• Dr Margi Brown Ash

"Choose not to be harmed, and you haven't been"

Looking out on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, June 2019

Photo by Bill Ash

JUNE 19TH, 2019


Dear Artists,

My greatest teachers are my partner Bill, my children and grandchild. It was my third child, Micci, who reminded Bill and I of the importance of Stoicism, a philosophical school founded around 300BC, yet still extremely relevant to living the best version of ourselves at the same time as doing excellent work. This is the premise of the RICC Process which is central to the 4change way of being (if you want to learn more about RICC Process, my PhD is accessible on this site).

This letter is primarily for the artists who worked with me at Arteles Creative Center, and is also relevant to the 4change artists who have spent time with me over the last decade either in the arts studio, rehearsal room or university, growing alternate stories of self-care and empowerment and at the same time creating outstanding work.

As we continue to live our Rituals of Practice (from RICC), we may wish to consider what the Stoics referred to as the three lived disciplines: practical ways of living an artful life. The Stoics embraced three disciplines as a way of living with self, society and nature. These focused on desire, action and assent. For a deeper look at these disciplines you can read the simple yet articulate account of stoicism, Stoicism and The Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson (I picked up my copy at Readings Carlton in Melbourne).

Also you may access his article on

Let’s briefly look at these three lived disciplines and then you may be motivated to continue your research into this most relevant philosophical approach to living in the real world.

1. The Discipline of Desire and Aversion: We embrace courage, self-discipline and self- control, not worrying about what we cannot control and instead focus on our inner wisdom and virtue.

2. The Discipline of Action: we do what is right. We live in harmony with our community and we live philanthropically, with fairness and love of others.

3. The Discipline of Assent: we notice how we respond and move away from the polarities of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Instead we evaluate what we see as objective responsive ways of being in our world: Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been. -Marcus Aurelius. I love this quote, found on the Daily Stoic website:, a terrific site that is motivational and fascinating:

The Daily Stoic explains the discipline of assent like this:

The Stoics had an exercise called Turning the Obstacle Upside Down.

Suppose for a second that you are trying to help someone and they respond by being surly or unwilling to cooperate. Instead of making your life more difficult, the exercise says, they’re actually directing you towards new virtues; for example, patience or understanding. Or, the death of someone close to you; a chance to show fortitude. Marcus Aurelius described it like this: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

So, I leave this with you: if you remember on the notice board at Arteles during the last two months one of the residents placed the sign “What is in the way is the way”. Now we have come full circle. We began with reading that slogan daily as we passed by, and now we have a Stoic interpretation of how to make what is in the way a most empowering and generative approach to living.

Have a fabulous week,