Working with Dora Kalff

Working with Dora Kalff 2017-10-10T13:30:02+00:00
Dora Kalff in front of her house in Zollikon

Dora Kalff in front of her house in Zollikon

Dora Kalff developed Jungian-based sandplay therapy, out of her work with Margaret Lowenfeld, British child psychiatrist and developer of the World Technique and her own analytic training. Kalff was also influenced by Buddhist traditions. Lucia Chambers, who studied sandplay therapy for many years with Mrs. Kalff, wrote this remembrance.

It seemed as if I had slipped into another dimension when I stepped over the threshold of Dora Kalff’s home in Zollikon, Switzerland. Perhaps it was the vibes of all the human souls who had lived in that old stone house for 500 years. Or maybe it was the Tibetan scroll hanging on the wall (at the time I didn’t know that was what it was), or the brass bells on the table or maybe the elegant painting of a chicken on the wall!  When Dora came to meet me, she seemed so comfortable and … at home. Sometimes the most ordinary comments would seem like a question. “It is such a lovely day?” Or, “You have come very far?” Or “You would like to make a sand picture?” Or in the room with the sand tray, “You would like to look a little, ja?”

Downstairs in the room with the trays filled with sand and the hundreds of little figures, I lost a sense of the walls and the limits of the room and was in a space of incredible possibilities. So many places to go with all the worlds and energies those little figures spoke from. It offered up the whole archetypal, experiential world to me and I was entranced and participated totally.

It wasn’t always open, exploring space with Dora Kalff. Sometimes I would find myself all alone in my little perspective and I would experience her No.

I said, “I know the lower right hand corner is…” No. “But you said…” No. “But I thought…” No.  Or, “I think I will…” No.

Kalff’s sandplay room

Kalff’s sandplay room

And that was the end of it. No further discussion. Ever. I learned to leave it and move to something else and later found that issue resolved over time in a way I had not anticipated. I also learned in talking to others (and we did talk endlessly) that Dora had acted very differently and said very different things with every different person. Somehow that made my experience more important and precious because it was completly mine.

At the end of my time, someone would knock on the door or come in to bring Dora a cup of tea.  I would usually walk across the street to a charming little park and sit for a while in nature to feel connected again to myself, sitting on a bench in the park. All I knew was that something had happened and something had moved inside me and I wanted to come again to be in that free and protected space with Dora Kalff.

Lucia Chambers

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