Lead with your heart.

I suspect most of us have the shared joyful experience of holding a newborn baby closely to us in our arms and feeling its heart softly seeking out and speaking to our own.

The mind-thoughts of an infant may be still unformed, without any context and clarity or ability for expression. But its heart knows things. Its tiny heart-voice is articulate and uncensored, compelling and terribly wise.

I have personally experienced and wondered at these heart conversations with human babies as well as other forms of new young animals – dogs and cats and horses in particular. I have also sensed it from the roots of trees and the petals of gardenias; even from sun-warmed river stones and frost-coated blades of grass; and from seeds that pop alive into a new generation – seen or unseen, planted or wild (bidden or unbidden).

I am quite convinced that all living things (and what in the entire universe is not alive in some measure?) do have this heart energy that allows us to communicate with one another. And, I suspect, we are highly influenced by this energy of the heart whether we realize it or not.

Studies have proven that heart energy – or the heart brain, as it has been called – can be measured up to five times the distance and strength of the mind brain. It’s further been determined that we can control it – or rather the message it delivers – as intentionally and as significantly as we can change our thoughts.

I am particularly intrigued by the research that shows that “appreciation” is the strongest of all the heart-brain messages. Stronger than love or hate … stronger than happiness or anger … appreciation speaks the most clearly and authentically.

Not long ago, I regularly morning-walked a neighbor’s untrained, highly energetic young pup. Placing my hand against her heart – focusing my heart thoughts directly onto hers – was often the only way to calm her enough to walk quietly at my side (most of the way). I suspect only the wisdom of our hearts will ever understand the how and why of that. But I witnessed its effect, its truth. And it was brilliant.

Even beyond the “heart” as we quantify it, new and wondrous science is uncovering how older, mature trees pass wisdom on to the younger ones around them – things about survival and health, how to thrive in their prevailing environment; about the sharing of resources and taking care of each other, as well as providing for other life-forms that depend on them.

We know that native American cultures expressed thanks (appreciation) to the game and plant life and water that fed and sustained them. And they lived and slept and walked as near to and as softly on the ground as possible. Perhaps they knew their hearts could speak their appreciation to the very earth itself in this way. Perhaps the earth expressed its appreciation to them in return.

Howard Thurman – one of the 20th century’s most wise individuals – wrote: “In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.” Perhaps we can also whisper with our own hearts appreciation for life in all its forms and states of being and experiences.

Because Thurman further observed that “life wears down the edges of the mind.” And perhaps it does. Like shoes after a long journey – becoming uneven at the heels, soles thin and cracked. But then, with the dulling of the brain-mind, perhaps the heart-mind is polished to a new sheen, and made even stronger, and able to let appreciation shine out in all its brilliance, allowing us to experience and express the ultimate appreciation at the ultimate moment of appreciation – as when we were newly born.

I suspect that we should all lead with our hearts at all times – literally and figuratively, thoughtfully and energetically. We should speak through our hearts on purpose. Appreciate through our hearts with abandon. After all, babies and dogs and other living things will be listening.