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The Inner Smile:
A Meditation Practice

inner smileThe practice of the Inner Smile is one that is found in Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist traditions. This practice is a wonderful way to release anxiety, to balance the endocrine system, and to increase within you feelings of loving-kindness and compassion. Here’s how you do it:

Find a quiet place to sit, either in a straight-backed chair (sitting near the edge, with your feet parallel, and directly beneath your knees) or on the floor (in a comfortable cross-legged position, or in “hero” position, sitting back on your heels). The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable, and for your spine to be in an up-right position. Let your eyes gently close. Take a couple of deep long breaths, and as you exhale say (either out loud or internally) “aaah.” As you exhale and say “aaah,” feel any unnecessary tension in the face, jaw, neck and shoulders simply melt away, like a series of thin silk scarves, flowing off of your body, down to the floor. Notice a feeling of spaciousness in your mouth, as though the roof of your mouth were the dome of a temple.

Now let your breathing return to normal, and float the tip of your tongue upward, letting it rest gently on the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper front teeth (you’ll find a “sweet spot” that feels just perfect!). Keeping your tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth (and with you eyes still closed), allow yourself to smile … a very gentle, subtle smile … sort of like the Mona Lisa … as though you were just smiling to yourself, for no particular reason, letting your lips fill and spread. Notice how this feels.

Now rest your attention (your mind’s eye) at the bridge of your nose ~ that space on your forehead between the inner edges of your eyebrows. Notice that as you rest your attention there, energy builds … which you may experience as a sensation of warmth or tingling. (But whatever your experience is, that’s just fine!) Keep a soft focus on that area, and then, slowly, draw your attention back from that point, into the very center of your brain (the space directly between your two ears). So now your attention, your mind’s eye, is at a place several inches behind that forehead point. It’s resting in the center of your brain ~ a place which in Taoist yoga is called the Crystal Palace, in the Hindu yoga traditions is called the Cave of Brahma. It’s the home of the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands: the “master glands” of the endocrine system. Simply energizing these glands, by holding our focus here, is in and of itself a wonderfully healing practice.

After resting your attention (still with a gentle smile, your eyes closed, and the tongue gently touching the roof of your mouth) for a couple minutes in this place ~ the center of your brain, the Crystal Palace, the Cave of Brahma ~ draw your focus into your eyes, and allow your eyes to become “smiling eyes.” As support for this, you can imagine that you’re looking into the eyes of the person who you love the most in this world … and they are looking back at you. Let you eyes become filled with the energy of loving-kindness, of acceptance, of delight. Notice how this feels.

And now you can use your “smiling eyes” to smile ~ internally ~ at any part of your body that you would like: infusing that place, that limb, that organ with the energy of loving-kindness! You might like to begin with the hair on the top of your head, then your scalp, then your brain and eyes and ears … working your way down, from head to toe, “touching” with the energy of a smile every single part of your body. Or you can choose to smile at a place within you that is injured or ill or numb. Or you can smile down at your heart, your lungs, your liver, your kidneys, your spleen/pancreas … loving, appreciating these organs for all the work they do for you, night and day, with this energy of a smile. The possibilities are endless!

To end the practice, simply bring your attention back to the Crystal Palace, the Cave of Brahma ~ that place in the center of your brain, directly back from the forehead point. Take a couple of long deep breaths. Let your tongue relax back onto the bottom of your mouth. Open your eyes. Notice how you feel!

Elizabeth Reninger holds a Masters degree in Chinese Medicine, is a published poet, and has been exploring Yoga ~ in its Taoist, Buddhist & Hindu varieties ~ for more than twenty years. Her teachers include Richard Freeman and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. To read more of her yoga-related essays, please visit her blog: http://www.writingup.com/blog/elizabeth_reninger

T'ai Chi in the Information Age: Ancient Cure  for Modern Problems

tai chi

According to a twenty-year study by Kaiser Permanente, between seventy and eighty-five percent of illness is caused by stress, meaning that in the U.S. alone stress is costing us about one-trillion dollars per year in healthcare costs. Since most absenteeism is due to stress, US business is losing upwards of $300 billion per year.

On a more personal level, it is disturbing to realize that aging is accelerated by stress, and stress is a growing issue with all of us. Studies show that change is stressful, even "good" change. So as we computer jockeys settle into the saddle of a new age of rapidly changing information, we need an edge that can help us stay healthy, sane, "younger" and more vibrant, even as we are often at the very center of the hurricane of modern change, such as keeping up with new hardware and software.

