Apples of Eden
Uncertainly certain, practicing my practice....
I work in a way that is both informed and intuitive….The experience of facilitating is necessary in order to be able to shape the moment, to be open to what might happen.I am reminded of a jazz musician who assured me that you need a great deal of skill and technique to be able to adapt, to flow and to put yourself at the service of the music or in my case at the service of the people and places I work with.
I quite often hear people say “ Oh I just go with the flow” as if it was easy, as if it was something we valued…but spend a moment and you might sense that often we are not comfortable with flow….
Mainly what we like, what our culture likes and what economists and politicians like…. is control and reliable data and repeatable models.
More and more this is what I see happening to the arts….can you make a “model “of your practice and “roll it out, trickle or cascade it down” and then we, the budget holders the protectors of the purse strings can claim it and franchise it, make a model out of it.
Funny isn’t it the imagery of water is used without the feel or the understanding of the experience of being in flow, of being in movement of being open to change…
I am spending more and more time thinking about my practice and to carry on using an economic image …I am wondering about banking. The storing/banking of accumulated experiences and how we tap into these when we move …..and in that way we share what we have and in doing so sometimes unlock the banks of stored experiences of others. Sharing rather than hoarding our wealth of experience. A very different and radical approach to banking!!
Watching and trying to understand the processes and the skills of improvisation is an ongoing life practice. These are the skills that allow me to be truly with someone, and to offer that presence when working with someone who has dementia or someone who is dying or someone who is tired and depressed or equally with someone who is buoyantly energetic…
Apples have been the means of creative communication recently between me and someone living with dementia.
Apples were never physically in the room but we conjured them up and with them came place and a sense of home in Kent.
With that came the association of a garden….”the garden of England” was offered the words tripping of his tongue and then came the word "apples" again. We created an imaginary orchard where apples were eaten and crunched and rolled. Apples were gathered, picked and thrown at each other.
No one teaches you to dance an orchard or to embody Kent!
You have to trust that wherever it is you find yourself is the right place, right now and put yourself at the service of those you work with.
This is how creativity happens, makes itself known…like the writing of a poem, associations are made ,make sense to us and are with us fully in that moment
This is the gift of working with people with dementia and thankfully it cannot be bottled, franchised or sold. Its' flow is its lesson to us, that everything changes and our response is to be with that flow , to be with that person and to not know what it means . The experience, the commitment to being with what arises is the important bit. And yet….
A whole week later this same gentleman entered the room and with my body remembering our apple dance I intuitively said one word…
and he laughed and took hold of an imaginary apple from the imaginary tree above his head, carefully plucked it and ate it before saying “ argh yes the garden of England”. This is somebody who has dementia and who you might think would not have access to this short term memory of an association forged just a week ago. Yet through the power of the movement and the embodiment of experience he had access to and understood instantly this seemingly unusual prompt from me of “Eden”.
I am utterly invested and committed to this process of knowingly not knowing and allowing myself to be open to this. It is a wonderful curious gift and I relish the fact that I can’t define or own what happened. I can’t replicate it and formulate it so that it can be trotted out as something “to do” with people with dementia. Its very power is that it is about the people involved in that moment and about not knowing. Perhaps this is why it is often hard for potential funders to value, Nevertheless it does not rob the moment of its beauty and in fact it makes it all the more precious. It is a process rather than a product and the intrinsic value is in the quality of the relationship, the trust engendered and the relevance of the engagement. .The rampant consumerism that pervades everything now , the mind-set that demands to have everything without taking time to hone the skills necessary to be open to possibility and to truly being with someone is rendered silent and pointless when something magical like this happens.
Go sit under a tree, eat an apple and ponder!