On Being Present

I recently read a book (“Sacred Commerce”) written by one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Terces Engelhart.She and her husband Matthew share a strong philosophy based on love, optimism and abundance.

They began with the creation of a board game to play at home and today own a growing chain of restaurants called Café Gratitude.Every item on the menu is a positive affirmation (eg: “I am cherished”) and the entire operation focuses on gratitude and positivity.Some people complain that this sappy stuff is over the top for them, but they return again and again.They may say it’s for the great food, but deep down inside they are responding to an ethic that includes them in a circle of love.

I believe that the CAN movement is about love.Social justice is based on love.Healing is based on love.

After reading this book, I think that we can use a few of Sacred Commerce principles to apply to OUR workplaces, to not only make our jobs more fun and rewarding, but to make our clinics more attractive and healing.The first principle that grabbed me was their technique called Clearing, something that every person in the organization goes through every day.From the top down, owners clear themselves, then they clear top managers who clear district managers, all the way down to every employee who comes in for a shift.This entails taking the person aside to sit, look into each other’s eyes and ask a question that gets them to talk about what is currently the most important thing happening to them.The employee has the opportunity to verbalize their issues of the moment, and to be heard.The clearer repeats the concern, to make sure that the issue was heard correctly.The issue is expressed until the person being cleared connects with their heart’s involvement.By the time it’s over, the employee is “cleared” of all or much of the mental and emotional static they walked in with, and they can be present for that shift with every customer who comes in.Employees themselves testify in this book what a profound influence this is had on their lives.

The other principle I like is Nothing Is Wrong.Like No Just Means Not Now.Every mistake is celebrated in the café, as when someone breaks a glass.She throws up her arms and shouts happily, “I made a mistake!” and co-workers applaud and cheer.For who learns the most difficult lessons without mistakes? This makes some some people just roll their eyes, but maybe they are just stuck in the blame mentality that pervades our culture.Maybe we could look on the positive side of whatever doesn’t turn out like we expect, and use it as a correction instead of a disqualification.Maybe caring about your empoyees’ emotional and mental health (without being controlling) is a wise business investment.

If this seems like something we could introduce to our businesses, here is a chance for us to work to rewrite old tapes about failure, shame and regret.Here is a chance to offer employees a chance to be treated as an equal, to be heard and acknowledged, even if the clinic cannot afford to pay them a top wage.Here is a chance to push up several notches the quality of service offered in your clinic, by making yourselves really present for every patient.Here is a chance to serve Love.

Lisa said recently (in Finding Normal discussions) that everyone wants to be listened to for two minutes straight. She also mentioned that the counselors use a very direct style of communicating.What could be more direct than getting someone alone, making eye contact, and expressing interest in their life in that moment? Terces reports that clearing uses up about 1/3 of Café Gratitude’s profits.It’s well worth it to them, in so many ways.This October on a weekend, I will be attending a Sacred Commerce all-day workshop herepresented by the top administrators in the Gratitude organization.Any of you are welcome to join.I think it’s a sliding scale fee.For now I do know that the Café is offering a day-long workshop in the City, suggested donation $0 to ? on Saturday, September 5.This is the introduction to the weekend workshop in the following month.Let me know if you’re interested, and I will get the information for you.

(There is another book Sacred Commerce, by a different author, who also has some good things to say.The one I’m discussing is by the Café Gratitude folks, and is available on Buy.com or Amazon.com.It’s a120-page book.)

Author: lumiel

I earned a B.A. in Hotel/Restaurant Admin, but soon realized that I wanted to do something more meaningful.  Became interested in nutrition and education when pregnant with my first child. Interest in health led me to becoming a foot reflexologist, which led to a massage practice and suddenly discovering the love of my life: Chinese medicine! Practicing for 18 years, Hawaiian/Californian, acu-educated PCOM San Diego/OCOM Portland. Started my CAP in <a href="https://www.communityacu.com/" target="_blank">San Rafael</a>, Marin County, July 4, 2006, even while earning my doctorate at OCOM.  This didn't seem to make sense, but it was my way of comparing the old way of practicing acupuncture to a simpler, truer expression of what I had learned in school.  I love it. And I love being a part of this grand movement to change the world by being true to our conscience. Reopened all over again when I moved to a place where no one had ever heard of me. 3 months open so far, and just beginning to meet expenses. I have no doubt this will succeed and I will be hiring by next year.

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  1. hey Lumiel, I love you

    hey Lumiel, I love you without really even knowing you but honestly, many of your posts make roll my eyes around and around and around!

    “Like no means ‘not now’ “. Try telling that to survivors, you better duck, cover, or run.

