Five Is All It Takes


“The Miraculous Smile”

“ In our face there are dozens of muscles, and when we are angry or afraid, those muscles hold a lot of tension. But if we know to breathe in and be aware of them, and breathe out and smile to them, we can help them release the tension. Our face can be completely different after one in-breath and out-breath. A smile can bring a miracle.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

I read this bit of “everyday wisdom” early this morning in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh entitled “Your True Home.” It made me think about these past difficult months and how little I smiled. So much tension and so little, despite my best efforts, of conscious deep breathing during moments of high tension…and there were many moments!  I know this because my jaw is feeling the effects of all that clenching and frowning and teeth grinding. Frankly, It’s a wonder I have any teeth left after all these months. I didn’t even practice yoga (only one class in over three months!). I thought it was due to laziness which, I confess, I’m prone to all too often. But when I thought more about it, I simply wasn’t in my mind-set to practice anything with all that was going on around me. I had barely enough energy to get through the day. Seems counter-intuitive I know. When the body and spirit is undergoing a great deal of stress and turmoil even a fifteen minute yoga practice can be the answer to calming and soothing the mind–to letting go–even if that letting go is just confined to that space of time on the yoga mat.

So, It’s clear I need to focus more awareness to my facial muscles. I do a quick on-line search and learn that there are about 43 muscles in our face! I had no idea there were that many! However, only five of them are important to the world, according to Susan Sherwood a contributor on in brief article about Neuroscience Psychology ( She states, “Happiness. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Disgust. Surprise. Those are universal emotions, and it takes five facial muscles to display each of them to the world.”

Just five muscles is all it takes.

So when my neighbor handed me a bouquet of Daisies a couple of days ago…just cut from her garden…and just because….”To bring sunshine to your day,” she said….my heavy heart couldn’t help but burst into a smile! My entire day exploded into sunshine. In fact, I’m still smiling days later as I enjoy the flowers that brighten up my kitchen table in the gloom of this dreary, rainy day.

And when I was just beginning to feel a twinge of that pity-party syndrome flare its ugly head because Rocket-man is away again, I get a text message from my sis about an upcoming road trip that was planned on the spur of the moment:

sis: I hope you don’t mind but you’ll have to share a bed with Alexandre.

I look at the text and smile.

me: I get to sleep with Alexandre?! I punch in emoticons–smiley faces and red hearts– that express my thoughts.

And then I think ‘PILLOW FIGHT’! In a flash I see pillow feathers flying about the room as Alexandre-the-Greatest and I are jumping up and down on the hotel room bed. Oh boy. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell my sis…or Alexandre-the Greatest about this image!

sis: Yes…. And we all have to go down to the lobby at midnight in our P.J.’s because they serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the guests.

Hmm. I usually turn into a pumpkin before 10 p.m.

I pick up the phone this time to call sis but Alexandre-the-Greatest picks up.

Before I can say a word he says, “Hi CC! Guess what? We get to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at midnight but you have to wear your nicest pajamas, OK?”

“Hey little man!” Say I. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at midnight? Oh My! Do they have chunky peanut butter? Because that’s the kind I want!” I gush with a gusto usually reserved only for my Alexandre-the-Greatest.

I can hear him asking his mamma if they have chunky peanut butter and she says “yes.” He returns to the phone and his little voice is matter of factually affirming that he will have chunky peanut butter too.  Now all of my facial muscles are working and my belly muscles as well as I laugh and share his excitement.

I go to bed with a much lighter heart and all it took was being open to the simple pleasures of life to work five muscles.

Yes…I’ll work on TAKING FIVE more often. A smile can bring a miracle. Bliss.

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