|Where I Live, ©2000, H. Hunter, 15" x 18", Acrylic, Caran d'ache on paper|
I began to ask myself this question after a Trauma Informed Art Therapy Course I took last week in San Francisco.
When working with trauma victims, creating a sense of safety, or in other words, a sanctuary, becomes your top priority.
But how to do that? How to find safety in the midst of physical and/or emotional pain?
There are tried and true art therapy activities, but I wanted to go a bit deeper. The word "sanctuary" made me think of the Jewish practice of Shabbat. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a 20th century theologian, wrote about Shabbat as "a cathedral in time"--a "place" in time rather than space in which a person could could learn to rest.
In other words, sanctuary could be a state of mind rather than an actual place. I began to ask people how they find sanctuary. Some of their answers:
"Sanctuary is being with my family, watching Dad make spaghetti and then sitting around the table eating it together."
"Sanctuary is when my whole family is home and I can close the blinds and we are together and the rest of the world is outside."
"Sanctuary is running."
"Sanctuary is my new kitten."
I took advantage of the art groups I facilitated and asked people to make collages of their sanctuaries and the guardians of these places. What emerged surprised me:
A gorilla with wise eyes staring out of the picture surrounded by bits of colorful pieces of quilts.
The eye of a tiger surrounded by spring green fronds of leaves.
The plain of a desert with two yucca plants in bloom.
A home built on the foundation of chocolate chip cookies.
In almost all the images, nature played a central role. It didn't seem to matter whether someone had ready access to nature, it was the time spent imagining and creating the image of a place that evoked a sense of restfulness.
It seems that with the ever increasing pace and pressures of modern life, this kind of sanctuary is more important than ever--a pause we take that allows us to touch base with something more primal and tangible. I'm curious how many of you use art as a refuge? If not, how do you find sanctuary?