Excerpted with permission from the August/September 1999 issue of The Inner Edge.

Fourteen years ago, my physician said I had only a few days to live. In Brazil, I had acquired parasites that were consuming my liver. Lying in bed, I idly laid my hand on my chest. I paid attention to how it felt. It felt so good, I did it again and again. I had stumbled upon the secret of opening one's heart deliberately: I placed my attention at the center of my chest. One year later, I left my deathbed and dedicated my life to doing and teaching others this penultimate healing and management method: a method that saved, and then enriched, my life.

Over time, I have come to see how this practice can be used by managers, who are among the most important people in America today. They serve as a model for their staffs. They direct and demonstrate behavior, evoke attitudes, teach work, encourage, reward, and love.

Love? Yes. Love. A fine role model loves--along with being consistent, tolerant, patient, kind, and gentle.

Like breathing, love can occur spontaneously or as a deliberate practice within our own control.

Love's Meaning
"Love" is a confusing word. I'm not talking about sex, attachment, dependency, duty, or all of the ways that we use and misuse this word. I speak of open-heartedness--literally "opening the heart."

Few people realize that opening the heart can be a deliberate behavior. We're more familiar with spontaneous openings of the heart: romantic love, deep gratitude for a kindness, seeing an old friend or a moving drama.

But love is much more than the societal custom of something one is berated for not doing, something one is told to do, or something one waits for and hopes to find. Like breathing, love can occur spontaneously or as a deliberate practice within our own control.

Open-Hearted Management
Likewise, open-hearted management is more than a figure of speech. It is a literal description of behavior--a means of personal conduct that is learnable, natural, and cost-free. Here is how to open your heart:

1. Sit or stand quietly and pat your chest so you can feel the sensations of your chest. Lay both of your hands on your chest. Close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations. When you lose track of these feelings, stop and move around a bit.

2. Try Step #1 again. Your task is to feel the sensations of your chest. There is no correct length of time to practice--a minute or two is plenty at first. Struggling to endure will not help. Never do this unless you want to. Never do it when you are tired, angry, or frightened.

If you perform this practice several times a day, you will soon experience physical and emotional benefits. You will feel calm, quiet, and optimistic. It will become a favorite thing for you to do.

How does it work? My guess is that paying attention to anything--in this case a physical sensation--causes our intelligence to go to that body location or movement, and evoke what is possible from within. Compare this with thinking about a problem, which is using our intelligence in a different and more distant way.

As you practice, you will get more skillful and get stronger-feeling results, all pleasant, some extremely so. When this task becomes simple, it is time to move on.

3. Begin with your hands in place. Then, keeping your attention with the sensations of your chest, release your hands. You will soon be able to feel the sensations of your chest without touching. This enables you to now comfortably perform the practice in public.

4. Once you are able to do #3, try paying attention to your chest in the company of another person.

5. Finally, you must do two things at one time: keep your attention with your chest sensations while listening to someone. You will be listening to your heart.

"Management" simply means being present, listening, responding, teaching, rewarding, and demonstrating. With time and practice, Step #5 becomes a style of managing, one that nourishes both the manager and the staff. This way of managing almost eliminates bad feelings and conflict.

An open-hearted manager teaches open-heartedness without uttering a word about it. The employee learns by unconscious imitation. An open-hearted staff is a veritable magnet for customers.

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