Calm presence cultivation

By Dave Henning / February 13, 2023

“Calm presence . . . [is] to be the natural outflow of a life that is marked by humility and contemplative prayer.  It’s how love is formed in us. . . .  The cultivation of calm presence is the conscious and courageous decision to remain close and curious to ourselves and others in times of high anxiety.”- Rich Villodas

In Chapter 6 (“Resisting Reactivity: Living as a Calm Presence in an Anxious Culture”) of Good and Beautiful and Kind, Rich Villodas notes one of the most important things we can do to become whole.  That involves developing into someone able to remain present to oneself and to another.  Especially in times of disagreement or distress.

However, our society tends to live on two extremes.  The spectrum of attachment and detachment, togetherness and individuality, fusion and cutting off.  Thus, each extreme fails to lead to the kind of wholeness we yearn for.  Hence, we need the capacity to remain close to ourselves and to others.

Therefore, we first need to take seriously the feelings, dreams, preferences, and values that live within us.  And listen to the prompts and stirrings of the Holy Spirit within.  Certainly, we find the process of remaining close to ourselves difficult.  As a result, it can feel impossible to remain close to others.  Consequently, Peter Steinke, a family systems expert, lists three signs of someone staying connected:

  1. Maintaining a nonreactive presence with people who react to you.
  2. Resisting your own impulse to attack or cut off from those reacting to you, or to appease them to dispel their anger or frustration.
  3. Managing your own anxiety, not others’ anxiety.

In conclusion, Pastor Villodas explains:

“In other words, the person growing in cultivating presence is curious, courageous, and compassionate — three words that God wants to form in us for the healing of the world, and three words that are possible for those rooted in love.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you cultivate calm presence?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The language of anxiety”

About the author

Dave Henning

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