A community encouraging creativity and awareness as natural human activities vital to our individual and collective well-being.

...what we are and what we were is not yet all that we might become and the creative process is a powerful vehicle to probe what may lie ahead.
  -Peter London
If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle. 
 -Richard Rhodes


Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life.
  -Henry Miller


large room



Rental space under new management

The rental space at 4131 Woodland Park Ave N in Seattle is still available, but the name of the space has changed to Windows Art Gallery, and it is under new management.  For all rental inquires contact:

Windows Art Gallery
Ron Paul Baum
(425) 806-8044

Thank you to everyone who made the Present Sense Community Art and Mindfulness Center great!


Changes at Present Sense

After much thought, I have decided to step down from running the Present Sense Community Art and Mindfulness Center at the end of this year. It is time to turn toward deepening my therapy practice, helping to care for my parents, and listening for what's next.

I am pleased that the space that has housed Present Sense will continue to operate as a community center under a new name. Ron Baum, the building owner, is delighted at what we have built there the past four years and shares my wish that it continue. We have found a new manager, Rachael Sage Payne, who is excited to shepherd and grow the vision that was begun by Present Sense, and we are working on making a smooth transition for renters.

The name "Present Sense" will stay with me, as it has morphed with me many times over the last 14 years, and I have ideas for things it may become in the future. The name Present Sense was suggested to me originally by my husband for a counseling practice I started in 2001 that focused on using writing as a way to access inner knowing. Since then, I have used it to describe various projects, from my visualization-based meditation trainings to the gardening business I had for several years. It wasn’t until 2009 that it became associated with this community space.  I wonder where Present Sense will take me next… 

I have enjoyed watching this community develop over the years and I thank Angela Powell, Rhys Clark, Carol MecklingGail BakerLynn Thorsell, and John Abel for their belief in me at the beginning and all their help to make my vision real. Most of all, a deep bow goes out to all of you who rented or took classes at Present Sense, for your willingness to grow and explore your inner and outer world. May your work continue.


Lentil meditation

I walk out of the house to empty the chicken bones from the soup into the compost. The boards of the porch are frost-cold under my bare feet. Overhead in the pale sky a tender sliver moon hangs low over the twilight city. The bones land with a solid thunk on the bottom of the bin.  I think: our lives are not about what we do, but about how we do it. This feels good to think about.

Inside, on the stove, a pot of lentils is heating slowly to a boil. My mind is restless and fidgety. I stop for a moment to warm my feet and watch the lentils. They lie silent in a sloping pile on the bottom of the pot. A circle of tiny bubbles is beginning to form on the floor of the kettle and a few lentils are beginning to rock. Their saucer-like shapes flip up slightly at the edges, then flop back down.

Lenticular, I think, and imagine the cloud at the top of Mt. Rainier.

Then the lentils at the bottom of the pot begin to tumble a bit into their neighbor lentils, still raising and lowering their round edges like clams opening and closing their shells. Then--something new! A single lentil rises up all the way through the clear water to float at the top. Soon, it is followed by a second, then a third. Now more and more lentils are rising up through the water onto the surface. The top of the water shimmers all over, coalescing and becoming opaque, almost as if it is solidifying into a jell. The smooth green and brown saucer-shapes of the lentils rise faster and faster, in groups and clumps and streams of lentils, tumbling over and over each other.

Now the surface of the water is a crowd of lentils bumping and jostling against each other in the swirl and mix, and the top has begun to froth and spin. I can no longer see the bottom as the surface foams and curdles and bubbles and bobs with the many little green lentil heads luffing and tumbling over each other in the heavy current of the now fully-boiling water.

This is the best thing I have seen all day! Perhaps all week.

I am glad to be alive.

I feel my heart in my chest like a warm glove.

I feel my feet on the floor, still cold. The moon is close to setting over the hill.

My mind, for one small moment, is at rest.



