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

 A simple technique


Adverse Experience

Traumatic Stress – medically induced

After finishing a grueling year and a half bout of treatment for colon cancer, "Elizabeth" began having some very bizarre symptoms (to her). She was emotionally erratic, explosive, anxious, and afraid to leave home, easily startled, had nightmares and was paranoid – afraid everything would hurt her. She didn't sleep well and she, who was/is a very social being, was not interested in seeing her many friends. Yes, she was depressed but it was more than that. Her husband, a Vietnam vet recognized her symptoms as fitting the profile of PTSD.  She looked for and received trauma treatment because traditional counseling is not a good fit with PTSD. Traumatic Stress symptoms are created by a brain locked into survival -- telling the story in a prescribed way ameliorates or eliminates symptoms.  And why?  You will learn that in our class.

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The Disposable Military: "The Tumor of The Unknown Soldier" - HuffPost


Recently, the Chaplains at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in DC who houses 800 ill and recovering soldiers at a time, has begun weekly tributes at their mass formations for soldiers who have died at WRAMC. Honoring the fallen soldiers---they read their BIO and cause of death. In the last three weeks they have saluted three soldiers who have died at WRAMC from Cancer. No one questions this. Not Congress, not our elected officials, not the brigade of medical staff who care for these soldiers returning from the war torn country of Iraq.

Some soldiers feel the DoD would rather these soldiers die silently of Cancer---then pay costly medical treatment for soldiers deemed non-deployable. To acknowledge this as a war wound---the military must also assume financial responsibility for these ill soldiers. And why shouldn't they. They were good enough to send to battle when they were healthy. But now that a percentage are returning with Stage II, III and IV Cancers---and some dying. It's more cost effective for the military to turn a blind eye long enough for them to die. Their Cancers unrecognized as a casualty of war. They own you once you become part of the military.  And it's their prerogative to treat these courageous men and women as guinea pigs---exposing them to depleted Uranium and contaminants at wartime. Maybe so, but not to inform the soldiers of the toxic environment in which they live, bleed and fight. Is callous, inhumane, and against the credo of a warrior. And then to abandon them in their darkest hour because their wound is Cancer and not shrapnel---is soulless. This is the new plight for the 21st century's unknown soldier....

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The Calming Breath

The Calming Breath (calms the Breather in minutes and builds resiliency at the same time).

Breath is the gateway into the body and the unconscious. Aside from being relaxing,  the Calming Breath has many health and mental health benefits including lowering blood pressure, alleviating feelings of stress, anxiety and depression because it lowers production of stress hormones.  If you are stressed long enough, then you will soon be living in the survival mode which means functioning from the mid-brain: reactive, aggressive or withdrawn, poor sleep, irritable, depressed.  If the stress has been more intense as it is with many of  our combat vets or those who live in the inner city war zones or whose direct descendants suffered Adverse Events, you are more likely than not to have brain changes/suppressed DNA that you will pass on and/or have inherited yourself.  

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Spirit Houses - application

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.

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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. 

When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness and our seemingly separate lives become meaningful

Yesterday was a day of contact with vets  and a reminder of the meaning of what we do at Ashlar: giving hope and experience in resolving the all too often debilitating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress.  It is such an honor to be a "player" in supporting people to re-inhabit their lives. Hurricane Sandy was  such a metaphor illuminating the devastation and destruction of home and community and a very literal vision of the work that lies ahead-- both with the metaphor and the reality.  Making art, making peace.  Rebuilding devastated lives.   

look what is happening to Juvenile Justice: the work of Bruce Perry...trauma informed care

New America Media, Commentary, David Muhammad, Posted: Aug 28, 2012

Juvenile justice is transforming throughout America. Though there is a long road ahead to reform these systems into effective, rehabilitative programs that no longer make children worse, there is great promise in jurisdictions across the country, that are changing how they work with youth.

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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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