The moon is almost full now, and I love hanging out my window at night and looking at it.  It makes me think of faces, and thereby hang some tails — and some reflections.    

It must have been some time in my 30ies, when I looked in the mirror one morning and was struck by the texture of my skin.  The change seemed to have come overnight.  It was no longer smooth the way it had been the last time I looked.  Overnight it seemed to have become slightly puckered, noticeably less firm and fine-grained.

This was all before I had heard about Anicca, a Pali word for the Buddhist teaching of impermanence.  Everything, without exception, is constantly in flux.  But does it have to apply to my face?  Yes, it does. Dang.

What of it?  From one perspective, we are not in (entirely) in charge of what happens to our bodies, or our faces, or our lives.  At the same time, we have areas where awareness can give us choices.  Here’s an example that has been illuminating for me as it applies to faces.

My first husband, Wolf, and I were in South Tirol with the kids for an autumn celebration the Austro-Italians call Toerggelen.  The Tiroleans know how to live it up.  They distribute the new wine liberally.  The fruits of the field are spread out in each farmhouse, and locals and tourists alike can taste of them and fill up.

We were out for a walk one afternoon.  It was crisp and clear, the meadow path stretched out in from of us, the mountains silhouetted in the background.  We passed by farmhouses and barnyards along our walk.  We came across a mother sow with some piglets.  Wolf picked up one of the little ones, grinning as he dangled it by its feet. The kids loved it.  It was captured on film for posterity.

But it was another photograph taken that day was a watershed for me.  Unbeknownst to me, someone shot a picture of me on that walk as I was just taking in the scene, with nothing particular on my mind.  When I glimpsed the print after the roll came back from developing, I was chagrined.

My mouth was literally an upside-down happy. There were deep downward lines of my mouth, a drawn forehead, an overall look of discontent.  What made the realization particularly poignant is that I was quite sure there had been nothing in particular wrong at the time.  It was just an everyday face.  I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t really look like this.’   Then I realized that if the camera had captured this face, it was probably there for all to see.

So I decided to check it out.  “Do I really look this way sometimes?”  I said, proffering the snapshot.  The answer from Wolf and the kids was “Yes, that’s a fairly common expression.  Why do you ask?”  Apparently they thought nothing of it. That face was just an everyday countenance to them.  Unremarkable, familiar.

My worst fears confirmed.

On the one hand I was abashed to see the picture and to realize that this is what was on my face day to day.  On the other, it was certainly an opportunity.  Seeing this photograph in my twenties gave me a chance become aware and have some influence over what was taking shape on my face.

I said to myself ‘I better do something about this now. “  I started noticing my face, when I made ‘that face.’  I started being kinesthetically aware of my facial expressions and catching grimaces sooner.  I paid attention to my expression when I was relaxed and when I was annoyed.  I used the mirror now and then to see how what I was feeling was manifesting on my face.  This intense attention only lasted a few weeks, but the effects have been longer lasting.

For me, the exercise was not only about externals.  It’s about how the internal expresses externally.  And how the external can affect and transform the internal.  When my face and facial lines soften as a result of my becoming aware and more relaxed, I feel it on the inside.  Simply becoming aware brings me into present time.  In the Now, things are invariably clearer and calmer than wherever else I might have been.  And if trying to avoid a draconian visage can lead me to relax and soften in the moment, it’s a double gift! And good for stroke prevention as well!

What happens day after day, year after year, on the inside works on the faces we were given at birth in not altogether unpredictable ways.  More awareness.  More learning.  After all, it’s a journey, right? And a school house, a dance…  And there are many different moves, twists, turns.  And lines!

Enjoy the full moon, and your face, however it has become!  I am definitely doing the one, and keep sidling up to the other!

On reflection, how do you feel about your physical face now?  How does your current face compare to your youthful one?  What awareness and connection between your inside and outside worlds do you notice on your face, if any?  

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, andgrowth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook :-)




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