Finding yourself can seem like a daunting task—especially with everything that’s going on in today’s world. After living through an ongoing pandemic, self-isolating, witnessing months of protests as a result of social injustice, working through an election and now yesterday’s attack on the Capitol Building, it makes that notion of intuition especially foggy. But what’s particularly alarming is the fact that right now is when we need inner peace the most.
If there was a roadmap for this kind of stuff, it might seem like you would need an expert cartographer to help build one, but a map key in the form of self-expressive writing might be all that you need. And building the basis comes from Little Shaco. The company was built by its “Empress” Sarah Park Heffner, and was created as an outcome of her own life experiences. The main objective of Shaco’s writing workshops is to create a place where people can reflect on themselves and find their own authenticity.
Heffner, a poet, studied at NYU before traveling to her native South Korea to meet her birth mother. There, she began teaching ESL and learning reiki before returning to the states making Philadelphia her home and beginning her bartending career. It’s that mixture of poetry, reiki and making “magic potions” while bartending that helped fuel her creation of these writing workshops.
“I would say those are the three main rivers in me that are showing up in this workshop,” explains Heffner.
The idea came to her after months of self-isolation and was built as an iteration of sorts off of another workshop she created: “Avoiding disaster: How to listen to your body before the universe steps in.” That particular course came after getting fired from her job in South Korea, which Heffner says knew was going to happen before the fact.
“I felt it in my body,” she explains. “Then a couple of years later, I felt that same feeling when I was miserable in a job. Before I got fired, I listened to that feeling and I avoided that disaster—the universe always steps in if you don’t. Your heart and your gut don’t speak whatever your native language is so it’s really building a practice and fluency with these communications so then we can avoid our own personal pandemics.”
It’s an interesting concept and one that people might write off (no pun intended), but these principles are ones that are practiced in some forms of meditation and yoga. In fact, the courses themselves are built on pillars and foundations that utilize many self-awareness practices that can be found in some of the most useful techniques in relation to finding inner peace and managing symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
“It’s structured and framed by my poetic method and each week is themed on one of the pillars of the method,” says Heffner. “Each workshop starts by bringing awareness to the breath, we acknowledge that we’re going into our bodies—and it’s a very traumatic place to be, that’s the only reason doing this in solidarity is so powerful. In its poetic form, we are using that day to get us expressing.”
Those pillars include intuitive writing that is sourced from the three information centers in our body: the mind, the heart and the gut. As Heffner explains, those centers contain neurons or neurotransmitters and they send us messages and are communicating with us all the time, even when we don’t notice. The exercises learned in the workshops “bridge a connection and increase fluency with these sources,” with the main goal being reaching authenticity.
“One of my hopes for Little Shaco is to build a collective of information presenters. Even though I’ve gone to NYU, I am responding to the elitism and the inaccessibility and how corporate colleges and universities have become,” explains Heffner. “They’re sort of these corporate institutions wearing the cloak of education. I want to build a collective of information presenters in response. Also to have a woman of color be at the front of the classroom and be heard and listened to, we are much more willing to accept or see a certain kind of human in front of the classroom. I’m just one person. I’m charismatic and smart but I’m a specific sort of style and I want to be appealing to the diversity of the kind of students, learners and educators.”
One workshop begins this weekend and is titled “A Writing Cleanse: An Intuitive Writing Workshop for 2020.” The official description reads: “This 5-week commitment reaps from 2020 by using poetic form creatively and strategically in our writing practice. We will use the sestina, anaphora, syllabics etc, to write poems and, we will also use these forms to express, clarify, and rinse all the happened in 2020. These forms help to extract what blocks us.” The two-hour workshop will run on Saturdays beginning Jan. 9, but there are more on the horizon covering other topics.
“Any of our workshops have mindfulness, embodiment, [and are] really sourcing our intuition and all of our communication and information centers. Also critical thinking and making spaces where people are activated to think for themselves and to source themselves,” says Heffner. “This workshop is not a cleanse or just finding goals for this year—you’re finding yourself. You’re rebooting your system so that your engine can run smoothly.”
Writing is not the only form of focusing on yourself that Little Shaco incorporates. Boxy is another offering that “advocates for talking about sex and enjoying sex as normal practice, but packaged as an embodiment practice, made magical.” According to its site (which can be found through Little Shaco) the values are similar to the writing workshops which shares the value of the embodiment practice.
“It’s magical self-care and a seasonal box that has four values: Praise, Protect, Play and Pocus,” says Heffner. Like the workshops being offered, Boxy is aimed at activating an experience that breaks down stigma and shame.
To find out more information, visit littleshaco.com