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Early Sandtray at Commonweal, with Michael Lerner and Marion Saltman, who brought it to CCHP

We encourage you to include Sandtray as a part of your next Commonweal retreat.

Sandtray is hands-on psychological work, a powerful therapeutic technique that facilitates the psyche’s natural capacity for healing. Stemming from a Jungian technique, it is a process of allowing our unconscious to spontaneously select objects from an array of many object, arranging the objects in a sandtray, and then observing the resulting scene to gain insight into ourselves.

Commonweal has been using Sandtray therapy for decades in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program (CCHP). In CCHP, the challenge is to create a procedure that might evoke meaning for individuals and deepen their understanding of some specific situation in their lives.

Our unique, group sandtray process evolved when it became evident that many participants were intimidated by their upcoming sandtray sessions. Now our CCHP groups do a sandtray together on the first morning together. Each person places two pieces in the tray and then talks about why they might have chosen those symbols. Powerful insights can come from looking at both the individual and the collective “story” that emerges.

Marion Weber, Former CCHP Sandtray Practitioner
It has been one of my deepest joys to attend to your discoveries through your placement of symbols in the sand at a time in your lives that were full of challenges. Do you remember how we would start our sandtrays? I would ask you to put your hands in the sand and drop any fears or self judgments with your exhalations and then I would ask you to imagine a delicate protection around you that connected you to spirit and your highest path. And then I would ask you, with your next inhalations, to breathe in trust, playfulness, and spontaneity. And then I would ask you to move your hands around in the sand with your eyes closed to honor your unique life energy. Then you would take a tray and collect whatever objects attracted you, followed by intuitive placement of the objects, followed by story telling evoked by the objects through which meaningful discoveries would emerge. Sometimes this exploration would be accompanied by music, our favorite Deep Breakfast, sometimes in silence. And then I would take a picture for you to take home so that you would be able to deepen your understanding of the meaning that always emerged for you.

I had the joy of being part of CCHP perhaps for eight years. I followed Marion Saltman. When I began my work, Marion gave me a dream in which she placed me into a large sandtray all night and told me to always remember that whatever I put into the sandtray is me. So my prayer is that your living sandtray is as full of mystery and discovery as your Commonweal sandtray was, and that the blessings of life are recognized by you and placed around you so that revelations can flow abundantly.

At your next retreat at Commonweal, ask about Sandtray: an elegant tool for exploring complex ideas, team building, and facilitating shared vision. For more information, contact Oren Slozberg at 415-868-0970 or commonweal@commonweal.org