Sarah Oblinger has facilitated process painting since 1994. After opening her first process painting studio–Paint or Die– in Lawrence, Kansas, Sarah also facilitated with The Painting Experience for ten years. She has taught at the Esalen and Omega Institutes. Since 2006, she’s offered process painting workshops in NM, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and in 2014 created the first Homegirl(boy) Walkabout. She offers Camp Wabi-Sabi during the summer months in Dixon, NM. Sarah Oblinger earned a degree in Horticultural Therapy from Kansas State University, which included an internship at the Menninger Foundation.
My odd and confusing childhood cultivated my pragmatic wisdom, dark sense of humor, and passion for the creative process. Plus a deep curiosity about the inner workings of people and a persistent desire to find a place I could call home. I spent a lot of years wandering through the strange terrain of my home life looking for a refuge to hold the heartbreaking sadness I felt. I found refuge in making things, nature, and creative play.
At fourteen years of age I had a crisis of faith. Church, which had been a weekly event up to that point, felt shallow and hypocritical. I wondered if there was a God. I had a lot of questions. I began cutting Sunday School. My saving grace was Cletus Cary, the youth pastor. He was willing to meet my questions and me where I was at: disenchanted, disconnected, and disillusioned. Cletus was the first adult who asked questions that encouraged me to go inside; feeling and trusting what was inside my heart. He encouraged me to not be afraid to explore my depths.
This is where my journey of waking up and coming home to myself began. The Cletus experience unfolded into working summers at camp. I taught arts and crafts and was nourished by the pace of camp and the connection with campers. From camp I went to a YMCA college offering an Applied Behavioral curriculum. I discovered the human potential movement and Fritz Perls, which led to the be here now movement and Baba Ram Dass. Later, during my Menninger internship, I learned about Rolling Thunder and biofeedback and art therapy.
Then I moved to California. I was depressed and anxious. I thought it was from living in Kansas … it wasn’t. But it was time to re-enter the territory of my heart. To go inside and explore my depths. Again. So I did.
I started Neo-Reichian work with Judyth Weaver, who introduced me to Sensory Awareness. During this time I discovered process painting at The Painting Experience Studio and started painting. I began to experience some movement towards presence, self-acceptance, and a fuller, deeper engagement with life.
Eventually I moved back to Kansas, opened my first process painting studio and began to teach. After seven years I moved to New Mexico, a place I had dreamed of moving to for years. And I found myself in the depths of depression and anxiety again. This time I knew it wasn’t due to living in Kansas. I knew the territory of my heart needed my attention again. I found another Neo-Reichian therapist, Denise Andes, who introduced me to shamanic journeying. And I found a Sensory Awareness leader in Santa Fe, Stefan Laeng-Gilliatt.
Denise and Stefan have taught me to rest more in the natural ease of being and meeting myself more directly. I’m able to see things more clearly as they are and respond from a more authentic and caring way to what is arising around me and in me. I know when I rest more fully in my own way of being, I am more connected to my innate vitality, aliveness, and creativity.
My aim, through my work, both personal and professional, is living from the wisdom of my deep authentic core so I can live aligned to my own innate rhythm in ordinary, daily life. Everything that happens to me in life is my teacher. I want to live a spiritual life in the practical world, which means living fully present – right here, right now – and responsive to whatever comes up internally or comes along externally. The big trick for me has been to learn to sit at the feet of my life and let myself be taught by my life’s journey.
But here is what I’ve learned: that this journey doesn’t follow a linear path. Nor is it a quick fix. That waking up and being present takes practice. And it requires failing. And waking up and failing over and over again. I’ve learned to meet what arises in me and around me. I’ve cultivated compassion for what I don’t know and might never know. I’ve learned that being real is challenging. That I constantly get in my own way due to conditioning from my childhood and life in general. And I have learned I’m already enough and have the wisdom and sensitivity to live my life fully.