The inspiration for this post came to me in the middle of my 7 day Vipassana style meditation at a recent training.
Sitting for 8 hours a day, I was given the basic instruction to maintain the focus on my breath. Carefully concentrating on the gentle sensation of each inhalation and exhalation, in hopes of finding a more focused and present mind. This is much harder than it sounds. In fact, it is one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted.
I cannot say my week of silence and meditation was easy, but I can say it was incredibly transformational, and well worth the physical pain and mental challenge.
A few days in, after I could finally bring my attention elsewhere, to the fact that every part of my body ached (my hips felt like they were being pulled in opposite directions from my body and my arms must have been 100 kilos each! I was sure they would fall off my torso by day 7) but by day 4 (limbs still in tact!) somehow the sitting became easier. My body began to accept this new Asana and to my delight, I could bring my attention to the more subtle sensations felt internally. I became more awake to my thought patterns and emotions felt in each moment, and I understood that I could free myself from the mental chatter by refocusing and returning to my constant breath.
I was beginning to feel more accomplished with my new found ability to ignore my habitual thought processes, and then just like any good teacher, Silence took hold of my ego and shook it. She turned my attention back to my physical body, sending me signals of stone cold tension, making me realize that I was completely rigid and not at all relaxed in my meditation. With a more expanded awareness I recognized that I had been concentrating so hard, on concentrating - that I had lost the essence of the Asana.
In this moment I remembered the affects of a smile (even an itty bity Buddha one). This simple yet powerful action automatically changes the chemical reactions in your brain and sends feel good endorphins throughout your entire body.
I quickly raised my eyebrows and dropped them back down again to soften and release the wrinkles in my forehead, and gently lifted the corners of my mouth. Instantly, my energy shifted. I felt a sense of lightness, of rejuvenation and enjoyment.
I finished that hour long sit with more ease and pleasure than I had felt so far.
If that small gesture of a smile brought me relaxation and positivity in the midst of my discomfort, I wondered how many other people I could affect, simply with a smile.
This inspired me to document the different expressions I came across in Bali. In this multi-cultural island, it was obvious this was the perfect place to explore my theory. As I traveled around, meeting and speaking with all types of people, I came to the conclusion that smiling is like laughter, it's contagious. It's a universal symbol of acknowledgment, kindness and unity.
"Symbology is the universal language" -Swami Siva Kalki
No matter what color, race, religion, gender, or age - a smile is something every one in the world recognizes and understands. There are no need for words, a simple lifting of the corners of the mouth, not only makes everyone more beautiful, but gives them an immediate positive vibration which they subconsciously spread to the next person who is lucky to cross paths with them.
No matter where you live or what your state of mind is, the next time you see a stranger I encourage you to smile. I encourage you to witness the effect it has on them, but more importantly the effect it has on yourself, for offering something positive and completely free with no expectations, just because you can.
LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures. Read more about her here