Nov 222014

In order to provide Financial Aid at The Haven in 2015, we are selling Haven Holiday Granola and offering a Matching Pool for donations made in the month of December. If you are wondering about the impact of your giving to this program, these two letters from Financial Aid recipients say more than we ever could about why it is important to enable people to attend programs who otherwise could not afford to. Thank you for your continuing support. To find out more about our end of year fundraising at The Haven, go to The Haven web site.

RE: Living Alive Phase 1 Bursarylive while you're alive

Well, what can I say authentically about the Living Alive Phase 1 Program? I had moments of rebellion, resistance, denial and overall challenge AND these moments led me to expand my abilities, take risks, accept feedback and know myself more in my FULLNESS. As I sit here at home breaking patterns that have kept me held in toxicity, listening to my favorite music, my soul wants to dance, to express itself and to communicate openly with you about the experience. I am more aware of my defenses, my closed self, my attitudes and my once dormant spiritual skills. There was a moment in the last couple days of the program where I had to stop in mid step and put my hand to my chest and listen to my heart’s voice. It said: ‘this is GRATITUDE!’ I finally understood the power of this innately illusive ideology. To all the staff, interns, donors and participants, I really get it, the gifts of learning you all offered me in your own ways, stand out so strongly in my personal/professional development journey. You ALL facilitated a transformative process where I could be full in all my ways of being and explore what works/serves me well, and what I could do differently. Your examples of giving: tools, behaviors, ideas, and the bursary for me to partake in this opportunity are greatly appreciated from a sense of true honor.

In 25 days, I witnessed my ‘WORK’ from the deep held anger for my life struggle, to my playful fun expression, to my creativity in song, to my need for connection with others, however still reserved, the way my mind works in an abstract way on multi levels of understanding, how I deal with conflict by avoiding, limiting and finally opening to its lessons, and how much I still so passionately want to grow as an enlightened person. I am eager in this letter to give you a glimpse at the awareness I have built from this program and share my own gift of thankfulness that it exists. I take away a strong will to be fully alive in everything I take on as an endeavor, from sociality, to employment and education, to family and in my intimate relationships. I will carry on the practices of breathing, grounding, communing with nature, silence, fasting and all the other amazing tools I engaged in at The Haven.

If you garner anything from this letter, please let it be: donations give life to those of us that are rich in spirit but not in wallet. Donations offer opportunities to those of us that work from the heart in life, not the bank account. I grew up at home as a learner with only the basics of life. Early on in my development, I walked out the door of my ‘HOME’ and went forth into the world to gain skill, experience and an education in life.

Your donation has shown me another place I can call ‘HOME.’ This home, The Haven, is a true place of awakening to more lessons that solidified my trust in the universal nature of the learning world. All I have shared in this letter is to show you I get it, I got it and I will continue to learn from all that was taught at this marvelous home on Gabriola Island. Thank you from my deepest self.

Tara Timmers
Peaceful Warrior
(Living Alive Phase I Oct/Nov 2014)

Dear Benefactor,Come Alive Howard Thurman W&W

My name is Amber S and I am the grateful recipient of a Haven Come Alive Bursary. I would like to begin expressing my appreciation by giving some background information about me in order to give context to the significance of my Come Alive experience.

Along with being the genuine essence of who I am, I am a single mother of a fifteen-year-old boy. I am an accredited music therapist, singer songwriter, master scuba diver trainer, and commercial dive business owner. I have invested a lot of time and effort in my personal development, as I have past addiction and trauma challenges. These issues have affected my life in a variety of ways and have prevented me from reaching my full potential. Prior to coming to The Haven it was challenging for me to sit in my emotions and connect with myself. I experienced mild anxiety, low self worth and self-esteem and was prone to dissociating, with and without awareness of it happening. I also had difficulties around creating and maintaining boundaries, as well as expressing anger appropriately.

