Back in the 1980’s I wrote an article for a physical therapy journal titled CHRONIC NECK AND BACK PAINS: THOSE THAT HEAL, THOSE THAT DON’T. (You can find it in the "Articles" section on this website.) At the end of the paper I said that the article was the first in a series I would write about sore backs. In fact, there was only one more written (THE FIRST COMPONENT: COMMITMENT TO THE PROCESS, also on this website.) I spent many years exploring the themes begun in those two articles and eventually realized that what I truly wanted to explore was not just healing back pain but healing itself. And, more specifically, not just healing but what healing looked like.
I found that no matter what the injury – whether it was a bad back or a broken heart – the pattern of protecting our wounds is universal throughout nature. Amoebas, plants, dogs, cats, humans all guard when they are hurt. They contract, they pull away, they stop moving and engage in evasive behavior. For years I taught classes to therapists about this reaction – I called it the CRIAAR response (Contract, Retract, Immobilize, Almost Always Rotate).
Interestingly, as we get better, we do just the opposite. Instead of contracting, we expand. Instead of pulling away, we are more present. Instead of going immobile, we feel loose and flowing. Finally, instead of avoiding and evading, there is a sense that where we are is right. It feels good. It feels graceful.
And then I realized that there was something more than gracefulness. The same four components – spaciousness, presence, flow and clarity - that we use to describe peak performance and gracefulness were the same ones that we used to describe grace. The only difference is that grace has one more component; grace has love in it.
I spent many years thinking and writing about gracefulness and grace. I went through version after version. The final result is GRACE, a proposal for a movie about what grace looks like. If you are interested, go to the "Articles" section and download the pdf. An msword version of the text is also available.