Inner Smile Practice


In the Tao "emotional intelligence" is a process of recognizing emotions by their effects on the body, and employing exercises that transform the negative emotions into positive life force, or Chi. Two important exercises are the "Inner Smile" and the "Six Healing Sounds" techniques, as taught by Master Mantak Chia.

Figure 1. The negative emotions affect the body's organ systems.

Taoists learned the relationships between emotional energies and organ systems over many centuries of study and meditation. They developed methods to transform negative to positive emotions from their practical and intuitive understanding of the human body. Many of the Taoist insights are supported by observations and evidence from modern psychology and medicine. The "Inner Smile" and "Six Healing Sounds" exercises focus on five organs or organ systems: the lungs, kidneys, liver/gall bladder, heart and stomach/spleen.

Table 1. The five major organ systems and their associated emotions and properties. 

· The lungs are associated with the negative emotions of sadness and depression, and the positive virtues of courage and righteousness. Emotional depression is often recognized by a physical depression and collapse of the chest and lungs.

· The kidneys are associated with the negative emotion of fear and the positive emotions of gentleness and wisdom. Fear is closely related to the activity of the adrenal glands that lie on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands secret adrenalin and noradrenalin when stimulated by the body's fight-or-flight response.

· The liver is associated with the negative emotion of anger and the positive emotions of generosity and kindness. Physiologically, the liver is important for storing and rapidly releasing glucose into the blood. The energy of anger requires the rapid availability of metabolic energy stores in the body.

· The heart is associated with the negative emotions of impatience and insincerity and the positive virtues of Joy and love. Recent scientific research shows that feelings of love and appreciation strongly influence the heart's rhythm and its relationship to the body's physiological systems (see 

· The stomach/spleen are associated with the negative emotions of worry and anxiety and the positive emotions of fairness and openness. Most people will be familiar with the "butterflies" and "knots" in the stomach related to worry, apparently related to a network of network of neurons and neurotransmitters in the sheaths of tissue lining the digestive system, known as the enteric nervous system (Gershon, 1998).

The Inner Smile and Six Healing Sound exercises direct our attentions to the body's organs and associated qualities. We successively visualize each organ, cleansing the organ and transforming negative emotional energies into positive virtues.
Figure 2. The Inner Smile

In the Taoist tradition, each person assumes responsibility for the emotions that arise within, regardless of the external events that trigger the emotions. Taoist exercises take us into our bodies and transform emotions by transforming the associated physiological systems. The Inner Smile and Six Healing Sounds exercises help balance and integrate our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, promoting health, resilience, and vitality.

Figure 3. The proper sitting posture

Inner Smile Practice

The Front Line

1. Sit comfortably near the edge of your chair with your feel flat on the floor. Keep your back straight, but not stiff. Stay relaxed, and clasp your palms together in your lap. Press your tongue against the upper palate of your mouth. 

2. Close your eyes and become aware of the soles of your feet. Feel their connection to the Earth.

3. Create a source of smiling energy up to three feet in front of you. This can be an image of your own smiling face, or of someone or something you love and respect, or any memory of a time in which you felt deeply at peace, perhaps feeling sunshine, being by the ocean, or walking in a forest.

4. Become aware of the midpoint between your eyebrows through which you will draw this abundant smiling energy in front of and around you. Let your forehead relax; as the smiling energy accumulates at the mid-eyebrow, it will eventually overflow into your body.

5. Allow the smiling energy to flow down from the mid-eyebrow through your face, relaxing the cheeks, nose, mouth, and all the facial muscles. Let it flow down through your neck. You can roll your head slowly and gently from side to side as you do this.

6. Let the smiling energy continue to flow down to your thymus gland, which is located behind the upper part of your sternum, and picture it glowing with vibrant health. Feel the thymus gland become warm as it begins to vibrate and expand like a blossoming flower.

Figure 4. The From Line Organs

7. Let the warm, smiling energy spread from the thymus gland into the heart. Draw more smiling energy through the mid-eyebrow, and let it flow like a waterfall down into the heart. When you smile inwardly to the heart, it will generate the virtues of joy and happiness. Spend as much time here as you need to feel the heart relax and expand with loving energy. Try to remember your best experience of love and fill your heart with that same feeling again. Love your heart. The heart is associated with the negative emotional energies of hastiness, arrogance, and cruelty. When you smile into the heart, these energies will dissipate, creating the space for the virtuous energies of love and joy to expand. 