My experience at the Come Alive was profound and will have a lasting positive effect on my life and all those I am connected with forever. It was surprising for me to recognize the excessive fear that I had been living with in my daily life. Fear-based living, reacting and avoidance were not uncommon for me in the face of many life stressors, or what I perceived as life stressors. I also had the gift of being able to address past traumas without dissociating, which was intense because during the beginning stages of this process I was keenly aware of what it was like in both, my mind and body to be in a state of dissociation. I am so much more aware now, that the ability to be present in the most difficult of situations is crucial for me to be able to truly live my life more fully and that moving forward with vulnerability and whole-heartedness is the only way I will genuinely experience my truth and purpose.

Following the previously described experiences, during other segments of the Come Alive programming, I had what Maslow describes as a peak experience. There was a brief moment where I was acutely present and felt very connected with the group, during this time I was keenly attuned to a strong feeling and sense of acknowledgment deep within myself around the interconnectedness of humanity and the love that is within and available to us all. Awesome!!

Throughout the Come Alive I also had additional realizations, received valuable information, and witnessed relevant modeling, which furthered the development of my communications skills and ability to ask for and receive help. The breathing techniques I learned are the foundation to begin and continue changing my life in a most positive way. I have also been fortunate enough to make a number of new social connections, where we are choosing to continue to support each other by organizing our own ‘Stay Alive’ group meetings.

As a result of my stay at The Haven and attending the Come Alive Program, I am more aware generally and more specifically, of others and myself. I have been living in the present more and have experienced less anxiety and fear. I use breathing to return me to focus in challenging times. I am communicating more effectively, even when I am in moments of high stress or anger. My boundaries are clearer and I am in the process of creating and maintaining them for myself as I continuously interact with the world. There is already a noticeable shift for me in my relationships and in my clinical skills when working as a music therapist. I am excited to see what unfolds in my life generally and in my creativity as I continue to live the way I have learned during the Come Alive.

It is important for me to thank who ever was able to help make this happen in my life, not only so that they understand to what extent their decision to donate money to The Haven has made in my life as well as the others, but also to know that their contribution is deeply appreciated. It is my hope that one day I will be able to do the same for someone else.

Best Regards

Amber S
(Come Alive Oct 2014)

 Posted by at 2:26 pm
Nov 122014

SylviaRachel Davey writes: Our friend Sylvia Edlund died in hospital in Nanaimo yesterday, Tuesday November 11. Sylvia had been in hospital for a while with many different health challenges, and in the end succumbed to an infection. She was peaceful and comfortable in her last days.

Sylvia was known by many at The Haven for all the ways she involved herself in many different things, despite facing great obstacles. She graduated with her Diploma in Counselling in 2002. She came to The Haven every year in May and spent her summer with us. I always said to her that I knew that summer was coming when she arrived. She loved participating in programs, especially Healing Stitches and more recently Eric Bibb’s Spirit in the Song workshop. She created some remarkable costumes for Dance and Games for Kids/Kids in the Spotlight. She always gave feedback on what she liked and what she didn’t like about what was happening at The Haven, in her own very special, direct and loving way. She connected with people, in spite of all the things that made that difficult for her.

Sylvia wrote the article below for Shen in 1997 – it’s a remarkable story of courage, and I urge you to read it.

The photo, taken during Healing Stitches in 2013, captures her perfectly. She never liked having her photo taken, as you can perhaps tell, but she did love Healing Stitches and, according to Mary Holdgrafer, those floral pants were her favourite!


One year ago I came to Haven hoping to learn better ways of coping with severe short-term memory loss, which resulted from a ruptured appendix and peritonitis over two years earlier. Although I was glad to be alive, this disability was particularly scary, for I had always relied on my brain to overcome obstacles created by illness. But I could not think myself out of this current dilemma.

I was preoccupied with my brain malfunctions at the beginning of Phase I. However, the most obvious characteristics the leaders noticed were my rigid, curled posture, limited range of motion, my large body size and a thick and gristly occipital ridge from ear to ear at the base of my skull. I knew about all of these but since they produced no pain or obvious disability and had been with me a long time I did not consider them important – just part of the package that was me.

Within minutes of starting Jock’s ‘Quick Prick’ acupuncture treatment I noticed changes. The most amusing was a sudden and lasting aversion to pork and then to most meat. I also experienced pulsing sensations up and down my spine and tingling down to my fingers and toes. More annoying symptoms included mild to moderate pain in various joints, muscles and organs. I went from being pain-free to being stiffer, sore and limping. I also experienced weird infant phantom-leg pains.