This time of year is about essentials. Trees are stripped of leaves down to their bare branches. Light is low and days are slow and cold. My energy ebbs--there is a torpor and lassitude that takes hold of me around the first of December that doesn't let go until the new year.

I have come to welcome this as a period of rest. Though I do treat this as a time of reflection, I also trust more and more that I don't need to consciously consider every aspect of my life. If I just stop moving, that can be enough. There is an unconscious, organic process happening inside that is as natural as buds forming on the nodes of the tree branches or winter rabbits growing thick fur.

Deep inside, in some hidden place, the seeds of next year's activity drop from last year's growth, fall to the ground, and are buried under the earth. Now they wait. They are held by cold. In their own time, come spring when they are ready, they will sprout.

These seeds are created from last year's actions. They are the result of my own deep desires that have yet to be realized. They are the response to the need of the world and the support of my community. They are the way my soul is expressed in the world.

One of the seeds that has already begun to sprout is that I have commited to holding the Half-Day Mindfulness Retreat on the first Friday of every month in 2013. This has been scheduled somewhat randomly since I started it a year and a half ago, and it feels good to be more intentional. I am relieved to have a touchstone to guide me through the year--a time every month when I know I can return to what is most basic: breath, body, being, and the bare awareness of consciousness.


The leap-of-faith moment

I was looking through the folder where I collect the bits of paper from planning Tom's photography exhibit (Wings in My World) and came across the notes I took last June when we were deciding whether we wanted to do a show. It was odd to realize that just a few months ago, none of this existed. At that time, we didn’t know anything: what we were making, how to make it, or what the results would be. Tom was still struggling to get the okay from his inner critic about his photos being “good enough.” Both of us were still pondering why we were doing this at all. And yet in the midst of all this unknowing, a decision needed to be made!

This is the Leap-of-Faith Moment—the moment when you say “Yes” to something without knowing exactly what you are saying yes to, and without any certainty about how it will turn out.

The picture of the Leaping Warbler above captures the feeling of the Leap-of-Faith Moment perfectly for me. The bird is suspended in some netherworld between launching and landing. He dangles in midair, muscles and feet working hard. This is not the tucked-in, effortless flight of a bird going somewhere certain; this is uncertain, struggling work.

And yet above this bird is the beauty of its diaphanous wing—this filmy, insubstantial thing that, as if by some miracle, keeps him going. I love to look at that wing as a visual reminder of what faith looks like: a seemingly fragile, evanescent presence that still has the strength to keep us aloft, even in the midst of not knowing.

It is amazing to realize how much has changed in a few months just as a result of saying “Yes” to that one idea.  In creating the show we made not only the individual pictures themselves, but a space to experience them in a new way. We learned things about ourselves and a lot about working together. Most importantly, saying “Yes” created the possibility for countless interactions with friends, family, and strangers. 

I think the intention we set at the beginning helped us to take the leap of faith: we both agreed that what was important to us was sharing Tom’s photos and creating closure for his year off. This simple intention gave us something to hold onto when we felt uncertain, as well as a guide for making practical decisions. And it allowed the space for the many connections to blossom. We are delighted by how many people enjoyed what we made. May this show help you take your own leap of faith when the time is right.



Recently, in my sessions with my own therapist, I have been wanting to just stay quiet. When this happens I always wonder, couldn’t I do this on my own? Why am I paying good money to sit in silence? But there is something about the Presence of another person that makes this completely different from sitting by myself. And this “silence together” has made space for some remarkable experiences.

Two good friends joined me for the Half-Day Meditation Retreat at Present Sense in September. Again, we are just sitting or walking in silence—what difference could it make whether I was there by myself or with others? But I could feel a shift in myself because of their presence. Their focus increased my own concentration, and our shared intention created a space for growth.

One of the reasons that I encouraged Tom to do a show of his photography was that I wanted him to hear the appreciation that I was hearing from my friends about his work. Spending your time huddled under a camouflaged blanket next to a pond, or in front of a computer editing pictures, does not lend itself to getting feedback. Though there were certainly lots of tough moments in planning and creating the show, the opening night was one of those magic times when everything falls into place. All of Tom’s immediate family came into town for the event, and he spent the evening receiving the appreciation of the many people who stopped by. He left that night feeling a great deal of support and acknowledgment, and knowing in a much deeper way that his work affects others.

