Sandplay: when a toy is more than a toy....

When I was a kid, I didnt really play with toys.

My nose was unwaveringly stuck between the pages of a book:

Me, according to Disney...

Me, according to Disney...

I was most often devouring a fantastical adventure with heroes battling evil forces, quests for powerful objects, and dragons. Definitely anything at all with dragons. Concerned that I was growing up with my head in the clouds, my parents even restricted me, for a time, from reading fantasy; and, put me on a literary diet of non-fiction and the newspaper. Which didnt do a whole lot because...

When I wasnt reading, I was pretending - freeing myself from the limitations of this consensus reality by diving into the ocean of my imagination. I enacted those adventures with anyone who would join me - imaginary companions, or flesh and blood friends.  

I longed for freedom, so I played out epic Tolkein-esque journeys in my backyard. I felt powerless, so I channeled the energy of sword-wielding warriors. I couldnt accept that magic was something for another realm, so even in the most mundane games, I was an alien, a sorceress, a tamer of wild beasts. Maybe all children practice unconscious psychodrama in their play. Think about it for a moment… what archetypal energy did you practice embodying through make-believe, playing house, video games, or role playing games?

I practiced embodying dragon-rider-wolf-whisperer-sorceress...

I practiced embodying dragon-rider-wolf-whisperer-sorceress...

It’s no great surprise that I’m drawn to myths, symbols, and the hero’s journey as a perfect metaphor for the adventure of the soul through all it’s divinely human incarnations.

What *is* a pretty major surprise to me these days is this:

I freakin’ love toys.

While it might be some form of regression due to having grown up too quickly, I rather like to believe that it’s a refreshing evolution into not taking myself so damn seriously all the time.

I’ve mentioned this idea of following breadcrumbs in a previous blog. Well, sandplay therapy was one of those trails of breadcrumbs. I had never heard of it before, when suddenly it was everywhere I was. Expressive Arts training? Bam, sandplay and Jungian psychology. Shamanic retreats? Bam, sand paintings made entirely from bits of nature arranged on the Joshua Tree desert. Hypnotherapy? BAM! Sandplay for opened eyed trace work.

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So what is sandplay exactly? In a nutshell, sandplay is a powerful therapeutic process for children and adults based in Carl Jung's depth psychology. I love to use it to mark the energetic shifts that happen in a shamanic energy medicine session. It's also an amazing way to explore inner child work, shadow work, relationship issues, dream work and just about anything under the sun!

And it’s not all about the toys. One of the primary elements in sandplay is the sand tray itself. A simple sandbox, often with beige playground sand, but sometimes with more exotic colors; sometimes painted blue on the inside to give the impression of water. This is the Earth herself. This is the womb of the Great Mother, where the characters of the psyche will come into form (enter the toys!) and reveal their secret gifts.  

Walking into the sandplay collection room at HCH Institute is like standing at the point of convergence between this world and every other world in the infinite universe (including the one inside me!).


And that's just a portion of two of the walls...

Our instructions were always the same, whether or not we “knew” what we were working on. Go in, walk around and listen. Listen to your body, your intuition, your gut. Notice what attracts you or sparks your curiosity, and gather it. Notice what repels you, and gather that as well. Come back to your sandtray and create the world. Invariably, the scene that unfolds has a hidden gift for you, the intrepid hero or heroine, to discover.

Because what if a toy isnt just a toy? What if it’s actually an incredible powerful symbol packed with meaning that shifts and changes depending on who’s placing it in the womb of their sand tray, and what other “toys” join it? What if that weird, broken, angry looking troll is the perfect representation of the frustrating internal block to which you cant quite put words?

"Who, me?"

"Who, me?"

What if that sturdy little viking is actually holding the key you need to work with that nameless block? And what if you could actually play your way into a deeper understanding of yourself?

Turns out, even profoundly deep healing work can be fun. And - because all coins have two sides - even "silly" little plastic toys can bring you to tears.


So, all these years after my childhood is supposedly over, I have developed a wildly joyful straight up addiction to the toys and figurines that are the primary tools of sandplay therapy. All with the ultimate goal of bringing sandplay to you - my fellow Truth Seekers and journeyers.

And I’m delighting in my new adventure! Armed with a minimal budget, and often a companion (different symbols will jump out to different people, so multiple psychies can be helpful!), I venture into the funkiest thrift stores I can find, and give myself over to the hunt.

Some just dont make the cut...

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I have enlisted a small army of figurine fairies to keep their eyes peeled for treasures. My mother in law has her favorite thrift stores in Rancho Bernardo. My mom and sister in law ferret away toys that my nephew is done playing with, just like all the rest of my mom friends do with their children. I’m even awaiting a delivery of toys from a woman committed to shifting her habit of hoarding. So many layers of healing happening, it’s hard to keep track!

And as my sandplay figurine family expands, I’m itching to unleash them in service of your healing journey. So get ready Truth Seekers! 2015 is the year of your Toy Story!

Make sure you’ve liked Infinite Truth on Facebook and Instagram, and stay tuned for our sandplay caption competition for an opportunity to win a free Sandplay Workshop! Also, if you or your children have small figurines or toys that are ready for a new home, contact me! Your clutter is someone else's profound healing symbol. 

Infinite Truth Healing provides hypnotherapy services in three San Diego, CA location, as well as online sessions via Skype or Google Hangout. Receive support in your self-healing in the areas of: stress reduction, inner child healing, shadow work, relationship issues, chronic illness, life purpose, spiritual and intuitive development, trauma or abuse, skill enhancement, grief and loss, depression, addiction and more. 

Tess Meissner