Don’t miss an updated version of this post and much more, including podcasts from Ray Coppersmith (aka Master Dogen) at my new site, The Forge Within.
People can and do make snap judgments about others based off of very subtle cues. We all do it.
Fake smiles will be met with fake smiles. When we see a fake smile, inwardly we recoil, but we smile back usually, just for the sake of social lubrication and getting on with the day without confrontation. But we sense the inner ugliness behind the smiling mask.
Conversely, on the face of a genuine and loving person, even a very grave expression can give us feelings of happiness and ease. Even moments of intense and outwardly-expressed anger can make people feel right and good deep inside, if they are coming from a person who has deep love and trustworthiness. If your soul is deeply peaceful and you shout in sincere anger at someone, that person will certainly be startled and perhaps frightened for a short while, but that person will also immediately experience an inner warming of the heart, a slow candle-like ignition that can grow into happiness.
Conversely: fake calm, phony Zen, a desire to appear holy and tranquil in front of other people and in front of oneself — these things rub people the wrong way. It’s so hard to put your finger on it. It’s “pussy brigade” style pop Zen. But people sense it instinctively whether they can articulate it or not.
When you consistently open as love, you begin to look like love. Your face shines. Your eyes sparkle. Your body moves with grace, opening as the tide of love swelling from your deep heart to all—through the day, at work, during sex. Your voice carries the fullness of love rather than the stress of genital need or the exasperation of emotional betrayal. Since every part of you takes on the characteristic of what you feel, if you feel as love you show as love.
Once when I was on a business trip in New York I was staying at a hotel that was almost an hour away from the office via subway. (The office was in the boonies, and I wanted to stay in the middle of the city for the culture, restaurants, nightlife, etc.) When I lived in NYC previously, I had used my subway trips as little mini-meditation moments, but usually they didn’t last longer than 10 to 15 minutes, since I lived much closer to my work then.
I had two weeks in the city for this gig, and decided I would dedicate every single morning and afternoon commute to practicing “shining love” meditation.
That is just the name I came up for it on my own. It’s a basic practice of cultivating radiance. It’s similar to many other traditional love-based meditations, such as dzogchen from Tibet. But since it was taking place on busy, loud, often smelly subway cars, I ignored the formalities and just did whatever seemed most comfortable and efficacious.
This basically meant that between stops I closed my eyes and followed my breath. On the in-breath I pictured universal light entering into my body, my chest, and specifically my heart. (This is like free energy, totally gratis. It’s just floating around for free and all you have to do to fill up your tank is suck it in.) Then, on the out-breath I pictured my heart sending all this energy out in golden beams of loving light, one ray touching each other person in the subway car.
When the train pulled into a station, I gently opened my eyes and glanced around me. People got on, people got off, the car got more or less crowded. Sometimes your posture needs adjusting, and I needed to check if my own station was approaching.
Then I’d gently close my eyes and return to the meditation.
What’s remarkable is that people on the New York subway are notoriously unwilling to make lasting eye contact, and very unlikely to smile at you in a non-creepy, non-crazy way. But when I was doing this meditation, I would always catch at least one or two people just kind of looking at me, and when we’d make eye contact they would just kind of smile, almost sheepishly.
Keep in mind I was not doing anything different outwardly. I looked like anyone else in there. Even more crucially, I looked exactly like my own self when riding the subway in a bad mood, hungover, bitter, or whatever. The only difference was the radiance I was sending out in love-form to the people around me.
Also, during this two week stretch, people started asking me for directions on the street all the time. When I was living in New York before, this rarely happened to me, even though I was a “local.” Then, when visiting as a “tourist”, suddenly people were talking to me at random. (My hair, clothes, body shape, everything else was just as before.)
And finally, when meeting up with old friends during this visit, over coffee or dinner, three different people remarked that I seemed oddly happy, and two people asked (half joking, half serious) if I had become taller.
[The “taller” thing may have been partially true in a physical sense. Meditation tends to improve your posture, so that might have been part of it. But I also believe I was just giving out more presence, which people just intuit as being bigger somehow, even though I clearly wasn’t any fatter or bulkier than before.]
So, trust that people can read your innermost self. If you are being creepy, bitter, closed, strange, or whatever, people will read that on your face — they will practically smell it on you — no matter how much effort you put into your appearance and your alpha body language.
On the other hand, if you are feeling genuine ease and calm inside of your heart, and if you are pouring love out into the world on a regular basis, you will find that people react to you with trust, and instant liking, and even strange little happy smiles. Even when your mind is caught up in some mundane matter like paying your bills, you will catch people looking at you fondly.
Incidentally, it leads to a lot more IOI’s from women, too.