Sanctuary: Blog

Keeping Up By Slowing Down

Submitted by Sarah Yanosy, Director, Sanctuary Institute

 

There is little I love more than connecting with people who share passion for our work.  I have been on a whirlwind tour that included Oregon, Las Vegas and Philadelphia in the last 30 days - all extremely fulfilling and wonderful work experiences.  As much as I enjoy the travel that Directing the Sanctuary Institute involves, I sometimes find that my overzealous calendaring can get the best of me.  Lucky for me I have two little reminders about slowing down.  Their names are Jonah and Sidra.

When I am racing through airports and squeezing in calls while waiting on rental car lines, my gauge can get stuck on high speed.  I sometimes think that it is ok that "frenetic" might be the permanent setting of my dial, as long as it is in service of great things.  Then my son comments:  "Mommy, come watch us play chess.  I want you to see what I learned."  I am reminded that the simple art of sitting and watching, observing and taking in can result in great accomplishments too.  They might not be my accomplishments, and they may be even better.

Sometimes the pace of my days warps me into thinking that I come in only one flavor:  "spazzberry nutjob".  (Yes, I made that up, and no, I don't imaging that it would taste very good.)  When I am bouncing from program to proposal to presentation to project, I begin to feel like a whirling mash of color and texture trying to stir in all that is new and different and exciting.   At home, I often carry this over, juggling a million things at one time.  Then my daughter asks:  "Mommy, play tic-tac-toe with me!"  I am invited into her chocolate marshmallow world, where two people, like those two flavors, can blend together or just swirl around each other.  I can pay attention to one thing at a time: making my X, then watching her make an O.   I can ask her about her day, or I can just sit and be in her space.  Both are really ok with her.  I remember that she and I can control the pace of the game, we can stop in the middle if we feel like it and pick up again later, and that the best games end in a tie.  Good points to remember most days.

 


Just What I Needed, But Least Expected

Submitted by: Sarah Yanosy, Director, Sanctuary Institute

 

I was a little harried, as I always am when boarding a plane toting a shoulder bag, dragging a roller bag and balancing a cup of coffee. As I made my way to my aisle seat, I noticed the young man who would be sharing the trip in the center seat next to mine. I took one look at his face, and snapped from "harried business traveler" mode to "worried mom/assessing social worker" mode. This young, Black man looked to be in his late teens or early twenties, traveling alone, with two puffy black eyes, a scar on his cheek, a gash on one eyebrow and a matching one on his chin. I took my seat and tried to figure out how to open a conversation with him while scrolling through my mental rolodex of referrals and resources I could offer him once I figured out who had hurt him and what he would need.


When the pilot told us we were 12th in line for takeoff, and that we would be on the runway for some time, he sighed loudly. I saw my chance. "Is Tampa home or are you visiting?" I asked. He told me that he was from Clearwater and headed home. I asked what had brought him to NY, and he pointed to his two swollen eyes and said "work." I asked what on Earth he did that resulted in his face looking like tenderized steak. He smiled and told me that he had been on HBO the night before and had won his welterweight boxing match after going 12 rounds. Turns out he is 24, and his name is Keith Thurman.


We spent the rest of the flight talking about our respective careers, his plans for expanding his role as a performer to promoter, the finances of boxing, my work with Sanctuary, ANDRUS and kids in residential care, my kids, his girlfriend's pursuit of a career as a poet, his efforts to support her dreams, his mom's concerns (and mine) about head injuries from sports like football and boxing, gay marriage, school bullying, the importance of mentors and of course, religion. Toward the end of the flight, he shared that although he is Christian, he also practices meditation through Tibetan Buddhism. We drifted into a conversation about our knowledge of Buddhism and its resonance with our lives. He reached under the seat, and pulled out his worn copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. "Can I read you my favorite chapter?" he asked. "I'd love that," I said. He read softly but powerfully these words that were familiar, as I had read them years ago and still connect with their strength. We sat silently after he read and as the plane passed from clouds to Earth. I laughed at the absurdity of my assumptions. When my feet touched pavement in Tampa, I had gone from "harried business traveler" past "worried mom/assessing social worker" to "head lined up with heart, fully connected to soul and world" mode. It was exactly what I needed, but least expected when I sat down. Thanks, Keith.

 

 

 


The Healing Power of Expression

Submitted by: Joseph Benamati, Senior Faculty, Sanctuary Institute

NOTE: The following may contain language and images that may be difficult to view.

 

Her mother died when she was 12 years old, a very crucial time for a young woman. She missed her mother very much but her father loved her and was a great comfort to her. He was a painter and saw in his daughter a spark of genius that he nurtured and encouraged. When she was just 16 years old she produced her first painting called Madonna and Child. The painting looked like many others of its genre, Mary holding the Christ child, but this painting was different. On closer examination Mary's hands never touch the child, Mary's eyes are closed, while the child's eyes looking searchingly at the mother's face while caressing the mother gently almost sadly. According to the girl this was her way of expressing her sorrow of having lost her mother. Mary not being able to hold the baby, her eyes closed (meaning love not reciprocated) all were symbols of the girl's sadness.

