Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing awareness that all phenomena are empty and illusory and the only meaning and mana in any situation is what the people involved bring to it.  [It’s a cool thing to realize that we humans are the arbiters of the meaning and mana in our own lives.]

The search for meaning and mana is a very human thing.  It’s been going on for centuries now.  The words themselves are so nebulous that it’s hard not to head off into the woo-woo zone when you talk about them.


I was reading Tobin Hart’s book, THE FOUR VIRTUES:  Presence, Heart, Wisdom, Creation, and it struck me that what he calls “presence” is really one more form of what I call mana.

According to Hart, Presence is that “tug of aliveness in the silence.”  I do love that phrase.  It’s beautiful!

However, it doesn’t really say much.  (That’s the problem with all this wisdom-stuff.  You end up spouting poetry and everybody around you just goes, “HUH?”)

Hart goes on to say that Presence is an “openness to beauty and mystery.” He says Presence requires the capacity to be silent and still, to endure emptiness in order to witness and open to the good, the beautiful, and the true.

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  More beautiful blather.

The components of Presence, according to Hart, are:

  • Appreciation (that openness to Beauty and Mystery)
  • Stillness
  • Focus and Attention, which includes things like steadying your mind, not-doing, centering yourself, and pausing in your walk to notice the World around you.
Appreciation by mark via Flickr [CC BY-NC]


Being open to the Beauty and Mystery of what is in front of you is often called “appreciation.”  It does seem to require humility.

If you are complacent in your knowledge of the World and if you are armored in your sureness that you know what’s what and what is really going on, it’s sort of hard to get entranced by the Mystery of the World around you.

Mystery is what you don’t know.  Mystery provokes wonder.  When you think you know all of the everything, it seems to me, the World gets a lot narrower and shallower.


It’s a funny thing:  the World is pretty obliging.  No matter how you think and no matter what you know, it’s pretty easy to see what you believe.   Evidence mounts up all around you that you are right, right, right.

The World is quite malleable.  It is perfectly willing to climb into the box you’ve constructed.  You can get a heck of a lot of World into a very small box, apparently.

Do you think that people are out to get you?  Guess what.  You’ll find plenty of evidence that, indeed, they are.

Do you think people just naturally like to help each other?  You’ll find lots of evidence that is true as well.

Do you find the World unsatisfactory and boring?  That, too, can be arranged….

So if you want to glimpse the Mystery at the heart of the World, then you have to be really careful that you’re not letting your mind order the World around.   Since it’s something we humans are really good at, this is a very hard thing to not-do.


In his writing, Hart seems to be separating out “I” and “me” from each other.  They are both inside of you, he posits, but they are nuanced and different.

There’s a part of you that observes and witnesses the World in all its glory, trying to see what is really there.  That’s the “I” part.

Then there’s the “me” part.  “Me” is mostly just in the world, so distracted and caught up in the busy that it’s swimming around in one big chaotic soup.  “Me” gets lost a lot.

I’m not sure what to do with this.  I do know that I agree with Albert Einstein’s thought that either it’s all a miracle or none of it is.

I really think that it’s my “me” part that is responsible for most of my poetry.

The confusion that comes from immersing yourself in the World produces more interesting thoughts than the observer-“I” part that sort of stands back and keeps trying to sort out the glory and reduce it so it can fit into neat little boxes.

Stillness by criana via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


This thought reminds me of my ch’i kung explorations of Mountain energy…getting grounded in Earth energy and all that. I do notice that the one thing people with mana have in common is the ability to be still.

My Si’fu (teacher) once demonstrated a particularly powerful stance to our kung fu class.  He stood there in the center of the circle, perfectly poised with his arms and hands at the ready.  He didn’t do anything….and, literally, no one could attack him.

Remarkably, the man conquered us with his stillness.  There was no opening, no invitation for an attack, and none of the students in the circle felt any sort of aggressiveness was warranted, even though we had been instructed to move against him.

It is a thing I have tried to emulate ever since with very little success.

Another kind of still focus is illustrated by this picture of a Tibetan Buddhist high lama, His Holiness Dilgo Kyentse Rimpoche.  He is displaying the vitarka mudra, a hand gesture that signifies “teaching, giving instruction, reason and preaching.”

HH Dilgo Kyentse Rimpoche by Wonderlane via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Perhaps this kind of centered stillness might also be effectively applied to the way an artist and a writer goes about making art as well.  Art, after all, is only an extension of the one doing it.

It occurs to me that practicing any form of art is sort of like weapons-training in kung fu.  We are taught that any hand-held weapon is just an extension of your arm and hand.  It does things, but you’re the one directing it using your body and your mind.

The same thing happens when you use the skills and tools you’ve developed to make your art or your poetry.  Your art, your poem, your dance performance takes form as your mind and body give it direction.

Attention by nofilm via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Stillness is the ground for focus and attention.  If you can’t be still you are unlikely to develop enough focus to actually finish anything meaningful.  (Mana doesn’t come with built-in octopus tentacle suckers it seems.)

And if you are flibbertigibitting around like a demented butterfly, it is unlikely that you’ll be capable of giving anything much attention.

