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Sandplay: The Therapy of the East & West

We are fortunate in today’s society that we are offered an excess of therapeutic avenues.  Whether you prefer a yoga retreat, counselor’s office or quiet temple time, there are more ways than ever to reconnect with your spiritual side.

One such therapy that has slipped under the mainstream radar is sandplay therapy.  While it may sound like child’s play, it is actually utilized for all ages.

Sandplay is a practice that does not fit the usual categories. It is a spiritual practice that integrates the seemingly opposite traditions of east-west, mind-body.  Dora Kalff, Jungian therapist, developed sandplay therapy in Switzerland in the 1950s and ’60s based on her studies at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, in Tibetan Buddhism, and with Margaret Lowenfeld, in England.

During a sandplay session, miniature objects and symbols are used to create scenes in small sand trays. By using visual images for self-expression, unconscious feelings and attitudes emerge.

This stimulates the conscious mind to expand and become aware of what has been hidden in the unconscious. In this way, sandplay releases internal pain, heals past trauma, expands consciousness, and provides a platform for psychological transformation and spiritual awakening – all because you let self-expression take over in the sand tray.

Think about children in an actual sandbox.  They can spend hours there.  Do you ever ask yourself, “Why”?

Sand itself is therapeutic.  It is of the Earth and we are naturally drawn to seek connection with Mother Nature.  While it may seem a child is aimlessly drawing lines in the sand, they are most likely working through something, conscious of that or not.  Many doctor’s offices have zen garden sand trays that offer an outlet for anxious patients for this reason as well.

Sandplay therapist, Gita Morena, says, “There are those who find difficulty communicating effectively and sandplay is just enough blend of reality and imagination that it opens them up to a way of comfortably explaining what they are feeling.”

Individuals are allowed to create their sand scene any way they wish by simply doing whatever comes to him or her. Some begin with an idea, others have no idea what they might make and let intuition take over. Some people chat while creating their scene, others remain quiet and in thought. Once all the miniatures have been placed in the tray, positioned as desired and display the patient’s inner story, the interconnectedness of the tray’s contents is immediately felt and reflected upon.

Sandplay is a beautiful visual reminder that the answers we seek are already within us.  We just have to present ourselves with the opportunity to reflect on those questions.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like to learn about another alternative therapeutic practice:  Sound Therapy. You can also learn more about sandplay therapy here

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