Papa John lived at the edge of town amid the corn and tobacco fields in a small red-brick house. Driving the beat-up old truck he used to make his living, he would show up at the houses and businesses in our small town once or twice a week to collect the trash and haul it to the dump. We always liked to see him coming, a big smile on his face and his eyes gleaming with kindness. Every interaction, no matter how brief, left us feeling as if we’d been touched with goodness and honour.
Papa John was well known in our North Carolina town of six hundred people. Rich or poor, young or old, black or white, people loved and respected him. What was it about this lovable man that gave him such a warm and generous personality? What was it that transcended social status and race to gently win our hearts?
Papa John’s secret was appreciation. You could tell by looking at him, by watching his interactions with people and things, that he walked through life in a state of deep, sincere appreciation. He appreciated every little thing in life – the way the sun was shining and the birds were singing, the way his wife made his lunch just as he like it, the way his customers greeted him by name. Even on the days when his seventy-five-year-old body didn’t want to respond to the call of his youthful spirit, he never let it get him down. Rain or shine, hot or cold, late or early, he was always smiling, eager to reach out to shake your hand and caringly ask how you were doing that day.
When we told him that we were moving to California, it was clear that his words of kindness all those years had been genuine. But despite (and through) his sadness, he let us know that if he couldn’t appreciate seeing us every week, he’d still appreciate having known us at all. He’d filled his heart up with appreciation for so long that he could return to that emotion from sadness with incredible grace and ease.
His simple, appreciative presence was so endearing that, after we settled in California, we flew Papa John out for a visit. We’d been thinking about him a lot – missing him – and we wanted our colleagues at the Institute to meet him.
Among our staff of business professionals and scientists, Papa John worked the same magic he had in North Carolina. Within a day, everybody wanted to be around him.
As he was getting into the car that would take him to the airport, surrounded by a group of us, he smiled at each individual in turn – that smile that lit up his whole face. ‘There are a lot of problems in the world,’ he said, ‘but now, when anybody asks, I can say I know where there’s a piece of heaven. It’s right here with all of you.’
Looked at in some ways, Papa John’s life had been harder than most. He had a job that few people would want. The house he lived in wasn’t much to speak of. And he never had much money to burn. But the level of appreciation he radiated into the world was more valuable by far than success or riches. He’d cultivated one of the heart’s most precious qualities: wherever he went, he connected powerfully to the world with love. And people responded.
Core heart feelings – including appreciation, care, compassion, nonjudgment, and forgiveness – are very potent. They’re all aspects of love. These qualities, which we call ‘heart power tools’, come from the depth of our being – from the core of the heart. Activating core heart feelings increases energy assets and reduces or eliminates energy deficits. Properly directed, these feelings can change our lives – and perhaps the world.
But we don’t have time for such nonsense, right? ‘These are sweet concepts,’ some might say, ‘but life is too hard to accommodate them. People with a soft touch teach us about loving our neighbours and forgiving in Sunday school, but everybody knows life doesn’t really work that way.’ Heart-based qualities sound appealing, to be sure, but they don’t seem real enough to be useful when we’re dealing with tough issues such as job security, relationships, finances, or health.
Ironically, we react this way to heart-based qualities not because they don’t apply to our problems in the real world but because we lack a practical way to apply them. Now that even science has shown us how incredibly good these core heart feelings are for our bodies and minds, it’s time to transfer them from the sky to the street, from airy-fairy concepts to down-to-earth reality.
As I (Doc) have often said, ‘We’re about the business of the heart. From the moment we started looking into the power of the heart, we’ve been interested not in sentiment but in what works.
‘That’s why I don’t hesitate to call such tender feelings as care or appreciation ‘power tools’. It seems kind of jarring to some, but I want to emphasize the point: these aren’t just nice sensations meant to put us in a better mood. They have muscle. Once you see the results, you’ll understand why the name ‘power tools’ is appropriate.’
People like Papa John who are naturally appreciative have a glow about them. It’s not that their life has fewer challenges, but nothing seems to get them down; and they have a greater ability to bounce back when things don’t go their way. That’s because appreciation is highly magnetic and energizing.
Generally, appreciation means some blend of thankfulness, admiration, approval, and gratitude. In the financial world, something that ‘appreciates’ grows in value. With the power tool of appreciation, you get the benefit of both perspectives: as you learn to be consistently thankful and approving, your life will grow in value.
Appreciation is a powerful force. It eats the stress response for breakfast.
You can be confident that as you focus on sincere feelings of appreciation, your nervous system will naturally come into balance. Biologically, all of the systems in your body, including your brain, will work in greater harmony. The electromagnetic field radiating from your body will resonate with the ordered, coherent pattern emitted by your heart. And every cell in your system will benefit.
With your body in an improved state of balance, you’ll start to feel better emotionally – and it’s no wonder. Just as appreciation causes jagged heart rhythms to relax into an even flow, so your thoughts and feelings begin to interact more smoothly.
Appreciation has a way of smoothing out life’s lumps and bumps. It puts things into perspective, reducing the heaviness and density of stressful thoughts and feelings. In a moment of sincere appreciation, your day no longer feels like the burden it used to be. You’re free to see and acknowledge the good things in life for a change.
Opening your heart is like putting a wide-angle lens on the camera of your perception. Suddenly, more of the world comes into view. You have more room for new possibilities in the picture.
And keep in mind that like attracts like. An electromagnetic field is just that: magnetic. The emotional resonance you send out from your coherent heart rhythms is like a magnet, attracting people, situations, and opportunities. When you’re in a state of appreciation, your energy is more buoyant and spirited. You feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.
From The HeartMath Solution, © 2011 by Doc Childre and Howard Martin, published by Piatkus.