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. Eighty percent!

In order to humanize these statistics, we are gathering stories of women and their children from around the world who have experienced or live in war impacted areas – and we include many who are not normally cited – in the United States we will collect stories from Native America whose reservations fit the profile of a post conflict societies – we also include some inner city stories 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 and we want to address those that are overt. In this moment, we are working with the women in Kosovo to collect and get their stories told. Over 20, 000 were raped and tortured in the war fifteen years ago and very few have told their stories because of the heavy stigma. 

The Maya Angelou quote above came from her own deep understanding.  She did not share her own story of rape for many years.  She knew directly the high emotional price of silence. 

In our project, we asked ourselves how do/did these women cope and care for their families and themselves. How do their children fare? -- their daughters -- their sons. The challenges are different for each. What are the lingering symptoms of encountering the severe stress of war? What unknown aspects of self were called up by these circumstances?  What do they want to tell the world about their experiences?  


The Disposable Military: "The Tumor of The Unknown Soldier" - Huffington Post

From Huffington Post:

Recently, the Chaplains at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in DC, housing 800 ill and recovering soldiers at a time, have begun weekly tributes during 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.   Read more


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.

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

Where the personal story can be safely explored and expressed.    


Ashlar Center for Narrative Arts is an arts driven non-profit peace building organization that serves the Personal Story. We find that peace is a possibility the more we know ourselves and each other through narrative. We work by invitation with 

individuals and communities to create culturally relevant programs.  The initial program is to give form to the  personal story with and additional program of Self-care to sustain gains made in the storytelling process. The goal is resiliency and capacity building.

We use writing, spoken word, arts processes and music in the belief that all arts extend language in ways especially in creating the coherent personal story.  We start with a very specific approach to aid people in giving  voice and image to the individual story which is then extended, explored and contained in the family story -- immediate and trans-generational  -- always referring back to the collective historical context in which our stories are held. these stories are then posted in multiple platforms in the belief that as we begin to know the personal story, we find the human story that belongs to all of us.

Our goal is to empower people  to work in community in order to transcend the suffering that results from adverse events and conditions. Our goal is to extend understanding and respect cultural practices: we are very interested in how different communities and cultures meet the challenges of being human.  

Our desire is to nurture relationship, encourage learning and teaching through community involvement.  

We provide lay people the means to become Narrative Arts Facilitators where it would best serve them and their communities. 

While our work is highly therapeutic it is not psychotherapy.  Our processes lie closer to anthropology with its mythological underpinnings.

We invite you to invite us.