyes and smiling sincerely into them. Relax and feel a deep smile shining through your eyes. By relaxing your eyes you can calm your entire nervous system.
Your eyes are connected to your autonomic nervous system which is divided into two parts, the sympathetic and parasympa-thetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system controls the flight or fight reaction. The parasympathetic permits the body to rest and feel secure. It generates calm, loving feelings and is in turn activated by similar feelings of love and acceptance from other people.
These two systems are linked with every organ and gland in the body, which are given commands through the nervous system to speed up or slow down the activity of the body as needed. Thus it is through the link between your eyes and your nervous systems that your entire range of emotions and immediate physical reactions are controlled. By relaxing your eyes with the inner smile, you free your mind of tension held throughout the entire body. The mind is then freed to concentrate and apply all its available creative energy to the task at hand, e.g. harmonizing itself with the environment. This connection between visual relaxation and the ability to concentrate is an essential Taoist insight.
After you feel your eyes tingling with a huge inner smile, direct that smiling energy down into your body and fill your vital organs with love. An easy way to remember the "smiling down" sequence is as follows:
Front Line: Smile down into the eyes, face, neck, heart, and blood circulatory system, the lungs, pancreas, spleen, liver, kidneys and adrenals.
Middle Line: Smile down from the mouth to the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum, simultaneously swallowing saliva.
Back Line: Smile down the inside of the vertebrae of your spine, one by one.
This smiling of chi energy from your eyes down your front through the organs will later aid you in circulating the microcosmic orbit. Your smile should flow effortlessly like a waterfall, from your eyes down through your vital organs towards your genitals. With practice your chi will flow through these organs automatically, helping them in their work.
Smile down your face into your jaws. Your jaws are a major storehouse of tension. When you allow the energy created by that "inner smile" to go into your jaws you should feel your body letting up and tension releasing. This may be accompanied by tingling sensations or noises, so do not be alarmed should that happen.
The tongue is the bridge connecting the back (yang) and front (yin) channels. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. The correct position of the tongue is touching the soft palate in the rear of the mouth, but it is easier to leave it in front in the beginning. When chi flows into the tongue it may produce strange taste sensations and a warm tingle.
The neck region is another reservoir of tension. Contained in this area are many important nerves and blood vessels vitally important to your well being. The neck is the bridge between your brain and your body. If your neck is a traffic jam, knotted with tension and anxiety, the messages between your brain and organs will be confused and tense. If you cannot relax your neck you cannot complete the microcosmic orbit. Tighten your neck muscles then slowly allow them to relax.
Tuck in your chin and let your head sink into your chest. Ancient Taoists copied this technique from the behavior of the turtle. Relax the neck muscles by creating the illusion that they are no longer necessary to hold up your head. Smile into your neck and throat and feel the tension melt.
The heart pumps blood and chi energy through your veins and arteries. But in Taoist yoga the heart, along with the kidneys, is the main transformer of chi energy. This means that the heart is capable of both increasing your available chi and raising the quality of its energy to a more refined level.
The arteries are said to belong to yang energy and the veins to yin energy. The arteries therefore have a positive charge and the veins a negative one. When you smile and fill your heart with love you increase the rate of blood circulation and with it the exchange of yin and yang chi in the bloodstream. So smile into your heart and feel the loving energy of the smile spread throughout your circulatory system.
If you can use the smile and microcosmic orbit to aid the chi flow, the heart will work less. The smile from the eyes and the brain will help to circulate the chi energy and thus aid the blood to flow fully and freely while the heart relaxes. In conjunction with the proper diet and exercise, the likelihood of getting heart disease will be greatly reduced.
Feel the stream of relaxation flow down and spread from your face and neck into your heart. You will sense the heart to be cool and calm, and at the same time feel its physical substance. People who are nervous or who anger quickly often experience pain and tense feelings in and about the heart. Extending the smile relieves stored tension and enables a new kind of functioning to take place. Fill your heart with love. Let your heart be your "sweetheart".
Radiate the love in your heart to your lungs. Feel your lungs soften and breathe with a new ease. Feel the air inside lighten up as it enters and leaves the lungs. Feel their moist, spongy quality as you relax and fill your lungs with energy.
Now smile into your liver on the right side, just below the rib cage. If your liver is hard, if it is difficult to feel, soften it with your smile. Smile it back to life, rejuvenate it with your love.
Direct the smile to your two kidneys, in your lower back just below the rib cage on either side of the spine. The adrenal glands sit on top of them. Smile at your adrenals, and they may send you a burst of adrenalin. The kidney is the lower transformer of the veins and arteries. Smile to the kidneys and fill them with love. Like the heart, this will increase the flow of chi circulating through your system.
