The late Dr. Glenn Morris noticed that when attempting to teach meditation and energy work, some of his students would get trapped in the darker emotional states that can get dredged up when peeling away the layers of the ego. To combat this, he combined Taoist inner smile exercises with Western positive thinking visualizations. The resulting Secret Smile exercise may be one of the most important and powerful meditations you ever perform. The idea is to use your personal memories to fill your body with positive intent.
Once you memorize the process you can do this anywhere, but in the beginning it’s best to work it as part of your daily meditation practice. It’s recommended that you do this sitting in the edge a chair with your spine straight. It’s difficult to get the full effect sitting cross-legged. Dr. Morris liked to borrow the postures of zazen for his practice. Sit with the spine straight, chin tucked slightly in. Let your hands fall in your lap. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth, as if you were about to say the word “la”. The seal of the mouth is critical for any type of energy work. Taoists state there is a channel of energy running up the back from the perineum, through the spine, and into the head. There is a second channel running down the front of the body back down to the perineum. Touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth completes an energy “circuit”, allowing energy to continue flowing in an orbit.
Whatever the scientific reality may eventually turn out to be, the practical result is that people who keep their tongues up have far fewer side effects when practicing energy work. Without it, energy tends to get stuck in the head, leading to host of problems including, but not limited to, dizziness, hallucinations, jumbled thinking, and migraines.
This practice is greatly enhanced by using deep belly breathing, or Buddha Breathing, as some call it. It’s not complicated. Place your concentration on a spot about an inch or two below your belly button and push your stomach out when you inhale. Do this slowly, quietly, and easily. When you exhale, try to slowly pull your stomach back in like you’re trying to wrap it around your spine. This is a very natural way of breathing and if you can do it consistently, your body will “get the idea” and you’ll find yourself breathing like this all the time. It really helps calm anxiety and tension, in addition to helping build chi in the body. Breath as slow as you can without strain. In Hoshin, we strive for four to six breathes a minute. I got so good at slow, quiet breathing that my doctor tells me to knock it off with that “Zen crap” when I come in for a check-up. Even using a stethoscope he can’t tell if I’m breathing and accuses me of holding my breath.
Put a smile on your face before you begin. It doesn’t have to be a big, toothy Joker grin. Even a little Mona Lisa smile will do the trick.
THE SECRET SMILE
Tighten your toes. Squeeze them really good until it’s almost painful. Relax them, paying close attention to the pleasant sensation tingling through your toes. Slowly go up through the body, tightly tensing, then releasing your muscles, until your whole body is tingling with relaxation. Enjoy the feeling. Tightening the muscles actually causes them to relax much more than if you simply tried to “will” relaxation.
Return your attention the tingling sensation in your toes. Inhale, and imagine this relaxed sensation filling you up. Imagine your legs are hollow and you’re filling them up with this warm, soft red energy, feeling them relax even deeper as you go. I like to use the kinesthetic memory of filling a glass with warm water when doing this.
Fill your legs, then imagine your torso as an empty barrel and allow it to inflate with this warm energy. When you get to your shoulders, allow the energy to drop down to your hands and fill up your arms.
Bring the energy up to the top of your head and drop the sensation down to mouth. Exhale it back down the front of your body, back to the toes.
This may be tough to do with a single breath. Don’t worry about getting it exact at first. Just focus on bringing energy up the up the back of the body on the inhale, and down the front on the exhale. Do this at least three times. It’s more important that you get the feeling than a precise visualization.
On the last time, catch the energy with your tongue, then swallow it back down to the point below your belly button while exhaling.. Spin it around a little.
Now, we’re going to get into the real meat of the Secret Smile. Once you’re relaxed, sit quietly and remember a time when you did something you were really proud of. Maybe other people recognized your accomplishment and applauded you. It doesn’t really matter where and when. Just pick a moment when you felt proud of yourself. Let the images and sounds fade, and focus all your attention on the feeling. Drop that sensation down to your toes and let your body fill up with confident, soft orange energy. Inhale that sensation up the back of the body, and exhale it back down the front. Do this at least three times.
On the last run, catch the energy with your tongue and swallow it down to mix with the relaxed energy swirling below your belly button. Let them spin for a moment before moving on.
Remember a time when you just cracked up laughing. Maybe you were literally rolling on the floor. Repeat step 2, letting the memory fade, but keeping the laughing sensation. Drop it down to your toes and fill your body with happy, laughing, soft yellow energy. Breathe it up the back and exhale down the front. On the last time, swallow it down to mix with the relaxed, confident energy spinning in your belly.
Remember a time when you were loving and felt loved. It doesn’t matter who or what, or what may have happened later. Just pick a moment in your life where you seemed to be bursting with love. Like before, let the memory fade and hold on to the feeling. Breathe that loving, soft green energy through the body. Inhale going up, exhale going down. When you’re done, swallow it down to mix with the energies swirling in your belly.
If you’re under the age of eighteen, stop reading and get your parent’s permission before continuing. This last step is one of those Tantric secrets that usually gets left out, but is vital to really energizing your body. Some people get good results only following the first four steps, but the real power behind the secret smile lies in this last step. Some people who were raised in sex negative environments have trouble with the idea that bliss feels like an intense combination of love and sexuality.
Remember a time when you were having the best sex of your life. If you’re male, focus on the intense moment just before orgasm. If you’re female, go ahead through to the actual orgasm (male orgasms are usually too short for the purposes of this exercise).
As before, let everything fade except that orgasmic feeling. Breath that blissful, soft white energy through your body like before: inhale as you go up, exhale as you go down.
Swallow it down and then breathe all the sensations through your body. This is the way human beings are supposed to feel: relaxed, confident, happy, loving, and blissful. Memorize this feeling and work on making it the background emotion whenever you meditate.
The Secret Smile is an exercise in filling up your body with positive energy. Once you have the basic procedure down, practice doing this whenever something good happens to you. If someone makes you laugh, breathe that through your body. You’ll probably find yourself smiling a lot for no reason, which can be annoying if you’ve been cultivating the reputation as the local grump. Do this before you go to work and observe how people react to you. Positive energy attracts more positive energy. Have fun with this.