- The Big Difference
- Ask Yourself...
- Idea Exchange
Do you have a favorite project? You know, it’s when you think “Wow, I am so happy I thought of that!” Write me and tell me what it was, and I will be happy to post your story if you like.
One of mine was called “Spirituality in Business,” with a panel of interfaith religious leaders – Muslim imam, Catholic priest, Jewish rabbi, Quaker friend and Baptist minister -- each talking about their respective religion’s teachings regarding business. They all shared a commonality of belief – every God’s intention is for us to be successful and abundant.
So of course I was curious when I got an invitation to attend a seminar called “Sacred Commerce” run by Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the people who started the Café Gratitude restaurants in San Francisco.
The weekend was nothing short of extraordinary. The event was held in Hotel Kabuki, one of the Joie de Vivre properties, in the Japantown section. Great staff, beautiful design, lovely space. The event itself was really well organized, seamlessly coordinated. Why do I bring those things up? Because the details and structure were so well handled, I was able to focus on the content, which was fabulous.
I will share some of the highlights here, and I do encourage you to buy their book “Sacred Commerce” (click here to order).
One of the great things they do with their own staff, and that they taught in the seminar, is how to do a daily “clearing.” I had learned the basic technique of neutrally mirroring someone’s words and emotions, and wrote about it in my own book “The Big Difference,” and Terces and Matthew start off similarly.
Basically, person A says what is going on for them, then person B says, “What I heard you say is…” and repeats, as closely as they recall, what person A said. Person A then says how they feel about it, and again person B repeats it back.
The brilliant addition on Matthew and Terces’ part is that they then add another question: person A asks person B what they want to be acknowledged for.
Why is this so great? A couple reasons. People say you shouldn’t take your personal problems into work, but the fact is that everyone does. The “clearing” helps get what is going on out of the way. Mirroring, rather than reacting or solving a problem, is a powerful way of being present with another person, honoring them as they are. In addition, the acknowledgement component shifts someone’s focus off of what is wrong and onto what is right. It is very difficult to find a solution if you are looking in the land of problems. What do you think: is it easier to work with someone who is feeling good about themselves or someone who is upset?
The Engelharts estimate that when they take into consideration the expense of the staff time to accomplish this “clearing” every day with every person, it costs about $250,000 annually, or about 3% of their operating budget. When looking for ways to economize, this could easily be eliminated as “touchy-feely” wastefulness. Studies have been done though about how much time in the workplace is lost because of personal and interpersonal problems. I think Matthew and Terces are geniuses. I just know that if some efficiency expert studied this approach that they could quantitatively justify it, and I hope some academic type does take it on, and publishes a great revolutionary thesis that makes “clearing” or “mirroring” and “acknowledging” mainstream.
As a customer, it is evident that some kind of magic is happening as soon as you walk in one of the Café Gratitude restaurants. The staff is happy, smiling, engaged and engaging, and alive -- it is delightful to be there. How many other restaurants, stores or offices can you say that about?
There was a lot more to the seminar, but I am going to send you to their book rather than review it all here. What I think may be most beneficial is if I shared with you the distinctions that I personally examined. In my opinion, a good seminar does more than convey information; it also creates a great space to think.
“Sacred Commerce” was indeed a wonderful place to think…The most important issues in life are paradoxes, and but attention and contemplation does give them distinction and definition, and even clarity.
• Creating an inspired life and inspired communities requires that we live beyond our passing feelings and desires; rather, we need to live by our word. At the same time, it is crucial that we recognize and be conscious of our deepest feelings, or perhaps better said, our intuition or insights of inner wisdom, as these are the truest guides we have.
(Do we need some new words here? Native Americans have dozens of words for “snow,” reflecting the subtle differences and myriad variations of snowflake size and type. They knew that some kinds of snow make better snowballs than others, and they had a way to say it! Feelings vs. instincts is as close as we get for now.)
• To live a life of integrity you need to give your word and keep your word. And the truth is that that doesn’t always happen. The reality is that you do your best to give your word and keep your word, and sometimes you make a mistake and don’t get something done when you said you would, and you have to apologize and give your word anew.
• We are our brothers’ keepers, and yet, we are not responsible for the choices they make. You can extend your hand and offer help, but they have to take it. You can’t force someone to listen or learn or grow if they don’t want to do so. You can hold the space for them, you can take a stand for them, you can keep extending your hand, but ultimately, it is up to each person to choose and create the life they want.
• We need to care for others, and we need to take care of ourselves. It is crucial that you take care of your own well-being and listen to your own heart first. It does no one any good if you are drained or forcing yourself to be someone you are not. And it is equally crucial that you reach beyond yourself, try new things and be generous.
Few people are truly balanced on this seesaw, and generally people fall on one end of the spectrum or the other. Years from now, evolution, or lots of therapy or continuous clearing may move us beyond the crazy-making dance of egoic selfishness and depleted giving, but we aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, we use the tools we have. The Engelharts have brought a new ease, lightness and joy to the toolbox.
• You need to get uncomfortable, and at the same time pay attention to what works for you. For example, if you are the type who is quiet, speak up; conversely, If you are the type who is always talking, be quiet and listen. If you are the type who thinks of yourself first, try thinking of someone else first; conversely, if you are they type who gives too much, then spend some time taking care of yourself.
Do something that is not the norm for you. Get out of the box. The clearing exercise noted earlier will probably be uncomfortable when you first do it – great. As the Engleharts say, “Lean into the discomfort.”
They are quite adamant, as am I, about paying attention to what works for you too. Nothing should be done at the expense of your well-being or that of others.
Bottom line? Kindness and compassion are the ultimate guides for any action.
Are these things really new to me or you? Probably not. The great artist Jacques Lipshitz said, “There is nothing new under the sun. There’s only more of it.” And that’s what’s fun! Every so often, it is good to wrestle with life’s paradoxes, refine distinctions, and raise awareness. When you want to do that, go hang out with Matthew and Terces. Check out their website and sign up for Weekly Gratitude. www.cafegratitude.com