The Energy of Civility

We see brief glimpses of the Dalai Lama’s vision, as in the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. The inter-faith service at ground zero was heart-lifting, enabling something to rise over that sacred space like the incense of hope. We thought for a few minutes: “Maybe we can do this after all!” The presence of the Pope is an example to all of us of how powerful an individual’s energy can be. We are not isolated—we are connected at every level. When the over-riding tone is hate, it will vibrate throughout our world. But one man changed that for the time we were in his presence. What a gift it is to know that we, too, can carry an energy that uplifts our small world. Change begins with small steps. What about advocating for a conscious return to civility as a starting point?


Civility is more than mere politeness. Its root is the word civilization, and it relates to courtesy and civilization. The use of civility or incivility reflects an entire culture, and I believe that the culture of the United States at this point in time floats at various levels of incivility. Benjamin Franklin tells us: Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, enemy to none. Is there any aware human who believes the current political or social climate reflects that ideal?

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As the tendrils of my memory feed the word civility into its vast storehouse, I wonder what it is that insists I write about this subject. Immediately I see my Grandfathers sitting at the old white enameled table in our kitchen on South 4th St. in Springfield, Illinois. It was rare that my mother’s family visited from South Bend, Indiana, but when they did, these two men met on opposite sides of that table, opposite views on every issue uppermost in their minds. They sat down like two men entering the ring, their energy made up of anticipation, not antipathy. They relished every minute. It was then I learned that vigorous debate did not have to be laced with the poisons of hate and anger.  Mutual respect lay like the seabed beneath the roiling waves of their rhetoric.

My Father’s Father Nicholas: Pin-striped suit, highly polished black shoes, black silk socks, pocket watch on a gold chain, barbered and smelling of bay rum, Republican, holding an after dinner brandy glowing like sunshine in his glass, smoke from his thin cigar in a holder wafting across the table. Owner of Amrhein’s Holsum Bakery, decorated and elevated in the Knights of Columbus—I will never forget the first time I saw him in his regalia, including a sword and sash—he exuded power and money. He sent his son, my dad, to Notre Dame.

My Mother’s Father Ted: White shirt with sleeves rolled up, tucked into belted workman-like pants, brown shoes with drooping socks. (If you wonder why I noticed their feet, it’s because I was sitting on the faded rag rug under the table where I could listen to their conversation.) Grandpa was an active party Democrat, a mover and shaker in the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, and held his can of beer like an old friend. He enjoyed his Murial cigars, letting them lay across the ashtray until the ash dropped like a tree. He was a man’s man who tended his iris beds with love. My mother graduated into a job at the Studebaker Plant in South Bend, home of Notre Dame.

If I was wearing a sweater, Mom would have to wash it several times to get the smell of cigars to wash down the drain. Until she discovered it, I would keep it close, inhaling the memory of my two grandpas. I tell you all this because these two men were the prime example for me of how people can be so different, passionately different, and yet manage to talk, argue, explain and erupt while still remaining within the bounds of civility and family. The year I remember vividly they were talking about Senator Taft and my Grandfather said that if the union came into his shop he would simply hire new people. I can still hear my Grandpa’s voice and the sound of his fist hitting the table, slopping his beer over the edge: “Scabs, Nicholas!” he shouted, “God damn scabs!” I knew this point was where the air went out of the balloon, the two of them would sip at their drinks, and the conversation would revert to something less charged. I recognized that there were two levels to their discourse, and they never allowed the conversation to deteriorate into name-calling of each other or the other man’s beliefs. They argued with knowledge, passion and conviction, but knew at the end of the day their differences were ultimately smaller than their world view. Another two-some I admire is Republican Mary Matilin and  Democrat James Carville. I don’t know how they handle their politics in their marriage, but they do, setting an example for the rest of us.

In the quote by the Dalai Lama, I share a picture of the heart’s magnetic field. It has been measured by magnetometers and extends around eight feet outside the body. Most scientists believe the field is much greater, but that is the limit current instruments can measure. Each time your heart beats, it pulses out your thoughts, attitudes and emotions in that moment in time. Picture yourself as a living breathing transmitter of energetic waves. Imagine all energetic beings exchanging messages within relationship, the family, organizations, government entities and countries. This is where choice and civility come in.  On a daily level, picture the energetic being an office becomes based on the strength of the leadership energy that filters down to the employees. We’ve all been to offices that make you want to run for the hills, and others whose waiting rooms are peace-filled and you enjoy your interaction with the person who greets you.

On an individual level, imagine you are going to a networking meeting and you’re feeling nervous. Your magnetic field will tell the people gathered there, through their magnetic field, that you are uncomfortable. If you are confident and look forward to interacting, your field will carry that message, which will be read by those around you, causing people to want to be with you. On the other side, you can sense through your field if there is someone in the group that your intuition is telling you to avoid. Don’t take this as a personal judgment. It is simply your finely tuned energetic field telling you this is not a good time to make that connection. These findings are verified across the scientific community, from physiology to biology to physics. The cool thing is, we can learn to recognize where our energetic field is at a particular time and use simple tools to strengthen our field’s positive qualities.

So, this being true, it makes sense that small or large communities of living beings benefit from connection to magnetic fields of civility, kindness and discernment. Since negative energy affects our stress levels and our health, groups of people sending out negativity, anger and hatred can, literally, make us sick. I think that is enough to make the effort to refocus, as the Dalai Lama says, on the “US” instead of our version of “them.” We are, as the creator intended, one large connected entity of energy. Our beautiful Earth has her own magnetic field that is impacted by the energy of the beings living on her. Scientist are now measuring the changes in the magnetic field of Mother Earth that result from huge uprisings of fear or anger, such as was experienced on 9/11. We are finding more and more reasons to increase civility and good energy for ourselves, our children, the flora and fauna and our planet.

I am not naïve enough to say we should agree on everything—that is impossible and not even healthy. But how we interact will have a lot to do with whether we thrive or continue down the path to separation and fear. Consciously monitoring our energy can change the atmosphere of our homes, our communities and our institutions more than anything we have yet experienced. All it takes is will and heart. And speaking of heart, one simple exercise from HeartMath™ can change your stress levels instantly, making it easier to practice civility under all circumstances.


When you are stressed, feeling anger or judgment arising, simply focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little deeper and slower than usual. Take several deep breaths, counting slowly and silently from one to five.

As you do, begin to remember a time when you were calm, loving, peaceful or appreciative of something or someone.

Breathe that memory into your heart. Stay in this place for a few minutes, strengthening the memory as you breathe. If you were wearing a monitor, you would literally see your heart rate change, but you will feel the difference in your body even without the monitor.  Creating a state of calm teaches you to think, speak, heal and create relationships from a clear and focused space—and it is done using your own body’s skills. As a Certified HeartMath™ Trainer, I have seen profound differences in individuals and groups using these tools. I know we humans have the capacity to change ourselves, and our world, into a place of civility, calm and peace.

In the end, nations will be judged by the size of their hearts, not the size of their armies. Author Anthony Douglas Williams

By Author Therèse Tappouni


Facebook Pages: Therese Tappouni and The Gifts of Grief