This is—when we are at our best—what people are able to do for each other. We see and understand each other. We support each other in our shared intentions. We offer appreciation and gratitude. We provide feedback—sometimes just by our presence alone—that lets others know who they are.  

One of my Hakomi trainers has been talking recently about the difference between individual therapy and group therapy. About how in individual therapy you are healing issues that come up between two people—issues of intimacy, nurture, attachment, or individual agency. Group therapy, on the other hand, heals issues that come up for a person in relation to groups—issues of belonging, shame, competition, etc.

I love doing individual therapy, and feel a special calling to this work. Even so, I am well aware that there are certain experiences that we simply can’t recreate in an individual therapy session. Clients can be coached to create those missing experiences for themselves by relating differently to the people in their lives, but when we start talking about things like belonging, or being accepted in a diverse group, I often wish that I could suddenly transport my client into a workshop setting.

I don't really have a precise point to this article. I guess I am just reflecting on the ways that being "with" each other helps us grow, and how we come to know ourselves through the mirroring and attention of others. This is why I am so happy to be building a community at Present Sense that supports many different ways for people to learn together.



Wings in My World: Artist's Reception this Friday

Bird Photography by Tom Talbott
Loving portraits of birds of the Northwest taken during Tom's year-long sabbatical.

Last night was the first official open house for Tom's show (not counting showing it to his friends from Uganda who happened to be visiting on Labor Day--definitely the visitors who came the farthest!) We thoroughly enjoyed sharing this beautiful work with others. It's fun to hear other people's reactions as each person sees something new or makes different meanings out of the photos. My favorite moment of the evening was talking to one of my Hakomi trainers about how Tom's best times out birding are when he can find a bird, observe it closely, and then leave without having disturbed it, and she said that she could see that in all of his pictures. I realized in this conversation that this is what the whole show (and all of the time spent creating it) is about: respect. Respect for the creatures with whom we share the world, respect for our local place (all of the birds in the show can be seen in and around Seattle), and respect for ourselves and the rhythms of our own life. I am glad that this comes through to others.


Finding the flow

Last August, my husband left his job as a computer programmer to spend a year photographing birds. When he quit, he was uncertain about the career path ahead of him; a year later, he still is not sure. Does this mean the sabbatical didn’t work? Should it have resulted in a greater sense of direction and purpose?

I believe this misses the point. Tom has spent the past year visiting many beautiful places (including our backyard.) He has spent hours observing the behavior of the creatures that we live with. He has come up against his own limitations (how many times can you forget your lunch in the refrigerator?) and learned to live with them. And he has regularly practiced his craft, with all the frustrations and joys that go with that.

Put simply, Tom has listened to himself and exercised his creative power. Practiced together, these two activities align us with the flow of the world. And it is this flow that brings us everything we need, even if it isn’t on our time schedule or doesn’t match our expectations.

I am reading Callings, a lovely book by Gregg Levoy about finding and following an authentic life. He explores how to hear the small voices of our callings, how to be still enough so that the unexpected can get through. One of the stories he recounts is of asking M. Scott Peck at a lecture how to know, in a personal decision, if he was doing the right thing. Dr. Peck said, “There is no such formula. The unconscious is always one step ahead of the conscious mind—the one that knows things—so it’s impossible to know for sure. But if you’re willing to sit with ambiguity, to accept uncertainties and contradictory meanings, then your unconscious will always be a step ahead of your conscious mind in the right direction. You’ll therefore do the right thing, although you won’t know it at the time.”

I believe this sabbatical has been very much the “right direction” for Tom. It has certainly given him the time and space to sit with ambiguity, and the opportunity to follow unconscious directions without knowing exactly where they are headed. And I think he is happier and more himself as a result. What’s next? Probably more of the same—simply being willing to follow the flow in its infinite path.  

