To Breath and to Smile

Posted on December 14, 2009. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , |

To breathe and to smile? Why would I make such a ridiculous title for a post?

Look at the children. Examine their faces. My favorite smile is of course in the middle! I actually know these small children. I wish you could have could experienced meeting them like I did. These little expressions of joy I met while on my first trip to San Matias, a little Barangay (village) that was devastated by the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption years before in the Philippines. Despite their circumstances these children and their community have grace and hospitality, I have only observed first hand once in my life!

My wife and I walked the dirty street that led to her Grandmother’s small concrete home. We approached the gateway to the little dwelling when it seemed like 10 – 15 beautiful tiny figures gathered around in front of us. I did not know it but my wife was related to all of them and was greeting them for the first time! She had been away from her native country for 10 years so she had not seen these children. There is a custom in her country that the young are to always show respect to their elders. I had heard of this ritual but never participated first hand. The children formed a line in front of us. The first one grabbed my hand gently, bowed, placed the back of my and to his forehead. Each child repeated the same until they were done. I cannot accurately describe the feeling that came over me!

These children one by one paid respect to me and my wife as was their custom. You could see the fact that they were in poverty, a way of life that they were quite accustomed to.

I guess what I am trying to convey is when you strip life down to the very basics, all you really need in life is to breathe and to smile! You cannot tell me that these children are not living happy lives! I know they live on much less than we do, however they are happy in whatever circumstance they find themselves in!

We in the Western world are governed by our appetites, our addictions and to pop culture. We live our lives to varying degrees according to what our world view tells us is right. We are marketed to at every turn, overwhelmed with ads in print, television and on our smart phones! We are so engrossed in the virtual world that we miss out on reality!

I want you to try an exercise that I learned from a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a Buddhist and Zen Master from Vietnam. He has published many books and is known the world over for his wisdom. This particular book is entitled “The Miracle of Mindfulness“.

This simple exercise will help bring you back into focus so you can, like the little children, once again learn to smile and enjoy the little things. This is a breathing exercise, so find a quiet place the first time you do this. Soon you will be able to practice this wherever you are.
  • As you breathe in, say to yourself in your thoughts “I am breathing in a calming breath“.
  • As you breathe out, say to yourself in your thoughts “ I am breathing out a smile“. Put a smile on your face! It will amaze you how much better you will feel with a smile rather than a frown. The physical act of smiling will bring a happier emotion to you shortly if you will keep it up!
  • Next, as you breathe in again, say to yourself “ I am breathing in this present moment“. Take take time to be in that moment you are currently in and experience it.
  • Next, as you breathe out, say to yourself “ Wonderful moment“. We should be thankful for every moment we live.

By repeating this process you can achieve much comfort and stress relief! By counting our breath and making the most of each moment we can live a much richer and more fulfilling life!


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8 Responses to “To Breath and to Smile”

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Beautiful story. I agree we all need to smile more. And next time we feel down don't compare ourselves to wealthier neighbours or more successful relatives but to these kids. For them happiness comes from within.

Yes, we need to smile more! This is for me as much as anyone! You see some people who have a natural smile all the time. I wish I could be like that but I have to practice at it. I think my German roots have something to do with this.. Thanks for the comment!

i almost broke down with tears after reading this such a wonderful story, story that is true. I hope one day i will be able to touch my dream…. a dream of be able to help others specially those kids…kids that wants to go to school. providing school supplies, bag, and uniform.

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad someone is touched by the same things that I am. It is very special to help others, and it cost so little most of the time!

Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing

Thanks for your comment! For some reason your comment was hung up in spam. It is a great concept if we apply it. Feel free to come back!

Aren’t the children so precious? I just love them. The little ones always look at me in wonder as I walk by since they have not seen that many kanos in their rural town. I always say “hello”, and they greet me or give me a shy smile.

Coming from America, I know you can relate. This was my first afternoon after landing in the Philippines.

Culture shock had set in a little. Somehow I was wondering what I was doing in a poverty stricken place like this.

Just when I thought I had seen everything, these little children performed “Mano” and almost brought me to tears.

You well know, it’s these cultural differences that make me “Homesick for the Philippines”

Thanks for your comment. I really enjoy your blog. Is the 9.9 cents to the Philippines (phone calls) really that good of a deal? Thanks

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