The two finger smile
Praise saves us money, enriches our relationships and creates
happiness. We need to spread more of it around.
The hardest person to give any praise to is ourself. I was
brought up to believe that someone who praises themself
becomes big-headed. That's not so. They become bighearted.
Praising our good qualities to ourself is positively encouraging them.
When I was a student, my first meditation teacher gave
me some practical advice. He began by asking me the first
thing I did after getting up in the morning.
'I go to the bathroom,' I said.
'Is there a mirror in your bathroom?' he enquired.
'Good,' he said, 'Now, every morning, even before you
brush your teeth, I want you to look in that mirror and smile
'Sir!' I began to protest. 'I am a student. Sometimes I go
to bed very late, and get up in the morning not feeling
my best. Some mornings, I would be frightened to look at
myself in a mirror, let alone smile!'
He chuckled, looked me in the eye and said, 'If you cannot
manage a natural smile, then take your two index fingers,
place one on each corner of your mouth, and push up. Like
this.' 'And he showed me.
He looked ridiculous. I giggled. He ordered me to try it.
So I did.
The very next morning, I dragged myself out of bed and
staggered to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror.
'Urrgh!'. It wasa not a pretty sight. A natural smile wasn't
a goer. So I got out my two index fingers, placed one on
each corner of my mouth and pushed up. I then saw this
stupid young student making a silly face in the mirror, and
I couldn't help grinning. Once there was a natural smile,
I saw the student in the mirror smiling at me. So I smiled
even more. The man in the mirror smiled even more. In a
few seconds, we ended up laughing at each other.
I continued that practice every morning for two years.
Every morning, no matter how I felt when I got out of bed,
I was soon laughing at myself in the mirror, usually with the
help of my two fingers. People say I smile a lot these days.
Perhaps the muscles around my mouth got kind of stuck in
We can try the two-finger trick any time of the day. It
is especially useful when we feel sick, fed up or downright
depressed. Laughter has been proved to release endorphins
into our bloodstream, which strengthens our immune system
and make us feel happy.
It helps us see the 998 good bricks in our wall, not only
the two bad bricks. And laughter makes us look beautiful.
That's why I sometimes call our Perth Buddhist temple
'Ajahn Brahm's Beauty Salon'.
Opening the Door of Your Heart and other Buddhist Tales of Happiness. Hachette Australia.