GRACE: It’s More than an Acronym

Winds of Grace


Grace seems freely given, involving surrender more than

struggle. At the same time, long‑term dedicated practice

seems to predispose us to its gifts.

—George Leonard & Michael Murphy, The Life We Are Given


The wonderful practice of GRACE is the opening move of the ITP Kata and sets the stage for the rest of the practice. The ITP Kata, created by George Leonard, did not originally include GRACE, but it was created and added later by Annie Leonard, George’s wife and one of the leaders of the original experimental ITP group. The acronym GRACE stands for Ground, Relax, Aware, Center and Energize. It is a handy practice for grounding, centering, and opening to the energies of earth and sky. You can complete it very quickly, or you can choose to steep in each element of GRACE for as long as you like. It can also be a stand-alone practice done almost anywhere, anytime, to recollect yourself and come into the present moment.

As we GROUND, we experience our connection with the earth and sky. Next, we RELAX the entire body from crown to feet. Following this, we become AWARE of our body’s physical and subtle sensations as well as the energy state of our environment. As we CENTER, we bring attention to the hara in the center of the lower abdomen – the center of physical mass of the body and, some say, the center of intention. Lastly from the center, reaching out the arms and spreading our fingers, we ENERGIZE, experiencing high voltage energy streaming out from our entire body. With this preparation, we move into the main part of the Kata, or into our day, from a grounded, relaxed, aware, centered and energized place.

This is beneficial in itself but, of course, grace has another meaning beyond this acronym—the kind of grace that GRACE can open us to.

This kind of grace can be seen as a sort of blessing, a transmission of divine love or a higher consciousness that is freely given, often unexpectedly, received but not directly earned. It is not an abstract principle or something remote, but a presence or energy that we can feel when we are in relationship with something greater than our usual ego-limited selves. As we experience grace, we may feel as if our usual boundaries have been expanded, as if we are being held, lifted up, accompanied along our path, even loved. We may feel it in our bodies, perhaps in our hearts. We may feel like we are in flow, moving with, or “feeling with” the current. This can bring a sense of confidence and trust. We can relax into grace.

In their works, ITP co-founders George Leonard and Michael Murphy often mention the workings of grace, and Pam Kramer and I carried this topic through in our book Living an Extraordinary Life. Recognizing and appreciating the workings of grace is important in ITP. For example, to last and be successful, it is best if integral practice is engaged primarily for its own sake without obsession with results. Although it takes patience, we can learn to enjoy the long plateaus of the learning curve. If we are too preoccupied with goals, we can be blind to the emergence of the unexpected. We may fail to notice pathways or opportunities that open before us and may actually shut down the workings of grace. So, to stay open to the unexpected we must learn to surrender.

Opening to Grace

Even though it is not earned, we can prepare ourselves to receive the gifts of grace. As said in the opening quote, consistent practice predisposes us to its gifts. “Grace needs a vehicle,” says Dr. Matthew Cobb.[1] I believe that ITP, practiced consistently, can be such a vehicle, bringing us into relationship with a greater reality. With respect to the use of affirmations, which is one of the core practice intentions of ITP, the practice of focused surrender helps to open us to grace. Affirmations focus our best conscious efforts on transformation, while at the same time seeking to enlist powers beyond our conscious understanding. Focus and surrender are like two sides of the same coin, and each supports the other. Although we may have goals, if we forget to surrender, we are missing half of the practice.

As we surrender, we let go of our ego and its limitations, and, in so doing, open the way for forces beyond our conscious mind to go to work. In surrendering, as Murphy says, we are opening to “news from the universe,” to a direct connection with the divine, and to what he calls ego‑transcending agencies, the unseen forces of grace. In the case of extraordinary capacities, they frequently seem to be given rather than earned, and often arise fully formed from a dimension beyond that which we are familiar. In The Future of the Body, he writes: “Only practices that enhance our psychological and somatic functioning while making special ‘drafts upon the Unseen’ are likely to facilitate a balanced growth of our greater capacities.” ITP, of course, was designed to be such a practice.

In ITP, we often reference this saying from the Indian master Ramakrishna: “The Winds of Grace are always blowing. You just have to raise your sails.” As we practice, we raise our sails to the winds of grace, opening to divine love and to our greater possibilities.


[1] Dr. Cobb started ITP Kansas and works with indigenous populations in America and abroad.