by Frances Cantrall
At the beginning of this crisis, I was plunged under a wave of fear and began to drown in anxiety. I was relentlessly tossed by each new wave of change - having to say goodbye to people with no chance to process, losing my regular coffee hangouts with friends (the type that fills you with sanity for the week), feeling suffocated by fear.
What do you do when life, as you know it, is turned upside down? What do you do when not just locally, not just nationally but internationally there is a pandemic, unlike something our generation has ever had to face?
Even though I’m a human being, I identify myself more as human-doing. I spend so much time “doing” to justify and to prove to myself what I am worth. I often think that I am the sum of my actions, rather than my actions being an expression of my being. But now? So many layers of my identity had been stripped, or at least dramatically changed, in just a few weeks and it brought me to my knees.
What do I do? I thought.
The answer came to me gently, one still morning; first, I need to be.
I need to be.
There is no “fill in the blank”, it’s that simple. Before tackling any challenge, before navigating the uncertainty of the day, first, we need to be. Not ‘be’ our job, not ‘be’ our friendship group, not ‘be’ our exercise routine, not ‘be’ our current binge on Netflix, not try to earn approval - just be.
You know that feeling of interior calmness, stillness? Not just quiet in our external environment and not an experience of emotional numbness, but interior silence, calm, peace. That’s what I’m talking about - when our thoughts, fear and anxieties aren’t dragging us out to sea.
That kind of interior silence doesn’t just happen, it needs to be cultivated with intentionality. Practicing how to slow down, to stop, to rest, to pause...to just be, is the answer. Only from a place of interior silence can we even begin to tackle the question: what to do?
So, how do we cultivate this interior silence, especially in the face of such uncertainty?
1. By being in the presence of Being.
God desires our interior silence and peace more than we ever could. He is the ultimate peace, the ultimate serenity. Spending time in His presence is the best way we can be still. With the closure of public places of worship, this may look different now than what it did just a month or so ago. So, is it getting out of bed 10 minutes earlier while the rest of the house is asleep? Is it spending 10 minutes, while we drink that morning tea or coffee, making ourselves aware of the presence of God? Is it letting the Word of God in the Bible be absorbed into our hearts? Is it opting for silence instead of music while driving? How can we put ourselves in the presence of our Creator?
2. By receiving the gift of the other.
I have more time with those I live with now more than any other time in my life. Prior to this season, those rare moments when people were home at the same time had every second of interaction filled with a back and forth of changing plans, updates and other exchanges. Now there’s space for silence, where we can just be in the presence of another while we sit or walk. There’s space, now, to receive the other’s being.
3. By being attentive to why we do the things we do.
In a world where we are bombarded with information and starved for connection, we can be so overwhelmed with messages that we become disassociated from our very selves. I don’t know about you, but I can do a lot of things without stopping to see how it affects me or why I even did it in the first place. But, I’m learning to listen to the silence: what am I actually feeling right now? Why was I so short with my mum? Why was I sassy with my comment? I’m learning to allow myself space to breathe, to feel what may have been instantly suppressed, to make time for me to reconnect with what's happening within me.
Am I suggesting that we all become buddhist monks and meditate for 6 hours a day? Am I suggesting that we abandon responsibility to work, become hermits instead of foster friendships and never touch technology again? No.
What I’m realising is that when I start my day by just being, when I begin with cultivating interior silence, it helps me to be more present in each situation I face. Whether it be a stressful challenge at work, a tense relationship, or when things just don’t go according to plan, I am able to remain grounded because I started with being, before I started doing.
In the ever-changing situation we find ourselves in, what are we to do? Just be.
Then, after you can be, the next step is to do.
Frances Cantrall graduated from Campion College in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Arts). In 2015 she received her Graduate Diploma in Religious Education from the John Paul II Institute. Frances has been passionately involved in the pro-life movement since her early teens, and over the past ten years has served in many forms of youth ministry and outreach. Frances co-founded The Culture Project Australia, building a missionary team from the ground-up who present the life-saving and heart-changing messages of human dignity and sexual integrity to thousands of young people across the country.