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Learning to trust my impulses, a reflection

A group of 10 beautiful actors have just completed 12 days with me on the An Actor Connects: The Meisner Intensive Retreat here in North Wales. I asked them to send me through a few reflections once they arrived home safely.

Ocean sent me these thoughts - thank you Ocean. It was an absolute pleasure getting to spend 12 days with you.

Steph x

On the way to the retreat, I wrote the below in my journal:

“I imagine that it will strip things down to connecting with the very things that make us human, like a desire for belonging, safety and understanding. I don’t imagine that the specific triggers, life events or narratives will really matter in the context of this space. Instead what it means and how it manifests will matter.”

Reading this on the way back, I was delighted to see that this was an accurate expectation. Steph did such a beautiful job of meeting all of us where we were: allowing space for feelings and emotions to come up without bypassing or invalidating them but all without getting lost in the narrative and focusing on looking up and out.

One of my intentions for this training was to be comfortable in relationship with other people, without feeling a need to be anyone other than who I am, right here in this moment. I’m happy that this has come surprisingly easily.


Healing is only possible through connection. When it felt easier to shut the world away because the pain was too strong, Steph encouraged me with a firm gentleness to look up + out and to connect with others to heal. This simple act of letting people see my pain has given me the courage to give space to my messy and complex emotional responses and stop hiding them in the shadows.

Rage comes from the lower pelvic region, whilst anger from the upper chest. Rage is beautiful, and so is lust.

Learning to trust my impulses, to speak when there is no other choice but to speak, and to embrace silence and stillness.

Finding my character’s needs and using this as the undercurrent of the scene has been a profound and simple shift for me. I used to go in with ‘an objective’ in mind, which never quite resonated or made sense to me. Now I understand why!

This retreat helped me realise the difference between the actual job of an actor, which is to live truthfully in a given set of circumstances, versus simply going through the motions.

Spending so much time intentionally and intensely watching, seeing and noticing other people has helped me trust my own impulses more.

Eye contact is so uncomfortable…until it’s not. Spending 10 minutes every morning in focused eye contact, being present with another human has been incredibly nourishing and increased my capacity to hold it in other contexts.

“You are such a gift” — more people need to hear this said to them.

“Take the hard step for the easy journey” is something that will stick with me.

Connect with spaces that are expansive, then you become expansive.

Focusing your attention on your hands and feet when listening to someone helps you to be present without focusing on what your face is doing. I shared this with my improv group and they loved it!

Notice the quality of the nuance, avoid labelling the whole.

Invent nothing, deny nothing. This is something all actors need to apply!

Knowing the stages of neuroplasticity is really helpful in integrating the learnings from the retreat: Awareness, Focused Attention, Deliberate Practice, Accountability. I’m curious to see how this unfolds now I’m out in the ‘real world’.

It is not your responsibility to fix people. It is your responsibility to show up truthfully, authentically and fully.

Arrive open, leave changed. As an actor who is early in her career, I had small moments of doubt and imposter syndrome about being in a room full of actors developing their craft. This phrase really helped to ground me and remind me that we are all on our own journeys and that the most important development starts from arriving open, regardless of where on your journey you are.

You have to go into the box in order to break out of it.

The more access you have to yourself, the more available you are for connection.

Doing the 5Rhythms each morning has helped me to feel the quality of different emotions and sensations and how quickly they can change, and increased my capacity for holding and expressing these.

“What if you did something you didn’t know you would?” “What if you did things differently from how you normally would?”

“All true knowing is in the doing”

“What are you hiding from?”. You have to bring the darkness into the light in order to reduce its power. As an actor, it’s important to know who you are and what is driving you, so that it doesn’t get in the way of your craft.

The more time you spend in balance, the easier and quicker it is to get back to it when you become off-balance.

Both Feet Acting was a beautiful example of a heart-led learning experience.

Emotions aren’t hard and fast, they manifest in different ways for different people. Using a body-centred approach to acting has helped me to discover and unfold my emotional experiences from my own body, instead of from the idea of what an emotion should look and feel like.

Have foresight and then invest in the reality of doing without just going through the motions. This is insightful advice for acting but also for life!

Through this training, we’re teaching our other-than-conscious new possibilities.

“Where are you squeezing? Can you hold it lightly?”

I appreciated how Steph used the routine of music to help make the training transferable and accessible outside of the training environment. We started and finished the day and each break in the studio with the same structure and auditory cue, which I could then take home with me and, when listening, be taken back to the neural circuits I created in the studio space.

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