Dawn Garisch is a bright beacon showing that the fundamental contradictions of human nature can be brought into a state of balance, allowing us to walk what can feel like the tight-rope of life, perched between the chasm created by our binary opposites. Left and right brain, logic vs. creativity, science vs. art – Garisch manages to hold this broad space and these opposites together. “It is interesting how life has these different threads,” she observes. “You have no idea where they are going, but they collect in this pool that is you.”
Acclaimed writer and poet, ‘unprofessional’ dancer for personal well-being, as well as medical doctor, Garisch has accessed both ‘sides’ of herself and leads others along this path in both her medical and artistic capacities – running creative method and memoir writing courses. In her two books Eloquent Body and Dance With Suitcase, Garisch draws on both art and science to illustrate the capacity and importance of art practices in enhancing both one’s physical and emotional well-being. The premise of her work is to “create a creative steam in one’s life, whatever it may be.”
Bombarded in her role as a medical doctor with patients who are largely suffering due to self-inflicted illnesses, Garisch explains the dichotomy of presenting people with the evidence that smoking is dangerous, sugar can kill, driving too fast has an inevitable result – yet we continue to consciously and knowing engage in self-destructive behaviour. We “trade the short-term relief for the long-term disaster,” says Garisch.
While doctors and science do not enjoy contradictory spaces, artists thrive on paradox and the grappling between contesting spaces. So Garisch turns to art for answers where science may fall short – joking that she should have royalty shares in The Artist’s Way, so frequently is it her recommended prescription. She explains how we often look at ourselves, and especially our creative expressions with “the bright white spotlight of the analytical world of attention, rather than the soft, curious light of self-reflection.” Whether through dancing wildly, expressing through words, hurling yourself onto a canvas or creating through cooking, or cultivating a garden – the medium is unimportant. The goal is to step-away from the all-knowing ‘ego’ and straight lines of the left brain, and allow ourselves to ‘go-with-the-flow’ of the unknown creative process and thus engage both halves of our whole. While our ‘ego’ can be the helpful force we need to help us get out of bed in the mornings and ‘bring home the bacon’, it is important to not allow its extremely powerful predatory nature to hunt and kill our creativity. That niggling debilitating “little voice” in the corner of our minds needs to be put on the back-burner and consulted as a constructive critic rather than the authoratitive figure on how inadequate we are, or rather can feel ourselves to be.
There are no quick-fix answers, our journeys on the path of life are personal and as different as the individuals we are – what works for one is not necessarily the solution for another. What Garisch offers is not an unrealistic grand ‘solution’ or ‘cure’ to the human condition. She offers the sound advice that we should remain mindful and approach our inner discomforts with curiosity rather than judgement – not to ask “what do I want?” and thus place our attention with the smallness of the restrictive ego, but to ask rather “what does the image want?”
If we accept the scary truth – that we have NO control over the ebb and flow of the river of life – we are set free. “Thank goodness we’re not in control!” she exclaims. “Otherwise our projects would turn out as small as we imagined them… Your ideas are good, but I promise the Muse has better ones!” Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, we need to relinquish our false sense of control and dive in head-first – giving ourselves the space to make mistakes, letting the channel open for something to be expressed through us, and allowing the fantastic flood which ensues.