||The Power of a Smile
Riding on the subway the other day, I experienced a moment that brought a smile to my face that stayed there for much of the day. A man walked into the train holding a young child. The child couldn’t have been much older than a year. He was totally entranced by all the people on the train, and looked around. He had an enormous smile on his face as he looked at an elderly man who happened to catch his eye. The elderly man’s face lit up as he smiled back at the baby. For quite some time, a communication unfolded between the man and the baby, face to face, smile to smile. As I watched, I noticed that lots of people were smiling, just as I was, having become part of the experience. Even when the father and child walked off the train, smiles remained.
As I went about my appointments and errands, I reflected on the power of the gift of a smile. I’ve written about this subject any number of times before, but it bears repeating. When we offer someone our smile, we offer them an opening to a sense of well-being. Think of the last time someone unexpectedly smiled at you. Remember how the experience immediately warmed you, or how it spontaneously elicited some other response that felt good to you? (Of course, there may also be times when someone smiles at you and it’s not a gift you’re able to accept in that moment, so notice if you’ve had that experience, as well.)
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to pay attention to your relationship with smiling – the ways and times when you smile and the ways and times when you receive smiles from others. The experiment has two aspects: first, bring your awareness to how easily you offer your smile to others – or not. Notice the difference between a spontaneous, generous smile – one that comes from you unbidden, and a smile you consciously choose to share with someone. Secondly, notice how you respond when you receive smiles from other people – those you know and those you don’t. Be sure to allow yourself to be aware of any mixed feelings you might have. Perhaps you have a response of unexpected shyness or irritation, or you may feel surprisingly delighted. As always, there’s no right way to respond. There’s just an opportunity to notice the many ways in which a smile can touch you.
Also allow yourself to include in your awareness whatever physical sensations accompany your responses. If the sensations are pleasant, notice what happens when you spend a bit of time hanging out with them, giving them time to deepen in your experience.
As with all the experiments, this invitation comes with a request that you bring along curiosity as your constant companion and compassion toward yourself and others as your basic stance. And, most important of all, enjoy deepening your awareness of smiles given and received.