A project dear to our hearts
 Raising Our Voices
 Writing Our Lives
Stories That Want To Be Told
 The Calming Breath

 A simple technique


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.

the idea of how this worked before she tackled the more difficult themes, events,  or people, etc). She gave herself the Freak-out test that we ask people to take for themselves -- the one to ten -- to give her feelings a rating: 1 being the lowest level of pain and anxiety and 10 being the most difficult. She was a veteran of a different kind of war and had lost innocence as a result.  She built a house for her Innocence to live in, to return to her.  She made a list of all the events or conditions where she lost innocence and a piece of herself.  She worked from this list, one at a time, first finding the least charged event, the one that didn't totally freak her out.  She started with an event that rated seven on her Freak-Out scale.  It was an early event in her life.  She had the choice of either writing it up on a slip of paper or finding an appropriate symbol  stones or beads -- she used beads. Then she took her bead to the Spirit House and spent 10 minutes a day thinking of nothing else but this event which she could allow to go to fifteen minutes if needed but absolutely not a minute longer than than that. Then she put it out of her mind as best she could -- blocking it with good images from her past for the rest of the next 24 hours until her next meeting at the Spirit House. Then, Barbara returned the next day for her ten or fifteen minutes on this event.  She retold this one event until her Freak-out scale was between a 1 and a 2.  At this point she quit and moved on to the next event.

Over a few weeks her toxic stress nightmares were more intermittent and then resolved back to dreams.  (We have people who will show you specific methods  to work with dreams -- you can give a call -- we believe that dreams speak to us like a long lost relative who cares about us  -- to plot our psychological tasks, our progress, balance out non-productive attitudes, talk of our spirituality and will speak of our future. Barbara had already begun a dream journal and continued on with it after she had used the Spirit House for her healing.

Barbara elected to have someone she trusted to be with her while she began her Spirit House work -- some people prefer to work alone.  Barbara found a grounded intelligent friend, another Narrative Arts Facilitator to be there with her and the friend may not interfere at all in any way.  Barbara was in charge.  The friend has to be quiet and very present. Barbara told her friend at the beginning she, the friend, could ask questions if she needed clarity or fill in information but that is all. 

Hope this helps.  Write us. And there is a lot of joy that pops out of this work as it moves along.  

Who We Are

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

Ashlar Center for Narrative Arts is a U.S. 501c3 non-profit organization designed to serve the personal story and address the trauma it may contain. Our work is educational and skills driven -- grounded in thirty years of community based experience.

We use photos, interviews, and teach guided writing (Writing Through the Body).  For those people for whom revealing identity is unsafe or who are non-literate, they are offered an opportunity to  build a multi-media piece to contain and share the story in an abstract or symbolic form. Our goal is Witnessing and facilitating the creation of a coherent narrative for our students as they move with us toward well-being and resilience. 

Following from our initial work with Story, we collaborate with students to create a culturally relevant Self-Care program facilitated by them.

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