The Dalai Lama gave a teaching recently. The final question asked of him was, "What can we give to you?" He beamed at the audience. "That is easy," he said. "Just give me your smiles. It makes me feel good when I see people smile at me. And if you smile at each other that would also be very good. So please give me your smiles."
What is Tao? Tao means "natural way". It is really undefinable, because it includes everything that exists in Nature, plus everything that doesn't yet exist! When Tao is applied to humans, it implies the virtue, or "de", of natural self-unfoldment. Historically, the Inner Smile was a foundation practice of Daoist neidan gong, or "inner elixir skill". Today, we translate neidan simply as "inner alchemy", meaning the science of changing oneself in accordance with natural law, but more quickly.
Inner alchemy simply means that what normally might happen in ten months of outer life events can now happen in 10 minutes of inner smiling practice. This seems like magic, but alchemy is actually a scientific process in the sense of being systematic and repeatable. But it is made possible only when we grasp the hidden essence of life. Once we become aware of chi flow in our body, we can shape it. The Inner Smile was the first step in seven highly secret Tao inner alchemy "formulas" for speeding up the stages of human spiritual development.
But the Inner Smile also has a key function in formulas Two through Seven as well. It is amazing to consider that the Inner Smile is at once the easiest beginner method and the most advanced level of realization! (For a full description of the Daoist hermit One Cloud's Seven Formulas for Immortality, see " Tao Secrets of Immortality" article on my homepage, or find it at: www.healingdao.com/tao alchemy formulas.html
The Inner Smile creates a central, positive, open inner mind space in which "self-cultivation" can occur. This state of smiling openness should not be confused with other Asian concepts of "empty mind", which are very difficult for westerners to grasp or retain for very long. Part of this is a language problem. If we replace the notion of "emptiness" with that of "openness" or "complete acceptance" it will clarify the profundity of the Inner Smile practice.
From this Daoist point of view, striving after the goal of an empty mind will lead to unnecessary frustration. Nature will quickly refill whatever you empty, including your mind. This is the dynamic between stillness and movement that is known as "tai chi" (or taiji), meaning the Supreme Ultimate. Tai Chi is not to be confused with the martial art of tai chi chuan, which is just one application in which one "boxes" with these invisible forces in order to defeat an opponent.
Tai Chi is rather a cosmic principle underlying all life. The secret of tai chi in human life lies in getting a smooth and harmonious flow of chi through the body-mind space. In this context, the constant "emptying" and "filling" of the mind with thoughts, feelings, and sensations cannot occur harmoniously unless there is an underlying "openness" or feeling of acceptance. In this acceptance is true freedom to change oneself.
As both a unique form of religion and as a philosophy, Tao encourages a radical openness to all life without judgment. Most of us have already learned the hard way that we cannot change the outer world or other people against their will. It is pointless to go against others own natural path of unfoldment. But if we change ourselves, the world and all the people in it are automatically changed without any outer struggle.
This happens for two reasons. One, "the world" is really just a set of perceptions we carry around inside our own mind. Two, our personal chi field (our mind) is part of the cosmic chi field (or universal mind). If our personal energy field changes, the larger chi field has to also change. Nature is just the playground (chi field) where we can go through our life changes. Harmony means we can play freely in the chi field of our personal-cosmos or the world-cosmos.
All that is needed is openness to our innate smiling impulse to access the chi field. Once we claim our peaceful, smiling inner body-mind space, a series of transformative energetic shifts is naturally activated. If we stay relaxed, our inner smiling will continue its natural process until we feel we are back in a state of harmony. If we get uptight, we can simply remind ourselves by inner smiling again.
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