This is exactly the sort of process that I hope Present Sense will support. I think of classes here as mini-sabbaticals: a place to step out of the everyday pace of life for a moment and listen to your own small voice; a place to find the courage to make decisions in the face of uncertainties; and a place to be grounded in the knowing that you are continually creating the fabric of your life.


Coming home to yourself

At the beginning of July, I came down with a summer cold, and spent a week on the couch recovering. I found that, though being sick wasn’t pleasant, having time to myself—to think, to write, to daydream, to sort, to clear away, to just be still—seemed long overdue and was something for which my psyche was thirsty. 

As a response to this experience, I tried to write an article on the importance of “rest”, but no matter how I wrote and rewrote, that didn’t seem to capture the longing I have been feeling for the past months and the deep feeling of relief at being still for awhile.

Finally, last week I started rereading Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves, which I haven’t read for 15 years, and I came across something she calls “coming home to yourself” which I think is the thing that I had been yearning for. I thought I would share some of her beautiful words with you.

What she means by “home” is complex, but it is "in some way…an internal place, a place somewhere in time rather than space, where a woman feels of one piece. Home is where a thought or feeling can be sustained instead of being interrupted or torn away from us because something else is demanding our time and attention. Home is a sustained mood or sense that allows us to experience feelings not necessarily sustained in the mundane world: wonder, vision, peace, freedom from worry, freedom from demands, freedom from constant clacking. [It is] a nutritive inner world that has ideas, order, and sustenance all of its own."

When we are home “there is not only time to contemplate, but also to learn, and uncover the forgotten, the disused, and the buried. There we can imagine the future and also pour over the scar maps of the psyche, learning what led to what, and where we will go next.”

This is not a luxury, it is an eminently practical journey. “All these treasures from home are meant to be cached in the psyche for later use in the topside world.” And especially as my therapy practice grows, and I am accompanying more people on their own journeys, I find myself needing to go “home” more often and more deeply myself. 

How often do we need to go home?"The most important thing about the timing of this home cycle is this: When it’s time, it’s time. Even if you’re not ready, even if things are undone, even if today your ship is coming in. When it’s time, it’s time. [In the fairy tale] the seal woman returns to the sea, not because she just feels like it, not because today is a good day to go, not because her life is all nice and tidy—there is no nice and tidy time for anyone. She goes because it is time, and therefore she must."

Thank you Clarissa Pinkola Estes for caring for the wildness inside each of us. May we each find our own home and visit it when it is time.

(All quotes from Estes, C.P.  (1992).  Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.  p. 284-5.)


"Do as little as possible.
Be as much as possible.
And leave your agendas at home."

--Advise to therapists from Bonnie Badenoch
(author of The Brain-Wise Therapist) at a recent conference



Use what you already have

When I decided to go to graduate school at the Leadership Institute of Seattle I was pretty sure that I wasn’t a leader, and I was skeptical that two years of graduate school would turn me into one.  In my mind, leaders were people who liked speaking to large groups, had bold ideas about politics, and didn’t mind if other people disliked them—not my strong points!

After my first year of graduate school I started Present Sense.  Or perhaps I should say that Present Sense was “born” which captures more of the urgency of the event, and the sense that though I had some essential part in its beginning, it soon began to happen to me as much as I was in control.  But that is another story….

Anyway, when I began running the space I still had many of those unconscious assumptions about leadership, and still believed I needed to be bigger, stronger, more flamboyant, and tougher-skinned than I felt.  This often left me feeling anxious and overwhelmed and uncertain about how to proceed.

With much invaluable, skillful coaching from my peers, my role at Present Sense has continued to change. For the most part, my work these days feels easy. I like the tasks that I do, and I have the privilege of working with many incredible people who rent the space. And as I approach the three-year anniversary of it, I am delighted to reflect on the hundreds of people who have gathered there and grown.

