Brian Joshin Byrnes, Sensei, Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community
The G.R.A.C.E. model of Roshi Joan Halifax has five elements:
1. Gathering attention: focus, grounding, balance
2. Recalling intention: the resource of motivation
3. Attuning to self/other: affective resonance
4. Considering: what will serve
5. Engaging: ethical enactment, then ending
You can use the following detailed description of each element as a script for your own G.R.A.C.E. practice:
1. Gather your attention.
Pause, breathe in, and give yourself time to get grounded. Invite yourself to be present and embodied by sensing into a place of stability in your body. You can focus your attention on the breath, for example, or on a neutral part of the body, like the soles of your feet or your hands as they rest on each other. You can also bring your attention to a phrase or an object. You can use this moment of gathering your attention to interrupt your assumptions and expectations and to allow yourself to relax and be present.
2. Recall your intention.
Remember what your life is really about, that is to act with integrity and respect the integrity in all those whom you encounter. Remember that your intention is to help others and serve others and to open your heart to the world. This "touch-in" can happen in a moment. Your motivation keeps you on track, morally grounded, and connected to your highest values.
3. Attune by first checking in with yourself, then the person you are interacting with.
First notice what's going on in your own mind and body. Then, sense into the experience of the person you are with; sense into what the other person is saying, especially emotional cues: voice tone, body language. Sense without judgment. This is an active process of inquiry, first involving yourself, then the other person. Open a space in which the encounter can unfold, in which you are present for whatever may arise, in yourself and in the other person. How you notice the other person, how you acknowledge the other person, how the other person notices you and acknowledges you... all constitute a kind of mutual exchange. The richer you make this mutual exchange, the more there is the capacity for unfolding.
4. Consider what will really serve the other person by being truly present for this one and letting insights arise.
As the encounter with the other person unfolds, notice what the other person might be offering in this moment. What are you sensing, seeing, and learning? Ask yourself: What will really serve here? Draw on your expertise, knowledge, and experience, and at the same time, be open to seeing things in a fresh way. This is a diagnostic step, and as well, the insights you have may fall outside of a predictable category. Don't jump to conclusions too quickly.
5. Engage, enact, and then end the interaction and allow for emergence of the next step.
From Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations.
Welcome Everything. Push Away Nothing. It is our task to trust the moment, to listen, and to pay careful attention to the changing experience. It is a kind of fearless receptivity, always entering new territory – a mystery we need to live into, opening, risking, and forgiving constantly.
Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience. We draw on our strength and our helplessness, our wounds and passion to discover a meeting place with the other. Professional warmth doesn’t allow us to touch into another persons pain, rather it is the exploration of our own humanity that allows us to be of real assistance. This allows us to touch another’s pain with compassion instead of fear or pity. We can’t travel with others in territory that we haven’t explored ourselves.
Don’t Wait. Patience is different than waiting. When we wait, we are full of expectations, and can miss what this moment has to offer. Waiting for the moment of death we miss these moments of living. Strategizing about the future, we miss the opportunities that are right in front of us. Allow the precarious nature of this life to show you what’s most important then enter fully.
Find A Place Of Rest In The Middle Of Things. We imagine that we can only rest when we change the conditions of our lives. But it is possible to discover rest right in the middle of chaos. It is experienced when we bring our full attention, without distraction, to this moment, to this activity. This place of rest is always available. We need only turn toward it. It is an aspect of us that is never sick, is not born, and will never die.
Cultivate Don’t-Know Mind. This describes a mind that is open and receptive, not limited by agendas, roles and expectations. Being in the open place of Don’t-Know Mind is not a place of ignorance; rather it is a characterized by openness. We stay very close to the experience allowing the situation itself to inform our actions. We listen carefully to our inner voice, sensing our urges, trusting our intuition. We learn to look and see with fresh eyes.
We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival. My hope is that the G.R.A.C.E. model will help you to actualize compassion in your own life and that the impact of this will ripple out to benefit the people with whom you interact each day as well as countless others.