“Amanda, how are you?” he asked in his thick Colombian accent.
“I’m well,” I responded and glanced up to smile at him before continuing my task of cleaning the café counter that had been destroyed by the dinner rush.
“You look tired, Amanda. Is today your Friday?” His voice was full of concern.
“Well, I am kinda tired. It’s a strange season, you know. I’m not exactly getting Friday’s.” I shrugged and smiled, and shook my head at the memory of the utterly insane family summer schedule I’d posted to the fridge earlier that day.
It really is pure chaos right now.
“Amanda, you have to rest. You need a full day off, or…” he started.
“Or what?” I paused and looked up to challenge him with a smirk, resisting the urge to cross my arms like a defiant child.
“Well, you need it because…” he paused, apparently searching for the right words in English.
But I interrupted him because, well, I was on the clock and had to get back to the front of the store. I glanced around the near-empty café and lowered my voice just a bit.
“Do you meditate?” I asked, looking back down to finish wiping the counter while he continued sorting trash.
“Yes, at least an hour every morning,” he affirmed.
“And why do you do that every morning?” I pushed, comfortable with this conversation because this janitor and I had already shared a handful of quick-but-deep metaphysical conversations since I’d begun working there. He’d overheard me say something about a matrix and that was it. Every time I was tasking away from front end, he would find me and strike up a conversation about the matrix, slavery of the mind, and how to achieve true personal and collective freedom.
“Well, because it helps start my day. I get clear… and connected. It helps me stay… calm and happy.” He stumbled through the English, but it was clear enough for me.
I nodded as I continued wiping down all of the appliances on the counter.
“Right. Meditation is an amazing tool for all of that. For me, it’s been primarily an opportunity to just be still and present in my go-go-go-do-do-do life.”
Now he was nodding affirmatively.
“But what would happen if you suddenly didn’t have the time or routine for meditation?” I asked and looked up into widened eyes full of something akin to panic.
“Are you saying you don’t meditate?” he asked incredulously.
“No, what I’m saying is that this season of my life is so chaotic that scheduled routines and practices are just not realistic. I am having to learn how to meditate in the midst of the chaos instead of before or after it.” I looked back up to see a puzzled expression. “I’m meditating while I’m cleaning the café. While I’m interacting with customers. While I’m chatting with you. I’m learning how to bring that presence and safety that I feel on my pillow into the chaos of my day, rather than relying on it to fill my tank at the beginning or replenish it at the end.”
“Ahhh…” was all he said as he tried to process the English and maybe the concept, too.
“Hey, this has been fun, but I’m gonna be in trouble if I don’t get up there. The evening sugar rush is about to begin.”
As I walked back to the register, I shook my head at my life.
Who would have thought that I’d be having conversations with the janitor about meditation? This has not been an easy season, but it’s definitely full of some interesting moments, too.
The next night, I was cleaning the café again when I heard another male voice from behind me: “Amanda?”
I turned around to see a young man whose prayerful posture, calm energy, and unusual clothing indicated that he is a spiritual devotee of some kind. “Yes? Can I help you find something?”
“Oh no. I just… Well…” he stammered. “I don’t know if you saw me last night, but I was sitting over there in the corner.” He pointed to the soft arm chair next to the door. “And I overheard your conversation with the janitor.”
Gulp. What are the rules around talking about meditation and spiritual stuff within earshot of customers? I wondered while I nodded to let him know I remembered the conversation.
“Well, I just wanted to thank you for what you said. I, too, am in a crazy season, struggling to do all the things. So your comment about learning to meditate in the middle of the chaos was like music to my ears. I felt like the universe was using you to give me an answer to a question I didn’t know I was asking. I just wanted to thank you.”
Spray bottle in one rubber-gloved hand and dirty rag in another, I smiled. “Well, thank you for sharing that with me. I’m glad you found it valuable.” I moved closer to the table nearest to me, and continued cleaning. “I haven’t seen you here before?” I asked, not wanting to leave this connection so quickly.
“Yeah, last night was the first time I was in here. I like this place so much more than the coffee shop down the street.” He looked around the store before continuing. “So, it sounds like you are really busy, Amanda. What are you so busy with?”