From this experience it is becoming clear to me that my own leadership ability grew from some rather humble skills I already had. I actually enjoy all the little details of renting the space—answering the phone, updating the calendar, sweeping the sidewalk, handing out keys—and when I focused on this, the simple act of repeating this task over time created a node of activity in my community that serves many needs.

I should note that it was crucial that I had a clear intention in the beginning: I knew I wanted a space that would foster mindfulness, art, and community.  It is this vision that gave all those small daily actions direction and purpose, and turned my “attention to detail” from merely obsessive-compulsive to an act of leadership.

But once I had this vision I did not need to be an extravert or a business dynamo, I simply needed the persistence to apply my own natural talents to bringing this vision to life. And I believe that the more honest I was with myself about what moved me and what I enjoyed, the more nourishment I received from my work and the more likely I was to continue it in the face of all the inevitable challenges.

So my somewhat tongue-in-cheek advice to people who are coming into their own leadership abilities is this:Think small. Perhaps when you set your intention you “think big”, but when it comes to realizing it, think about what you want to do every day. Think about what you do easily. Ask other people what they appreciate about you because what you do best is likely something you take for granted and may not see as a skill at all. And just start doing that and see what happens. You never know where it may lead you.


An appreciation of owls

In my life, mindfulness is not just a special state that happens when I am sitting on my meditation cushion. Though formal practice is important, just like playing the piano is important for a pianist, the beauty of mindfulness is that there are many ways of practicing it. Any ordinary activity can be approached in a mindful manner; washing the dishes, walking to the store, choosing what to eat for dinner, arguing with a co-worker, or going barefoot for the first time in spring can all be opportunities for awareness.

My husband, for example, has never "meditated" a day in his life, yet he spends a great deal of time in a highly mindful state when he is out in the field observing and photographing birds. His ability to be mindful has grown naturally out of a desire to find a way to connect with the amazing creatures that live all around us. Mindfulness in this case arose from his desire to understand the landscape and its inhabitants enough to be able to enter the world of a short-eared owl, or a marsh wren, or a bittern.  

I think many of us reach a point in life where we appreciate the benefits of this kind of attention, whether we attach the label "mindfulness" to it or not. And I believe that there are many paths to finding it: art, music, running, nature photography, weaving, car repair, etc. The important thing isn't what we do, it is how we do it.

I am including a short slideshow of some of the photos of owls my husband has spent time with this winter.  I hope that you will enjoy the gift of a few moments with these beautiful creatures, and be inspired to keep growing your own mindfulness in your daily life.

[NOTE: If the video stops and starts when you play it you can press "pause" and allow it to fully load.]

Winter Owls 2012: Short-eared & Snowy Owls from Ocean Shores to Boundary Bay
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Time. Quiet. Listening. Nourishment.

I rely on my intuition a lot in my work as a counselor. By “intuition” I do not mean something mysterious or supernatural, but simply that a lot of my information processing happens in an interior place, so that ideas of what to do in a session can appear fully-formed when I need them.

Knowing this about myself has changed how I think about learning. I have always thought learning was a bit like making spaghetti. You feed the dough into one end of the pasta machine, turn the crank to squeeze it through some little holes, and watch the noodles come out the other end. It is an essentially linear process, starting with eggs and flour, progressing through a ball of dough, and arriving at perfect little pasta shapes. What I am realizing is that though I can learn some things this way, it is not a great way to develop my intuition, which thrives not on pressure and precision, but on time, quiet, listening, and regular feeding.

Time: Intuition behaves more like a living organism than a machine, and because of this, there is a certain amount of time that is necessary for its development. Just like growing apples or gestating a baby, it doesn’t happen all at once, and there is really no sense in trying to hurry it. “Let’s get this baby out in six months!” just doesn’t cut it for living organisms. My intuition likes to hear me say: “I trust your timing.”

