Alphabet of the Heart

Collaboration Respect


Key Point: Dr. James R. Doty, a Stanford neurosurgeon and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, has written a book entitled “Into The Magic Shop.” It profoundly stimulates the reader’s thoughts and feelings. I’m going to send copies to our children and read key parts of it to our 8-year-old grandson. The book presents a compelling story (including convincing science), as a road map for living life to its fullest through harnessing the power of BOTH the brain and the heart.

“When our brains and our hearts are working in collaboration—we are happier, we are healthier, and we automatically express love, kindness, and care for one another,” he writes. “I knew this intuitively, but I needed to validate it scientifically. This was the motivation to begin researching compassion and altruism. I wanted to understand the evolution of not only why we evolved such behavior but also how it affects the brain and ultimately our health”. 

Science is helping us understand that the heart has its own intelligence system. When you think about the heart having its own “brain,” well that’s a “WOW.” In fact, the heart sends more signals to the brain than vice versa. The neural net around our heart plays a huge part in informing our reasoning and thinking. As Dr. Doty points out so wonderfully, our individual happiness and wellbeing depends on the brain AND heart working together as a system. The brain knows an awful lot but as the research in the “Magic” book illustrates, it knows exponentially more when it joins the heart. 

Many of us need practice and a framework for prying the heart open. I certainly do. In fact, data shows that many of us are impoverished for meaningful connection. In Doty’s work, he notes that 25 percent of Americans state they do not have anyone close enough to share a problem with. We have work to do here. Hence a the following summary of Doty’s “Alphabet of the Heart.” (For a richer outline, please read the book).

C for Compassion.

Open your heart for yourself and others.

D for Dignity.

Recognize the dignity of every human being.

E for Equanimity.

While acknowledging the ups and downs, try to find an even keel.

F for Forgiveness.

Seek forgiveness from those you have failed and those who have failed you.

G for Gratitude.

Keep in the front of your mind gratitude for all that you have.

H for Humility.

Remember that you are no better and no worse than others you encounter.

I for Integrity.

Value honesty and integrity and use it to guide your actions.

J for Justice.

Acknowledge your obligations in context of social justice.

K for Kindness.

Be kind to yourself and to others.

L for Love.

Let your heart be open to love from within yourself and from others.

Character Moves: 

  1. Open your heart up at work. Life and work are one. We need to practice connecting our hearts and brains in every part of our life; especially in the work place. It is time that the “heart” gets equal billing with the “brain.” We are learning that enormous organization value and a “cult” brand (hence profitability) depends on authentic emotional connections (the heart) between employees and customers… A fully integrated community. 
  2. Doty’s site offers exercises for us to help the brain and heart connect and work as a system. Just reading about this integration means little if we don’t practice. Like anything else of sustainable value, there is no easy path. It’s a “Magic Shop,” but any good magician requires hours of practice to become magical. 

Opening the Heart in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: There’s a reason we hear those sad but sometimes beautiful stories of elderly married people dying within hours of each other, with no perfect explanation other than a “broken heart.” It’s a thing. As Millennials, our “heart” is sometimes the last thing we let cross our minds… It’s supposed to be healthy, ticking and can be an afterthought. I’m interested in learning more about how the heart and brain connect in all aspects of life.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis