The Art of Presence
Don't you love it when someone says to you "just relax and go with the flow", like it's the easiest and most natural thing to do? In today's fast paced society, going with the flow is the exact opposite of our first reaction to change or discomfort, but its crucial.
The sea as a metaphor for change
I recently took a trip to Barbados with my husband to teach a creative workshop on The Art of Presence with a group of theater students. Its a magical place. There is a laid back vibe and hardworking mentality of the people and a continuous celebration of life. I even saw a man who had to be pushing 100 years old, bathing in the sun and laughing as he was knocked down by the tiny waves with only his cane holding him up as it stuck in the sand. I found myself learning more about the art of presence just by being there.
I have the Caribbean in my blood and have been to many islands throughout my life. The first thing that I do when I get off the plane is drop my bags and have what the locals call a 'sea bath'! Letting myself be bathed by the sun and sea, taking the soft sand from the ocean floor and rubbing it on my arms and face. I run straight for the water. It calms me, it grounds me and reminds me that there is little in life that I actually have full control over. The surrender can be so beautiful when you are floating on your back letting the waves hypnotize you.
During the course of this trip I spent a lot of time just sitting and watching the sea in the morning and the word that often came to mind was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the vastness of the sea, overwhelmed with gratitude for being there. Overwhelmed by the power of the waves and by the pulling in and out of the tides. I have become friends with some of the locals and they explained to me how to successfully jump into the oncoming wave and allow it to lift you back up the the surface.
I started to see my life as the water. Ever changing. Sometimes riding high and full of waves and sometimes low and ebbing. What is constant is the change. To think that I can dictate the waves of my life would be like believing that we dictate the flow of the oceans. It's beyond my comprehension. But what I do have control over is how well I adapt to that change. My ability to catch a wave and ride it. To work with it until it brings me to a new place.
A good life is not necessarily an easy one
I’m learning to retrain my mind from thinking that a good life is an easy life. The act of letting go often isn't easy at all, it takes a shift in perspective away from the dream of experiencing no ripples, towards a life full of movement. It takes great presence and constant readjustment because I know what it feels like to both ride a wave and be pulled under by a rip tide. But the sheer presence of the ocean is a reminder to us all that when we let go, life is able to flow freely to us and through us. Its when we start to hold firm in our mindsets, beliefs and ways of being that we begin to sink.
Moments of transition
In my life, I experienced being called into the water a few years ago while dancing on Broadway in the revival of ‘On The Town’. I was in a deep place of wandering and seeking something that I didn't even know I was after, but I knew I was craving change.
As the only black women in the show I was approached to speak out about diversity in theater and creating the change that we want to see in our theater community. I was honored to be asked and in that moment of stepping into the waves of the unknown, I found my voice. I had something to say that was hidden deep inside beneath my drive to simply be in demand and to be included. I was beginning to emerge in a way that I had never experienced before.
Simultaneously I met a yoga teacher and mentor who invited me to dive deeper into my own potential. She saw beyond the credits and success and taught me the principals of yoga and join those understandings with my spiritual upbringing.
I was finding my own unique voice and it was exciting and scary at the same time. I was walking deeper into the water and having to release some stuff to go further. I spent about a year focusing on letting go. Purging everything in my physical and spiritual life that didn't serve. The performing slowed down, the business slowed down and I forced myself to get still and listen.
About a year later I met Rachel at the meet and greet for our daughters nursery school and we hit it off right away. I often say that we were meant to go to that school just so that I could meet her. It was kismet.
We were together with a group of moms the morning after the election. We shared our thoughts and fears and shed some tears as a community. It was that day that we decided to collaborate on ‘I AM’. This was an event that we co-hosted to bring together people from all different systems and backgrounds to creatively look at the cognitive dissonance that we may felt after the elections. It proved to be a fun, inspiring and safe space to support and ground each other in the process. Since then we have collaborated on another event focusing on letting go. Working through yoga and the discussion on fractal theory.
I am amazed when you are willing to enter the flow, how it will uplift and support you through all of the “I don’t knows” of life.
I have been reading the book Presence and diving into it was like air for me. I feel the principles of Theory U deep in my bones. I know that it is imperative in how we see the future in our personal lives as well as collectively in our communities and society.
Rachel and I are collaborating on an event in July supporting leaders to find their voice and to gather the tools to create events that spark change. I will be leading a session on presencing. I'm also excited to announce that SoHumanity is launching The SoHum Series which is a brand new three part integrative approach that incorporates the principles of Theory U (curiosity, compassion, courage). Personally guiding individuals who are ready to take an inner creative journey into the questions that lay at the heart of who they are and into deeper connection with others.
The past few years have been quite the journey. Through all of this, life has thrown in so many waves, but I know for sure that this is exactly the kind of flow that I have been longing for.