Stillness, according to all the wisdom teachers, is also the ground for tranquility and for peacefulness, so it is probably a good thing to work on.


Hart has a number of guidelines for how to work with the mana mindset.   Here are a trio of ideas I picked up on:

  • Sensations and feelings can be used as a guidance system and built-in feedback loop which can help you stay aware of the world around you.

It’s sort of like that hunter-sense of terrain and place.  If you know in your body where you are and what you’re standing on, you automatically move in ways that don’t disturb the world around you.

This one does take a lot of practice.

  • Pleasure is a tool for understanding what nurtures youThat one, taken to the extreme, sounds like a hedonistic sort of thing –”It feels good, so it’s gotta be good.”

I suppose if I were an academic sort, I could probably get lost in the nuances of the differences between a pleasure like an ice-cream sundae and one like wild jungle sex or something…. Hmmm.  Might-be, could-be actually fun!

  • Mindfulness is a way to experience the world deeplySometimes I can really get behind this and sometimes not.  My problem is that Mindful-Me tends to be like that centipede lying in a ditch trying to figure out how to walk around with all those legs.


When I look at the people who I consider powerful and filled with their own kind of mana, I do see all of the qualities Hart mentions.  The work these people produce does seem imbued with echoes of their own “presence.”

They are fully human, these people, so I am guessing that if I want to produce art with mana, it means I have to keep working on just being a real human being


Thank you for sharing in this bit of silliness with me.

As a reward, I offer this beautiful YouTube video, “Icheon Master Hand” that was put together by the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) to celebrate the exhibit, “ICHEON:  Reviving the Korean Ceramic Tradition” which was on display at the Museum in 2013.

The video features five masters, Lee Hyang-gu, Kim Seong-tae, You Yong-chul, Choi In-gyu, and Jo Se-yeon.  They live in Icheon in South Korea, a designated UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art, and are part of the city’s efforts to revive a 5,000-year old tradition of Korean ceramics.

And here’s a poem:


Oh, I give up!

Dragon gets me into things

And then stands there grinning

While I flounder around

Trying to find my balance again

In a space turned upside down

Or sideways or inside out.


I Ching nags and scolds me

All the time to be patient

And steadfast and true.


Archetypes wander around in my head,

Making themselves at home,

Lying on the couch, watching tv, and

Checking out the refrigerator

On the commercial breaks.


My inner drill sergeant revs up

At the drop of a hat.

And that stupid knight in the rusty armor

Won’t go away and leave me alone.


And here I am, the fool,

Trying to find my way

Back to being ordinary.


Why can’t I be a normal, unconscious person?

They are probably very happy.

Ignorance is bliss, right?


Me, I have to aim for stars

And run after rainbows.



After all the striving and trying,

I’m not even conscious yet.

Probably semi-conscious.

Definitely not post-coital.


All this cosmic stuff is getting me


Must be P.M.S. – Pre-Mastery Syndrome.

(Or maybe I’m just horny?)

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Presence by zlaping via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]



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Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.






22 thoughts on “DEVELOPING PRESENCE (Another IPS)

  1. I enjoyed reading this post and the video was fantastic, great artists and such amazing focus on there crafts! I guess that we all need to be that focused and in flow, it’s healing and helps us to let go of all thoughts.

    I have read some ideas about the I, and the ego. The ideas are that I does not exist and that we all are a part of a larger context (or consciousness) that we share with everything.

    I’m not sure about that, the ideas in your post seems more appealing to me:)

    1. Hey Linda: Thank you for the visit and your comments. I think that knowing that I am a not-wise person is a big help in my walk in the world as I look for ways to add meaning and mana to this ordinary life of mine.

      Sometimes the wisdom guys get a little carried away with the Big Vision, forgetting the rest of us who are standing around scratching our heads.

      Ah well…onward!

      Please do come again.

  2. So the thing I took away from this today was the part about finding what it is you are looking for in the world. If you are looking for goodness, you will see it all around you and you will be filled with love. If you are looking for evil doers, you will see evil all around and be filled with anxiety, discontent, and negativity.

    In such a big world, it really is our own small world that we get to control that matters. Great read!

    1. Good job, Scott! You got it! Thanks for the visit and the comments. Please do come again….

  3. Jeannie Brickley says:

    This was a very interesting post. To me the presence you speak of, or the mana, is God. We are made in His image and therefore have a creative nature; from which comes things like poetry, music, artwork and crafts, etc.

    I loved the video. Simply beautiful. There is something relaxing about watching a master craftsman create. The music was also very relaxing. Thank you.

    Thank you for an interesting and thought provoking post.


    1. Hey Jeannie:

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.  Please do come again.

  4. Wilona Blue says:

    Haha using ‘pleasure as a tool for understanding what nurtures you’ does sound like a hedonistic sort of thing and my self-indulgent side perked up when I read that.

    Going forward I definitely want to incorporate some stillness and awareness into my daily routine. It is just finding the discipline that’s my biggest obstacle because I know there are great benefits.

    I am going to start with tai chai today and see what happens.

    1. Hey Wilona:

      Thanks for your visit.  

