Quieting my mind was never all that important to me. Racing thoughts and going a mile a minute seemed to be normal. After all, society tells us: life is supposed to fast-paced and whirling and that's just fine. It was sort of funny, though, because for so long I had lived my life as a "crunchy" sort of person--the sort that one would normally associate with concepts like meditation. Yet I had never so much as tried it.
Then one day, as if out of the blue, I decided very whimsically that I wanted to add my own version of meditation to my routine. It was, ironically, one line in a movie that prompted me to begin meditating, two words that I had not heard before used in such a way, "Smiling Meditation." Brilliant! I thought. That was just what I needed.
You see, I am a big proponent of the power of positive thought. I use it to keep my thoughts focused on what I do want, rather than what I don't. So I thought that I could use the smiling meditation as a catalyst to the process of positive thinking. And so I began crafting my version of the practice. Every morning after my morning coffee was downed, I would turn off the television and set my timer for 5 minutes. Then I would wait patiently as the feelings of happiness bubbled up inside me and-BAM!-a smile would stretch across my face. Then I would begin repeating to myself (in my head) what I was thankful for.... whenever I lost focus, I would return to my list of things that I was happy and thankful for.
I increased by a minute a day each day, but found myself stuck at about 8 minutes. "No worries, though," I thought to myself, "I will just continue to meditate for 8 minutes until it becomes easier." The overall effect it was having on my life was quite amazing, actually. I was feeling so much more centered than I ever had before. I was calmer and more focused. Even 8 minutes were making a huge difference. I was coming into a sense of self I hadn't anticipated.
But just as I was feeling the breeze of enlightenment coming to me, the world became an altogether different place. Within less than one month of each other, my stepsister (age 27) and a family friend, Jenna (age 22) both died suddenly and tragically. It was a lot to bear. It was horribly saddening; the type of circumstance that leaves you wondering how you will ever come to grips with the situations before you.
The thought of even practicing my smiling meditation at a time when there had been so much profound loss seemed completely outrageous. What would be the use of smiling? What would be the point? I wanted to just quit altogether and instead give in to the heavy grief with tears and anger. And then it hit me.... like a moment that shined as crystal clear as sunlight through water:
What good is smiling meditation at all if you only do it when you are happy?
The real challenge and reward lies in smiling and feeling the feelings of happiness when it is does not come as easily. Though I was feeling a distinct lack of happiness in the moments of grief that followed these deaths, it was then I also found the most solace in giving thanks for the things I had. Smiling didn't come as easily, but it did come eventually.
What I learned through continuing on the road of smiling mediation through grief was that I had the power and strength to soothe even my most dire grief through my own happiness. This was a major breakthrough on many levels. I drew from within myself to realize things that I never thought possible. I know that it helped me to overcome these daunting circumstances. Though there are still hurdles I will have to overcome in my ongoing process of grieving, at least I know that everything I need to do so exists within myself. That knowledge has set me on a path where I can have my grief, but also my happiness. And that is how smiling meditation has saved me.
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