    I think I understand your intention here, but just like with the geriatric post a couple months ago, the logic misses the mark for me.  But I still love you.

    peace, keith

  2. i am sorry lumiel, but i am not really seeing the connection. i didn’t read his book, but i have been to the restaurant, twice. i find it really strange and uncomfortable. i think the food is overpriced and not that great and it takes a really long time to get served. the plugged-in touchy-feely new agey thing realy creeps me out. when i took my partner to new york a couple of years ago, we ate at an italian restaurant near columbia university, which must have been there for 50 or more yrs. all the waiters were curt, curteous, efficient and busy – they kept moving. they had no time to be sweet to us. BUT – our order was taken quickly, delivered hot and about 30 seconds after we decided we were ready for our check (we had a concert to go to), without any signal from us, our waiter brought it. this is the kind of flow and connection i associate with a good community clinic shift. as far as the “clearing” thing goes, i think as long as our employees get to talk to us about any work issues when they need to and (more importantly) receive treatments regularly, they will get a similar level of suport. -tatyana

  3. the clearing exercise sounds

    the clearing exercise sounds interesting however, the ‘from the top down’ approach doesn’t work for me at all. so much so that i have the need to clarify. this stirred up some core beliefs i have about community and empowerment. i see CAN clinics as having ‘owners and employees and volunteers’ but i do not see this as hierarcal (see? i can’t even spell the word and my eye is startiing to twitch!). so much of what i see and experience in this world is based on the assumption that everything goes up and down, there are winners and losers, those with power and those with out. i am always trying to pay attention to where i can make the shift towards empowerment for all. this exercise would be a ‘clear’ opportunity to make this kind of statement in the workplace- regardless of the organization/institution/business.

    i do think it’s important for those of us working in these clinics to make time to talk with one another about what’s going on in our lives, that just builds community and ‘presentness’ and then we share it from there. 



    office staff @community acupuncture on cape cod

  4. I love you too, Lumiel, but I Am Skeptical.

    I’ve never been to Cafe Gratitude, and there might be some good stuff there, but I get the willies around people that never show their shadow side.  Can’t we be grumpy sometimes, and imperfect, and still be loving?  Do we have to be perfectly “clear” to do good work?  What if our work *is* our path to clarity? 

    What if our patients don’t express “gratitude” to us – do we treat them any differently?  And what if some ways of showing “love” are distasteful, or invasive, to them – or just inappropriate?  I don’t always look deep into my patients’ eyes.  And “getting someone alone” isn’t really something we do; on the contrary.  

    Yes, I’d love to feel transformed and liberated and happy all the time, but that’s not reality, that’s not Yin and Yang.  Right?

    Also, in case you Bay Area folks didn’t see this:


    Shady labor practices do not equal love, in my book.

    Here’s another:


  5. I want to thank everyone for the comments.

    Nora, your links were real eye-openers for me, as I had no idea there was a connection with something like Landmark (eeew!  I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m pretty much into self-revelation with a little help from my friends, and eschew these organized money-sucking programs that prey on people’s insecurities and desperation, which isn’t fair of me to throw at Landmark since I really don’t know them personally, but you get the idea…)

    I fully realize that the Sacred Commerce program may be much more than I want for myself, but I like the idea of giving space to those who work in the clinic for some kind of clearing before starting the shift.  Hour-long clearings are not what I envisioned when I read this book; I can admit that I may not have the whole picture; this is why I’m attending that workshop this Saturday.  I also like the idea of no blame or shame.  Realistically, if an employee has a hard time meeting standards, they are not going to last.  If the writer of this book has given a truthful account of employer/employee relationships, then this is worth looking into.

    My husband is indifferent about Cafe’s food; I find it delicious.  At one time the food seemed overpriced; they came out with a menu that allows folks to buy half portions (perfect for me) for almost half price.  They also offer a Gratitude Bowl valued at $7, but offered for a donation of the patron’s choice, from $0 to ?  I notice that the servers are all young; hopefully in 20 years, many of them will still be there, giving the diner assurance of stability and reliability. 

    The food usually does not come immediately unless you ordered one that’s been assembled already, so I agree that you don’t get served immediately.  Since the food is raw, it isn’t expected to be hot, but the soups made in the Vita-Mix are often warmed by the blending, and come to the table warmed.  I’m guessing this is why it sometimes takes a while for the food to get to you, because of the fresh nature of the raw dishes.  It’s worth it to vegans and raw-foodists, a black mark to those used to mostly cooked dishes.

    I’m not apologizing for this restaurant, just explaining my experience and thinking as a patron.  These folks are experiencing huge success because their philosophy has been embraced by a large-enough segment of the public to support their expansion, financially.  Why?  I’m guessing it’s because in general people are hungry (pardon the pun) for help in pushing against the Shadow side of our beingness, and this comes up very obvious, easy to understand if this is what you’re looking for.  If you’re not looking for this, it can repel you.  Others look at it as a joke.  Or the same person can see it all three ways, at different times.

    Don’t take my description as a good representation of what’s in the book.  I may not understand it fully yet, so I encourage those who are curious to buy and read it.

  6. clearing = setting one’s intention (for me)

    I like the concept, though I too don’t care for the spiritual supermarket packaging. One of my punks likes to occasionally light some salt on fire with 90 % alcohol.

    I like to set my intention strongly – to help and not to harm, etc. Most of us probably carry around a fair amount of mental garbage accumulated over time – stress, irritation, prejudice, etc. At least I do. Even taking 5 seconds in this way, picking up a mental broomstick and sweeping out the mind, has a very powerful effect.

    I imagine all the Buddhas present – in every atom of the clinic. Of course, this could be successfully adapted to any spiritual tradition.

    I no longer have any spiritual icons visible in the treatment room – just a lot of plants and some new Japanese style acrylics donated by a patient. All clearing or intention setting or whatever you call it, is probably best done internally for a CA clinic in which we want to reach out to all cultures, not making anyone uncomfortable.

    thanks Lumiel!