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Practice of the Inner Smile

by Mantak Chia

Chinese Medicine recognizes that negative emotions are a form of Qi that blockages can cause in our normal Qi flow. If an often or is channel should become blocked due to injury, poor posture, pollution, poor diet, prolonged stress, or illness, that organ may get too much or too little Qi. Then the negative emotion associated with that organ may tend to increase our life Qi, then becomes transformed into negative emotion Qi, a lower frequency of Qi. Similarly, chronic outbursts or bouts of negative emotions can cause energy blockages in an organ or its associated channel.

For example, it is well-known in Western medicine that chronic worry can cause indigestion or stomach ulcers. It is equally well known in Chinese medicine that chronic frustration is the primary cause of Liver Qi stagnation. So, it can work both ways: negative emotions can cause energy blockages and imbalances, and blockages can cause a rise in our negative emotions.

An inner Smile will Help Cultivate Good Qi.

In the Universal Tao System, we start the practice of bringing qi to the body and emotions into balance with the Inner Smile. We often get so out of touch with our bodies and emotions that we do not notice inner disharmony developing until it finally manifests as a severe illness. Well over 500 different forms of Qigong were developed In China. Many people think that Qigong has to involve moving the arms and legs. But the most crucial part of Qigong is being aware of our body’s Qi flow.

Practicing the Inner Smile daily gives us a regularly scheduled time to look inside and to keep in touch with the state of our inner organs, our Qi, our breath, and our emotions. We can then spot problems at their inception, making it easier to make adjustments when they first arise and “nip them in the bud.”

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is becoming endemic in our society. If we are not taught or encouraged to love ourselves, we cannot have a healthy loving relationship with other people or with Mother Earth; witness the state of the society and environment today as proof of this imbalance. The Inner Smile teaches us to recognize our inherent positive qualities, not just our negativity. With regular practice, we get to know ourselves as we are; we can discover our virtues and afflictions. This helps us form a more accurate and healthier self-image that stays in close touch with reality. The Inner Smile exercises our ability to love, starting with ourselves and our bodies. As we learn to love and accept ourselves, it becomes natural and easy to extend this love outward and begin to love and accept other people, creatures, places, and things.

Your Best Tool for Stress Management and Self Healing

The Inner Smile has been recognized as one of the best exercises for stress management and self-healing, quickly inducing deep relaxation. Deep relaxation dissolves physical and mental tensions that can cause energetic blockages and unhealthy Qi. For this reason, the Inner Smile is always used as a preparation or warm-up in other meditations and Qigong exercises that circulate the Qi.

Your Eyes: Source of your True Smiling and Healing Power

Smiling is a potent tool of communication. If we arrive in a foreign land or are in a group of strangers, a sincere smile from another person helps us feel at ease immediately, almost as if we are with old friends instead of in a sea of unfamiliar faces. A smile is familiar; it gives us the message of acceptance, love and understanding, appreciation, and safety. As a result, when we receive a warm and loving smile, we relax and let down our defense. It activates our parasympathetic nervous system’s “relaxation response,” producing distinct physiological changes in our endocrine glands, our nervous system, our musculature, our circulatory system, our respiration, and our digestive tract; in fact, nearly every system in the body can be dramatically affected by the simple act of receiving a smile.

Just as a smile is effective in communicating with other people, it is also a potent healing tool in communicating with ourselves. We constantly communicate with ourselves, consciously or subconsciously, and unfortunately, the message is not always positive.


Self-loathing and low self-esteem are too familiar in modern society. Aside from the psychological and sociological effects of fostering a negative self-image, our health may suffer. Many serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, are often preceded by long periods of chronic negative emotions. By contrast, smiling inward helps us to feel a sense of self-respect and gratitude for our organs and glands; as we contemplate and observe our anatomy and physiology, we can marvel and feel the joy that our body parts are each doing their job to keep us alive and healthy.

When we turn our awareness inwards and smile at our organs with love and appreciation, a chain reaction of positive physiological changes associated with the relaxation response is set into motion. It is hard not to feel a sense of awe and wonder as we pay attention to the marvelous design of our bodies and the intricate network of systems working together to keep us in balance.

The practice of the Inner Smile is Divided Into Several Levels:

  1. Opening the Heart Fire to Burn out the Negative and Grow Good Virtue
  2. Smile to the Front Line – The Organs and Glands
  3. The Middle Line – The Digestive System
  4. The Back Line – The Brain and Spinal Cord In this issue, we will focus on the first level of the Inner Smile: Opening The Heart. In later issues, we will introduce other levels of Inner Smile Practice.