8. Let the joy and happiness generated in the heart expand outward to your lungs. Feel the lungs open as the happy, smiling energy flows into them. The lungs may appear to be pink and spongy, or they may feel abundantly full. If there is anything you see or feel in the lungs that is unpleasant to you, get rid of it. You can clear the lungs of energetic, emotional, and physical pollution by smiling into them. Feel the air flow from the tip of the nose down into the lungs, following it all the way out to the tiny air sacs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. Thank your lungs for breathing and helping sustain your life.

You should feel your entire chest cavity filling with smiling, loving energy. The lungs are associated with the negative emotional energies of sadness and depression and the virtuous energies of courage and righteousness. When you smile into the lungs, you will dissolve any sadness or negative feelings, creating space for courage and righteousness to expand.

Note: Remember you can go back to the source of smiling energy in front of you-your vision or memory of a happy moment-to get more energy any time during the meditation, If you feel your attention wandering, or it you feel the effect of the Inner Smile becoming weak or diluted, just gather more smiling energy from the source. The Chinese say," If you want water, you should go to the well. "

9. Next you will direct the smiling energy to the liver, the largest internal organ, located just below the right lung. Feel the liver become immersed in smiling, loving, joyous energy. The liver is associated with the sense of sight, as it controls the energy of the eyes. Use your inner vision to see the liver and determine its condition. Its surface should be smooth and glossy, and it should feel relaxed and uncongested. You can use your eyes to smooth out any part of its surface or to relax any area that seems tense. Feel gratitude for the liver's work in detoxifying the body, helping to store blood, and producing bile.

The liver is associated with the emotion of anger and the virtue of kindness. When you smile to the liver, you will dissolve any anger and allow the kindness energy more space to expand. The Chinese suggest this also helps strengthen your decision-making power.

10. Let the smiling energy flow from the liver across the abdomen into the pancreas, located directly beneath the left lung. Thank the pancreas for making digestive enzymes, producing insulin, and regulating blood sugar. As you smile into the pancreas, see that it is healthy and functioning smoothly.

11. Continuing around to the left, smile into the spleen, which is just next to the left kidney. Don't worry if you don't know exactly where it is. If you smile in that direction, you will gradually get in touch with it. If you need to, return to the source of smiling energy in front of you, and let the smiling energy flow in through the mid-eyebrow and down to the area of the spleen. 

12. As smiling, loving energy builds up in the spleen, let it flow into the kidneys. Smile down to the kidneys and feel them expand with radiant energy. You can use your inner vision to inspect the kidneys to be sure their surface is smooth and glossy and that they are filtering properly without any congestion. The kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear. As you smile into them, fear melts away, and the virtue of gentleness can grow. Keep smiling into the kidneys, and let the smiling energy build up until they are full.

13. Next, send the smiling energy down into the urinary bladder, urethra, genitals, and perineum. 

Women: The collection point for female sexual energy is located about three inches below the navel, midway between the ovaries. Smile the accumulated energies into the ovaries, uterus, and vagina. Thank the ovaries for making hormones and giving you sexual energy. Bring the combined sexual, smiling, and virtue energies up to the navel, and visualize the energies spiraling into that point.

Men: The collection point for male sexual energy is located one-and-a-half inches above the base of the penis in the area of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. Smile, and visualize the accumulated energies spiraling down into the prostate gland and testicles. Thank them for making hormones and giving you sexual energy. Bring the combined sexual, smiling, and virtue energies up to the navel, and spiral them into that point.

14. Return the attention to the source of smiling energy in front of you. Be aware of the mid-eyebrow point, and allow more smiling energy to flow in through it like a waterfall pouring down into the organs. Once again immerse the thymus, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, urinary bladder (Fig. 3.43), and sex organs in smiling energy. At this point you should be feeling calm and peaceful.


