Can you smile?

This past spring I taught a writing class, instructing participants on how to begin the process of writing their story. The group had many different writing goals. Some just wanted to start journaling; others wanted to bring a familial situation out into the open, but didn’t know how to write about it since it involved living relatives; and, others were drawn to the class out of curiosity. All were searching for their voice, and many tended to have something troubling and deep that they wanted to bring to the surface.

In the writing of any personal narrative, it is important that the writer be clear on their motivation for writing. I would highly suggest to anyone who is still living in a place of resentment, or is looking to expose another, to keep their writing confined to the pages of a journal until they have moved passed this place.

It is also very important that the writer can speak honestly with themselves about everything. If there are still things a person tries to avoid, or the person tries to spin in the opposite direction of its truth, then this person is not ready to write their story. At least not from a position of honesty.

There is a mediation that I like to guide people through that is meant to have them look at their physicality, and to have them begin an internal dialog that is truthful and non-threatening. If we don’t feel safe being vulnerable with ourselves first, we will never open up to a wider audience.

This mediation is an amalgamation of different mediations I have been led through. It was one of my dance students’ favorites, and, it is my understanding that the participants in my writing class, who were all adults, really liked it.

I had the group do several deep breaths before beginning.

The mediation goes like this: Close your eyes and imagine that you are walking down a path. The path runs through the middle of a large plush, green valley. Far off in the distance is a mountain range, its jagged peaks are high above the tree line. Wild flowers blow in the gentle breeze sweeping through the valley.

As you are walking, you notice someone off in the distance walking towards you. As the person nears, you notice something familiar in their gate, and in their body’s size and shape. They sit down upon a bench that is randomly placed along the path. You continue to walk towards the person. You begin to feel an overwhelming sense of peace as you draw nearer.

You approach the bench and realize it is you. You are looking at you dressed in the same clothes you are wearing and, your hair is the same, your smile is the same, your posture is the same. Take a moment and look at yourself. Pay very close attention to how you feel seeing you right in front of you.

After a few moments, you sit down beside you. The other you asks, “How are you doing today? Is there anything you need to talk about?”

How do you answer? How open are you? Do you hold back? How nervous are you to be honest with yourself? When you do answer, how does the other you respond?

When your conversation comes to a natural end, you both stand up. You face you, and slowly and intentionally you look at yourself. And then, you embrace yourself. Can you do this? How does it feel to do it?

Then, the other you reminds you that this bench and he or she is always willing to sit with you and listen. You can always talk to you here in this safe place.

You part and continue on down the path.

I end the mediation with a simple breathing exercise by Thich Nhat Hanh.

While breathing in say internally the words I am happy.

While breathing out say internally the words I smile to the feeling of happiness within myself.

There were people in my class who were not able to smile. They were, in fact, barely able to breathe. This broke my heart, in part due to my overwhelming empathy. There was a time when I, too, could not smile after similar mediations.

Try the mediation. Can you smile?

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