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.


KEEP YOUR GUT HEALTH by Ashlar medical dietition, Preeti Sharan

Which organ in the body has 100 million neurons and the greatest amount of the nerve transmitter serotonin?


From the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma- stories

Why Stories?

Why Stories? Catastrophic life experiences such as those associated with the refugee experience, torture, and natural disasters, have long lasting effects on the survivor. Some of these events are linked to the historical memory of an entire nation or a society. Almost everyone throughout the world can associate some historical meaning with the cities of Hiroshima, Pompei; the date of September 11, 2001; the name Nelson Mandela. Other traumatic life experiences caused by human cruelty may remain hidden for centuries; maybe forever. Little is known, for example, of the suffering of those women raped during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, or the fate of children in Afghanistan left homeless and without parents.


trauma after medical events

Recently I picked up a couple of Diane Ackerman's books.  First  was: One Hundred Words for Love which is about her encounter with the potential and real devastation of strokes. In this case, it was her husband who had the stroke and what struck me was the obvious psychological trauma; hers and her husbands.  Trauma causing medical events is not a new subject for this site but I couldn't resist  reviewing the book here because it is so touching, real and grounded in solid understanding both psychologically (her own)  and of the literal brain. Ackerman had a deep understanding about  brain function from researching and writing an earlier book: An Alchemy of Mind.  Being a brain function freak, I began my reading with An Alchemy of Mind -- a lyrical treatment of often dry research, her book is rich and rife with metaphor.  For me, as both a poet and a traumatologist,  it was a much needed break into the poetic world. I recommend going along with Diane Ackerman on her exploration. 

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.