The Power of Sandplay
Suppose you or someone you know has had an experience that goes beyond words. Perhaps one has experienced a trauma, surgery, or an experience that has been emotionally overwhelming or held them captive in some way. Or maybe an individual simply would like insight into the root cause of a habit or addiction.
Imagine the chance to create a symbolic map or landscape to express this. Sandplay provides this opportunity and empowers individuals to express themselves and to find the keys to healing, transformation and inner strength. A typical sandplay studio has an array of shelves to hold miniature Archetypal figurines: Kings, Queens, pirates, mermaids, dragons, monsters and angels may be used to express the many aspects of the Self along with a myriad collection of animals, plants, buildings, temples, etc and a wide cast of characters to chose from. All these await to be incorporated into a symbolic landscape akin to dream world. And like dreams, this symbolic landscape reflects the deeper, hidden language of the psyche. Without judging, an individual begins by selecting the figures which he or she is most drawn to, building the components of a sand scene. At times an individual may only want to work with shaping the sand and water to find its expression. The simple act of molding sand can be a powerful way to express emotion.
The process of choosing figures and creating a sand scene may seem a simple thing, “child’s play”, but when one enters the space of a Sandplay studio, it is held by “temenos”, the sacred space that allows deep and buried emotional material to find its way out for healing. The psyche always moves towards wholeness and healing when given the opportunity. Like the body when there is a wound, the forces of healing become active in the psyche and, when given the proper support,emotions and trauma release like a splinter working its way out. It is the job of the sandplay practitioner to hold this space and reflect back this dreamscape in a way that leads to transformation and healing.
Sandplay integrates Eastern meditative influences and Jungian principles. Through the process of creating a sand scene, an individual creates an outer expression of his or her inner world, bringing to light unconscious patterns and dynamics. By making the unconscious world conscious one is able to change unproductive behavioral patterns and go through profound transformations. Through the physical act of “grounding” one’s experience in the sand and in the presence of a trained sandplay practitioner, an individual can recognize his or her own condition. Sandplay provides a safe space for the integration of the aspects of the self through the tangible process of play. It functions to help an individual organize and restructure his/her psyche and, in the case of early or extreme trauma, to express preverbal feelings or experiences which go beyond language.
On a physical level, Sandplay occurs within a sandbox measuring 19″x23″. A participant is able to select components of a scene from a collection of miniature figures and create a sandscene. Sandplay has its origins in Switzerland and was developed through the work of Dora Kalff, a neighbor and associate of Carl Jung. It was in the 1950s Dora Kalff had a dream. She dreamt that two Tibetan Lamas presented her with a golden rectangle. As a student of Zen and Tibetan thought she understood that this “golden rectangle” could create a bridge between the contemplative traditions of Asia and western psychology.
Sand plays a role in many cultures, whether it is used to create the ephemeral Mandalas of the Tibetan Monks, contemplative gardens of Japanese (called Hakinowa) or for the healing ceremonies of the Native American Indian, there is something powerful about the substance of sand. It can function as a bridge between the spiritual and the physical world, “grounding” our feelings, memories, insights and inspiration and often healing in the process.
A Sandplay practitioner is trained to understand the symbolic, visual, and archetypal language within the sandtray scene, reading progressive trays and responding to the information provided through images. The Training is part detective work, part intuition, and understanding how to simply being present and available. Training builds the ability to decipher visual cues. It is also required is that a Sandplay practitioner go through their own Sandplay process. In order to be most effective, it is important that one have understanding of the experience from the inside out.
When one enters the world of Sandplay, the subconscious has a chance to be heard in a way that bi-passes the conceptual mind. This modality provides a place to process deep inner material on many levels. This activates change and integration in a way that is often profound and life transforming.
“Thank you cannot fully express my gratitude for the kindness you have shown us, or for your caring providing me with the reminder that goodness from others still occurs without reason. I have thought of you often over the past 5-6 months, and am always reminded of you through your works of art and E’s better ability to express his feelings and communicate. You hold such a special place in our hearts”
—–Parent Hyde Park, New York
“At the age of 10, my daughter suffered anxiety due to academic pressures, a death in the family and a parental separation. She wanted to stay home and keep her mother in sight at all times. day and night. Under Jennifer’s gentle guidance, my daughter created imaginary worlds in the sand play boxes, which helped her find her own pathways back to stability. Now she goes happily to school each morning and sleeps in her own room each night. She is more confident in her own resourcefulness in the face of emotional challenges. She is also emotionally very articulate as well as poetic in her creative writing”
——L.C.H.. Rhinebeck, New York
“I’ve known and worked with Jennifer for over 25 years and have always admired her ability to connect with children and help them feel understood and nurtured through creative expression. She is a caring, empathic and highly attuned practitioner who combines her creative talents as an artist with a deep understanding of the symbolic processes of healing. Jennifer has a natural gift for working with children and they feel safe and nurtured in her presence. She is a wonderful resource for families and I highly recommend her work! “
—-Laura Harness, MA, MT-BC Sandplay Therapy practitioner, Board-Certified Music Therapist