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Presence: Striving to Find Authentic Sense of Self

Lisa A. Miles  c 2013   ~posted for the first time fully in Dec 2014 on~
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Jan Vojta stained glass

Artists being able to collaborate with psychologists makes for a unique experience. I had the pleasure of coordinating such in 2001, for a performance piece entitled Presence. Inspired by self-development work of the previous decade, it was a melding of interest, studies, written reflections and art.

Authentic sense of self, or presence, has been a point of fascination, centered on the thought that we must strive to find who we most truly are and move toward a life that speaks to that.

Inherent in engaging around sense of self is the need to incorporate multifaceted elements that define us.
This involves embracing all our drives and interests, but also identifying personal assets and liabilities. By attending to what informs and motivates our lives, we can cultivate inner assets, manage our inward liabilities and potentially transform challenges.

Glass is a perfect metaphor for the self; it was incorporated in a big way in Presence, based on a poem/reflection * about the tumultuous but rewarding process that is self-reflection:

Where emotions wrestle and wreak havoc on calm composure,
To surface and recede in a troubling yet contenting tide
We are all fragments
Shades of our soul like shards of glass
that cut, yet reflect best, our presence.

Both stained glass and blown glass art were represented on stage and projected screen. As well, a custom-made, heavy glass “mask” played a pivotal role in the artists’ interpretation of stages involved in moving from denial to full, healthy expression of self:

Negative Energy
Constructive Energy

The Jungian psychologists involved were taken with this work that emulated finding authentic sense of self, and offered key insights throughout the creative processing. Their wise reflections helped to guide the lone movement artist, three glass artists and my own composing of original music and artistic direction for the piece. Beautifully, even Jung’s ties to alchemy were pointed out by one of the psychologists, further informing the unique artistic/ psychological blend.

Afterward, artists and psychologists mixed on stage to host a panel discussion of this creative call to awaken to individual strength and weakness, essentially, to one’s presence in life.

Some audience members were later moved to write comments, such as this one by Lian Laishley:

“The value of ‘Presence’ to the general public [is] in helping them gain a better understanding of what makes a person healthy in body, mind, spirit and emotion… It articulates the struggles that are involved as one goes from despair to healing, and epitomizes the collaborative spirit that leads to open communication and evocative dialogue.”

More such collaborations between the arts, humanities, and psychology communities could inspire further healing.


Visuals, music & more information on Presence found here.

Glass art courtesy Jan Vojta


“Contemplation,” L. Miles from the anthology Unsilenced: The Spirit of Women (Commune-A-Key, Salt Lake), 1997. [↩]


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