Many thanks to Dan Leven for sharing this Loving Kindness Face Lift. He was inspired by Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Love.
As he puts it, “It begins with “may my face be happy, may my face be peaceful.” And then you continue moving through each body part wishing them well in this way… “may my neck be happy, may my neck be peaceful … may my shoulders be happy, may my shoulders be peaceful,” and so on. You open your heart’s kindness to your whole body (including to your own heart).”
It’s a great way to start and end the day. I love it. I really go to town with spreading happiness and peace throughout my entire body. I enjoy coming up with new places to shower with loving kindness with each practice such as for my brain, blood, eyes and ears – even my hair. Before long, it’s going out to family, friends, pets, strangers and to all kinds of situations. This meditation is especially handy when my attention is restless since it lets me jump all around. It can be any length too – long or short. It sure feels uplifting.
Dan goes on to explain the science underpinning it. He says, “the vagus nerve is a core part of our parasympathetic nervous system that has two branches. One branch is associated with surviving in a perceived life or death situation where our whole body slows down, feigning death (a primitive survival mechanism). The other branch is about helping us relax and soften into the loving support of others and is associated with the release of oxytocin (the cuddle or bonding molecule). Both branches are about our relationship to “others”: dangerous “others” or safe and loving “others.”
Here’s the kicker he reports, “the vagus nerve has many fibers that connect to our facial muscles where we reveal our emotions through a plenitude of expressions. Scientists have logged 21 different emotional expressions that register within the face and there are 8 universal emotional facial expressions that you don’t need a translator to interpret. So our face can register the vagal response from shock and terror, like a deer in the headlights of a moving car (survival vagus nerve), to happiness and peace, like a contented Buddha face (loving vagus nerve)! However, we can also create the response as we bring happiness and peace to our faces!”
So the KEY point, according to Dan, “is that as you invite or train your facial muscles to discover happiness and peace you are strengthening the relaxation response that’s linked to feeling supportive or loving connection with others -to feeling safe in the world.”
Come on – Give it a shot!