This week I went to a conference where Sylvia Boorstein spoke. She asked the audience about our “practices”—-not where we worked, but about which daily “mindfulness” routines we were using.

People raised their hands. One woman practiced yoga, another Tai Chi. Others sat quietly for at least 15 minutes a day.

I’ve tried out lots of practices (Yoga, Tai Chi, sitting meditations, etc.), but I had to think. What was my practice NOW?

I suddenly recalled an experience that happened to me a few years ago. I was driving out of a hospital parking garage, having just come from a routine appointment. I don’t find medical appointments particularly fun, and I was probably thinking about that test I had to return for the next morning. As I pulled up to the parking attendant’s booth to hand her my ticket, I saw her do a double take when our eyes met. She quickly emerged from behind her glass, came to my car window and leaned in.

“Oh, Honey!” she said. “I’m so sorry. It must be terrible. Let me give you a hug!”

I was stunned. Did my face look that distressed? What message was I putting out? I hadn’t gotten “bad news.” I was functioning. I was driving, for heaven’s sake! I had a warm home, food, clothes and family. I even had a healthcare support system that would allow me to get the test I needed!

I could see, hear, walk, talk, breathe. I didn’t even have to work in a parking garage ticket booth.

I took the hug, but I felt guilty all day. Based on what she thought I was dealing with, I didn’t really deserve it.

So since then, I have cultivated a “face practice.” Several times a day I check in with myself. What message am I putting out through my facial expression? Does it truly reflect my inner feelings and circumstances? If so, how bad are they—really?

If I intuit that I’m thinking “small,” distressed and “in it” (meaning I am letting aggravation consume me), I think about rearranging the muscles of my face. I become acutely aware of my vision, what I see. Not everyone can. I listen, enjoying the fact that I can actually hear. Not everyone can. I take a deep breath. Not everyone can.

As I do this, my facial muscles rearrange themselves. Sometime I top my “face practice” off with the thought, “Thank you!” and I notice my lips curving up at the corners.

And thank you my sweet and loving parking attendant. You are such a healer.