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Thread: Metta/smiling and jaw pain/stiffness

  1. #1

    Metta/smiling and jaw pain/stiffness

    Hey all, happy new year!

    I find smiling during meditation very conducive to positive feelings and states of mind which helps me focus more easily on the breath. Also whilst practicing metta it has a profound boost on my ability to cultivate loving-kindness.

    There's only one trouble... Even with a relatively small smile for a short period I start to get stiffness and even pain in my jaw!
    I do have a TMJD (Temporomandibular joint disorder) and for some with this condition smiling can cause such symptoms. However what I find strange is that when I'm not meditating and just going about my daily activities or socialising, I'm smiling a lot and there's no symptoms. I'm a pretty jolly fella and am often wearing a broad grin but at these times there's no issue!

    The potential causes that come to mind are: 1. From fear of the stiffness/pain re-arising I am creating the tension there myself thus not smiling naturally (this seems likely at first although in general I have no issue relaxing any other tension in my body)
    2. Simply having TMJD may be the cause itself, and the reason why I can normally smile as much as desired throughout my days is that that kind of active smile is more lax and the muscles shift as I laugh, open my mouth, speak etc. as opposed to sustaining a relatively rigid facial posture from smiling during meditation (this also seems likely, although the stiffness can start after such a short period that it makes me very sceptical lol)

    Or maybe it's neither of these things or a mix of both, I don't know.

    I feel that it's a large obstacle in my practice because it prevents me from smiling during meditation, and I know that smiling during meditation greatly aids my letting go (and cultivation of metta).

    So as you might imagine, I'm rather confused and would appreciate any insights/advice/relatable experience.
    Although I am eager for any thoughts on all I've said, I do have one specific question as well and that is, do you find that you need to smile in order to cultivate metta? (for at present, I feel that I do, as it just happens naturally!)

    I wish you all a beautiful new year filled with blissful jhana and profound growth.

    With metta (and a sore jaw)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mara Pacers's Avatar
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    May 2016
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    Happy New Year Dylan

    When following some of AB's guided meditation, that start with the body scan and relaxing into a comfortable position, I find that he is right and that a lot of tension 'hides' in the muscles around the mouth and eyes. When I relax these, I always end up with a slack mouth and floppy faced lol. During the meditation process I often end up smiling, but always as a reflection of what is happening within. On a couple of occasions I have purposefully smiled, if I was stuck in a negative mind state - just to help break out of that cycle.

    Answering your specific question; I don't need to smile in any meditation, and probably prefer a completely neutral disengaged face. But sometimes one just can't help it... when the smile just needs to explode

    I'd suggest focusing on having completely relaxed face muscles for a while and to abide in deep relaxation and comfort. The belief that one must smile to achieve a good meditation is just a conditioned belief... catch it early before it becomes an ingrained habit which is harder to break.



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