By Jimmy Petruzzi
Roshi Joan Halifax developed the GRACE model to offer caregivers who work in stressful environments an easy-to-use practice to open up to their clients’ experiences, as well as to stay centered in the “here and now” and consequently, to develop the capacity for an effective, compassionate response. The GRACE model contains five elements. Each involves critical processes and practices, which is a part of the compassion path.
- Gather your attention: Take time at the beginning of the interaction to focus. Take a break, breathe, and be present. Use this time to focus your attention, minimize distractions and mental clutter and allow yourself to be present in the here and now. Narrow your focus to a single sensation, like your breathing, or on the soles of your feet or your hands, to eliminate the noise and recenter yourself. Gathering your attention in this way will allow you to be fully present.
- Recall your intention: It’s easy in a busy, hectic schedule to lose connection to the higher purpose of your actions. When you are discussing issues with or reassuring a client it’s easy to see these encounters as just routine elements of your busy day. If that happens, however, your efforts could become mundane and disconnected from its true meaning and objective. So, periodically you need to take a moment to reconnect with your core values and motivation. Connect with your desire to help all those who are suffering. Reminding yourself of the real meaning of what you are doing will make each encounter more meaningful.
- Attune to self/other: Once you have gained emotional control and focus you are now in a position to fully turn your attention to the person you are helping. Attend to your client with the intention of fully understanding them. Hear what they are saying. Observe their body language and all the non-verbal signs that are so important. Being fully attentive will enhance your sensitivity and maximize your compassionate action.
- Consider what is really helpful for the person and stay present. Don’t just automatically go with the first ideas that come to your mind. Challenge yourself to be open and really attend to how the patient is presenting. What are you sensing? Where is that coming from? What does it really mean? Use your knowledge and experience, rather than assumptions and habits to determine possible actions.
- Engage and Enact are the fifth elements of the process. Based on your sensitive and focused interaction, effective compassionate action is now possible. This could be a recommendation that you make or a direct action that you take. Your compassionate attention will have facilitated both the action and the likelihood that the other person will accept your proposal because of the mutual trust developed by your sensitivity and a genuine desire to help. This step also requires you to ensure that the interaction is concluded in a focused and positive way so as to ensure appropriate expectations. This allows you to move freely on to your next encounter which you can enter without the burden of unfinished business, thus enabling you to repeat the process of GRACE with your next client.
While the outcome and experience of your practice may seem positive or disappointingly small at first, just notice that without judgment, and acknowledge your effort as it is a meaningful part of moving on and building compassion. In the process, know that compassion is not a luxury, but a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival in the often harsh demand of everyday life. The impact of actualizing compassion in one’s own life will ripple out to benefit the people with whom you interact directly each day as well as countless others whose lives are affected by them.
This article is in no way a replacement for any prescribed medication; nor is it intended to contraindicate or supersede any medically diagnosed conditions or designed to treat anyone or make any recommendation’s learners deploy techniques as part of any treatment plan. This article is for educational purposes