The Well

Archive for September, 2010

Good Expectations

by Andrew Shaw on Sep.26, 2010, under Recent Posts

For over thirty years, the nation of Denmark has consistently ranked as one of the most happy places in the world, and the people of Denmark tend to be the most satisfied with their lives.  In trying to understand what makes Danes score so high on satisfaction surveys, researchers have found that it has a lot to do with their level of expectation.  Danes report having lower expectations for the year to come compared to most other nations.  And year after year, they are pleasantly surprised when things went better than expected and they feel more satisfied and happy as a result.

American society tends to overvalue the concept of “more.”  More possessions, more achievement, more success, more expectation.  More expectations for what we should have in life— money, houses, cars, toys, the perfect mate, the perfect body, and so on— fosters excessive desire, which will cause frustration, disappointment and pain, because sooner or later, we will run up against something that we want but can’t have.  We see this too in regards to overexpectation for ourselves and others.  We expect too much from a friend or a loved one and we get upset when they let us down.  Or we berate ourselves when we fail or come up short.  The problem with all this expectation is that it naturally leads to the feeling, “never good-enough.” Never good-enough is a recipe for continuous unhappiness and suffering.

So does this mean we should lower all our expectations, or for that matter, not have any at all? Wouldn’t that stop us from working hard to accomplish our goals or from trying to change things in our life for the better? Ultimately, as with most things, it’s about finding that right middle-point.  If our expectations are too high, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and unhappiness.  If they are too low, it extinguishes our aspirations, energy and willingness to challenge ourselves and reach our full potential.  It’s important to remind ourselves to maintain this balance; for each of us to reflect on where we fall on the expectation continuum, and adjust our expectations accordingly.  This may very well be another key to happiness… just look at the Danes!

Be Well

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Smile Awhile

by Andrew Shaw on Sep.08, 2010, under Recent Posts

“In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.” -Mantak Chia

If you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, or seen the movie, you may recall the part about smiling meditation.  A sage medicine man provides a profound lesson about simply sitting and smiling.  Practice smiling with your whole body, he says, “even smile in your liver.”  It seems like such a basic instruction, to smile to ourselves.  But offering this loving attention in this way can be very powerful and healing.  Smiling in/to your liver, and any other part of your body for that matter, helps you to feel relaxed, peaceful, happier and healthier.

Try It Yourself

Bring your attention to your lips, to the corners of your mouth. Notice the feeling of the corners of your mouth as they are in their neutral, relaxed state. Now, ever so slightly, raise the corners of the mouth until you feel the “inner smile”. Perhaps imperceptible by an outside observer, you are lifting the corners of your mouth, ever so mindfully, until you feel a distinct shift in energy, a warm sense of well-being.   Allow the corners of your mouth to remain in this uplifting position and turn your attention to the inside of your eyes. First, notice them as they are in their neutral, relaxed state. Then, ever so slightly, raise the corners of the eyes until you feel the “inner smile” feeling here also. The corners of the eyes and mouth should now feel like one unit radiating a distinct, warm sense of well-being. This feeling is “The Inner Smile”.

As an informal practice, whenever it occurs to you, periodically come back and witness your face throughout the day. Bring your attention back to feeling the inner corners of your mouth and eyes as they are in any given moment. Then choose to practice The Inner Smile.   As a formal practice, the energy of The Inner Smile can be consciously directed downward into the heart, the belly, the liver, the stomach, the legs… to the whole of the body … in directed flows through particular parts of the body or as a radiating whole. For more formal directions, read ”The Inner Smile” chapter in Mantak Chia’s book “Awaken Healing Energy through the Tao”.

Be Well

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