Why is it that most people I see on the subway and wandering the streets of New York City, regardless of age, seem to have a frozen frown on their face? Was that the shape of their mouth since birth, or did their facial muscles atrophy from lack of use?
Over the years, I always heard that it takes seven muscles to smile and forty-nine to frown. Not sure if it is true, but try it and see which feels better and more natural. For me, it is definitely a smile.
For many of us, we practice yoga, meditation, and prayer as a way to find inner peace and connect to a higher consciousness and purpose. I grew up in an a-religious household where we could curse freely, but ‘God’ was not in our vocabulary. Prayer was not in my consciousness although I did believe in some higher something or other that I then called the ‘Universe.’ My way to purge, connect with spirit, and find answers came through writing.
Fifteen years ago, by chance, I found myself in a Kundalini Yoga class taught by Gurmukh Kaur while visiting Los Angeles. That one class changed the course of my life and me on the deepest possible level. I had been dabbling in yoga since a teenager but didn’t practice consistently—a part-time wanna-be yogini.
Kundalini Yoga and Yogi Bhajan, who brought this technology and teachings to the West in the late 1960s, changed all that. It introduced me to the experience of having a mental, emotional, and spiritual colonoscopy, gave me comfort in using the G-word, and introduced chanting and prayer into my daily-ish practice.
Prayer has become my respite; a place I go whenever needing answers, to reconnect, and for peace. Initially, I worried that I wasn’t praying properly and wanted a ‘How To’ manual to ensure I chose the right words so my prayers would be answered. But I learned, at least for myself, that there is no wrong way. It is just a matter of speaking truthfully from my heart and being open to answers and signs in whatever form they may come. And they always do.
The other day I had an incident with a family friend in a restaurant when he turned on me for no apparent reason and began verbally attacking me, spewing a scary level of venom at me. To say this stunned me is an understatement. But even being taken by surprise, I miraculously remained calm and chose to excuse myself for a few moments, going into the bathroom to keep it together. Sitting in the bathroom, I started to pray, asking for guidance and the strength to remain calm, grounded, and with compassion.
This went against all natural responses I would have had some years ago when fight or flight adrenaline would have kicked in and made me want to win and hurt my attacker as much as he was hurting me. But on this evening, I wanted nothing to do with toxicity, so thanks to those few moments I took, I was able to reconnect with my integrity and the person that I am today.
I returned to the table, still under attack, smiled, remained grounded, and politely refused to continue the conversation, which was like throwing gasoline on a fire. The more calm and disengaged I was, the more infuriated he became, until finally he stormed out of the restaurant.
I was proud of how I handled the situation only having barked back twice instead of with a full-throttle attack, and realized that inch-by-inch does get you somewhere, even if you don’t feel like change and progress are happening.
Yogi Bhajan says, “Even if you want to be dead, even if somebody is mad at you, just keep on smiling. See how fast he attacks you. You think a smile is not a power? It’s the most powerful tool a human has.”
So what would our collective experience look like if everyone walked around smiling, saying hello to strangers, and saying yes to all opportunities even if there’s nothing obvious in it for them? Now that’s a way of life I will begin to implement immediately.
If you don’t or only very rarely smile at strangers, challenge yourself, leave your comfort zone, and commit to smiling to three strangers a day for the next 30 days while en route to work or while doing mundane errands. Keep a smile journal tracking how it makes you feel and the reactions you receive from the recipients of your smile, and then share your results here. Remember, “When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you.”
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I’ve accepted that my voice matters, my story matters, and that I don’t have to apologize to anyone for the choices that I’ve made or the kind of life I want to live. I’m still working on dissolving deep seeded self-doubt and self-criticism but have come a million miles over the past years. I’m accepting and appreciating the journey and continue to smile and laugh tons of times each day!
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate that I’m still here going strong after putting myself through a lot over the years physically and mentally. I appreciate my unbending positive outlook on life and the goodness of people even through the mucky stuff.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
I’m proud of finally owning my voice as a writer and beginning to reveal my story, even the darkest parts. A highly rewarding achievement was learning how to do my own website – which I did for susanjacobswrites.com. It truly represents who I am and what I’m all about which is giving voice to things that matter. Goals and dreams are still many. Stay tuned for more on this.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I’m a Sagittarius so my internal editor is usually off! I say what I mean and mean what I say, like Dr. Seuss’ Horton the Elephant! I constantly want to lose 5-10 lbs but don’t do the work to make it happen. I am very hard on myself but at least now for the most part am aware when doing it and can snap out of it.
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love salsa dancing. It’s my passion, my therapy, makes me so happy people are constantly coming up to me at clubs to tell me I’m a beautiful dancer (insecure about that), and how great it is to watch me because my happiness comes through (confident about that). I love when my happiness is contagious. Like Yogi Bhajan says, “You should make yourself so happy.