What I Thought I Knew About Presence (Season 7, Episode 18)

If you’d asked me pre-pandemic what I thought I knew about presence, I’m not sure what I would have said. In some ways, that feels like a lifetime ago. But I definitely wouldn’t have described it like I would now (and who knows how I will in the future!). In this episode, I dig into that in order to make space for whatever might be unfolding in each of our lives and practices.

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Welcome to Love Curvy Yoga, the podcast where we’re hanging in there and hope you are too. Now let’s get into it.

Hey Anna here. Okay, so I feel like we have established a bit of a new ritual the last few weeks, so let’s keep it going. How are you feeling and what do you need in your body? I am feeling kind of all over the place. I will share more about that in the main segment. I would say in my body specifically, I’m feeling definitely some tightness in my hips and my neck and that brings me to what I need in my body, which is some more yoga and I think also rolling on some balls. So I might do that actually as soon as I’m done recording here. So up next in our main segment I’m going to talk about some things that I have been learning about presence.

As you may already know about me, I am a huge planner in basically every aspect of my life. So I always have so many Google docs going with various plans and that’s not even including the to-do app that I use, Todoist, and I use that to manage every part of my life: so personal, work, and Nic and I also use it together for stuff around the house.

My favorite story about my planning comes from more than 10 years ago when I was working at a university. So my best friend also happened to be my boss and we were getting ready for a big event, the first that we had done together and as part of this organization that had recently come through some pretty major changes. So all eyes were definitely on the event, seeing how we would do. Everybody was definitely on edge, for sure, including me. And this was before I was on Zoloft so even more so. And I remember standing outside the venue earlier in the day before the event that was taking place that evening, going over my checklist, which I had on a clipboard and in the midst of everybody being kind of frayed and some minor, unexpected obstacles, my friend said to me jokingly, but you know, also kind of not, your clipboard cannot save you. And I thought, yes it can. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that though. And I said something like, Oh, I know; it just helps me.

So later after the event had gone off swimmingly, to much praise, we both acknowledged that yes, the clipboard had indeed saved us and it became something of a running joke between us. Every so often now when I have a big project going on, she’ll say, Oh, I’m sure you have your clipboard out. It’ll be fine. And though I now use a digital clipboard instead of a physical one, you know, that has generally been true. I can plan myself into and out of a lot of different things, even some unexpected things.

So I would say like many people, probably like you, I have been noticing some big shifts in my work lately and the biggest is that I generally have what I want to share, at least roughly planned out for I would say usually a minimum of one month, probably two to three is more average. Um, it has been as much as six or seven, but that was really mostly just for when I was going to be on maternity leave. So I would say that this has generally worked well because it allows me to map out a longer term vision and work us towards it in terms of, for example, what we’re talking about here on the podcast or in the online studio, but as I was telling my therapist the other day, that just is not working right now.

So if you hang until the end of this podcast, you’ve probably noticed that. So for a while at the end of the podcast I was saying stay tuned and then telling you what I was gonna talk about next week. But for the past few weeks I’ve been saying some variation of stay tuned for shrug emoji? TBD? I am definitely finding that whatever plans I made in say February for April here on the podcast or in the studio are now, if not entirely, then very close to irrelevant. And it’s not like when I had those longer term plans that I had every single detail planned out. I was always flexible with it, but I just had a general sense of where I wanted to go and generally would go with it.

So I would say for example, at the very, very minimum I would start planning for this podcast, which you may know comes out on Fridays on the Monday of that same week and that never really felt good. It was cutting it pretty close and made me feel uncomfortable and like I was behind. Now in this pandemic and this strange transitional, I don’t even know what word to use time? I feel really lucky if I have a crumb of an idea on Wednesday that seems like it might still be relevant two days later. I am currently recording this on Thursday afternoon, so it just feels like a lot. I could just end the podcast there. It just all feels like a lot, but it feels like a lot of things are sort of piling on top of each other, mish mashing together, speaking to each other, some variation of all of that. And I will say that I thought prior to this that I had an understanding of presence. Certainly I would not have thought I was any sort of like master of it or anything, but I, you know, have been practicing yoga and meditation for a pretty long time. And I suppose that I did have some understanding of presence. I mean it’s even part of how I laid out curvy yoga practice in my book. So in the book, the very first step is to bring yourself into presence and it’s, it’s really that “bring yourself,” that I think has shifted for me.

So I would say pre pandemic, presence kind of, it’s hard to find the right language, but kind of felt like an action I would take like, Oh, I’m noticing I am distracted or numb. So let me try to feel my feet on the floor or take a deep breath. And really even that is way more complex than where I started, which is probably more like I am on my yoga mat. This is when I do presence. Then I check it off my list and move on with my life. Good for me that I made time for presence. And even that is way more complex than where I started pre yoga, which is that I honestly never remember hearing that word or knowing anything about it when I was growing up or maybe in college because that’s when I started yoga, but definitely not for a long time. I think I thought presence was something that I did like in fits and starts of course, and nowhere near most of the time. And again, I guess that that was true to the extent it was possible, but what I’m feeling now is more of a contextual shift from being present as a choice to nothing really working or making sense except in the present moment, which is not, like capital NOT, to say that I’m necessarily more present than I used to be, though maybe to a degree sometimes. Sometimes it also feels like I’m way less present than I’ve been in a very long time.

