If any of us sit quietly and really think about it, I suspect you will find, as I did, that all our lives have been significantly touched by war in one way or another.  The theme is a resonant and constant beat – the drums of war – cliché or not, they are there bleeding through in events and activities of popular culture, TV, movies, sporting events, they drum through our personal and collective histories -- a dark music that underlies all others and surfaces formally in national anthems all over the world which most of us accept and love without question.  This project asks us to stop and think about war.  And listen.

Women, War and What they fed the children

Women, War and What they fed the children.

"There is no greater burden that carrying an untold story."      Maya Angelou                            

Eighty percent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are women and children. 

In order to humanize these statistics, we are gathering stories of women and children from around the world who have experienced war or live in war impacted areas with an expanded definition of war we include many who are not normally cited in the United States we are collecting stories from Native American women whose lives are burdened by a legacy of trans-generational trauma as are other women from places like New Orleans which at one point had more killings that Iraq at its peak. There are many places in the developed world that meet the criteria as war zones past or present that do not generate press to hold these beleaguered communities and people in the context of war.  In this project, we are not looking at politics or perpetrators, we are simply sharing stories of experience. And, we help where we can to resolve symptoms of toxic stress as well as offering resources toward re-mediating other problems. our goals are publicizing stories and building resilience and sustainability of gains made by our story tellers by engaging in our program.   


We asked ourselves how these women cope and care for their families and themselves. How did/do the community children fare? -- their daughters who are often raped or sold into the sex trade? -- their sons who are most at risk to be conscripted, murdered, or are radicalized or imprisoned?  The challenges are different for each.

What are the lingering symptoms of encountering the severe stresses of war? What unknown aspects of self were called up by these circumstances? What gave them the strength to survive and persevere.  And last  what do they want the world to know?

How do the stories of the war vary from women to women, region to region, country to country? – it is here at these confluences of the collected stories that we see the commonalities and differences. 

Because trauma lives within the story, we were very concerned about re-traumatizing or adding another adverse experience to an already burdened psyche. So, before we gather these stories, we teach the neuroscience underlying toxic stress symptoms to help those people who experience the often debilitating symptoms to understand the symptoms are neurologically caused and not a product of inherent psychological weakness.  Then, in the story gathering process, we embed ancient methods of trauma resolution which can be taught and applied on a peer to peer level.  For follow up, we collaborate with the communities that have invited us to create culturally appropriate self-Care practices. These practices with combined with the storytelling process often produce long term resilience and capacity building. 

We are honored to provide Witness for these women and are dedicated to recording and celebrating the courage, sacrifice, creativity, and strengths that all too often go unacknowledged.   

Write and tell us if you would like to be involved. There are many roles to play. Feel free to request details of this project. For more:  


The Calming Breath

Psycho-neurobiology tells us that traumatic stress from an incident or living in a highly stressful environment or in highly stressful  conditions puts our bodies into survival – fight, flee, run like crazy or hide -- which is the sympathetic nervous system at work.  When Fight or Flee is the constant, the parasympathetic nervous system is weakened and it is this system that stimulates the production of  self soothing hormones. One of the first and best ways to strengthen the self soothing system is by consciously slowing the breath – used in disaster areas and war zones with great success. 

One of the most fun ways to get to the Calming Breath is by blowing bubbles -- children can be directly helped this way.  Keep Bubbles as part of your Emergency Art Kit.  


Spirit Houses

If you want to create a Spirit House or learn about the tradition, see Steve Kinne's article.  

Here's how one of us did this.  We will call her Barbara, who didn't want to build a spirit house from scratch (some people will) so she looked around for an appropriate structure.  Nothing there in her house but while walking in the pasture she found/remembered a birdhouse...perfect, that would do.  Only not that specific bird house. It was occupied and she didn't want to evict the birds that were already living there so she took the idea and went to yard sales and feed and garden stores and looked on line until she found a bird house that fit for her Spirit House.


An Offering of Beauty to Life

Giving gifts to life. 

Consider this -- Balinese make beautiful handmade offerings every single day to entice, appease and appeal to the Spirits -- to keep the world in balance.  To bring good fortune.  To show appreciation and gratitude. 

your favorite blog thus far

After reading through the blogs and looking at the numbers of you who read them, we found that the blog on The Calming Breath has the most "reads."   What we take from this is that you want more practical "what can we do to feel better:" sorts of blogs.  Toward that end, we are beginning a series of "how to" use our arts processes for your own healing beginning with a review of The Calming Breath. Scroll through the blogs until you find it. 

And then what?

After going through Ashlar's educational trauma remediation and Self Care program, we ask our graduates to spend the last two sessions asking these questions: the first series are about personal exploration:  what does it mean to have your life back? How and what have you gained from your experience now you are no longer locked into survival?  How do you want to spend your time now your your mind is no longer a personal and private mine field?  Did your family have a difficult time adjusting to your newly claimed emotional and physical clarity? 


Who We Are

We make art in order not to die from the truth. F. Nietzsche

Ashlar Center for Narrative Arts is an arts driven non-profit educational organization that uses spoken word, writing, and arts processes for expression and healing.

We call it "serving the Personal Story".

Our goal is to build resilience in our story tellers.

And give these stories much needed public exposure across platforms.

We invite you to invite us.