Finding presence, without the yoga

Listen: I’ve tried yoga. I’ve tried it so many times. Back when Groupon was a thing, I bought unlimited yoga classes for a month and went religiously. I remember it was very difficult for me not to giggle when everyone’s butts were in the air. I felt irritated at an “ohm” dedicated to something terrible happening in the world (these are all South Anchorage ladies, surely we could dedicate…money?!). And one time during a particularly relaxing class, I fell asleep on my mat.

Now I do yoga like some people smoke cigarettes: socially, occasionally. 

What I am really into is finding ways to be present in my life. 

“Presence” is now an Internet wellness-ism catch phrase. When I think of the word, though, I think of raising my hand in class. Hi, I’m here.

Painting snow is kind of like insta-presence: it requires enormous concentration and trust.

At 35 years old, I’m not old or young, and one thing I’m starting to fully grasp is how my life will culminate in a series of moments. It’s so strange, fickle, and in some ways unfair that I can’t simply create and hold a way of being or feeling that I like for myself – nope, everything that happens to me will be fleeting and yet add up somehow to something bigger.

Good luck figuring that one out, right?

Well, I’m trying.

I think many people try to access this presence in both body and mind through yoga. Think of it as one portal in. This particular portal doesn’t work for me, but I have stumbled on other means.


Just kidding. A few of the ways I bring myself into my own present are through good, genuine connections with friends, family, and colleagues; exercising outdoors with all of my senses – remembering to breathe deep and smell stuff, to notice how a breeze feels on my skin, to listen to birds and trees – and (you know where this is heading) through painting.

Painting at its best is meditation.

I enjoy painting most when I’m relaxed and along for the ride, even though I’m the one in the driver’s seat. Yet, in a sense I’m not. Much of painting for me is intuition. It’s taking one good big belly breath at a time, noticing and focusing on where I am in a piece, and taking small, precise and yet uncharted steps toward drawing a bigger whole. It’s not like I’m painting by numbers. My brain is humming but hopefully not in overdrive, and my lungs feel full of air and hope as I watch myself build something on the canvas.

If I can simply notice, instead of judging myself, I stay in a good zone. Yes, it’s work. But I just keep on holding the bigger picture and taking small steps that eventually continue to grow into something complete.

That something complete is also me. When I’m painting, I’m constantly growing, focused, completely immersed. I’m present. (Hi, I’m here!). That’s one way of being complete; this constant state of motion that’s also grounded in fully sensing the right here. 

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