I think we’re all kind of moving around these different spectrums and it’s more like I can’t skirt around presence or dip in and out of it like I used to. This is pretty apparent with my work because of what I mentioned earlier, but it’s readily apparent in other parts of my life too, both in new ways and in ways that reveal how true it used to be. But I didn’t have the eyes yet to see it.

So just to give you an example from the rest of my life, we are currently in the process of moving. I know. We sold our house right before everyone realized what a big deal this all was and a few weeks before quarantine lockdown so we were already planning for a pretty sizable change in our own lives, like in the little microcosm of this family and we’re not going far just to a new house in our area, but now it’s like a all caps, in lights, big time change. And because of that, we’re really questioning everything, the assumptions that we had made about where we want to live or what kind of house we’re looking for have honestly been changing, from day to day is putting it generously, more like from hour to hour. And it’s really, it’s just been so frustrating for both of us because this process is taking longer than it ever has for us in the past when we’ve been looking for a house. Um, but I think that we also feel that it’s important to let ourselves be in the frustration and not rush an outcome to get out of a feeling. Because trust me, I’m very tempted pretty much all day every day to do that. And I really have no idea when we will choose somewhere to live. I mean, it could be later today. It could be in six months or longer. I don’t know.

It really, I think the best way to put it is that it no longer feels like something that we can plan. And we’re really questioning all of the assumptions that we were making two months ago when we decided to sell. One of the ways I’m thinking about it is I’m trying my best to pick apart the ideas that I had about myself, our family, where we want to live. You know, the million things that are wrapped around all of that, those thoughts that I had before, what’s happening now and how I’m feeling, what I’m opening to now and trying not to make decisions now with the mindset and perspective of the past because things have changed and it feels, I was describing to a friend today that it like, can you just visualize this? It’s like, um, I feel like something you would see in the Flintstones, like a concrete or something wheel with big fix spokes. There’s two together and they’re just like screeech, you’re trying so hard to turn it. Like I don’t know if there’s something like that in a well, but that’s the visualization that comes to my mind. Like you’re trying to really crank this bucket up from the bottom of the well. Um, that’s how it feels, to me, right now in lots of areas of life.

I was talking with my naturopath the other day and he started talking about how we are extensions of our ecosystems and that we are experiencing that reality in a pretty stark way at this moment. And that made me think about my yoga practice, which has long been a fundamental part of my life. One thing on my mind now is, okay, yes, it’s been fundamental, but has it been elemental. Is it a part of my ecosystem and what does that mean? How is my practice shifting as presence expands in these interesting and challenging and frustrating and enraging and joyful and everything else ways in my off the mat life? I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I don’t feel like I have really answers to any questions period right now. But that’s, I feel like, kind of the point.

I don’t think I would have ever put it in these words. But looking back from this vantage point, I see how I really thought that presence helped me plan. So for years I’ve been integrating more feeling and more intuition into my plans and I felt proud of that I think is a good way to put it, but this is really something different. I wouldn’t even say that I exactly have language for it yet. My therapist joked to me that now your plan is to be present and that’s maybe the best way that I have to put it right now. I would say that the shift I’m feeling is not so much presence in order to fill in the blank, do something, make a plan, be better in my relationships, connect more with my daughter, support my friends, practice self care, et cetera. It’s more like just presence, certainly using the tools of meditation and yoga to support. And then who knows: more will be revealed.

So I’m curious what you’re noticing in your own life with your practice, with presence. I was talking with a different friend. I’m having lots of conversations these days over Marco polo and text and email, like wherever I can grab it with people. And we were talking about how it feels like there’s a lot of polarity these days where for example, I feel simultaneously more present than I’ve ever had access to. And the rest of the time I feel like I’m numbed out and completely not present. Probably not completely, but you know what I mean? There’s definitely a wide range of things happening. So if you are interested in sharing your musings, which is pretty much what this is here, um, I would be really interested to hear because I think we’re all in this time where there’s not a whole lot else to do than see how things unfold. Okay, so coming up next, a few reminders.

Okay. So to continue our new rituals, these are the most important reminders that I want you to know. You’re doing great. I know it totally might not feel like it, but I feel like we all are in our own ways. I mentioned I was talking to a friend earlier today and we were talking about those ebbs and flows and both shared how it kind of feels like the weeks have cycles of emotions, kind of a bit like a wave and of course each day has like multiple waves of its own too, so if you feel a bit adrift in the ocean like, Hey, I did not sign up to be on the ocean right now and now you’re trying to build the boat while you’re out there, you are not alone. I am really grateful that you’re here and you’re listening. It feels good to be together and sending each other love to our respective corners of the world. And I also just wanted to include a reminder that your body is on your side.

Okay, a couple logistical reminders. In the studio, we are still doing daily practices for what you need right now. That’s our theme for the rest of this month, and if you are not currently a member, you’re welcome to join us at curvyyoga.studio and you can use the code curvy C U R V Y to save 50% off of your first month. Okay. If you have questions, comments, ideas for future episodes or resources that would be helpful for you right now, please send that my way. I’m always happy to hear from you podcast@curvyyoga.com. We’ll close with one breath together here. We’ll inhale and exhale. The light in me honors the light in you. Namaste.


Stay tuned next week where I obviously have no idea what we’ll be covering, but it will be something. We’ll see what presence brings.