I could not have asked for a more compassionate group of participants for the easybake workshop on October 15. Austin sent us a sudden cold snap and copious amounts of rain, so we opted for a furnace and sock-feet indoors, and relatively laidback activities. As with all easybake workshops, we started and ended by defining “play.” We stretched our bodies to Up, Down, and Other Opposites (Ellsworth Kelly), warmed our emotions to easybake standby In My Heart: A Book of Feelings (Jo Witek), and settled in for a bit of play.
Sitting with our younger selves
Our eight participants brought two pictures of themselves:
- between 2-7 years of age, something either naturally expressive or goofy/playful
- at an age where they could have used some self-compassion or from a time of transition
We sat with the “Child” picture and adopted the posture of the kiddo in the photo. Where did their bodies hold tension; freedom? I asked some sense memory questions, and we did the who/what/where part of the three-column Adult Meets Child Self-Care exercise. Finally, we interacted as our Child-selves with inanimate objects. Next, we looked to the “In-Need-Of-Love” photo and did the same exercises with that kiddo/person in mind. We then discussed the similarities and differences between the experiences of adopting our Child and In-Need-of-Love postures.
Three sheets of poster board, three colors of post-it notes, lots of love.
- How have you shown compassion to others? Write two examples on yellow post-its and put them on the first poster board.
- How have others shown compassion to you (whether or not it you received it well in that form)? Write two examples on green post-its and put them on the second poster board.
- How do you prefer to receive compassion? Choose from the existing yellow or green, and/or create new pink ones to add to a third poster board. (I loved that the resulting array was a fairly even mix of how we naturally show compassion to others, how we have received it in the past, and new ideas – something we didn’t have time to talk about is how we could best communicate how we’d like to receive compassion moving forward.)
After we had a spread of compassion answers, we split into pairs. One person adopted their “child” posture and the second took their “in-need-of-love” posture. Child then invited In-need-of-love to play. If they had trouble interacting, In-need-of-love was encouraged to choose a compassion post-it to give Child ideas as how to best invite them into playing.
The last thing we did before redefining play was to find our resting Adult posture. Where do we usually hold tension; freedom? We split up into pairs between Child and Adult and invited each other to play, using the compassion post-its when necessary.
A way forward
I’ve been home from Austin for over a month and have been stewing about process and participation. I’ve also been putting off writing about it because I’m a tad stuck as to what happens next. Easybake-as-workshop and easybake-as-project have started taking up separate living quarters in my brain. While the workshops are still incredibly valuable to me in terms of the project, they also feel as if they could have a continuous life after the project ends. That said, I need to bring other people into the planning and execution process. Sitting with one’s childhood experiences can be both meaningful and fraught with the possibility of retriggering traumas. Certainly, there are areas I will explore in easybake-as-project where I need someone trained in dealing with personal and interpersonal violence just to keep me sane while I explore and write and perform. Why would I want to lead a group of others over similarly treacherous ground without a trained professional in the room to help us all through?
I’m not sure what all of this means just yet in terms of a way forward. In the meantime, I continue to be thankful to all of my easybake workshop participants for their generosity of time and spirit, and for being endlessly kind with me and others in the room. It gives us all compassion and permission to play.
Special thanks to Tamara Kissane over at Artist Soapbox – her podcast episode What I learned from 40 years of not being famous: PART TWO Respect the Work was the direct inspiration for the compassion post-it exercises. The impetus for the child and in-need-of-love exercise stems from an art journaling exercise created by Brené Brown.