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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