Let’s talk about your face.
What’s the state of your face right now? The muscular state of your face, that is. Don’t look in the mirror. Don’t touch your face. Just experience it from within, proprioceptively.
Is your face smooth and impressionable like a child’s, ready to spontaneously express whatever emotional impulse comes up? Or is your face tense and rigid, stricken by past emotions imprinted in its musculature, perpetuating old memories like reminiscent scars?
Emotional distress is stored in the muscles of your face.1 Can you feel into them? Try to feel into your facial muscles—from within. There’s no need to focus on emotions, no need to play psychotherapy. Just be with your face’s muscular state for a few moments.
Close our eyes. With your mind’s eye, you can look from inside your head at the back of your face, the side opposite to the skin. You can look at your face from behind, as if you were looking at the back of a mask. This gives you a better sense of your face’s muscle tension, which is kind of like a mask.
You can also breathe with your face if you will. Breathe in to your face, breathe out from your face. Not just with your mouth and nose; with your entire face! with its every pore and cell and muscle fiber. Mindful breathing slowly relieves the tension, and it allows new emotional states to appear.
In sum, to release the emotions trapped in your face, try to experience your facial muscles from within, look at the back of your face to sense tense muscles, and breathe with your face to relieve the tension. It also helps to send inner smiles to whatever tensions you witness, even if you think that’s silly. What’s wrong with spiritual silliness?
The practice may be weird and difficult at first, but it is also liberating, and it cools the mind because it relieves the distress stored in your facial muscles. It allows you to smile more, which is attractive, to express your emotions more clearly, which is useful, and to be an overall more authentic human being, which is beautiful.
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- See Glaros et al., 2016, Longitudinal Multilevel Modeling of Facial Pain, Muscle Tension, and Stress, Journal of Dental Research, Vol. 95(4), 416-422; but also Wieckiewicz et al., 2017, Mental Status as a Common Factor for Masticatory Muscle Pain: A Systematic Review, Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 8, 646.