687th Week: The Inner Smile
For many years now, I have explored and practiced a variety of mind-body approaches. This focus in my life came naturally, as I was raised in a family that followed a health-food-oriented physician named Henry Bieler. This was many years before that was a popular idea, so my family’s ideas about how to stay healthy were different from most of the other people in my world. My grandmother was also a healer, so I was immersed in an environment where alternative options to everyday physical ailments were also available…
Having made hypnosis and hypnotherapy one of my specialties many years ago, I have also explored the impact of imagination, thoughts, and feelings on physical and emotional well-being. When I ran into the idea, drawn from Spring Forest Qi Gong, that it is beneficial to see ailing or injured parts of the body smiling, it made complete sense to me and I’ve followed that practice ever since.
When I recently read an article from New Story Hub on Facebook, I found myself wanting to share it as a weekly practice because the subject of the article was “the inner smile” and the preventive medicine practice of self-care. As I read this part of the article, I thought of the many clients I have worked with over the years who felt constantly at war with their bodies, feeling that their bodies were their enemy. When I read this article, I realized how much I wish I had had this kind of information available back then. Here are some thoughts on self-care and the importance of being friendly toward your body, drawn from the beginning of the article:
“Sometimes this self-care practice is translated from Chinese as The Inner Smile, which may sound quirky to a cynical ear. But unpack the Inner Smile and we can see that it meshes extremely well with a modern understanding of the integration of brain, nervous system, endocrine system and gut ecology. The Inner Smile is in fact a good example of mind-body-spirit medicine, psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI), put into practice.
“If our attitude is friendly and affectionate – like a good parent with a loved infant – then the neural signal is reassuring and soothing. This triggers a cocktail of wellbeing hormones: endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. This relaxes tissues and supports an open and flowing system of good health. The long-term benefits for you and those around you are immense.”
In addition, here are some thoughts from Dr. William Bloom that go into more detail about the inner smile practice:
“It is recommended that the Inner Smile is done daily and always when the body is at ease. There is a particular focus on letting the abdomen drop down and sink into relaxation. Then with a calm and friendly attitude we then direct our attention down into our body and scan around it. We especially check in on all the major organs and notice how they feel. More than that, Chinese medicine prescribes that we do this in a very friendly and caring way. We come into direct and personal relationship with each organ, greeting it with a smile.
“Anyone with the slightest knowledge of anatomy will understand that the Inner Smile triggers events in the brain that send messages through the nervous system which then trigger the endocrine system. So it is crucial that your attitude be friendly. Be like a loving god or goddess radiating benevolence into your creation, your body.”
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to play with befriending your body in ways you may not have done before. If you are one of those people who already sends love to your body, notice what happens if you do that a bit more, using the idea of the inner smile to inform your conversation with your body. If you are someone who feels at odds with your body, notice what happens when you imagine the inner smile over the course of the week. You might also want to play with imagining various parts of your body smiling back as you connect with them.
As with all these practices, there is no right way to engage the process. Instead, it’s yet one more opportunity to explore more deeply how the quality of your consciousness—the tone of thoughts, feelings, actions, and impulses—play a significant role in shaping the quality of your everyday experience.
Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through, as if they were clouds scudding across a clear blue sky.