Quiet: There are many forms of quiet, and my intuition likes all of them: taking the time for my thoughts to settle (meditation); finding space for new soft growth to toughen up (a safe place to try out a new skill); or simply taking time to rest (naps.) Finding quiet doesn’t require me to live in a monastery, but it does mean that no matter what my outside life is like I need a place of interior quiet where I can retreat when needed. (If you are a parent of small children and are saying, "Quiet! Yeah, sure!" click here for a delightful e-book on mindfulness for parents by Stacy Lewis.)

Listening: Like most living things, intuition likes to be paid attention to, and listening is the way to tune into what it is saying. My intuition has a soft voice, and it is easy to miss it unless I focus. Intuition works through hunches and perhaps’s and what-if’sand maybes. It comes to me in dreams and images and memories that “happen” to pop into my mind. My intuition likes to hear me say, "You matter to me."

Regular Feeding: The way that I nourish my intuition is to provide it a regular diet of things that interest it. There are times when committing to a whole course of study is wonderful; other times it is like force-feeding a goose. You may get a yummy liver at the end of it, but you have to kill the goose to get to it. Nourishing my intuition requires daily input from me, but I find that it is more important that this nourishment is regular, rather than planned. My intuition likes to open books at random, start one thing and finish another, or read what I am interested in at the moment. It likes to rub two books together and see if it can start a fire. It likes to skim. It wants to know that I will give it permission to play.


The importance of self-care

I talk about self-care sometimes as though it were optional—a nice thing to do, if I have the time. But what is the self, but the vehicle for our own survival, the instrument (especially in the healing professions) for the work we do, and the means of being in relationship to others?

Being a therapist is finally starting to bring home to me that self-care is at the center of everything I do. WIthout caring for myself, I will not be sensitive to what is happening to the person in the other chair. Without finding my own health, I will not be able to cultivate health in others. Without self acceptance, I will continue to judge the parts of others that I refuse to listen to in myself.

Buddhist loving-kindness practice always begins with offering kindness to ourselves before going on to offer it to others. Without water in the pitcher of our own soul, we cannot offer anyone else a drink. Likewise, Jesus says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” which has always seemed to me less commandment than fact: That the way you love yourself is how you will treat those around you.

The most profound self-care is care that says, “I value you. You matter to me.”  If I take care of myself using a check-list—so many cups of vegetables a day, so many miles walked, so many minutes meditated—I may get the benefit of a healthy body or mind, but miss the more fundamental goal of self-care—to turn the beacon of love on my own soul and to absorb that love with joy.

The ultimate goal of self-care is not just health, but to know ourselves as an intimate part of the universe, inseparable from the fabric of existence. It is to feel appreciation for ourselves, gratitude at our being, and wonder at our complexity. It is to listen to ourselves—not only to the pleasant parts of ourselves, but to the dissatisfied, terrified and angry parts as well—out of the sure knowledge that we have something important to say.

Parker Palmer says in Let Your Life Speak, his meditation on true vocation: "I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others."



  For it is important that awake people be awake,

  or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;

  the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
  should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

            -from A ritual to read to each other by William Stafford



Happy Holidays


May you rest gently in the flow of life.
Happy Holidays from Katie.



The time we have is precious

This year I have become—to my surprise—a Sounder's soccer fan. I call myself a fan, not because I care about whether they win or lose (I do!) or because I am interested in every detail of team organization (I am), but because there were moments this year when I felt uplifted by the beauty of the play on the field.  There were moments of transcendence, when the players connected in a rare way with each other: passing effortlessly, making opportunities for each other, creating unexpected and delightful plays.

When these moments happen, it is easy to take them for granted, to think that they will continue to happen, that the team will continue to play this way—maybe even win the playoffs! What, after all, could stop such brilliance! But something happens. A key player is injured. The coach makes a change in the lineup. The rains begin. The stars move…who knows. But something is different, and that moment of beauty that seemed so certain to continue, is gone. Instead of being a step toward the future, that beauty is revealed for what it is—a moment that is unrepeatable.

