I was being a bit glib when I scrawled these words at the bottom of my “resumé” web page, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Isn’t that what we are after when we meditate — to experience the interstices between roles, thoughts, personas?
This made me think back to a workshop I participated in last March. Organized by the ArtReach Foundation in Atlanta, the workshop was a combination of group, art and drama therapy and the participants were a mixture of civilians and vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were suffering from PTSD, TBI and other injuries. For two days, we met in a hotel downtown and, under such expert guidance it felt like no guidance at all, we explored together metaphors for how we felt about our journey in life. This all sounds rather heavy, but it wasn’t. It took the form of writing and painting and play acting and feeling silly as we struck poses in what the leaders called ‘group sculpts.‘
One of these days I hope I get the chance to write about it, but I bring it up now because it occurs to me that what we were doing in large part was experiencing the borderlands between our identities — and just how powerful that was. I do not know what it feels like to not be able to trust my brain to remember things from one minute to the next; I don’t know what it is like to suffer crippling nightmares and stifling fears; I cannot imagine trying to figure out every morning who I am. Think of it: many vets suffering emotional, mental and physical wounds have lost most — sometimes all — their identity markers: soldier, spouse, athlete, leader,…
Yet, intermittently, we all laughed, played, painted, and connected in ways that “veteran” might never have been able to connect with “writer” or “clinician” or “patient” or… I think we were all meeting in the borderlands between our personas. And it felt great.
The art and drama therapists who conducted the workshop I attended are Emily Nash and Stephanie Wise who offer workshops through the Therapeutic Arts Alliance of Manhattan.
ArtReach Foundation has a good web site with information about its various programs in the US and abroad, including its Project America with veterans.