In her story, despite her misgivings, Janeen Sudaka-Karlsson heeds a “message” and transforms her life.

Anger had increasingly become my family’s default form of expression several years prior to the event, which made me feel impotent and isolated. I had gotten some NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) tapes for my middle son who didn’t want them, and so months earlier, I had listened to them myself in the car, and done some praying asking for direction regarding what I should do with my life when the last two kids went off to college. Earlier in the evening, before the life-changing event occurred, I had been looking at pictures of myself from the previous Christmas that I had picked up that day. I was horrified to see that my face had acquired a very sour expression with a bitter-looking mouth. Later, I confirmed that the sour expression was indeed etched into my face when I looked in the mirror. I had always thought I would grow into a jolly old woman, yet the evidence was definitely to the contrary–and I wasn’t even old. I was only 54!

I went out to the hot tub to ease my wounded spirit. No sooner had I emoted my internal lament while massaging my foot on the floor jet: life was so unfair and not only did my life suck, but now I was being forced to broadcast our family’s out-of-control dynamic by wearing evidence of it on my face. It was embarrassing! This thought had barely formed in my mind, when suddenly out of the starry southern sky, above the tree line directly in front of me, came “The Voice.” It was a male voice, not too loud, very clear and authoritative, yet also kind. It said:

“If you want to be young, Smile!”

That was it. But my life totally changed in that moment.

At first all I could do was laugh, and then my body became covered in goose pimples, a whole-body smile. It was so clear, so amazing, tempting, honoring, stimulating, staggering! I began to tingle with feelings of opportunity and responsibility; to dream of getting involved, and to hang on the concept of not getting involved, since the idea of buying into the missive seemed terribly scary. But finally, what else could I do but commit to giving it a try?

Even in that first moment, I knew this information was way too big, to be meant for just me. I was obviously supposed to do something with it. My gut told me the missive must be true, to have been delivered like that. But I instantly felt under-qualified for what seemed like a monumental job. Obviously, I was supposed to put the knowledge “out there.” I felt burdened with the responsibility to live up to the obligation that had been foisted upon me out-of-the-blue (or black, in fact) if indeed, the missive was true. Yet I felt obliged to summon the stamina, to pledge to give a fair shake to proving to myself that the words were true, in order to be true to myself.

“Okay,” I replied, “I’ll give it 30 days.”

I told no one about the incident, knowing I would be ridiculed ad nauseam, but dedicated a lot of energy to my promise to smile. Initially, I couldn’t believe how hard it was to live up to the pledge. My smile muscles had actually atrophied! So while the kids were at school I went around the house holding my cheeks up since they wouldn’t go up on their own. I made up a little song and sang it at the top of my lungs when I was alone:

Smile you’re on Candid Camera.
Smile you’re on Candid Camera.
Smile you’re on Candid Camera,
Children of the World.

I gave the pledge my all as if it were a lifeline.

The first change I noticed came within two weeks; it was a feeling of peace. Looking more youthful came second, feeling more powerful came third. Then our housekeeper came back after having been away for three weeks. When she saw me she said, “Jeannine, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but you look younger!”

I replied, “I thought I did but you’re the first person besides me to notice it. I’ve been forcing myself to smile!”

Within a month everybody began to notice the change. At the 30-day review date, I chuckled at the wit and wisdom in God’s Plan where He would tuck the energy of Peace, within the energy of Beauty–or vice versa.

Interestingly, my family hated the difference in my appearance and hated to see me smile, but the more they complained the more empowered I felt. My facial expression was something they had no control over if I chose to rise above their input. At one point while I was doing my smiling exercises along with doing yoga stretches in the hot tub, my husband came outside to tell me I could stop doing the exercises since I looked good enough for him just the way I was. He angrily marched back inside when I told him I wasn’t doing the exercises for him; I was doing them for me.

Just before Christmas 1999, I got the intuition to call the smiling facial expression, “Smiling Eyes” since it was obvious that smiling a full-faced smile could be felt in the rectus muscles of the eyes, and to call the stretching exercises I’d been doing along with the smiling, “Smiling Eyes Yoga”. I applied to the US Patient and Trademark Office to trademark both names on December 29, 1999.

The following February I had a series of visions (again in the hot tub) relating to my early life, that gave meaning to the esoteric missive I had heard years earlier from my yoga teacher–that negative experiences are buried in inappropriate folds of the body. Smiling Eyes obviously open these up. Subsequent experiences taught me that a person can’t simply impose optimism on oneself without nurturing him or herself appropriately. Studying sections of Grey’s Anatomy has allowed me to understand how and why Smiling Eyes work.

I have been working my own Smiling Eyes all these years and I am still looking for the proper path to successfully introduce their power to others.

Janeen Sudaka-Karlsson

P.S. (I changed the spelling of my first name in 2000 that’s why I spelled my name Jeannine in the story.)