‘What’s the big deal?” you might ask. Well, when my facial muscles are in that repose, it feels like there is some dark veil over my life, I’m not angry or upset, I’m calm and peaceful, but experience happiness I don’t. I know that whether I do Thich Nhat Hanh’s “mouth yoga” and bring a smile purposefully to my face, or when I’m out and purposefully emanate loving kindness and feel a smile on my face, I feel lighter, freer. But those remedial efforts have just proven to be temporary.
Recently, a friend related his experience when he followed a teaching he found that encouraged opening his heart to embracing all aspects of himself, including his dark side. He noted that I was often caught up in trying to free myself from various “problems” and that I should try this practice of embracing them instead.
And so when I next meditated, I sat with my heart and I felt it embrace my weaknesses, my dark side, and my moroseness. As my heart embraced, I hugged myself. The experience was cathartic, with tears streaming down my face.
Last winter, when I realized from within that fear and thus other emotions were indeed just a product of my mind and thus “not me,” and let them go, not engaging them, I was doing as the Buddha taught. (See my post, "Proof of the Nature of Mind - Fear, Ego, and Buddha Mind.") And for emotions like fear and anger this has worked. These emotions generally do not even arise anymore, and when they do I’m very aware and allow them to subside. So they are there, just not front and center. But for things like my perpetual frown it didn't, and I went further and tried to get rid of them.
I’m aware and have written that our ego mind is part of us and will always be a part of us.; it and true Buddha mind are just the polar ends of the mind’s continuum. Ego-mind will never go away. Beyond that fact, however, I have come to believe that whatever has been causing my facial muscles to be in a perpetual frown was so global, so in my bones, and not an emotion per se, that using the technique of “not me” just hadn’t worked. It wasn't an example of ego-mind at work.
Trying to get rid of these "problems" had given them strength instead. As the ancient Chinese poem "Affirming Faith in Mind" says, "seek rest and no rest comes instead." But opening up my heart to embrace this physical aspect of my psychology, while recognizing that it is “not me,” removed all internal struggle and I believe sort of smothered these negative feelings with love. I was made whole.
And as a result of this, I was able for the first time to know from within myself the truth of Pema Chodron’s teaching that we have everything we need to be happy and at peace inside ourselves. Only we can take that away. And by implication, we have the power to give it back. I felt an undefined faith and trust, and because I was one with my heart, I felt strong. And I smiled.
And so that day when I was out and about, I felt my heart embrace me and I was aware throughout the day that I have everything I need to be at peace and happy inside myself, that regardless where I was or what was going on around me I would be happy if I only looked to myself. And I was indeed happy and at peace. I was aware of my surroundings, but all the things that usually pulled me away from my happiness, were just there with no power. And so I smiled, not purposefully, but naturally. And I felt that smile on my face all day accompanied by a joyful energy, and in the days since.