By Kim Pereira
Grace Asagra Stanley, a 2013 graduate of the MA in Health Arts and Sciences program at Goddard, radiates calm yet luminous energy as she tells me about her upbringing and its relationship to interdisciplinary approaches to health.
Born in the Philippines, she was raised with what she calls a “cultural community type of healing”.
“We didn’t grow up with regular meds or going to the doctor. We depended on family to take care of us first,” Grace explains. Family and community care included indigenous health practices such as hilot (the healing art of massage and body energy work), bentusa (cupping), aromatherapy, and reflexology, practices that Grace brought with her when she moved to the United States and began her 20-year career as a critical care nurse.
Rather than focus only on the physical body in the ICU, Grace began using practices such as aromatherapy, integrating her knowledge of eastern, indigenous healing, even in the most critical cases.
She says: “Just because you are in critical care, you need to be true to what you know about healing. For me it’s just about being holistic, of taking care of a person, not just a disease. As nurses, we always think of that: to know more ways to heal than just administering meds. It’s about listening from your heart and being there, being present. Being truthfully there with open heart and mind and accepting whatever happens.” And truly, from learning about Grace’s deep respect for all healing traditions, it’s clear that the path she treads is one of openness and integration.
The passion in Grace’s practice is also inspired by the state of health care in the U.S. She is driven by the many people who are worried about their health insurance and the rising expenses. This is part of the reason why Grace published her book, The Healing Dance, one of the few written resources on indigenous healing practices.
Because these practices are traditionally passed on verbally, Grace felt called to share her expertise. She explains: “I said to myself: I need to [do this]. There are very few resources. I wanted to pass these on and honor my family who have experienced such healing.” She feels strongly that if people learned more about complementary medicine and indigenous healing, they would not be so dependent on insurance. And indeed, one of the tenants of Grace’s practice is to empower her clients to learn more about the best ways to heal themselves.
This spirit of community and sharing is infused in everything that Grace does, and is a big part of why she chose to continue her studies at Goddard. “I was happy to be with Goddard because of their philosophy: ‘Never stop making a difference in the community and you’re never alone. Someone is always out there working for the change you want.’”
Grace sees Goddard and Goddard alums as the leaders, motivators, and innovators of the world who do what they need to do, not just for themselves but for the whole community.