Who doesn't at least turn up one corner of their mouth in automatic response to this image of a tiny dreaming baby? That innocent smile cannot help but tug at our heart strings and awaken even the briefest spark of pure joy in us.
Smiling is good for us. It lowers our stress levels, which improves our health and well-being. So, we can always use more smiles.
It's rare to catch the Dalai Lama without a smile. He often speaks about how much he loves smiles and notes that there are many kinds out there, and says "But a genuine smile gives us hope, freshness. If we want a genuine smile, then first we must produce the basis for a smile to come."
My personal trick for producing the proper fertile ground for smiles to grow is meditation. My heart is much more easily moved toward joy the more I meditate. Another trick I have is laughter, which most often comes naturally to me. I am usually very easily amused, which is why I am often invited to rough cuts of movies and comedy performances. My friends know I love to laugh. I have found that while being easily amused sometimes makes me look like a sucker, I much prefer the benefits to the judgment of others.
But sometimes I have to generate the part of me that is easily amused. That piece of my heart can get covered up by debris caused by stress, sadness or anger. Sometimes I have to remind myself to be open to laughing. I can usually re-open my heart, but sometimes I can't.
There is nothing more painful to me than the moment a friend is trying to make me laugh and I am firmly entrenched in a bad mood, rejecting their attempt to light the joy flame in me. When I am not in the mood to laugh or smile, in my mind I have my arms crossed, teeth clenched and I'm silently repeating, "You will not make me smile. You will not make me smile. And, you will definitely not make me laugh."
I am not proud of these moments. I continually exercise the muscle of letting go of my negative stances, but sometimes I fail. I think I may start carrying this picture of my friend's smiling baby, Elsie, in my wallet for these moments. If I start to move into one of my anti-smiling moods, I can just whip it out to fan away the negativity.
Life will continually throw us into situations that can strip us of joy. We can go hours without smiling. So we all need as many tools as possible in our arsenal of joy. Is there a photograph or video that makes you smile without fail? Try to remember that just even one little picture can be an important tool to create "the basis for the smile to come" as the great smiling Lama advises.
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