Allow the smile to flow throughout your central abdomen, through the pancreas and spleen. Then gently rest the smile in your navel. All of your organs can be "smiled to". If you are relaxed and happy and smile within, your organs produce a honey-like secretion. If you are frightened, nervous, or angry, they produce toxic substances instead. The process of smiling into the organs lightens their work load and enables them to function more efficiently. They have a hard job pumping and purifying hundreds of gallons of blood each day, breaking down raw food into digestible energy, cleansing toxic substances and storing our emotional tensions. By smiling into your organs you've made their day a cheerful one.
Middle Line: Swallow Saliva into Lower Abdomen.
Smile once again in your eyes. Smile down into your mouth and swish your tongue around to collect saliva. When your mouth is filled with saliva, put the tip of your tongue to your palate, tighten your neck muscles, and swallow hard and quickly, making a gulping sound as you do. With your inner smile follow the saliva down your esophagus, through your internal tract and to your navel. Your saliva is a lubricating nectar that holds vital energy which is dispersed throughout the body from the navel center. Smile away the nervous energy in your stomach, and you will eat better food and find it easier to digest. Relax the smiling energy into your small intestine, large intestine, and rectum.
Back Line: Spine
Now bring your focus back to your eyes. Smile into your eyes, your tongue, then begin to smile down the inside of your spinal column. Make sure your posture is straight with shoulders slightly rounded forward. Descend one vertebra at a time, smiling into each until you have reached the coccyx. The spinal column protects your central nervous system and is crucial in increasing your chi circulation. Starting from the neck there are seven cervical vertebrae, twelve thoracic vertebrae, and five lumbar vertebrae plus the sacrum and coccyx.
You should experience a feeling of great ease, warmth, and comfort in each vertebra. When the lumbar, coccyxal, and pubic areas are relaxed, power is released and flows more easily up through the back.
With practice the entire smiling meditation can be done in just minutes, although at first it may take you longer to really feel the smile. When you end the meditation you do not want to have energy circulating around in the higher centers such as the head or the heart. The best place for energy storage in the body is the area of the navel, since it can easily handle the increased body heat. Most ill side effects of meditation are caused by excess energy in the head, but this is easily avoidable. (See Chapter on Preventing Side Effects.)
To collect the energy simply concentrate your mind on your navel and imagine your energy spinning like a slow top inside, spiralling outward movement, inside your navel about one and a half inches deep, and 24 times back in to the navel. Men spiral first clockwise; women spiral counter clockwise. (put a watch at your navel to determine direction.) Then reverse and circulate the energy in the opposite direction.
Important Note: You do NOT collect the energy at the navel after "smiling down" if you intend to immediately circulate chi in the mi-crocosmic orbit as taught in the following chapter. You would circulate the orbit and then close by collecting the energy at the navel.
Although the inner smile is used primarily to help you to relax prior to practicing the microcosmic orbit, it is powerful as a meditation in its own right. Simply smiling the inner smile in your daily life can bring tremendous results. If you are constantly aware of your inner smile, it will transform your life.
One student went to ask her boss for a raise which she had been promised. She knew her boss was tight with money and would put up a fight, so she approached the grumpy boss with an inner smile as well as her outer smile. Such positivity reduced her boss' resistance, and they ended on good terms, with both of them smiling.
Another student's self-image changed radically from smiling down. Before his self-esteem was low, and he was continually fighting with himself, telling himself he wasn't up to par. After frequently practicing the inner smile he made good friends with himself, and began to realize potential hidden by his negative self deprecations.
If you master an inner smile you may well feel like the turtle, entering the unknown sea with his protective shell snugly encased about him. Likewise, you will have the power to create a relaxed meditative environment capable of withstanding any external situation. Negativity will bounce off your smile and you will enjoy yourself wherever you are.
The inner smile gives you love where you most need it, at home. Your home is your body because your body is where you live no matter where you are. Learn to see it as a community of many hardworking, devoted members who go unrecognized and are often abused. Learn to deal with your various parts as though they were your own children deserving of respect and affection.
Leave no one out and in no time you will know what it is to be loved and you will know what is meant by Loving Energy. Do this continuously and your world will blossom. The persons who "inhabit" your "inner" world, your vital organs, bones, blood, brain, etc., will afford you a new body and will enable you to relate to everyone and everything outside in a new, calm, loving way. So smile to yourself where ever you go, to who ever you see.
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