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The Blue & Gray Press | May 21, 2018

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UMW Student Travels to Amazon, Finds Inner Peace

By RIVES KUHAR

Around 5 a.m. every morning, Niki Evans rolls a rug with a rainbow design onto her bedroom floor. With her hands in her lap and eyes closed, Evans first focuses on her heart, and then allows her thoughts to pass by without judgment.
Three hours later, Evans starts her day.
To Evans, a senior and studio art major, meditation is not only the beginning and end to the day, but her way of life. This act isn’t limited to the mornings and evenings. Evans meditates even as she goes about her day. Her morning and evening ritual is merely a time when she’s not moving, when her eyes are closed and her senses are calm.
“Meditation is everything from how you’re walking to how you’re doing your work. It’s being in the awareness and not the observer,” Evans said.
Evans wasn’t always as content with her thoughts, her self or her body. In 2007, she dropped out of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) due to an eating disorder.
“I couldn’t do life, I couldn’t do school. I struggled with body image, just not feeling comfortable with myself,” Evans said. “I didn’t really understand what being comfortable in your body was all about.”
She had fond memories of studying abroad in France,  so Evans decided to return there and travel around the country for two years. During this time, Evans tried desperately to determine who she was as a person and let go of any insecurities. However, Evans didn’t find what she was looking for until she returned home in the U.S. and began living in various indigenous communities in the U.S. and the Americas.
Over the course of five years Evans experienced different cultures in Pipestone, Minnesota and eventually made her way to the Amazon in Peru. Through these personal connections, Evans discovered a lot about why she felt dysfunctional and disconnected from society.
“We point out people’s faults because we think that they’re different versus seeing our similarities. Native culture is really about the interconnectedness of life,” Evans said. “Everything is sacred, everything is respected. You’re immersed in that lifestyle of love and honor.”
Evans began to focus on living and being. She stopped trying to understand life and instead just allowed it to happen. Her new awareness awakened her passion for mandalas, a sacred art that conceptualizes how all life is interconnected through geometric patterns.
For a senior project, Evans plans to make a large-scale mandala installation out of prayer ties, which will express identifying one’s self. With 33,000 prayer ties made already, Evan’s excitement for the finished project grows daily.
“I’m really grateful to be in a department on campus that really honors diversity,” Evans said. “Out of all places, I think studying art really says it’s okay to be you, and express you, and it wants to pull that out of you.”
Evans’ drive to discover herself and break free from an eating disorder she lived with since she was 12-years-old allowed her to be open about her feelings.
“It’s when we’re not open when we think that we’re weird,” Evans said.