Ironically an ancient mind/body tool provides the perfect balm for our generation's modern problems -- it is called "Tai Chi" (pronounced tie-chee). T'ai Chi is a gentle series of relaxing motions that cleanse the body's tissue of accumulated stress and, by doing so, boosts all aspects of our health systems. According to emerging research boosting the immune system’s strength dramatically, while reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety, and even reducing chronic pain conditions, are just a few of T’ai Chi’s myriad benefits.

What makes ancient T’ai Chi the perfect modern balm is that it doesn't require special facilities or clothing, and doesn't even make you break a sweat, meaning you can do it in office attire in an empty boardroom just by kicking off your heels. Yet, it provides the same euphoria of a long run, the cardiovascular benefit of moderate impact aerobics, and burns nearly as many calories as downhill skiing.

Our time is filled with paradox. A problem in this modern age stems from the great promise of the information age -- a tidal wave of data being created by and offered to our "left brain"; that part of our minds that is analytical, calculating, and categorizing the world. Of course, this is a powerful and important part of who we are. This is the part of the mind that gets things done, pays the rent, builds the houses, and makes the cars. Our "right brain," however, is getting left behind in our rapidly changing techno-world, and this imbalance of thought processes is at the heart of modern stress.

Our right brain is the feeling, smelling, sensing . . . enjoying part of the mind. This is the part of the mind that smells the flowers, not to analyze the smell, but to be filled with its beauty -- and this is the part that has been left behind in the digital world. When we go to the cyber mall, for example, our right brain doesn't get to play. The cyber mall is a wonderful thing that saves us time, money, and gas for our cars (and thereby saves the environment), but there are no Auntie Anne's Pretzels to smell in cyberspace, or warm sunlight streaming in through the big skylights.

So what do we do? We get the best of both worlds. T'ai Chi is a series of exercises to balance the mind. T'ai Chi teaches us to experience life for sheer pleasure, thereby creating balance in our busy "get things done yesterday" world. If you learn T'ai Chi and practice in the morning before you sit down at your computer, your right brain (the sensing and enjoying brain) will be turned on more. You will feel the texture of your computer keys. You will remember to take the time to get a nice cup of green tea or herbal cinnamon spice tea, and you'll interrupt your staccato keyboard occasionally to smell the tea's rich aroma, feel the warmth in your hands, and breathe the breath of life deeply into your lungs.

Although you are at the cutting edge of the information age revolution, you are also in the garden of life. This will give you an edge in the long run. Why? Because chronic stress diminishes our cognitive skills and therefore, our creativity.

Einstein said, "Creativity is more important than knowledge." Even if we have the world's knowledge at our fingertips, if we are too stressed out to use the knowledge "creatively," we are much less effective. Plus, we're not as much fun!

Einstein said, "Creativity is more important than knowledge." Even if we have the world's knowledge at our fingertips, if we are too stressed out to use the knowledge "creatively," we are much less effective. Plus, we're not as much fun!

T'ai Chi is an extremely sophisticated mind/body science that evolved over millennia, and is now being made available to all of us after centuries of being closely guarded secrets in China. Even though the practices are ancient, they are in many ways just as cutting edge as the multi-gigabyte computer.

Don't just be "cutting edge" with your left-brain. Go all the way and stretch the envelope with your right brain, too, by weaving T'ai Chi into your life. You will be forever glad you did, as you discover balance and calm in the eye of the modern world’s ever accelerating storm of changes rushing at us.

Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, and Founder of World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 50 nations each year). He's authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong and has been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Reader’s Digest, etc. You can learn more about Tai Chi & Qigong, and also contact Bill Douglas at http://www.worldtaichiday.org

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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Jan. 2006

In This Issue

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Click here for more on the Inner Smile from an interview with one of my favorite writers and healers, Master Mantak Chia, founder of Healing Tao.

Click here to download a free 140 page eBook from Asheville's resident Michael Winn, a student of Mantak Chia, when you subscribe to his newsletter. Both the ebook and the website's articles are interesting, and you can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

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Copyright 2006
Suzanne H. Eller

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Quotations about Being and Becoming

yin yangImage: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The way to do is to be. ~Confucius

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

If there were a ritual dance of the androgyne, Tai Chi ... could be that dance. It is neither a masculine dance nor a feminine dance. It has the strength and grace of both.
~June Singer

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders ~Lao Tzu

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~Wayne Dyer

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