Tag Archives: innocence

The Smile Game

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“The ability to be in the present moment is the main component of mental wellness” Abraham Maslow

I am having some afterthoughts regarding my last post, The Art of Being Present and Making Authentic Connections.  I was thinking about being present and connecting with people and getting ready to write this post. What I am feeling mostly is gratitude.  I am grateful that this important to me.  Employing these practices has enriched my life. I have learned that I like people more than I thought I did, I am a people person. People have so much to offer, so do I. The previous post addressed being present and sharing my simple practice of connection. I had a fantastic flashback after I published that post and I want to share it here.

I was a teenager. My best friend and I rode the train into New York City. We were passionate about these regular adventures in to town. Gosh, we had so much fun. It is so wonderful to have a memory such as this bubble up from a place so long ago. I don’t think this memory is one I have consciously remembered before. Every trip into the city was an adventure.  We were in high school. Our plans always revolved around going to a museum, it was all about seeing art. It wasn’t just museums, it was galleries, shops, stopping to sketch architectural elements, it was people watching and walking the city streets. It was about lunch too, seeking out food that was new and different to us. We were fearless and brave. We ate hot dogs from street vendors, Italian ices in Central Park, Chinese food in small family owned restaurants, we adored deli, and occasionally we would dine at Horn & Hardart, an automat, just to sit there and patiently wait for that empty spot to be filled with another sandwich.  NYC was our oyster, we had not a care in the world. Looking back I sense that we felt completely present. We would head to the city early in the morning to arrive as the city was waking up.  It was always Saturday, a different kind of day in NYC, not the hustle and bustle of a work weekday. We lingered over our time, we drank the day in. We savored all that we experienced.  We enjoyed all the activities we planned, but we remained open to some of the spontaneous things that happen because we were open to that. We would head home in the late afternoon getting the 4 o’clock train. Our parents were picking us up and we usually were having a slumber party at one of our homes.  We never missed our train. We always arrived at Grand Central an hour or so early.  We had a game we played, it was truly a highlight of our day, we called it The Smile Game. We adored Grand Central, we could have spent the entire day there.  There was a large receiving room from the street as you entered.  You could walk straight ahead in to the main room where the ticket windows and the gates to the trains were. There were rows and rows of hard high-backed wooden benches to the sides of that center aisle. The men and ladies room were at opposite ends, with an aisle through the benches.  We would grab seats in the first row so we could see the men or women headed to the bathrooms. We needed those front row seats so people could see us. The smile game was just that – make eye contact smile and see if we could get a smile in return.  There were many people we never made contact with.  They were lost in thought, hurrying along completely unaware that we existed. Some stared blankly, some scowled, and some pretended that they did not see us.  Then it would happen, someone would smile, we were thrilled. There were days that we thought no one would smile.  That never happened. Others made eye contact, smiled and said hello.  We would return their hello, but never start a conversation. The woman’s side always had more responses than the men’s side.  We made up stories about the people as they walked by, oh the things we did not know. These people were older than us dealing with everything life was dishing out, they were experiencing things we knew nothing about. We were so young, 14 a and 15, and so innocent, clueless. This was pure friendship before life was dishing anything up to us.  We were free to be present, our minds and spirits were not cluttered with the business of life yet.  Right now, I am wondering if we were to go to Grand Central what would happen nearly 50 years later?  Sadly, I do know, it simply would not be the same.  I learned years ago you can’t go home again, the same applies to playing The Smile Game. Those are moments in time, in the past. I lost track of my best friend as my family moved to California at the end of that school year. We kept in touch for a while, not long.  Today I feel as though I have had a visit with her, the memory so vivid and so real. Yes, it is okay to be present in a memory, but it is not where I want to dwell. The memory was clear as a bell. I think this bubbled up out of long ago because The Smile Game is an early version of my practice today.  The visit to the past was a pleasure. I am back, delightfully and gratefully so…..

This trip down memory lane and the joy I felt getting those smiles validates why I enjoy a real connection with others today.  The practice is simple. When you interact with anyone, make eye contact, take your breath and quietly say your word (I use Namaste), centering yourself, opening up the possibility of a real connection.  You can practice in the mirror.  Look at yourself, take the breath, say the word you have chosen.  Feel the connection and the energy it generates. Looking in the mirror allows us to use the practice to connect with ourselves, nothing wrong with that. Any moment we are present is a wonderful thing. These moments add up to spending most of our time being present, being present is what opens us up to every possibility. Today I celebrate The Smile Game I played so long ago, my take away is all the joy I remember I felt making those innocent connections, a memory of moments spent in the present.  I am grateful this memory came to me, I enjoyed it, it was a great comfort to me.

Always dazzle, Karen

Photo credit: www.hudsonfineart.com