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Thich Nhat Hanh on the Importance of Smiling

“I have yet to meet a wise person who doesn’t know how to find some joy even in the midst of what is hard, and to smile and laugh easily, including at oneself…” wrote Krista Tippett in Becoming Wise, [Humor] is one of those virtues that soften us for all the others.”

In the same vein in which Tippett spoke of the importance of a smile, laughter and humour in our daily navigation through life, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life:

If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind… Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding… A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously. It returns to us the peace we thought we had lost.


Our smile will bring happiness to us and those around us. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of our awareness, our smile. And this precious gift costs nothing.

Hanh proceeds to give a simple suggestion for how to remember to smile when we wake up:

You might have a reminder–such as a branch, a leaf, a painting, or some inspiring words–in your window or from the ceiling above your bed, so that you notice it when you wake up. Once you develop the practice of smiling, you may not need a reminder, you will smiles as soon as you hear a bird singing or see the sunlight streaming through the window.

What if you’ve lost your smile? What if you feel, like we do feel most times, that you’ve lost things so dear to you but still you feel like you have them inside. You feel like you’re loosing nope but the hope still bubbles deep inside you, you feel like you’ve lost all emotions but only because you’re suppressing them–they are still deep down there. Hanh wrote:

At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem:

I have lost my smile
but don’t worry
The dandelion has it.

If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that the dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. You only need to breath consciously one or two times and you will recover your smile.

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