I’ve been wondering about how we mirror our inner environment, our thoughts, our relationships. We often believe that our appearance is neutral in the sense that we can dress it up or down and make it reflect whatever mood we wish. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that.
There is an energy within that isn’t so easily masked, that seeps through, no matter how thick the make up or how loud the laugh. When we are all about adding to the external – even changing diets or spending hours at the gym – the inside makes itself known. Perhaps we harbor some belief that by shifting the outer skin, that change will penetrate deep into our inner recesses and transform what lies there.
I’ve noticed during my travels on the New York City subway that no one smiles. Sometimes kids or babies do, but adults, no. Even abiding by the rules of subway etiquette, not making eye contact, one can see that the faces all seem to carry some degree of worry or tension. I would even guess that most thoughts behind those expressions have to do with what lies ahead that day or what happened earlier. You simply don’t see a look of contentment or satisfaction anywhere, let alone a hint of a smile.
I recall what riding the NYC subway was like in the late 60’s or early 70’s. You had to be alert to who was around you and what was happening as a way of protecting yourself and staying safe. But there is much less crime now allowing for a more relaxed atmosphere. And still no one smiles.
I’m not expecting wild grinning or raucous laughter, but what would it take to reflect more of an inner peace rather than tension or worry? I recently brought my metta (lovingkindness) practice into the NYC subway. So now I sit (or stand) and wish for everyone in the subway car to be happy, to be healthy, to be free from harm and to live with ease. I wish this over and over again while I ride the train. I realize that wishing doesn’t make it so, and the practice might seem simplistic, however, something interesting happened while I was practicing metta.
Here’s what I noticed: I wasn’t making judgments about any of the people around me. I wasn’t thinking about what I had to do the rest of the day. I wasn’t preoccupied with what had happened the day, week or month before. I wasn’t berating myself for not having done whatever I should have done or said. I wasn’t thinking about how I looked or felt. I was peaceful and the suggestion of a smile was spreading from the inside out.
I realized that all the while I had been wondering why no one was smiling, I wasn’t smiling either.
The Full Moon may have passed on to the next phase this month, but the experience of it lingers. What I’ve noticed since a very young age is that the Full Moon has the capacity to elicit a particular response in me. My first reaction to seeing it is to smile. I don’t mean a slight upturning of the corners of my mouth but, instead, a broad, beaming smile spreads across my face. It seems to come from somewhere deep inside and simply overflow.
Interesting that I have never really explored the feelings and thoughts associated with this Full Moon smile. Why is it that it’s so much easier to put energy into feelings and thoughts that are unpleasant or fear-based? Those are generally what pull our attention and take up space in our thinking/feeling lives. They are the ones that torture us, that become the middle-of-the-night voice that keeps us awake. And we become the loser in the fight against them, trying so hard to shut the door tight and keep them out.
As an alternative to focusing on that which is disturbing to us, how about spending time with what makes us smile? How would it be to explore the character and qualities of those things that bring us joy – even if that sense is fleeting? Bringing the energy of this inquiry to my Full Moon smiles, I’d say the feelings are layered. The sensation that seems to form the basis of my experience is one of being protected and looked after. I remember as a child walking the short walk home from the neighbor’s house in the dark, looking up and seeing the Full Moon and feeling safe. As long as the Full Moon was there, I didn’t need to be scared. It wasn’t so much that it made me smile as it translated into a sense of being okay with the dark. Of course, the bolstering of confidence came not from the Moon but from inside me – an awareness that didn’t emerge until many years later.
Since that time, the Full Moon has reappeared with some regularity, barring clouds and storms. Always there is for me an accompanying feeling of reassurance, like an old friend. There is a familiarity that comes with seeing it that is a “coming home” experience for me. I feel grounded and secure, and it matters not that the feeling may not last. All feelings and thoughts arise and pass away no matter what we do. What’s important is nurturing the ability to come back to the sense of smiling. That sense can be something that is carried inside of us, kind of an anchor to our ground of being. For me the Full Moon serves as the key to open the door and tap into the joyful energy that is there.
So, where is it that you find your Full Moon smiles?