Promises, Promises

Asian Woman Smiling

Dear Readers,

I have a confession to make.

No, really.  It’s alright.  Accountability … personal responsibility … making amends … you know, those full psychological integration reminders that buzz in your brain like those feathery microscopic gnats that inevitably swoop up your nose or land in your mouth?

OK.   Let’s get to it.  In my April 1, 2014 blog post, “I’d Even Wear a Toga if it Would Help my Yoga,” I stated that I would try an approach to meditation that I’d read about in Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love.  At the time, I said I would do this as a two-week experiment, and then report my experience to you.

Now, I’m sure you remember, and you have been politely waiting for my follow-up.  You are both kind and patient.  The truth is, I failed in my efforts after a mere two days.

By way of reminder, I referenced a passage in Gilbert’s book in which she discusses the fairly negative perspective on yoga conveyed by her medicine man, Ketut Liyer.  He says,

“Why they always look so serious in yoga?  You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy.  To meditate, only you must smile.  Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy.”


I recall those my two shallow efforts at sitting still with my eyes closed.  Rather than take enough time to focus, I got caught up in how I must have looked, sitting there quietly with a smile on my face.  It felt awkward.  How should I smile?  Should it be a slight smile?  Open-mouthed or close-mouthed?  A grin?  This actually mattered to me.  As if someone was there to watch and offer a critique.   At one point I wanted to burst out laughing.  Talk about your over-thinking.

There was no conscious decision to discontinue trying — I think I simply never fully committed to the effort.

African American Male Smiling

Then …  the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and the seasons changed, and the memory began to gnaw at me.

You know, like that mossy feeling your teeth get when you  don’t brush them for several weeks?  Or the discomfort you feel when you put your shoes on the wrong feet and you are just too busy to switch them?   Or when you put your underwear on backwards and you don’t realize it until you are in the middle of an important  presentation?   Or that feeling you get when you’re talking to someone at a public occasion, and the person has one of those dry flaky boogers hanging out of their nose, and it comes fluttering all the way out of their nasal cavity –  with each exhalation –  retreating back up the nasal passage with the next inhalation, only to re-appear again and again all evening long until you just want to shriek or crawl under the table because you can’t bear to let them know what’s happening and you must do everything in your power to hold your dinner down?

Anyway, it was really starting to get to me.  I had not kept my promise.

But recently, I returned to  a yoga DVD that I hadn’t used in a while, and I noted that throughout the routine the instructor wore a gentle, pleasant smile – very inviting.  She modeled serenity.  Then I played a new video, recently purchased, and noted that the instructor not only smiled throughout the routine but directly commented on the power of a smile to influence attitude and confidence in managing challenging yoga poses.

White Woman With Gray Hair Smiling

That did it.

So here I am, returning to my pledge to attempt two weeks of quiet smile-meditation.  I’m putting it in writing:

I, Sheila Kerwin, pledge to try daily smile-meditation for two weeks, from July 22, 2014 through August 5, 2014, and to report my experiences to you , my Esteemed Readers, within 5 days of completing this two-week project.


(Not my actual thumb print, but you get my meaning.  My thumb’s not that big.  This is closer to the scale of my big toe.)

Sheila Kerwin, 7/21/14

So … a smile begets motivation.  A smile begets confidence.  If you can smile, you can smile!

And who cares what you look like when you are smiling with your eyes closed!  That’s not the point!

Allow me to close here by taking a page from my favorite self-help guru, Stuart Smalley, who reminds us to resist “stinkin’ thinkin’:”  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”


My smile meditation project begins in twelve hours.

So now you know what I’m doing to fight that dirty energy.   What are you doing?  C’mon, now!  Share!











2 thoughts on “Promises, Promises”

  1. I…love this post. If I may offer further evidence of the power of the smile: in the vocal/choral world, I often ask my students to “put a smile in their sound” or “stick a smile INSIDE your mouth” or my favorite (stolen by Tyra Banks) “smile with your eyes.”

    I know you’re wondering how on Earth one manages this, but it has more to do with relaxation of tensed up facial and neck muscles than you may imagine. “Putting a smile in your sound/smiling with your eyes” also lifts the soft palate which encourages better oxygenation and sound production, not to mention you just look HAPPIER!

    Go rock your smile therapy, friend. The face you’re looking for is the “smelling a fresh batch of cookies” face. (You’re welcome).

  2. Dear master musician, thank you for teaching me more about the power of the smile on singing — the attitude and the physiology and the connection with audience. I love it. Triple power. A certain upcoming co-presented workshop comes to mind …

    And thanks for the support. I can truthfully report that I did smile-meditate before heading to work this morning. Tomorrow will be so much easier, now that you have given me the mental image to use during said effort.


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