This is a big topic for the tiny space at the start of this newsletter, but I will make it brief: the more aware I am of the fleeting nature of life, the more keenly I am filled with joy at the present moment. And this joy contains within it the ache of its own ending.

I think of every person teaching at Present Sense as a person holding a door open to this kind of joy, to this acute experience of life—inviting us to sing, to paint, to hope, and to be aware. This is not to say that staying home and washing the dishes can’t also be a doorway to this experience, a moment to pause and pay attention. The details of what we do don’t matter. Kiss your partner. Call a friend. Take a walk in the fall leaves. Do what you are drawn to. But don't wait. The time we have is precious.


Poetry of Present Sense

"The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obligated to solve.  It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right."  
Garrison Keilor from Good Poems for Hard Times

At the Hakomi trainings I have been attending for the last year ( we begin and end every day with a poem. In-between, there are more poems--before breaks, after breaks, as part of the curriculum, tucked into notebooks, displayed on the wall, and quoted in sessions. The language of poetry--of careful observation, of meaning, of purpose, of delight--pervades everything that we do.  

This is what I want Present Sense to be as well: A place where we can live in the language of poetry with each other--a place to be aware, to create, to connect, and to play. And a place to draw courage from our community.

I am excited about all the ways that this space continues to evolve. New renters are offering excellent classes. We are starting a 2nd-Friday Free Community Salon series which gives each renter a chance to showcase their talents, while offering a fun evening to the neighborhood and collecting donations for charity. And there are possible plans in place for hosting more performances at the space.  Stay tuned...


Why make art?

Like so many others in our culture, I grew up thinking that I was not an artist. If I  didn’t have “talent” there was no point in making my own images. Though I tried several times as an adult to learn to draw, I always felt discouraged by my lack of success and would quickly abandon my efforts.

It wasn’t until I signed up for an acrylic painting class in my late 30’s that I experienced the power of art to touch my inner life. I did not find that I had any more talent at art than I had before, but I had an experience as I left class of feeling “awake” for the first time in years. This feeling of being newly aware of myself and my surroundings lasted for the rest of the day, and over the weeks to come, each time I returned to class I had the same experience. It was as though I had been going through life in a dream without even knowing it.

In the years since that first class, I have found that I can find this sense of being awake whenever I really pay attention to something, whether through painting or drawing, writing, being outside, or in sitting meditation or another mindfulness activity. All these activities point to the same thing: awareness.

The Merlin that roosted in the cedar tree in our back yardArt as an experience (as something I do, rather than the product I make) has many purposes for me. It is a way of connecting with the world around me, of feeling its contours and bones and movement. It is a way of connecting with myself, of knowing where I am and what I am pulled toward. And it is a way to connect with other people, building community through this common activity.

Whether or not I have talent has ceased to be the question; what is important is the joy I find when I am speaking to myself and the world with the images that come from my own being. I am happy to be able to share this process with each of you and to enjoy the things that you create. 


Why I started Present Sense

I started Present Sense, the Community Art and Mindfulness Center, because I wanted a place to do the things I loved with other people: make art, write, practice mindfulness, and create community. These practices have brought so much richness and meaning to my life, and I am thrilled to have the chance to give back some of what I have received.

Making art is one way of waking up and being fully alive, and being a fully-alive, aware human being is at the heart of everything we do here. Classes support you in claiming your personal creative process and using it to cultivate self awareness and your connection to others. No special skills are required to attend classes, as artistic expression is a natural ability in each of us. You will be invited to use this ability to listen deeply to your own voice and nurture and express what is alive in you.

Though there is nothing "safe" about art, we do strive to make this a place where it is safe for you to experiment and where all the parts of yourself are important. We also hope that creating a space where different disciplines are taught side by side will foster valuable cross-fertilization. Surprise and serendipity are important parts of learning.

From the beginning this has been a place that has grown out of the amazing community of people in which I am fortunate to live.  I love having a space to bring together the energy of all the learners - teachers and students - I know. I hope you will join us!