By Susan Jacobs
While growing up I always heard that it takes seven muscles to smile and forty-nine to frown. True? Who knows? Try it and see which feels better and more natural. I’m not sure what you will find, but for me, it is definitely a smile.
So why is it that most people I see on the subway and wandering the streets of New York City, regardless of age, seem to have a frozen frown?
Yogi Bhajan says, “Even if you want to be dead, even if somebody is mad at you, just keep on smiling. See how fast he attacks you. You think a smile is not a power? It’s the most powerful tool a human has.”
For many of us, we practice yoga, meditation, and prayer as a way to find inner peace and connect to a higher consciousness and purpose. I grew up in an areligious household where we could curse freely, but ‘God’ was not in our vocabulary. Prayer was not anywhere in my consciousness although I did believe in some higher something or other that I then called the ‘Universe.’ My way to purge, connect with spirit, and find answers came through writing.
And then fifteen years ago, by chance, I found myself in a Kundalini Yoga class taught by Gurmukh Kaur while visiting Los Angeles. That one class changed the course of my life and me on the deepest possible level. I had been dabbling in yoga since a teenager but didn’t practice consistently—a part-time wanna-be yogini.
Kundalini Yoga and Yogi Bhajan’s teachings changed all that. It introduced me to the experience of having a mental, emotional, and spiritual colonoscopy, gave me comfort in using the G-word, and introduced chanting and prayer into my daily-ish practice.
Prayer has become my respite; a place I go whenever needing answers, to reconnect, and for peace. Initially, I worried that I wasn’t praying properly and wanted a ‘How To’ manual to ensure I chose the right words so my prayers would be answered. But I learned, at least for myself, that there is no wrong way. It is just a matter of speaking truthfully from my heart and being open to answers and signs in whatever form they may come. And they always do.
The other day I had an incident with a family friend in a restaurant when he turned on me for no apparent reason and began verbally attacking me, spewing a scary level of venom at me. To say this stunned me is an understatement. But even being taken by surprise, I miraculously remained calm and chose to excuse myself for a few moments, going into the bathroom to keep it together. Sitting in the bathroom, I started to pray, asking for guidance and the strength to remain calm, grounded, and with compassion.
This went against all natural responses I would have had some years ago when fight or flight adrenaline would have kicked in and made me want to win and hurt my attacker as much as he was hurting me. But on this evening, I wanted nothing to do with toxicity, so thanks to those few moments I took, I was able to reconnect with my integrity and the person that I am today.
I returned to the table, still under attack, smiled, remained grounded, and politely refused to continue the conversation, which was like throwing gasoline on a fire. The more calm and disengaged I was, the more infuriated he became, until finally he stormed out of the restaurant.
I was proud of how I handled the situation only having barked back twice instead of with a full-throttle attack, and realized that inch-by-inch does get you somewhere, even if you don’t feel like change and progress are happening.
So what would our collective experience look like if everyone walked around smiling, saying hello to strangers, and saying yes to all opportunities even if there’s nothing obvious in it for them? Now that’s an experiment I will begin to implement immediately. Care to join me?
Susan Jacobs, a freelance copywriter and strategic consultant living in Brooklyn, is a contributing author to the book Pain, Purpose, Passion: That Was Then, This Is Now, recently published by The Round House Press. Her writing has appeared in FourTwoNine Magazine, Aquarian Times, Spirituality & Health, PR Week, and IndieWire. She is working on several books for Round House and can be found at www.susanjacobswrites.com