Light Inside the Darkness: Musings on Meditation and Energy Work

The Secret Smile

In Esoteric Taoism they believe that high levels of chi energy can cause one’s emotional state to expand, whatever that may be. I can verify that from my own experience; meditate when you’re feeling good and you come away almost giddy. Meditate too often when you’re feeling down and you could end up dealing with your problems Kurt Cobain-style and that’s definitely not the end result most people want. Meditation, near as I can tell, does not change you, it simply makes you more of what you already are. The simple act of breathing and quieting the internal chatter can make you calmer, but it rarely changes the underlying emotional feeling.

Fortunately the Taoists recognized this potential trap and came up with exercises designed to create a happy, positive frame of mind, chief among these a useful set of visualizations called the inner smile. The original exercise involves smiling down into the body and encouraging the various internal organs to become “happy” organs, a process that sounds a bit strange to Westerners and can also be a bit time-consuming. Dr. Glenn J. Morris, founder of the Hoshinroshiryu, developed a version of the inner smile exercise that can be done quickly and effectively to achieve much of the same effects. He added in positive visualizations drawn his background in transpersonal psychology to increase the efficacy of the exercises. Dr. Morris’s variation, The Secret Smile, has been used by Hoshin students for several years to great effect. You can combine this with the exercises given from my previous columns to create a very powerful technique for positive thinking.


1. Hit the position of choice. Initially, you’ll need to peace and quiet, but you’ll eventually get to the point when you can do this anywhere. Close your eyes and put your gaze up between your eyebrows. Slow down your breathing and pay attention to the phosphenes behind the eyes.
2. Put a smile on your face. If your tense, squeeze your muscles tightly – starting from the toes and working your way up to the head – and release. Do this three times and allow yourself to enjoy the relaxed feeling.
3. Bring the relaxed feeling up your legs, up the back, over the head and back down the front of the body to a point just two inches or so below the belly button. Use the Kinesthetic technique from last month to swirl the feeling around in your lower belly as if you were stirring a glass of chocolate milk. If you can, time it with your breathing: bring the feeling up the body on the IN breath and down the body on the OUT breath. Do this three times.
4. Remember a time when you did something you were immensely proud of, an event where other people recognized your achievement. Try to engage all the senses, remember the sights, sounds, scents, anything to make the memory more engaging. You should be associated in this memory (seeing through your own eyes instead of watching a movie of yourself). Eventually, let the imagery fade and hold onto the feeling. Take it down to your feet and repeat step 3. Breathe the feeling of pride of accomplishment up and down through your body 3 times.
5. Remember a time when you were laughing so hard you could barely stand up. Pick a time when you just completely lost it. Again, fade out the imagery and breathe the feeling of wild laughter through your body 3 times.
6. Remember a time when you felt loved, safe and loving. Fade the pictures and hold onto the feeling. Take it down the feet and breathe it through the body 3 times.
7. Try to take all three of these feelings – pride of accomplishment, wild laughter, and love – and move them through your body. Continue with this as long as you want.
8. Memorize the feeling and try hold on to it after you open your eyes. This is a great exercise to perform in the morning before work or school or before you engage in other forms of meditation and energy work.


You should practice the Secret Smile daily until it becomes natural to everything you do. Internalizing feelings this way can help make you calm, cool, confident and happy. You increase the feelings with a little research into NLP submodalities. If you’re having a hard time coming up with any positive memories, then use your imagination: what would it feel like to fall down laughing, to be loved, to be recognized for your achievements. If you use your imagination, make sure you step out of your eyes and see the imagery as if you were watching a movie of yourself. This gives your mind something to shoot for. See yourself as happy, confident, and loved. Powerful, positive thinking has been linked to better health and the secret smile internalizes those emotions so you don’t have to think happy, you just feel it. Remember, we feel before we think.

For more variations of the Secret Smile, as well as many more interesting exercises, check out Path Notes of an American Ninja Master by Glenn J. Morris.