Each year, as we get close to Independence Day, there is a phrase that follows me in my thoughts. It comes in whispers, the earnest last words of men and women long dead, urging me to consider. If the words are true, then I have something in me that is inalienable, something I cannot give up, nor can it be taken from me. The phrase turns into questions. How am I caring for my life and liberty? Where am I in my pursuit of happiness? Honestly, for a very long time, I lost the path. At this time of year, when I could be reveling in summer and the long hours of light, the questions seemed heavy. I felt like a failure, like the alienable American. The pursuit of happiness did not seem like a viable venture to me, so I searched for things I could pursue other than happiness. I would catch my face resting in a frown and feel deeply unhappy. I may have wanted to be happy, but I didn’t know how I could do happy. Then, quite by accident, I discovered that in my body, I have a passage that I can access through which happiness can come in. Does that sound strange?Everyone knows that the eyes are the window to the soul, and, I hear Pete Townshend when he sings, “let my love open the door… to your heart.” Why not have a hatch we can open and let in the fresh air of happiness? I want to say:
A smile is that passage through which happiness can enter the soul.
For several years, Beth Galis has been telling those of us who attend her hot yoga studio that a smile will bring ease to the practice. After taking more than a year off of yoga to recover from a back injury, I decided to come back to the practice and to enjoy it. I am there because I choose to be there. I know it is good for me. There is no place else I want to be in those moments, those hours. I breathe, I smile, I listen, and I do. Smiling is what I do to inform my face that I am there to enjoy my body and soak up all of the goodness I can from the practice. I started smiling because Beth said it would make the practice easier. Who doesn’t want easier? It works. The more I smile, the more I enjoy the class and the easier it is to do it. Then I had a private healing session with Beth in which we were able to identify and release some negative emotional baggage. Soon afterwards, I found myself driving down the road and smiling for no reason and not willfully. It just welled up from inside, and I recognized it as actual happiness. What a gift. I smile a lot these days. My happiness is independent of any other person or circumstance. No one and no thing made me happy.