prose poem for today

There is a brokenness out of which comes the Unbroken,
Shatteredness out of which comes the Unshatterable.
There is a Sorrow beyond all grief
which leads to Joy 
and a Fragility out of whose depths emerges Strength. 
There is Hollow Space too vast 
for words through which we pass with each loss,
out whose darkness we are sanctioned into being. 
  There is a Cry
deeper that all sound
whose serrated edge cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.”                                     Rashani

Family Independence Initiative

We Believe

FII’s work with cohorts of families in cities across the country shows that low-income people can advance together if we:

  • Make resources and funding available more directly to people, not just institutions
  • Allow families the freedom to determine their own paths, instead of taking direction from case managers and social workers
  • Encourage and reward personal initiative, instead of penalizing or reducing eligibility for help if a family makes progress
  • Support and promote mutuality and building social capital, instead of helping individuals outside of the context of their families and communities
  • Honor resident leadership and expertise, instead of professionals and outside intervention
  • View families as consumers with valuable feedback entitled to hold services and programs accountable, instead of needy victims
  • Direct Outcomes From FII’s Approach 

FII’s approach has been demonstrated in several cities across the country. Families in these projects show significant near- and long- term economic gains as well as a host of other outcomes that show increased control over their lives and choices for the future.

In Boston:

In June of 2010 152 individuals, including 81 children, from 35 families enrolled in FII’s Boston demonstration project. In just six months by working together they made tremendous progress toward the goals they set for themselves. Outcomes include:

  • 13% increase in average household income (excluding subsidies and FII payments)
  • 22% increase in average savings
  • 25% of children improved grades
  • 20% improved attendance

The families are pursuing a range of initiatives to move forward and are focused on quality of life issues like more time with their kids, for themselves, building relationships, better access to food, self care, and education. The families reported over 500 initiatives and positive “sparks” from June to December of 2010. Families are also taking steps to raise their credit rating by getting financial counseling, paying bills on time, and reducing debt. 

Read more about FII–Boston

Control & Choice

Everyone wants control over their circumstances and a reasonable set of choices for their children's futures. FII operates under the assumption that, like most middle and upper class people, most low-income families are capable of taking tangible steps towards establishing control and choice in their lives. What these families lack is sufficient capital and access to opportunities and information that are more readily available to the middle and upper income.

looking for new models for health care

Treating the Cause, Not the Illness [OPINION]

The New York Times, David Bornstein, 07/28/2011

Five decades after the war on poverty, a work force that can systematically address the social causes of illness is still to be built. Health Leads offers a model of how it might work

The Calming Breath

Psycho-neurobiology tells us that traumatic stress from an incident or chronic high stress conditions puts our bodies into survival – fight, flee, run like crazy or hide. Most of us know this. When Fight or Flee is the constant, the parasympathetic nervous system that stimulates self soothing hormones is weakened and we lose the ability to sooth and comfort ourselves.

The next go-to place for self-soothing becomes drugs, alcohol and high risk behavior. High risk behavior stresses the body so severely that the exhausted self soothing hormones will give what it can to the cause. Now that is the most simple way of understanding this dynamic and should explain why some of our PTSD combat veterans get hooked on the cycle of sever stress - relax. We can become addicted to our own bodies chemistry. So how do we take care of one half of the problem: One of the first and best ways to strengthen the self soothing system is by consciously slowing the breath to about six breaths a minute– this easy method is used in disaster areas and war zones with great success. A great way to learn the Calming Breath is by blowing bubbles -- children can be directly helped this way. Keep Bubbles in your Emergency Art Kit. The Emergency Art Kit.


Study shows 26% of our returning vets will have or develop symptoms of PTSD. we know what to do. Do you?

Legacy of Mental Health Problems from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Will Be Long-Lived: Scientific American

 Service members returning from combat present a long-term treatment challenge

Why they Call it Blood Pressure by Canadian doctor and author Gabor Mate -- advisory board member

Many CBC listeners were chagrined to learn last week that radio personality Shelagh Rogers is taking a break from her national morning program, Sounds Like Canada.   Although Ms. Rogers is rumored to be exhausted from hassles with CBC management, the ebullient radio host insisted, “It is not a stress leave. It is because I have high blood pressure."


THE REASONING FOR SEASONING, more by Preeti Sharan, clinical dietition

Spices have been around for centuries and yet the Western diet is still adjusting to Tabasco, Chipotle and Curry. There is indisputable scientific evidence that almost all spices contain chemicals that have profound health benefits, thus protecting the body from numerous grave illnesses and in many cases acting as an efficient treatment for established diseases.


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 arts 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, we use multi-media memorial building 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 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 and supervised when necessary by skilled professionals.

We invite you to invite us to your community.