"Please try the practice of the half-smile. Do it now. For the space of three breaths. It has nothing to do with feeling like smiling. For those of you who have not done this practice before, you can think of it as "mouth yoga." Just lift the corners of your mouth slightly for the space of three full breaths. Not a full smile or a grin. And let your attention be with your breath, particularly on the exhalation.
"This is a practice that you can do when you first wake up in the morning. If you already do some daily meditation practice, the half-smile is a practice you can do when you first begin your regular meditation. When I first began doing the half-smile I did it whenever I found myself waiting. So I did it standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. I did it when I was on hold on the telephone. I did it when I was waiting for an appointment in the doctor's office or the dentist's office or when I was waiting for an appointment with someone coming to see me.
"I found that if I had some signal to remind me to do the half-smile when I first woke up in the morning, then I could readily remember to do the half-smile. And if I did not have a signal, I usually did not remember. I would think of it some time around noon or three days later. So I took a picture of Suzuki Roshi laughing and I put the picture by the side of the bed. Now, when I wake in the morning, it is usually the first thing I see. And the agreement that I made with myself was that whenever I see that picture I will stop and do the half-smile for three breaths. This has been an easy way for me to begin doing the half-smile when I wake up and before I go to sleep at night. What I found was that in doing the practice whenever I was waiting, that after a while, after a month or so, it also occurred to me to do the practice when I noticed some feeling of anger or anxiety or some tension arising; and the half-smile is, in fact, traditionally used as an antidote to negative states of mind.
Most of all I find that the half-smile is a practice which brings me to some sense of spaciousness, and in that spaciousness I notice more than I do than when I am feeling crowded by my pace or my activity, or by the expectations I hold for myself in terms of what I want to get done this morning, or today, or this week, or maybe even in this lifetime."