conjuring grace in moments of distress


I put together these sustainable acts of self-care for a loved one after a conversation we shared about the challenges of tending to ourselves when the “stuff” of life storms through and leaves everything in a state of upheaval. Reading it over, I quickly recognized how necessary it was for me to remember to dose myself with the same centering prescription. (The joyful surprise in holding space for others is that we come to see that we are fully equipped to hold space for ourselves.) When we learn to conjure the attitude of GRACE and move from that grounded, relaxed, aware, centered and energized posture, we are able to discern how to respond skillfully to “madness” brewing within and around us.

Compassionate Actions for Spiritual Self-Care:

1) 5-minute doses of quietude and conscious breathing.

Pay attention to your exhale to awaken the parasympathetic nervous system’s function to “rest and digest.” With every release of breath, enjoy the sensations of relief. Visualize all toxins and tensions of body, mind, and heart flowing out on the wave of the exhale. Abide in the feeling of being calmed, cleansed, centered and clear.

2) Give space for insight and intuition to arise.

When troubled or ruminating on an issue, simply ask: WHAT IS THIS?

When overwhelmed by your feeling of others’ perceptions/expectations of you, simply ask: IS IT TRUE?

Repeat these questions as mantras in rhythm with your breath. They will help you to interrupt the tornado of thoughts and help to sort and settle your mind.

No struggling or striving to think or rationalize an answer. ALLOW understanding to stretch out and unfold in its own time.

3) Find a touchstone to what is good, what is working, what is in this clear in this moment.

When feeling weary and defeated, simply ask: WHAT CAN I CELEBRATE?

Reflect and connect with what is solid, reliable, true, hope-inducing. Be it the miraculous act of drawing a new breath each moment or the simple joy of taking a walk with a friend, pausing to honor the goodness can help us from drowning in worry, fear, and chaos.

Similarly, I’ve been practicing what another friend recently shared had helped her to cut through negative self-talk, frustration, and anxiety. When feeling compressed by expectations (real or imagined), deadlines, paperwork, and commitments, replace the SHOULDs, MUSTs, and HAVE TOs with energizing and self-affirming language. Stating “I GET TO [insert task or activity]” reminds us of our agency — that we can choose what we do and the spirit in which we do it — and transforms our perceptions about the activity.  

May you find relief and ease from these simple practices.


Note: I created the graphic for the g.r.a.c.e. acronym above but did not come up with the concept. I learned it from a fellow facilitator after a presentation I gave on skillful communication. He could not remember the source and my research revealed that it has been widely-used without any attribution given to the original author.

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