Smile please!

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Albert Einstein

The 20th-century mathematical genius Einstein’s revelation is lucidly illustrated in this ancient Japanese fable:

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of A Thousand Mirrors.

A happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit.

When she arrived, she bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. She looked through the doorway with her ears lifted high and her tail wagging as fast as it could. To her great surprise, she found herself staring at a thousand happy little dogs, with their tails wagging just as fast as hers. She smiled a great smile, and was answered with a thousand great smiles just as warm and friendly as her own.

As she left the house, she thought to herself, “What a wonderful place. I’ll come back and visit it often.”

Then another little dog, not as happy as the first one, also decided to visit the house.

He slowly climbed the stairs and suspiciously looked inside the door, his head hung low. When he saw a thousand unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them, and was horrified to see a thousand little dogs growling back at him.

As he left, he thought to himself, “What a horrible place. I’ll never go back there again.”

The exact same place showed up entirely differently according to the life-condition of the little dog entering it.

Imagine the impact, therefore, that we can have in our workplaces, religious organisations, Zoom meetings, social gatherings, and so on, by deciding to approach them with a big smile.

And how much more enriching and enjoyable the experience will be for us!

A smile is not only the result of happiness but can also be the cause of happiness. ~ Daisaku Ikeda

We usually think that something good has to happen first, and then we’ll smile. The Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda asks us to rethink the paradigm. And scientific research backs this up.

A study published in the journal Experimental Psychology, reported that smiling — even a fake smile — can have a positive impact on your mood. Apparently, when you force a smile, it stimulates the amygdala (the emotional brain centre) which then releases neurotransmitters that encourage an emotionally positive state. So consciously making your face smile can make your brain think that you’re happy, and then you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way. Just like the happy little dog in the fable!

This might surprise westerners, but not so much people from the east. This is the principle behind Laughter Yoga, for example, which started in India, where basically you have to force yourself to laugh out loud for a prolonged period of time. This is known as “simulate to stimulate” – the more formal expression of “fake it ’til you make it!” And in my experience, it works.

And Buddhism has always taught the oneness of mind and body. Just as the body can follow the mind (I feel happy, so I smile) the mind can equally well follow the body. Try it! Make your face smile! If you’re anything like me, your mind will resist, thinking, “This is phony. It’s not going to make any difference.” But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And imagine what a different outcome the unhappy little dog could have if he read this article and returned to the House of A Thousand Mirrors with a smile, albeit initially a forced one!

Life is beautifully simple when we allow it to be. 🙂

My thanks to Batel Studio on Unsplash for the photo!