      I do like the pleasure lesson best my own self.  Hee!

      I do think that tai ch’i is a great idea!  You go, girl!

      Please do come again.

  5. This is such a well written and enlightening read.  I had never heard of mana, but once I read through your post, it makes complete sense. I do know that generally we are the cause of our own essence.  Whether it is what we are sending out or what we end up getting back.

    I really enjoyed reading your post, I realize I myself have some work to do on my own thoughts in order to be a real human being as you put it.  Great job. It was nice to read something totally different.

    1. Coralie, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again….

  6. This was a very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading your post. 

    I think after reading this post his creativity will increase for any human. 

    I have noticed that some people cannot do their daily tasks in the right way. Of course, we need to add some stability and awareness to our daily routine. I think these important ideas can enhance creativity in our lives.

    Thank you for your interesting post.

    1. Akborm, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I agree that sometimes doing daily tasks in the right way is a hard thing and that adding stability and awareness to our daily routines do help a lot with that.  It might even give you the room you need to rethink your routines and figure out how to make them more effective.  And that is a very good thing.

      Please do come again.

  7. KingDavid247 says:

    Hello Netta,

    I must commend your mastery of literary techniques. I used to have an interest in writing free verses but somehow the busy schedule made me lose interest considerably. 

    I must say this poem healed my almost broken heart and is like a reviving force. I hope to write again, and when I Kickstart, I will owe it to you and this beautiful poem which just made my day.

    1. KingDavid 247, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do hope you will begin writing again as well and am pleased you found the post helpful to you.

      Please do come again.

  8. Sofia Matias says:

    Hello Netta and thanks for this refreshing piece of reading!  I really enjoyed your “bit of silliness”. 

    I agree with the idea of the World being a box that can be whatever you want it to be. I’d rather make another analogy like “you see what you want to see”, but the idea remains. Not only how we collect sensory information, but mostly how we interpret it is really what makes the World different for each one of us.

    It’s funny to think that the World is just one and at the same is as many as there are people. It sort of supports the parallel universe theory from Stephen Hawkings.

    I may be only scratching the surface of all there concepts 🙂 but each one of us definitely has a lot of power, as I (or “me”, I sort of got lost with that one) can change my own World, always! 

    I can see only darkness and hopelessness if I want; I can see a lot of opportunities if I want; I can see pleasure and goodness everywhere if I want.

    I also loved your video, being a DIY practitioner myself (I make handmade soap at home) I loved seeing the way these masters handle matter apparently so easy to take beautiful forms and shapes. It’s almost relaxing 🙂

    Keep up the good work with your blog!

    Cheers, Sofia

    1. Sofia, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m entranced by your idea that the Hawkings parallel universe thing is supported by the fact that we do each see our own worlds that are very different, one from the other, even though they’re all in the same place.  Cool one!

      I agree that watching masters at work is truly a soothing thing!  I’m pleased you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  9. I agree with the whole idea that appreciation requires humility. Most of the time we’re too centered in ourselves to notice the awesome wonders around us. It’s when we realize that we are nothing, that we’re just a dot in this vast universe that we can get a clearer perspective of things.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Abel.  I do agree that humility is a good thing.  

      I’m not so much into telling myself I’m “nothing,” however.   How can I be nothing?  I’ve got a piece of the Divine in me and that’s not nothing!  Hee!

      Please do come again.

  10. Being able to stop and remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of life is so crucial if we are to enjoy the merits of living. The video is very dynamic and the master craftsmen show us how to enjoy what we are doing. 

    You are so right to suggest that we need times of refreshing in order to fulfill who we are to be. Your poem, also is thought provoking and inspirational. You have successfully made me think about life. Thank you

    1. Yay!  I made Toplink think about life.  My job is done!  (Hee!)

      I am so glad the post resonated with you.  Please do come again….

  11. Caleb Utrera says:

    I like how this article is about positive and self-loving. I am trying to find myself and this article has helped me to understand better what to do. Meditation is a big help as well to try finding peace within yourself. 

    What audience is this article for? 

    What do you mean by Developing presence?

    Thank you for the video at the end of the article, I love people making ceramics as it calms my mind and it’s satisfying to watch as well. I’ve made a ceramic only once as a beginner but that was it, it’s fun molding it as well spinning it.

    1. Caleb, that’s wonderful that you are taking a look at you as well as at the world where you are walking.  

      You asked a couple of questions that got me thinking.  Here are my answers.

      I think my audience is composed of people who are like you, actually — those who want to see more deeply into  what Life-Its-Own-Self has on-offer and what they might want to offer to the rest of us and to Life.  

      I was just thinking about “presence” a little earlier.  A dear friend just passed away earlier this week, an occurrence that seems to happen more and more frequently when you reach a certain age.  

      Whenever someone I know and love dies I feel like they leave behind an empty space in my life that is shaped like them. The shape is made of all of their actions, all of their quirks and their lovely bits, all of their everything.  

      And, mostly, that’s what I think of when I think about “presence” — the space a person leaves behind when they go.  I think it’s possible to make that space a beautiful one.  That’s what I’m working on doing my own self these days.

      Please do come again….

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