• Dr Margi Brown Ash

one step at a time

Arteles Creative Centre. My room is the one on the end with a glorious view of the lake.

The days are racing by like the continually changing sky of Arteles. The snow may have left us, and spring may have returned more enthusiastically. Today I will continue to write about Rules of Engagement, those guidelines that move us through the creative process or through the activity with which we are engaging. For everyone these rules will be different. Some people require more discipline than others. People learn differently, respond differently. I like to write a list for the day. I call my process “My Cave of Introspection”. Now that is a rule of engagement! Especially since by nature I am an extravert.

When working with actors I talk about the different channels that we operate in, dreamed on from Process Oriented Therapy. The channels could be seen as representative of one’s many internal selves—the one who likes to walk to solve a problem, the one who likes to listen or read, the one who enjoys relating, the one who likes to ponder.

Some of us, especially actors and dancers, embrace wholeheartedly the kinaesthetic channel or movement channel. We learn through doing, through movement. We are action oriented.

Then some of us, often writers, are aural, we learn through conversation, listening and reading words that come alive in our head. Actors are often in this category too, loudly communicating, excitedly solving problems verbally. The poet in us, perhaps through her feeling channel, or proprioception. In meditation each day I awaken my heart chakra and feel the world, a wonderful way to begin the day.

Visual artists, who I am living with at the moment, learn through using their eyes. Such powerful sight. When I walk with my newly made friends, they see things that I would miss if they were not there: “Did you see that?” or “Look on this rock is a microcosm…it’s like a baby forest only a few centimetres tall!” Always walk with a visual artist. You will learn so much.

Then there is the academic in us who learns through thinking, processing things cognitively, what I am trying to grow right now as I head into my third week of writing my dissertation.

There are two channels left, two glorious channels that make our life richer: the relationship channel, those of us who value attentive relating to each other, inclusive and compassionate.

And finally, the channel that we need to brush up on to keep our world safe, the World channel, where we operate from a global and ecological perspective as keepers of the earth.

We want to develop all of these channels as actors and as participants in this wonderful world. Sometimes when things are not going as well as one would hope, it could be worth a few minutes checking which channel would be useful to amplify right now. In the rehearsal room we have all experienced too much talk “Let’s get up on the floor”, in other words we need to move into the movement or kinaesthetic channel to solve this. When we deliberately change channels (knowing full well that all are operating at once), change is more likely to happen. It’s the same sort of thing when we change art modalities. Sometimes when ‘stuck-ness’ visits, if we embrace a less familiar art form, new meaning emerges. So next time you or your partner or your child or your friend or your colleague seem to not be able to get on with their day, suggest they change channels. One of the best interventions I have ever known is walking: everything, according to the ancients, can be solved by walking.

Rousseau said in his Confessions something like this (I discovered this quote in an interview with Carole Cadwalladr, in the Guardian, 20th April 2014):

…when you walk all is possible. Your future is as open as the sky in front of you. And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking”

A respite of sorts, an opportunity to just exist, to breathe, to listen, to feel, to hear the landscape.

In my show HOME, last seen at Queensland Theatre in 2015, my mother used to sing to me “One step at a time, Sweet J-s-s, that’s all I’m asking of you”, her beautiful and extremely useful adjustment of a popular hymn. That’s all we have to do, one step, one step, one step and suddenly things shift…even by a millimetre, change is beginning to occur. Ideas pop into our head, problems that felt so burdensome seem to dissolve with each passing step. And then we can look out and see the beauty of our fragile world. Our generous world.