As we sat down to for breakfast, Dharma began speaking, "It's so good to see you smiling, Irwin! You have a lovely smile. I only wish you'd smile more. Did you know, Irwin, that a frog's smile, is a language that even tadpoles understand?" In fact, I did not. So I asked him exactly what he was getting at. Dharma, as you may have already guessed, never talks just to hear the sound of his own voice. With him, every sentence is an opportunity for a lesson. He said, "Smiling is a universal language, my boy. Even those too young to have language skills understand a smile. Smiles are powerful means of communication." I guess that, on some level, I knew that. I just hadn't ever really thought much about it. I asked him if if there was any evidence that this was true. The minute I asked the question, I regretted it. Dharma isn't a frog of science, after all, he's a spiritual and life teacher who functions almost entirely on inner wisdom and teachings that have been passed down for eons. So I was quite surprised by his answer!
He knows that I love science and came prepared with facts that he knew I'd appreciate. He explained to me that smiles are more than just muscle movement, it is a quiet voice that says when someone is happy, pleased, or amused. Despite the fact that smiles are universally understood, there are different kinds of smiles and they can have multiple meanings. Studies have shown that Americans and Australian have smiles that are big and bold while those people living in Europe have smiles that were more restrained. Europeans tend to smile sparingly. Asians, however, are more demonstrative with their feelings and most of them will smile generously. Smiles can either be real or faked. Researchers have noted that genuine smiles, expressing genuine happiness, tend to include the crinkling at the corner of the eyes. Fake smiles bolt out in a flash but the eyes will show little expression in them.
As we finished up our pot of tea and the last few bites of our breakfast, Dharma reminded me that smiles are contagious. When you see someone smile, it pretty darn hard to not smile right along with them. Studies have shown, too, that faking a smile when you're feeling a little down can actually help you feel better. That simple facial expression sends messages to the brain that you are feeling happy. And be fore you know it, you really are.
As Dharma hopped away for the week, he told me to always smile from the heart; for those are the genuine smiles that light up the world.
Smiles bond humanity together; they are an expression of kindness. Smiles are meant to be shared. Everyone from tadpoles and baby humans, to those who live halfway around the globe will understand what you mean when you flash them your "pearly whites." Smiles truly are a universal language. We are all born knowing how to smile. They don't require any special skill or training. But it seems that all too often we forget. Dharma challenged me to smile at everyone one I meet today. And I'm up for it. Smiling at babies and young children is easy. Old folks, too. It's the rest of humanity in the middle that can cause us problems. He recommended that I look into the eyes of every single person I meet today and see their their true beauty. Offering them a smile acknowledges that you see them and accept who they are.
I challenge you to try smiling more, too. The world can look a little dark these days. Your smile can make it brighter. As Mother Teresa so beautifully said, "Let's always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."