Meditation Poem

From  The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Not-Han)

“The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is the practice of mindful breathing. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” After saying these sentences we can abbreviate them by saying “In” as we breath in and “Out” as we breath out. We don’t try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or shallow, we just breath naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper naturally. “Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my out-breath has become slow.” Now we can practice, “Deep/slow”. We don’t have to make an extra effort. It just becomes deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize that.

“Later on, you will notice that you have become calmer and more at ease. “Breathing in, I feel calm. Breathing out, I feel at ease.” I am not struggling anymore. Calm/ease.” And then, “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release all my worries and anxieties. Smile/release.” We are able to smile to ourselves and release all our worries. There are more than three hundred muscles in our face, and when we know how to breath in and smile, these muscles can relax. This is “mouth yoga.” We smile and are able to release all our feelings and emotions. The last practice is, “Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/wonderful moment.” Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment fully alive and aware.

“In, out
Deep, slow
Calm, ease
Smile, release
Present moment, wonderful moment.

“If you use this poem during sitting or walking meditation, it can be very nourishing and healing. Practice each line for as long as you wish.

“Another practice to help us be aware of our breathing is counting. As you breathe in, count “one” and as you breathe out, count “one” again. Then “Two/two,” “Three/three,” until you arrive at ten. After that, go back in the other direction: “Ten/ten,” “Nine/nine,” and so on, until you arrive back at one. If you do get lost go back to “one” and begin again. Relax. It’s only a game. When you succeed in counting , you can drop the numbers if you like and just say “in” and “out.” Conscious breathing is a joy.”

Having an Inner Smile


Sometimes we can get in our own way by striving too hard or taking life too seriously. Smiling and lightening up can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Having an inner smile means we’re greeting our experience with more kindness and openness. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “You need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” Holding an inner smile also reminds us to keep a sense of humor and avoid being too hard on ourselves.


You can maintain an inner smile in everyday life as well as during formal practices such as yoga, prayer, or meditation; gently smile to yourself, with kindness, appreciation, and a sense of perspective.

Long Version

  • Gently smile to yourself.
  • The smile is not so much a physical gesture, but is more of a gentle, internal smile.
  • Let this smile remind you not to strive too hard or criticize yourself. Also, let it make your thoughts, words, and deeds more gentle and accepting.
  • Be mindful of what it’s like to maintain this gentle smile, and notice if any reactions arise.
  • If you notice that you have become caught up in striving or struggling, remember to smile. See if you can find any humor in your thoughts or experience.
  • Also, if you notice strong thoughts, emotions, or sensations arise that are particularly challenging, see if you can meet them with a smile. You are not denying them or resisting them. You are just opening to the possibility that these experiences are not your true identify, and you are much more than them.
  • Practice “smiling” at difficult situations or relationships to honor and acknowledge them with friendliness. Notice what happens when you do this.


Holding an inner smile is taught in Daoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and also by Buddhist meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.