 

She was on her way to becoming a great artist in her own right but there was a special technique her father couldn't teach her. He asked a friend to tutor her. Her father's friend was a genius at painting perspective; the ability to draw something as if from a great distance such as a door at the end of a long hallway. So at 18 years of age she went to study with him but his intentions were darker and more sadistic. He raped her repeatedly over many months promising that he would marry her (although already married) and threatening to kill her if she told anyone. Finally she told her father, who had his friend arrested, and they went to trial. The Court, not believing the girl, had her tortured. They thought if she could stick to her story through the pain of torture perhaps she was telling the truth. The rapist was convicted and sentenced.

Torturing the victim seems barbaric to us today but this was 17th century Rome and the girl was Artemisia Gentileschi. Through time she has become one of the most important and famous painters of the Baroque era. Her perseverance and courage through adversities such as traumatic bereavement, rape, torture, humiliation, and ostracism have been an inspiration to millions of women from around the world. She went on to paint five versions of the rape, each more sophisticated and integrated than the last. She used the theme of the biblical figure Judith to represent herself. Each painting dealt with Judith slaying a general named Holofrones who was attempting to kill Judith's family. The paintings depict a strong and courageous Judith capable of taking care of not only herself but of being the protector of others. A wonderful replacement metaphor for someone who had experienced what Artemisia did a few years previously.

 

Once again we see the power of expression to heal. After painting her fifth Judith Slays Holofrones Artemisia painted a self-portrait using an angle artists today agree would be difficult to paint without possessing superior skills. It was almost as if Artemisia was proclaiming to the world, "See, I am a good painter and I have survived."

 


We the People - a traumatized nation

Submitted by: Alexandria Connally, Vice Principal, ANDRUS Orchard School


The preamble of the United States Constitution opens with three powerful words, "We the People". This is clearly the subject of the entire document. America prides itself on being a democracy; a land of freedom. This is a land where the people can speak openly about the government. As I look through history, I question the inclusivity of the term, "We the People". In 1787, the 3/5 Compromise was created. It stated that slaves were considered only 3/5 of a white person and most slave owners considered slaves as property. It wasn't until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that Blacks in the South would be free. The 14th Amendment gave slaves citizenship and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. The 15th Amendment was not sufficient, hence the need for President Johnson's Voting Act of 1965.

Another group of individuals who were excluded from "We the People" were women who would basically had no rights until the 1970s – Women's Rights Movement. It wasn't until the 2012 election where 17 women (the maximum ever) were voted into the US Senate. I could spend hours debating the Homestead Act and the battle of Wounded Knee which terminated thousands of lives of the First Americans. In 1898, America invaded Puerto Rico and like the five other territories, they do not hold any Electoral College votes. There was the imprisoning of Japanese born Americans during WWII and the treatment of Muslim Americans after September 11th.

What I've noticed about all of these groups is that they have two identities. They are American and then there are identified by their Nationality. Do they represent America or their own culture? I've traveled internationally and I am always amazed by people's thoughts around my nationality. I've traveled to China in and the natives marveled at the color of my skin. I was treated like royalty. It was the first time in my life that I can remember being Black meant being privileged. A year or so earlier, I traveled to Rome. Most of the natives thought I was from South America. I would imagine that is because most of the darker skinned people are from Africa the color of my skin was unfamiliar to the Italians that I met. As I began to explain that I was African-American, I saw many puzzled faces. Eventually, one man responded, "So where does your allegiance fall?" Considering that I have only been to Africa once this was an easy question to answer. As the conversation continued, my friend began to explain to me that in their culture there were no sub-cultures. So if you were African decent and an Italian citizen, you were considered Italian. If your skin was light or dark, if you were African, Asian or European, it didn't matter. An individual who held citizenship in Italy was an Italian. There were no Afro-Italians, Euro-Italians, and Asian-Italians. I realized at that point that there was a clear understanding of "We the People". It is not the job of the legislation to create laws that distribute invitations to join the exclusive group of "We the People". It is the job of every individual citizen. How do we remedy this trauma? It begins with a conversation, an open-mind, and the understanding that our differences make us stronger.

 


Live like a King

Submitted by: Alexandria Connally, Vice Principal, ANDRUS Orchard School

 

On January 21st American celebrated the birth of a King. On January 16, 1920, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would grace the world with his presence. This great man would attend college at age 15, speak out against racist injustice and become known as the Father of the Civil Rights Movement. He would eventually, give his life for his cause that he believed was right and just. In my opinion, one of the most powerful statements every uttered was "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." We all know that Dr. King was committed to Non-Violence but have you ever thought about his commitment to social learning? The statement above insinuates that there should be a learning experience; an experience where individuals are taught about the similarities and differences of others. An experience that allows one to understand the thoughts, needs and desires of others before they think of the color of their skin, the sound of their accent or their religious practices. My commitment to Social Learning is not to make assumptions about people. What is yours?