Opening The Heart Fire To Burn Out the Negative and Grow Good Virtue

  1. Sit comfortably near the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight but not stiff. Stay relaxed, and clasp your palms together in your lap, left palm on the bottom, right palm on top.
  2. Close your eyes, and become aware of the soles of your feet. Feel their connection to the ground and the energy of the earth.
  3. Become aware of yourself sitting on the chair with your hands together and your tongue pressed against the palate of your mouth. Create a source of smiting energy three feet in front of you. This can be an image of your smiling face or of someone or something whom you love and respect.
  4. Become aware of the mid-point between your eyebrows through which you will draw abundant smiling energy. Let your forehead relax, and allow the Third Eye to open. 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 facial muscles. Let it flow down through your neck. As you do this, you can roll your head slowly and gently from side to side.
  6. The Thymus Gland: Let the smiling energy flow down to your thymus gland, which is located behind the upper part of your sternum, and the picture is glowing with vibrant health. Feel your thymus gland become warm as it vibrates and expands like a flower blossoming.
  7. The Heart: To help activate the Heart’s energy, you can raise your clasped palms and place both thumbs lightly against the Heart’s center. Let the warm, smiling energy spread from your thymus gland into your Heart. Draw more smiling energy from the source you created in front of you through your mid-eyebrow, and let it flow like a waterfall down into your Heart. When you smile inwardly to your 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. This expansion will feel like a flower blossoming. Remember your best experience of love, whether emotionally or divinely inspired. And fill your Heart with that 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. It will thus create space for the virtuous energies of love and joy to expand.
  8. Make the Heart Sound. When you exhale, do the sound “Hawwwww,” and direct your breath down to the Heart. Feel a small flame or fire burning in your Heart. Let it start to burn out any hastiness, impatience, arrogance, hatred, or cruelty. The negative emotions of the Heart feel this energy burn out all these negative emotions.
  9. Be aware of the Heart. When you exhale, feel a cloudy dull dingy-red energy exhaled out. Let any negativity you found in your Heart ride out on this breath. At the same time, retain the red essence of the Heart in the Heart.
  10. Be aware of a red mist, the cosmos forces that correspond to your Heart’s positive energy. Breathe in this red healing and nourishing essence to your Heart. Feel the Heart grow a deeper red, like a ruby, as it moistens and strengthens. Gradually feel your Heart opening like a red tulip, generating a fresh fragrance you can smell. Open your palms and fingers outwards like a flower opening.
  11. Be aware of the small flame in your Heart. Feel its heat and light and let it gradually activate the loving Qi of the Heart. Joy, happiness, respect, and humility.
  12. Repeat these affirmations to yourself. “With respect, you lose nothing. Eventually, you will gain everything: With Disrespect, you gain nothing, but ultimately, you will lose everything. With humility, you lose nothing. Finally, you will gain everything. With arrogance, you gain nothing, but eventually, you will lose everything.
  13. Feel the flame of love, respect, and happiness gradually spread to the other organs, relaxing and nourishing them. Then let it continue to spread out to the rest of the body.
  14. Remember the feeling of this practice. When you feel down or depressed, impatient or hasty, anxious or afraid, frustrated or angry, you can recall this feeling and experience from your practice. Be aware of your Heart, feel the flame burn out any impatience or hastiness, and generate joy and happiness. In just a few minutes, you will feel that you have more energy and Qi. The success of this method of recalling depends on your daily practice. The more you practice, repeat, enhance and remember it, the easier you can get into a good, loving state. This is the most important way and easiest way to cultivate Qi.
  15. Conclude With Collecting Energy at the Navel: Behind your navel is the “lower tan tien” or cauldron. This is the area of the body where your Original Qi, the qi you inherited from your father and mother, is stored. The Inner Smile helps to release qi that had become blocked, so when you finish, you can conserve and build your overall Qi by adding Qi to your Original Qi at the cauldron. To end, you can smile into the navel and collect the energy by covering the navel with your palms and spiraling outward 36 times (clockwise for men, counter-clockwise for women) within a 3-inch diameter circle, and then spiraling inward 24 times (counter-clockwise for men and clockwise for women). This gathers the Qi you have released and generated during this exercise to the lower dan tien, the field of your Original Qi, strengthening and nurturing your elemental constitutional energy.