Most of our actions in life feel almost effortless. We eat, we sleep, we work, we laugh, we smile, we socialize, we have a certain innate behavior, we get angry, we sulk and we gossip (hopefully not…). Although we could guess the reasons behind most of these, it requires some contemplation on our part prior to realizing the truth behind all our actions.

Would you believe me if I told you that there could be an interesting story behind each smile and behind each choice we make? No, not a fairytale, but a story of baggage and expectations. Earlier this year, I contemplated the simple act of smiling. It was quite natural for me to smile at people daily. And I never thought much of it, until I had an ‘enlightening’ conversation which made me realize that perhaps there is more to a smile. And in this case, smile with regards to our interaction with others. Not when we are daydreaming…

Before the birth of any smile and conversation, an entire thought process has already taken place. Often these subtle thoughts are ingrained in our behavioral patterns and based on the excess baggage which we carry. And it all made sense, of course, when I searched my only source of information –! I stumbled upon Swami’s beautiful post on excess baggage which wisely touches upon the underlying ruling baggage which usually defines our actions. It’s a must-read and contains all the required information on this crucial topic.

It dawned upon me that our interaction with others is heavily based on our expectations or our limitations. Often we smile at people who we consider as being superior to us, based on our own insecurities. We are likely to smile brightly at a company’s CEO as opposed to a new housekeeping employee, for instance. And such behavior often sprouts from insecurities, ego, or the desire to feel accepted. Insecurity and fear of rejection are common examples of baggage many of us hold on to. And this usually accounts for our overly-nice behavior towards others.

But what about those who smile at everyone? Have you ever smiled at someone and naturally thought to yourself  ‘Oh! I am so nice!!! Look at me! I am so educated (handsome/rich/smart/successful) yet I just smiled at this ‘ordinary’ person. I must be so spiritual.’
Although this sounds brutally honest, it’s not an uncommon thought pattern. And this tendency arises from ego. Ego- our baggage. And ego, in this case, comes in several shades; be it insecurity, superiority, or lack of sincerity.

When we start believing that we are superior, we smile assuming that we are better than others, boosting our own ego. Or we smile from the other end of the ego spectrum, i.e. from a place of insecurity and fear of being rejected by those who are important to our eyes. Some of us, or maybe all of us at some point in our lives, also smile out of necessity. In social gatherings, we are left with no choice but to smile. A smile, being a false pretense required for societal acceptance before we can go back home and slip into our pajamas again, and be grumpy at will after the excess of undesired gossip at the party. Those three common smiles, i.e. the superiority smile, the inferiority smile, and insincere smile, are heavily tied to our excess baggage.

Other than those, thankfully, a real smile also commonly exists. The real smile comes from a place of contentment and pure joy. We smile at others without thinking. Truly. Without any underlying subtle pattern of thoughts. That special smile speaks the language of the heart and it comes naturally, without any after-thought. When we perceive all of those around us different individuals who are equal to us as the same child of the Divine, albeit, with different skill sets, we smile at others acknowledging a fellow human. It’s a true smile which a toddler gives you back, it’s a true smile which you can see through a face mask because the eyes start shining with joy. 

The same also applies to our behavior towards others, whether we are kind to people who can be of certain benefit to us, perform actions that boost our ego, or whether we treat everyone equally, really shows how much excess baggage we carry. When we are secure, at peace and content we are more likely to treat everyone equally, because, in a place of contentment, there is no space for ego.

When the mind is stripped off of all its labels and conditioning through mindfulness, we can only smile from a place of divinity. Although these tendencies and the baggage we carry are longstanding, as Swami says, mindfulness is key. I tell myself that the Divine should be our ideal. God loves everyone equally, and as Swami says (I think)- when we get tired of being human, let’s try to be like God and love everyone. Although it takes great initial mindfulness, when we contemplate the reasons behind our actions, the rewards are immense.

If you wish to find out whether you genuinely smile, try to reflect on whom you interacted with, whether in conversations or smiles, over the past couple of days. Or tomorrow, each time you smile or hold a conversation, simply be mindful of the thought pattern behind your innate actions. And truly ask yourself why you behaved this way, the reason might blow your mind away. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing? That’s what I did and I lost my mind altogether!

I deducted all of the above through my understanding of our Om Swami’s guidance. From He who only has the Divine smile!:)

Of course, I’ll refrain from mentioning which category I found myself falling into. I can’t spill all my secrets! But this secret led me to great mindfulness whilst smiling. So, why do you smile? Ask yourself and enjoy your little secret…