This young man followed me around as I cleaned a few more tables and shared with him about my business and my family, leaving out some of the really personal drama that has been happening alongside all this.
“Oh… you have a sixteen-year-old…” he responded in a tone that said, “Man, that’s rough.”
“Oh yeah. No. He’s the coolest guy.” I paused, suddenly aware of something that had been bubbling right under the surface. “In fact, I think I’m probably starting a sort of grief process—getting ready to let go of having him around so much. He just got his permit and we took him to check out a college last month. I’m almost an empty nester.” I sighed and shook my head again.
When there was no response, I looked up to see this young man staring at me, blinking slowly, apparently trying to work something out in there. Finally, he said, “Wow, that is so cool that your son is having that experience with you. I mean, when I was sixteen, all my siblings and I heard from our parents was, ‘We can’t wait to get you assholes out of the house.’”
My heart fell, right there, in the middle of the café at Whole Foods.
I held his gaze and turned myself to face him more directly. “Well, I can’t imagine why they would say that about you. You seem like such a nice young man.”
I watched his whole body relax into being seen more truthfully. “Thank you, Amanda. Thank you for the conversation last night, and thank you for this.”
“No, thank you for this.” I smiled back at him. “Now, I better get up there and help them with the sugar rush.”
He bowed slightly and walked out the door.
Wow, I thought as I walked back. What a crazy freaking season this is. Talks with janitors. Moments with customers.
As I drove home that night, I thought about the bigger lessons I’ve been learning because I took this job at Whole Foods.
My un/conscious biases and assumptions run so deep, and this is putting me in a position to face all of them. I’m experiencing team members and customers of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and genders with all kinds of personalities, professions, family dynamics, political and social perspectives, and even addictions. And knowing what I know now—that my energy and simple observation of them affects them at an energetic, neurobiological level—I am having to forgive and release what would keep me from honoring their humanity and divinity.
I turned left onto the main road, grateful that traffic had died down.
And then there are all of the biases and assumptions that I’ve been confronting about myself and my work.
I had to face a belief that taking a j-o-b meant that I was a failure; if my business had been booming, I wouldn’t have had a little extra time, right? And all that led to me realizing that I’ve STILL got way too much of my sense of worth tied up with my performance and achievement.
I slowed down and stopped at a red light.
Of course, there was the realization that it’s not what I’ve been DOING with people, but who I AM BEING with them that creates openings for healing—and that these possibilities can unfold in a cozy cabin in Mt. Hood on retreat with clients where all of my superpowers are being leveraged, or at the register or in the café of a grocery store where I am scanning, bagging, and cleaning.
Green light. I accelerated into the intersection.
And then there’s the aha about how much I’ve relied on practices and routines and other structures to keep myself feeling safe and solid. With all of that blown to pieces with the new schedule—inconsistent sleep, eating, meditating, connecting with friends, etc.—I’ve had to figure out another way to create and hold it within.
I turned into our complex and found my parking space.
And under all of this, I’m facing the reality that my will and intention and power have a limit. Somehow I’d bought into the belief that I’m the only one that creates my reality and forgotten that I have a Co-author helping me write this story of my life—a Co-author that knows more about the bigger story that I am only a part of; One that inserts plot twists into my business that cause me to take a job at Whole Foods; One that inserts characters like the janitor and this young man to remind me of what’s really true and really important; One that is more concerned with helping me become a WHOLE person than helping me create a life that I probably wrongly imagined would be the fulfillment of “my purpose” and lead to any real happiness. I have a lot of power as the character in my story, but I’ve got to drop this illusion of control and trust that my Co-Author is doing this all with intention. If everything had gone along the way I’d intended, I would have missed these conversations. I wouldn’t have had to face all of these faulty assumptions. I might have even grown a business that enslaved me to perform or, worse, perpetuated these faulty assumptions with those who have asked me to support them.
I grabbed the sweet fruit tart on my front seat and smiled.
And damn, I may never have learned to love baked goods. My Co-author really loves me.