What I am most grateful for is that I know there is a seed of love in everyone's heart -- something that I have come to see firsthand through my role as C.I.O. (Chief Inspiration Officer) of the Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre restaurants in California.
While the C.E.O. traditionally beats the drum of profits, the C.I.O. beats the drum of human relationships and personal transformation, and it's my job to keep our employees and managers inspired and focused on the mission of our organization. We practice a business model called Sacred Commerce, which means "culturing love" in the workplace. That love boils down to expressing virtue in all interactions, something that we are able to do through serving 1000 people a day in a busy restaurant environment. Inspiring people has always been something I'm passionate about, and I'm constantly rewarded when I watch a vibrant, empowered community grow through those individual acts of love.
One of the main tools of my trade as the C.I.O. is acknowledgement. My experience has taught me that when you acknowledge and appreciate people, they work harder, perform better, and care much more about the people they are serving. Simply put "the loved love." We call Cafe Gratitude a school of transformation and challenge our employees to consider, "Can we serve whoever walks through our doors, no matter what mood or personality trait they are expressing, and remain centered in kindness? Can we use the upsets of others as our training to stay seated in love?"
Buddha said, "Desire is the source of suffering." In our world view, gratitude is the remedy for desire. We can't be grateful and "wanting" at the same moment, so gratitude brings relief from suffering.
Like any skill, gratitude takes practice and we aspire for Café Gratitude to be a place for customers and employees to build this muscle. By nature, we are conditioned to complain about ourselves or the world at large. The ego imprisons us by immediately taking us to the negative place where we think "something's wrong" or "something's missing with us or others." When we practice gratitude, we have an opportunity for a regime change -- to serve another master and shift from fear to love.
This is a very empowering thing.
In life we have an unlimited capacity to take things for granted, but we also have an unlimited capacity to be grateful for what we have. Gratitude might be the most simple and obvious practice, but it is completely underutilized in our day-to-day lives. We forget that we are human beings, not human doings. Life is an inside job, but mostly we try to find fulfillment in the outer circumstances. We think if we get the relationship, the degree, the Oscar, then we'll be happy. But my practice is to teach others to be fulfilled first, and then see how circumstances start to show up differently. Even if you don't win the Oscar, you can still be fulfilled.
I often remind myself, "Ask for what you want, but surrender and be grateful for whatever you get."
In 2009, when the economy became unglued, it seriously impacted our business. Our family philosophy is if the flow of resources becomes restricted we take it as a sign to give more. That is when we came up with the idea for the "I Am Grateful Bowl." For this dish of brown rice, black beans and shredded kale with tahini dressing, the customer got to name their price, a sliding-scale donation.
We fed thousands of folks through those very lean, uncertain days. Sometimes we sold these bowls of fresh, organic food for pennies. Soon thereafter, marvelous opportunities came our way to expand our business and to hone our restaurants into much more profitable entities. There is no proof that the generosity of the "Grateful Bowl" was a catalyst for the business growth that followed, but I believe it was. Life is a faith experiment.
When you walk into any of our Cafés you see this spelled out in the writing on the wall:
Love ~ Serve ~ Remember
This is our public reminder of what we are really doing. Loving everyone, serving everyone and remembering we are all One.
For those of you who have been to Café Gratitude and left having had a great experience, you have experienced firsthand that Gratitude is the best sauce. When you are grateful, it all tastes so good.. your life experience is one of abundance, as opposed to one of lack, and I am endlessly humbled that it is my job to be a shepherd of that abundance.