I’ve taken to writing the word ‘Smile’ on the back of my hand for the last few days. It’s a reminder that that is just about the best I can do for a calm happy life.
Getting up earlier, at 6 a.m., to start a new regular meditation practice… didn’t work. I just felt grumpy and exhausted when it was time to get the kids to bed in the evening. Trying to meditate after lunch when the house was quiet… didn’t work, I just fell asleep every time.
Filled with despair at the realisation that I’d never reach high level meditative states of mental calm by sitting still and breathing, I saw that to give up, to say people with jobs or families can’t live deep, happy, inner-peaceful existences, was silly. No one would deny us that!
I remembered that the Plum Village tradition I’ve been following for years had given me all the answers to this problem. I walk, don’t I? I eat. I turn on the tap. I get up in the morning. I talk to people. Drink tea. All of these are doorways, opportunities for mindfulness, for peace, happiness.
And easier than even all of that, the simplest thing, the easiest practice I have on hand at every moment, is to smile. If I deliberately put on a grumpy face all day, I’ll probably end up grumpy. If I take time to smile as often as possible, I end up happier.
And it’s an antidote to everything. Feeling tired? Smile to my tiredness and already it feels better. Angry? Smile to my anger and, well, it’s a start in the right direction! Smile to my fears, and they smile back and wander away.
So, with the realization that as a busy working dad I’m not going to become enlightened by sitting on a meditation cushion for ten hours a day, and that I’ll probably forget to be mindful when turning on a tap, ‘Smile’ has become my lowest common denominator.
Smile to life, smile to my wife, smile to people on the street, smile when I see smile written on the back of my hand. Smile when I’m interrupted writing this blog post. Smile to the bamboo leaves in the sun in front of this garden table, smile to the birds singing in the trees, and the whir of the construction crane from the house they are building down the road. Smile to my grumpiness at night, smile to my kids, smile to the ants, smile to the sky, smile to the wispy cloud passing overhead. Smile because I’ve just written all of this.