Mezrab - Safe Spaces - Masks At Work

I was invited by Krishna Kaur to give a mini mask workshop at Mezrab’s Fifth Friday Sisterhood on the theme of ‘Safe Spaces’. Perfect! I thought. Mask for me is the safest space I know, somewhere I can retreat and get to know myself better, to practise exploring; Who am I? Who else can I be?

But I hesitated when I heard my time slot was just 15 minutes! This is deep process work! What on earth can I do in 15 minutes? An introvert panoramic of characters? I’d exhaust myself and confuse others. I want to touch people, to move people with mask. I want to share why I love to work with them, why for me, they are my safe space. I want to lead them through a process, not a performance.

But 15 minutes would be a challenge – I could ask for one volunteer, and only work with a couple of questions. Actually, better if it was just one. One question, that would trigger a connection for the participant to engage with their own inner world. I decided to take just a few examples, and simply show the audience how I read a mask.

I sped through my usual lecture about the Magic of Mask as a symbolic tool to bypass the rational mind and connect to archetypes, then briefly touched on the importance of stillness, exaggeration and how to read a mask. I paused for breath and decided there and then to ask for a volunteer – Silence…..of course.

Not surprising. Who’s going to get up in front of a group of 200 strangers and play with scary objects? And put their trust with someone who sounds like she’s being chased by the devil? I realised I had forgotten the first rule of Mask work:



Then, remembering the reason why I was there in the first place, I told them the second rule: You cannot make a mistake. It’s safe. Because its your choice and you can only make the right choice for yourself in this moment.

One lady put up her hand and said ‘I will try’. We warmed up our bodies with Grainne’s Binary System: The ‘In-Out’ Method. Going into self and then out to world: starting small and getting more and more daring, until we imploded and exploded all our organs and cells, 10 to the power of 10! Then we ventured into the unknown.

Have you worked with mask before? No Ok. All you need to do, is choose one, Or let one choose you.

So she did. I

realised I was running out of time and decided on the one question.

What do you see? Take a look. What do you see? What draws your attention, a feature, shape, a direction? She told me. Take that, focus only on that one quality you see. Now put on the mask. Where would you like to put that quality in your body? She showed me. And then magic happened. Great, make it a statue.

And she did From there is was a short walk home. Now just feel that statue, adapt that form, or shape, sense it’s presence in your body, allow it to be there, just for now. Begin to move that form. Release it. In whatever way you like. Through your body.

She began to transport the form through space. Living within the space, between the breaths. Safely. Say yes. ‘Yes’ Hold that. Know that. Just allow it. Allow it to become more visible. Bigger. Breathe. Relax. Allow the mask to speak.

Immediately, without hesitation , she responds: “I am light”, she says, “I am free!”

After she had removed the mask, I asked, “Do you recognise the quality you were working with, lightness and freedom, anywhere in your life?” She explained how surprised she had felt, to be ‘light and free’, because she had just quit her job and was very uncertain about what her next move was. She had felt heavy and anxious.

I told her she had chosen the Archetype of the Innocent. The Beginner, The Fool. She said she recognised it as her current reality, but had not dared to enjoy and embrace it.

If I was to continue working with you, my third question would be: What would be your ideal next move? “That I use my Arts Degree,” she revealed. “That I trust myself to have taken that leap of faith. That it was the right move.”

That was my 20 minutes up.

As you go through your day tomorrow, what is the one question you can use to engage others? What do you see?

Trust yourself. It’s safe.

There are no mistakes.


About author

From her Masters in Psychology & Theatre, Grainne is inspired by dark, dirty stories and is passionate about the art of transformation. Her fascination with multiple points of view led to her establishment of Mask Work as a provocative and intuitive way to explore and connect inner experiences to external actions. When she’s not jumping to the end of a detective novel to see if she’s right, she’s understanding her body through Aikido.

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