Thursday, July 30, 2015

Breathing and Smiling

Remember that old joke?

The one about how you shouldn't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes?

Because that way, when you judge them anyway, you'll be a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

I've been thinking about that old chestnut a lot lately in connection with my further experiments with a meditation practice I mentioned in an earlier post.

I picked the technique up from the book Reconciliation by Thich Nhat Hanh. (A dear friend sent me the book this winter, when she knew I was really struggling with depression.)

The meditation is simple:

Breathing in, I am aware of _______________________.
Breathing out, I smile at _______________________.

It can be used for mindfulness around anything – addictive behaviours, obsessive thoughts, one's mind and body.

It is a way of cultivating friendliness and joy, or, if that is a bit much to shoot for, acceptance and tolerance.

Some examples:

Breathing in, I am aware of my toes.
Breathing out, I smile at my toes.

Breathing in, I am aware of my hurt.
Breathing out, I smile at my hurt.

Breathing in, I am aware of my craving for sugar.
Breathing out, I smile at my craving for sugar.

Breathing in, I am aware of the sky.
Breathing out, I smile at the sky.

One of the most interesting things I am finding in this experiment is the large range of smiles I have inside of me: rueful, wistful, kind, bitter, fake, angry, hollow, joyful, giddy, pure, shaky, twisted, hopeful, hesitant, longing, passionate, contented, uncertain, wounded, smart-arsed, disappointed, smug, sleepy, hostile, gentle, sweet, down-to-earth and wholehearted smiles. I can feel their nuances playing across my face as I try smiling at many different thoughts, body parts, behaviours, things in the world around me.

Perhaps, if I get very brave, I will try doing this exercise in front of a mirror. 

I do this meditation as often as I remember to throughout the day. It doesn't take very long. Although the feelings it stirs up can be a bit overwhelming.

But I am full of those feelings anyway. And, in parallel with that old joke at the beginning of this post, now I'm also breathing and smiling.

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