Open and Close . . . or just be the smile

Be the smile

Yesterday morning I walked outside into a diamond-studded world.  Every blade of grass and every twig and brown leaf was glittering.  I smiled “out loud.”  Milt came out of the house to see what I was smiling about, and we stood together and looked at the shining world.

I went off to do my morning session and a song was playing in my head.  This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.  Suddenly the lyrics changed and I heard, “This little self in me, I’m going to let her shine.”  In my mind, several separate events clicked together, and I realized something important about me.  I keep a part of me in the shadows.

Last summer when I presented at the Chrysalis retreat, I felt so safe with those women that I opened up fully like a flower in the sunshine.  My smile was bigger, my heart was bigger—everything was bigger.  Then a few weeks ago I was editing a film that was made of me presenting at a workshop at Back to Basics last January–it was an experience to be watching and editing my own face.  (A person should always think twice about doing something like this!)  It was as if I was watching two totally different Jamie Lees.  One kept herself damped down—I could see it in my face, especially my mouth—and another part emerged fully with a light in her eyes, a fully engaged presence, and a bright smile.  Wow, I thought, look at that.  I wonder what it is that makes me want to hide my light, to hide in the shadows.

I was talking to Milt about it yesterday and realized that I have a very old fear of appearing too out there or appearing foolish.  I’m not sure where this fear comes from but I can feel that “she” is very young.  Don’t be too spontaneous, don’t make any sudden moves, don’t do anything that would seem foolish, don’t risk humiliation.

On Sunday I turned 59.  I had a fabulous birthday party that included family, friends, fire, food, fun, (this is a lot of ‘F’s’ isn’t it?) and music.  Once again I felt safe and out there, free to enjoy every moment fully without a secret fear pushing me back into a shell.

I don’t think I’m alone in this pattern.  Maybe we all have a part of us that pulls back, somehow afraid of being made fun of or of appearing foolish or silly or stupid.   What wonderful things does it stop us from doing?  What risks do we not take because of where it might lead?  What things do we say or not say for fear of not pleasing the right people?   What part of us is ever watchful of how we might be perceived rather than fully present and engaged in each wonderful moment?

Well, I have decided that at 59 years old, if I don’t let my light shine fully now, then when?  So I am going to practice opening up.  I’m not sure what that means, but for starters it means using my eyes and my mouth more, as in seeing and smiling more.  And as in every new pattern we wish to install, it begins with practice.  Yesterday at Perkins I actually looked at complete strangers and smiled at them with both my eyes and my mouth.  They looked a little surprised at first, and then pleased, and then they smiled back.  What a simple practice this could be.

I remember once, when I was teaching at Oglala Lakota College, I was walking down the hall in one of the centers and a woman walked past.  I smiled at her.  She stopped me in the hall and said, “You really smiled at me, didn’t you.”  I was a little confused, but then she said, “It reached me all the way to my heart.”

That is a smile.

Milt’s Jin Shin Jyutsu master, Mary Burmeister, used to tell all her students that a first movement toward balance is to “drop the shoulders and be the smile.”  I once had the great privilege of having a treatment with this master of her art.  She said nothing to me during the treatment; I guess I wanted some words of wisdom, so when we were done I asked her if she had any advice for me.  She smiled and said only, “You should have a lot of fun with this body.”

I had the oddest experience following that treatment.  Wherever I went, I would look at people’s faces and I knew them.  Of course I didn’t know them, and yet I had the immediate sense of recognition that you get when you see a good friend—and this was in a whole airport or restaurant full of people.  I loved this feeling and was sad when it faded away a couple of weeks later.

Why don’t we all make ‘drop the shoulders and be the smile” a simple practice a part of our daily lives?  I’m ready to open up . . . to other people, to possibilities, to new friends, to new patterns.  If not now, when?


Invite others to open up and “be the smile” by sharing this post with them.  You can subscribe to my weekly bits in the box below.  Each week I get more subscribers, and I extend a special smile to them from here to wherever they are.  I also want to send a smile to all the people on the east coast who are recovering from this storm and a special heart smile to my friends Rita S. and Marilyn N. who are going through hard times with losing a spouse.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jin Shin Jyutsu, here is a link to their site.



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Open and Close . . . or just be the smile — 14 Comments

  1. Thanks, Jamie. This is lovely. I have been doing a lot of “coming out of my shell” myself in the past few years. We all have lots of reasons to have shells, of course. But the rewards of metabolizing our shells, composting them, and then being able to be really present with other people are so wonderful! You remind me that I still have more layers of fears. I know I think about things very differently from a lot of people, so I have a fear of being misunderstood and possibly rejected, if I say what I really believe. Smiling is one thing (and even that, like you say, can be revolutionary,) talking from my heart is another altogether…Thanks for the food for thought!

    • Hi Lorna,

      Thanks so much for your reflective response to my post. My daughter’s name is Lorna but I don’t think you are her. Have we met? Let me know how you happen to be here so I can connect more personally. Again, your comments are so appreciated.

  2. Dear, dear Jamie, thank you for this wonderful posting. It’s my story, too–but your insights are profound and beautiful, as you are, too, my dear friend.
    With love, Rita

    • Hi Rita,

      I’m thinking of you and hope you are entering this new change in your life with grace. I’ve been thinking of what you told me awhile back about selecting some of my posts to put in a small book. I think I’ll go for it but deciding which ones will be the tricky part. Thanks so much for your wonderful encouragement. I’m so glad we got you back on my list.

    • Hi Dana,

      It is great to have you back. I miss your presence (dark as it may be sometimes) on my blog. You remind me to do my reality checks. Miss you guys!


  3. WOW!!!* 🙂 All I can say is this piece is a “HOME-RUN” for me. Since I am one of the gals from Chrysalis, I have to say your smile is AWESOME and yep you need to use it all the time. I am really glad that I know the Jamie that smiles. I can’t remember being with you haven’t have those pretty smiling eyes.

    I would like to send out an invitation for the “Smile Committee.” About a year ago, this “Committee” formed as a complete joke for a few of us on the steering committee for camp. We literally made it up. We have been having a lot of fun with it. (@Jamie: I will have to share the story sometime…you will smile and pretty sure LOL) ANYWAYS…it was all in good fun and in HONOR of our dear sister Karla who passed away from ALS in July 2010. There are a few people you meet in your lifetime that make footprints on your heart and Karla was certainly one of those folks for me. She had a contagious smile and used it to bring Peace and Joy. Even in a time of trial…her smile brought comfort to sooo many…Her favorite phrase:

    “Each Day is a Gift…MAKE someone smile.”

    ***don’t just shoot out a random smile and hope it works…she meant take it to the next level and MAKE them smile. ***

    So my friends…I challenge you to have fun with this. It can really make life fun. BTW: There is open enrollment for the smile committee 🙂

    P.S. Happy Birthday 🙂

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