Sit and smile

I was reading tonight in Eat Pray Love and I came across a passage where Elizabeth Gilbert is learning from a Ketut, a Balinese medicine man.  She writes:

He tells me that there are many ways to find God but most are too complicated for Westerners, so he will teach me an easy meditation.  Which goes, essentially, like this: sit in silence and smile.  I love it.  He’s laughing even as he’s teaching it to me.  Sit and smile.  Perfect….

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.  Even smile in your liver.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

When I read this it made me smile because it made me think of my own yoga experience.  I used to be so annoyed when the instructor would tell us to smile in a particularly challenging pose.  My brain didn’t know what to do with this request, so I would paste on a smile or roll my eyes and ignore the instruction.  As Princess Buttercup said to the Dread Pirate Roberts, You mock my pain!

But there is power in this simple request: sit and smile.  Actually I think this is one of the most important disciplines to master for one who is seeking happiness.  Sit and smile.  Let’s break it down.  

Sit. This implies stillness.  A quieting of the monkey brain, which, for me, initially feels like a wrestling match. And when it becomes clear that the monkey is going to win, then a release or surrender.  It’s like the decision to relinquish control IS what ultimately grants it.  So one must first learn to sit in stillness. 

Smile. A smile is just a facial expression, but I love what Ketut instructs, Even smile in your liver.  To really smile it has to come from deep inside—at least, to really mean it. It’s the letting go that really allows for this.  It’s hard to have a genuine smile through your entire body when you are white-knuckling in anyway.  

Thank you, yoga, for teaching me this. I’ve noticed this when I’ve continued to hold the pose, but understood that perfection is not required.  And furthermore, constant shifting of the pose until theoretical perfection is obtained—also not required.  

I’m going to pause here because THIS is mind-blowing for me.  I’m not required to constantly shift and work and adjust and strain until perfection is obtained?  Really?  There is space in life for a moment’s pause to sit and smile?  

I’m not sure I was ever conscious enough to notice my constant shifting and adjusting, let alone to decide when/if it was necessary.  The truth is, I do want to be better at the yoga pose and at life.  I’m going to naturally shift and progress, but there is something to be said for holding the pose without adjustment.  

This brings me to my main thought of the past month.  I re-listened to Sue Monk Kidd on the Oprah Super Soul podcast while I was in Santa Cruz.  She, so pleasantly, told Oprah,

“I remember thinking, It’s time to start finding things…There’s a hunger in you and I think it’s appropriate to follow that, but we should also be finders at the same time.  It’s one of those paradoxes that I’m getting more comfortable living with.  That we can be a seeker and a finder at the same time.  

We have to acknowledge sometimes that this moment is enough, this place is enough, I am enough, it’s okay. And if I never seek another thing, it’s enough.”

Sue Monk Kidd on Oprah Super Soul Sunday

This is where I’m trying to live for the time being:  This moment is enough.  This place is enough.  I’m enough.  

I’m learning to sit and smile.