A Shift So Subtle: Presence As A Practice For Being Better For The Collective

By Nkechi Deanna Njaka, MSc. Photography By Deun Ivory.

We might all agree right now that we could be better. We could ALL be better. This is not to say that where we are individually or collectively is not to be celebrated. We have all come a long way. We can honor where we are and hope for more.

What needs to happen?

A shift. A subtle movement towards a different direction.




  1. move or cause to move from one place to another, especially over a small distance.


  1. a slight change in position, direction, or tendency.

And while a subtle change in a different direction might feel overwhelming and at times hopeless, there is something that I have found that continuously gives hope and inspiration— MINDFULNESS.

As you let your eyes and your gaze soften—whether they are closed or open, you begin to make that shift to your practice. Letting go of everything that has already happened, not being concerned with what may or may not happen, you begin to consciously shift into the presence of what is here and now.

I often share similar words when guiding a group through a mindfulness meditation practice. The important part is the HERE and NOW. That is what presence is. So much of the practice is a conscious choice to be present at the moment we notice we are living in memory, judgement or planning. While it is simple, it is not always easy.


The power of presence is subtle, sacred, profound, complex, and beautiful. To put it simply, what happens when we choose presence is that we choose to be with what is. We choose to be with reality. We choose to allow any and everything that arises in the moment—moment to moment.

The source of our stress, anxiety, and suffering can most certainly be found in the past and in the unknown (the future). We spend so much of our time, and so much of our days on this planet, reliving the past or obsessing about the future. Both are moving unnecessarily in directions that do not exist. What exists is the present moment. In that moment.

In our obsessions about the past and the future, it is very difficult to ascertain what is real and what is reality. This is not to say that it is not useful to think about, to process, to be curious about or to reflect on things that have occured or things we want to occur. But what I believe is more useful, is to be able to— in any moment— assess how you are doing, what you are feeling, what you notice with an open-mind and an open-heart. The reasons being, that then a space has been created for further inquiry. Here, we can ask ourselves: how do I feel, what do I believe, what do I need, what needs to happen next? When we choose to focus our attention on what is only happening here and now, we train our mind and our body to be at peace with what is. To be at peace with ourselves, in the moment, where we are, in that moment. There is an acceptance, and allowance, and an invitation to be with what is truly real. This is the power of presence. Being able to drop in and know the self. This is where real change and real transformation can happen.


In the practice of mindfulness, we each have the opportunity to create both. Our task is to TRUST the process of the practice. The practice is beautifully designed to create more space to be with what is, which reveals to us our very nature— all that is wonderful and complex. When we start to see ourselves, our relationships and our environment as they are, we increase our capacity to be with more, to hold more and to transform.

I believe that this work is a ripple effect. There is always something on the horizon that we cannot see and again, our task is to TRUST. We must believe that our practice of presence is one that will ultimately move us each in the direction of love, justice, truth and beauty. And ultimately, freedom.


If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or in despair, try this practice and try working with this simple meditation.

Set your timer for three minutes and do the following:

On the inhale, recite: I am making space to be here, now, and I am trusting it will lead me towards freedom.

On the exhale, recite: I am releasing the things that no longer serve my freedom or the freedom of others.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka is a creative content director/ founder of NDN Integrated Lifestyle Studio, a meditation teacher as well as the co-founder of Sitting Matters, a mindful + creative lifestyle brand. She is also a 2017-2018 YBCA Artist Fellow.

Nkechi majored in neuroscience and dance at Scripps College and went on to complete an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in neuroscience and dance, she has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body and has always felt the significance of their integration.

For several years, Nkechi worked as a neuroscientist as well as a professional modern dancer and choreographer. Through this work, she discovered that mindfulness and creativity are crucial for sustaining individual and global well-being.

When not exploring mindfulness and other wellness practices, Nkechi spends her time discovering ways to participate more fully in the arts and travel. She currently lives in SF.  

You can find her here: IG: @ndnlifestylist