The Middle Line

1. Become aware once more of the smiling energy in your eyes. Let it flow down to your mouth. Become aware of your tongue, and make some saliva by working your mouth and swishing your tongue around. Put the tip of your tongue to the roof of the mouth, tighten the neck muscles, and swallow the saliva hard and quickly, making a gulping sound as you do. With your Inner Smile, follow the saliva down the esophagus to the stomach, located at the bottom and below the left side of the rib cage. Thank it for its important work in liquefying and digesting your food. Feel it grow calm and comfortable. Sometimes we abuse our stomachs with improper food. Make a promise to your stomach that you will give it good food to digest.

Figure 5. The Middle Line organs

2. Smile into the small intestine in the middle of the abdomen. It is about seven meters long in an adult. Thank it for absorbing food nutrients to keep you vital and healthy.

3. Smile into the large intestine: the ascending colon, starting at the right side of the hipbone and passing upward to the under-surface of the right lobe of the liver; the transverse colon, which passes downward from the right liver region across the abdomen to the left beneath the lower end of the spleen; the descending colon, which passes downward through the left side of the lumbar region; and the sigmoid colon, which normally lies within the pelvis, the rectum and the anus. The large intestine is about 1.5 meters long. Thank it for eliminating wastes and for making you feel clean, fresh and open. Smile to it and feel it be warm, nice, clean, comfortable and calm.

4. Return to your eyes. Quickly smile down the Middle Line, checking for tension. Smile into the tension until it melts away.


The Back Line

1. Bring your attention back to your eyes again.

2. Smile inward with both eyes; collect the power of the smile in the third eye (mid-eyebrow). With your inner eyesight direct your smile about three to four inches inside into the pituitary gland, and feel the gland blossom. Smile into the thalamus, from where the truth and power of the smile will generate. Smile into the pineal gland and feel this tiny gland gradually swell and grow like a bulb. Move your smile's eyesight, like a bright, shining light, up to the left side of the brain. Move the inner smiling eyesight back and forth in the left brain and across to the right brain and cerebellum. This will balance the left and right brain and strengthen the nerves.

Figure 6. The brain organs

3. Move the inner smiling eyesight down to the midbrain. Feel it expand and soften and go down to the pons and medulla oblongata and to the spinal cord, starting from the cervical vertebrae at the base of the skull. Move the inner smiling eyesight, bringing this loving energy down inside each vertebra and the disc below it. Count out each vertebra and disc as you smile down them: seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, twelve thoracic (chest), five lumbar (lower back), the triangular bone called the sacrum, and the coccyx (tail bone). Feel the spinal cord and the back becoming loose and comfortable. Feel the discs softening. Feel your spine expanding and elongating, making you taller. 

Figure 7. The Back Line

4. Return to your eyes and quickly smile down the entire Back Line. Your whole body should feel relaxed, The Back Line exercise increases the flow of the spinal fluid and sedates the nervous system. Smiling into a disc keeps it from hardening and becoming deformed so it cannot properly absorb the force and weight of the body. Back pain can be prevented or relieved by smiling into the spine.


The Entire Length of the Body

Start at the eyes again. Direct your Inner Smile's eyesight. Quickly smile down the Front Line. Follow the smiling down the Middle Line and then the Back Line. When you are more experienced, smile down all three lines simultaneously, being aware of the organs and the spine. Now, feel the energy descend down the entire length of your body, like a waterfall-a waterfall of smiles, joy and love. Feel your whole body being loved and appreciated. How marvelous it is!

Figure 8. the organs smiling

Collecting the Smiling Energy at the Navel

It's very important to end by storing the smiling energy in the navel. Most ill effects of meditation are caused by excess energy in the head or heart. The navel area can safely handle the increased energy generated by the Inner Smile.

To collect the smile's energy, concentrate in your navel area, which is about one and a half inches inside your body. Then mentally move that energy in an outward spiral around your navel 36 times; don't go above the diaphragm or below the pubic bone. Women, start the spiral counterclockwise. Men, start the spiral clockwise. Next, reverse the direction of the spiral and bring it back into the navel, circling it 24 times. Use your finger as a guide the first few times. The energy is now safely stored in your navel, available to you whenever you need it and for whatever part of your body needs it. You have now completed the Inner Smile.

Chia, Mantak, 1986. Taoist Ways to Transform Stress into Vitality: The Inner Smile, Six Healing Sounds, Huntington, NY: Healing Tao Books.