SIMPLE SMILE

She gazed into my eyes intently, “can I go home with you, please”?  The lady whispering those words to me was Cherie, an 85 year old petite woman suffering from symptoms of dementia.  The words were heartfelt, projecting her state of mind.  In that suspended moment, in a place where angels quietly protect, I slowly formed a placid smile while bending on a knee to make level eye contact.  What verbal response could be more authentic than a simple, “thank you”, wrapped with an imperturbable grin.

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Cherie resides in a memory care facility in Roseburg, Oregon.  As a volunteer, I recite poetry to the residents.  In a group setting, I purposefully craft poems around an air of musical-drama, creating an ambiance to awaken memories temporarily for emotional connection.  During this poetically induced transport, Cherie connected to another time of comfort, peace, and security.  In that vulnerable mindset, her words unveiled feelings that danced in that place.  

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Symptoms of dementia affect mental cognitive tasks, like memory and reasoning.  Memory care facilities offer a safe environment for residents to independently function.  

The interaction with Cherie raised my own awareness of the connective power of a simple smile.  A smile reveals truth.   The spirit within, a soul’s presence.  That mysterious place deeper than self-thinking.

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A soul’s SIMPLE smile may have these characteristics:

Spontaneous – a smile shapes naturally

Infectious – a smile vibrates  

Magnanimous – a smile forgives

Playful – a smile is luminescent

Loving – a smile is benevolent

Enlightening – a smile is instructive

To cultivate healthy and meaningful relationships, exercising release of a simple smile requires vulnerability.  Being real is the precursor to connection.

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The simple smile is the entrance to the soul.  A welcome sign that releases generosity in the face of mystery. 

The constant practice of projecting a simple smile is the weapon for displacing fear, bridging connection to grace and charity.  The light of a smile bleaches away gloom, transforming any circumstance to joy and peace.

The smile is a universal message of friendliness.  Across most cultures throughout the earth, people usually greet one another with an easy smile.  Conversely, the frown conveys sadness or disapproval. 

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There are 43 muscles in the face, controlled largely by the seventh cranial nerve.  This nerve splits into five branches that reach different areas of the face to enervate muscles which allow the Jim Carey’s of the world to twist and contort the face into a variety of zany expressions.  A simple smile is just right for me, “thank you very much”!

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Likely a mixture of scientific fact and myth, it’s widely thought that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. Facial expressions essentially transmit a packet of information that can be received, read and interpreted by others.  Contracting or expanding facial muscles in different degrees and combinations produce thousands of different cues that hint to an emotional state of mind, visual feelings, mood, and physical and mental health.

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Exercise is good for the body in general, but also for the face too. With dogged practice, facial exercises may be as effective as a surgical facelift to improve skin tone and elasticity, reducing visible lines, and helping to perfect a confident smile.  Just like any part of the body, there are muscles in the face that may be firmed and strengthened through exercise.  With heightened blood flow through facial exercises, it’s even possible to feel younger and healthier.  Think it, and believe it – that helps too!

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Whether a smile or frown, it all comes down to what path to choose when life gets chaotic in the muddy places. Be a tortured soul from life’s shipwrecks or rise above as a beacon of hope. The awesome thing about the gift of free will is choice.   A brand-selfie!  Everyone forms a brand that’s shaped by passion, talents, opportunity, or even those random shipwrecks.  Learn more about my brand, LovesIntention, on this website.      

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What autobiographical smile picture has significance for you?  It may be an actual photograph or a memory captured in the brain’s hippocampus. A family’s life has endless pictures, some organized in scrapbooks, others loose in shoe boxes.  If pressed to pick only one, it would be my son posing with his Masters of Social Work diploma from the University of Southern California (USC), launching a new career succeeding 12 years serving in the United States Marine Corp.   

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It’s a simple practice, but how often do adults smile? While studies are controversial, one source states that adults feel happier around children because they smile more.   Adults only manage 20 smiles a day, 380 times less than children.  That “stat” may be an urban myth to make a point.  Let’s get our SMILE on people!