Today I am excited to share with you a practice that is at the core of our culture at Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. Most of us know, that when we are present we are more available; able to connect and genuinely share with others. Not only is this a great asset when you are in the hospitality business, but it makes a difference in all of our relationships. So we put together a practice that drew from a variety of things we had learned and incorporated into our own lives and would fit into a business environment.
We call this practice, “clearing”, and what it does is clear away any distractions that might be in our way of being available to serve. We have kept this as a benefit (done on the clock) for almost 16 years now, and the results, or benefits, are a close-knit community of people who really care about one another, work well together, and uphold our mission of serving love more powerfully. Having the opportunity to practice this at work, they find they have closer, more meaningful relationships in all areas of their lives.
We are not asking people to leave their troubles at home, but rather to bring their full selves to work.
This leaves them feeling valued, seen, and heard. They are allowed the time to sit with another person and answer a couple of questions while having that person reflect their responses back to them. We don’t coach, fix, or change what someone says, we simply repeat back as verbatim as possible what they shared, and then ask them how they feel when they have their attention on their response. This simple, not easy, practice frees up the concerns or worries people walk in with, and supports them in realizing they are not alone.
A few examples of the first questions could be: What is the biggest distraction in your life? What would you love to be forgiven for? Where are you mistrusting? Where are you not speaking up? You can see why we nicknamed it “the shadow question”.
What is so beautiful about this practice is anyone can do it, because essentially you aren’t doing anything. Which, believe it or not, is difficult for human beings. We train our people to simply listen when the question is answered, and then to repeat back as verbatim as possible what the other person just said. What is so incredible about this is the person who just shared feels heard. We don’t fix, change, or advise one another, we simply listen.
Imagine how good our people get at listening, learning to not react to whatever their co-worker shares, but simply to listen, and then repeat what they shared – without adding or subtracting anything. Most of us know our relationships would be in better condition if we were better listeners.
We then ask them to share what emotions or feelings come up when they are focusing on the concern they just shared. Once more, the person guiding the clearing just listens. This question allows the person to move from their head, a concept, to their heart, a feeling. Again, their response is repeated back to them just the way they shared it. We thank the person for trusting us and for being transparent.
When they are ready, we ask them the second question, which if you are familiar with dining at Cafe Gratitude, is also the question of the day that we ask all our guests. The design of this question is to support the person in being present, putting their attention on something they appreciate about their life, or are grateful for right now.
The final step is to acknowledge the person. Our view of acknowledgment is not based in something being done, but rather for a way of being, or a quality. We have learned that you can acknowledge anyone for any way of being; kind, supportive, compassionate, generous, loving; and when you do, that quality actually arises in them. We know this to be true, because when you think about it, if someone is criticized frequently, doubt, insecurity, and a lack of confidence shows up.
Similarly, when someone is appreciated, called kind, or generous, they begin to embody those qualities.
Below are our instructions for clearing so you can actually try it yourself. Be patient, take it step by step, and keep practicing, you will experience the difference for yourself.
Preparation. Get yourself cleared. This can be done with the first person you clear in the day.
“Be with” the person you are clearing, notice any resistance to looking at one another in the eyes. Just “be there”, don’t add anything. Take a breath together. That is the Sacred, love, (your word for God), standing there having another human experience. Be honored and honoring. If you are clearing by phone, you can ask the person if they are ready and committed to being cleared.
Ask them what they are present to. There are many ways to say this. Our District Manager chooses a different question every day. The first questions deals with the shadow, the wound. This question is designed to distinguish how the habitual mind is creating separation. It begins to cultivate an awareness that one’s internal dialogue is just a repetitive mechanism intended to evoke fragmentation. Examples:
- What are you present to?
- What is in the way of you being here right now?
- What version of “something’s wrong” or “something’s missing” are you listening to?
- What would you love to be forgiven for?
- What’s your biggest disappointment?
- What’s your biggest fear?
- Who do you gossip about?
- Where or with whom are stingy?
- What are you resisting?
If the person you are clearing stays conceptual, or talking about something, rather than being in their experience, ask them what that feels like. Example:
Clearer: “What are you present to?”
Person being cleared: “My mother in law is coming tonight and my house is a wreck.”
Clearer: “What I hear you saying is that your mother in law is coming tonight and that your house is a wreck.” Then ask them: How does that feel, or what is that experience like?
Being cleared: “I feel ashamed about my house and I’m afraid to be judged.”
Clearer: “What I hear you saying is that you feel ashamed about the house, and that you are afraid to be judged.”
Now the one being cleared is more in their experience. They have moved from their head to their heart.
Listen. Just listen, don’t fix. Recreate what they said verbatim, like in the example above. Let them know you got the communication. Let them be heard. The easiest way to derail a clearing is to try and fix the one being cleared. In the above example, if I had offered to send over a cleaning service, I would have validated the story that the one being cleared was living in. I would have moved the attention from their consciousness (something they have control over), to the circumstances. That would only deepen the illusion that life is about getting the conditions right.
Trying to master the circumstances is the source of scarcity and suffering.
Mastering being is the source of freedom. Do not coach in a clearing.
Creating something new. This question is an opportunity to shift one’s attention to something new. To get present now. To love one’s life.
- What are you grateful for?
- What do you want to be acknowledged for?
- What do you love about your life?
- What is blessed about your life?
- What does your community love about you?
- What do you love about your mother?
- What moves you?
- What inspires you?
- If money were no consideration, what would your life be for?
Acknowledge them. Thank them for being there, for their commitment. Be moved. When you are moved, they are clear. This is perhaps the most important step. Sometimes the clearing all happens right here. Remember there doesn’t have to be evidence for acknowledgment. Acknowledgment is a space that the clearer creates in their speaking for the one being cleared to step into. The clearer’s job is to dig deep, to be moved by the person who comes to work every day. Be moved by that spiritual being over there who’s having a human experience. Be present that they are doing the best they can with the life they have. Acknowledge them. If you are moved by the acknowledgment, you can be pretty sure they are clear.
The clearing is a privilege. As an employer of over 200 employees, my job is mostly keeping people clear and inspired. If my people and my community are inspired, the work gets done. To save time, clearing can happen in a group. The manager sits with the group, has people pair up, a takes them through the steps. The pairs clear each other.
This practice has created a community that not only works well together, but cares for one another. The connection between co-workers is palpable. Our people feel heard, valued, and appreciated, which we believe makes all the difference in the quality of their lives. Dip your toe in, start acknowledging the people in your family, your business, your circle of friends, and watch what happens.
Photos by Valerie Metz