When I view a client’s tray or see a presentation of sandplay, I attempt to understand the scene in a variety of ways. One way to look at a client’s sandplay scene is to see the “structure” in the tray. The structure might include the location of items, the arrangement of miniatures, or the configuration of the sand. I have noticed there are similarities between the structure of the universe (See Cosmic Architecture blog post Sept 2, 2016) and the overall layout of the tray or scene. These similarities are the placement of items along or at cardinal points, the construction of a “center”, and the creation of an axis.
As I gather more information about the structure of the universe, I have more questions. Does placing items or arranging the sand along cardinal points indicate an awareness of an ancient cosmic order or a need for the client to order their experience? When a “center” is created, does this reflect the client’s movement toward a more centered and grounded experience or perspective? What if I witness the creation of a vertical axis (long, upright sticks or a vertical element such as the ladder or giraffe)? Is the client beginning to view their universe or their experience in many layers or levels, therefore gaining more understanding of the complexity of their psyche and/or external reality?
Also, individuals bring to their sandplay work a variety of influences, some of which of include a rich cultural experience, ancestral heritage, and religious or spiritual knowledge. The client’s work may reflect myths and tales from their culture, including personal family myths and stories. In the tray, ancestral heritage may show up as subtly as a client’s orientation to their world and their perception of “place”, as a client who orients objects in the tray to the four directions, or as a client who creates image after image of “center”.
Religious training and/or spiritual practices may influence the order or structure of a scene. Many times I have viewed the arrangement of items in obviously religious formations or in more subtle spiritual configurations. I have seen the sand sculpted into archetypal designs or patterns with religious or spiritual meaning.
Knowledge of myths and legends about cosmic order, along with information regarding the client’s personal history, can add to the many ways of viewing and understanding sandplay.