The week after Christmas is typically one of the slowest weeks. The holiday rush is over. Aside from New Year’s Eve plans, things are remarkably chill. No sports practices, no school, no carting kids all over town.
Therefore, this morning, since I had some time on my hands, I took a moment to reflect on the practice of sitting.
When you’ve been meditating a while, sitting becomes a really pleasurable experience. If you’re new to meditation, then this might ring a bit hollow. Sitting, in the beginning, can seem torturous. Aren’t I supposed to be doing something? What am I doing here? Is that a spider crawling up my back? Crap! My legs have fallen asleep…again...
After a lot of practice, sitting takes on a new feeling. Of course, there are times when it can be frustrating, times when I can’t stop thinking about all the things that I’ve got to do later today. But, for the experienced sitter, these simply become part of the meditation: Oh, another thought about what I need to do has popped into my head. Heh. Back to the breath.
If you are having trouble getting to that space, however, sitting can feel like torment. So, I thought I’d offer you a couple of thoughts to consider as you work toward finding the peace and pleasure of sitting.
The Secret of the Serene Smile
When I begin a meditation session, I almost always have a set jaw and my tongue on the roof of my mouth. That’s tension and stress at work. The face becomes hardened. Everything's locked up. When I use a guided meditation app (Calm and Headspace are my go-to apps these days), the instructor often reminds me to soften my jaw and to let my tongue rest.
To be honest, just doing those two things — relaxing my jaw and letting gravity take my tongue down where it belongs — make a world of difference. I can feel a relaxation sweep down the rest of my body. (Instructors will often tell you to un-knit or soften your eyebrows. Also helpful! We carry a lot of tension in our eyes...)
Then, the instructor typically gives me the final piece of the puzzle to help me find the enjoyment of the moment. Different instructors will call it different things, but I call it the serene smile.
The idea is dead simple. After relaxing your jaw and ungluing your tongue from the roof of your mouth, all you have to do is put on a little smile. I’m not talking about a full-on CHEESE for the cameras kinda smile. No. It’s more like a Mona Lisa smile.
Almost every time I do this, I feel a conscious lift, as if the upturning of the corners of my mouth leads to an uptick in my mood.
Taking a moment to consciously relax that and then produce a smile always changes things.
The Silence is the Peace
Sometimes, when we sit for meditation, we feel like we need to do something, like we have to manufacture a feeling or a thought or some special kind of focus. These little efforts, however, can be counterproductive because they robs us of what we’re really seeking: peace.
The cult of productivity tells us to go-go-go-go! But what most of us really need is a moment of peace. Next time you sit for meditation — perhaps right after you read this post — bring this to mind early on: the silence is the peace.
You have everything you require happening right here and right now. Enjoy it! Lean into the peace, turn on that serene little smile, and find your home.