I was recalling episodes of being choked, kicked, punched, swarmed and humiliated. The pains related to injuries from my childhood, which was characterized by severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. I had been wishboned at 9 months (femurs ripped out of their sockets and tendons ripped off the pelvis). After that injury I stopped speaking or making sounds for 8 years. At two I was diagnosed as retarded and then at age five as autistic. I was also physically ill through much of my childhood – bruises of tissues and organs, major fractures of arms, legs, hands, feet, ribs, and skull, as well as asthma, infectious diseases such as scarlet fever and rheumatic fever, and then crippling arthritis.

None of these recurrent physical symptoms was a surprise, for I had spent years in counseling dealing with emotions of those times, and had thought I had cleared most emotional blocks. Most physical symptoms had abated after I got away from home. I slowly learned social skills, and I lived an active, nearly pain-free life as a research scientist specializing in the mapping of arctic plant communities for 24 years. However I hadn’t fully acknowledged a lot of the physical pain of those earlier traumas.

If I had fully experienced some of the severest traumas when they happened, I probably would have died or gone insane. But for some reason my spirit insisted that my body survive, and I willed myself to live. I learned to become a master at pain avoidance. From earliest times, I quickly left my body during painful episodes – often hovering over my body as it was abused, or more often simply leaving my body to go to a beautiful natural place where I played, became the plant or animal of my choice, and felt fully loved and cared for by Earth. No wonder I was considered autistic! I was not often in my body! Until I was an adult, I thought everyone had such out of the body experiences as part of life. I had so many near-death experiences that I no longer fear death. I instead feared the pain associated with living in my body and would exit whenever confronted by pain.

Sometimes I did choose to be in my body as a child. It was necessary when I wanted to escape to a safer place or wanted to enjoy kind touches from neighbors or to shmooze my animal pals. Most of the time I winterized my body and went to live in my head. I developed self-splinting techniques which minimized pain. I froze the injured area by holding it as still as possible. Unfortunately I didn’t unsplint the injured parts after they physically healed and these effects were cumulative. As an adult I have jokingly referred to my typical motion as basic “no frills” movement. I had slowly and unawarely decreased my range of motion. It is no wonder that I had such a rigid posture at 50. I had also learned to temper grief and anger as well as physical pain by wrapping organs and injured areas within layers of fat, like bubble pack.

Near the end of Phase I, Ben, Jock and Joann assisted in getting me fully back in my body. It was a terrifying, painful experience. It seemed like trying to reoccupy a dusty, cobweb-filled abandoned house with only the attic habitable. But soon afterwards the pains that plagued me through Phase I abated. I spent the next 5 months at home learning to more fully occupy my body, to stay in it for longer periods, and learn its signals. I found I flitted out of it when scared or startled, but I found ways to return quickly. My memory problems had not changed, but they did not seem so important.

At Phase II, Catherine Fallis selected me to demonstrate a technique during a body movement session. I thought she was foolish to choose someone so stiff, but I was willing to try. She simply asked me to let my body move however it wished. This was a new concept. Did my physical body have wishes beyond my conscious thoughts? I just shut down my conscious control, and soon started to move in unfamiliar ways. My feet were rooted to the floor, and I found myself heavily into grief: moaning and keening, crouching and straightening, and extending my arms and wrapping them around myself, gracefully moving in ways I had never experienced before. Catherine later said that these were such archetypal movements that it gave her chills to watch. At the end, I was sore, but had much more range of motion. I could bend and twist, squat and rotate my shoulders as never before. Later I was videoed with Jock as he led me through my first improvisational dance session. I am glad to have that video for it captures the wonder and joy of the occasion.

Obviously movement was a major missing part of my healing process. I now walk with a spring in my step and I even bound up stairs, sometimes! I have kept up a regime of improvisational dance for 45–60 minutes a day – to music of my choice. During these sessions I naturally breathe deeply throughout. I can not perform similar motions on conscious command and experience stiffness and pain when I try. Learning formal exercise routines and dance steps has not been successful. This inability to learn routines may be related to short-term memory loss. But when I let my body move as it wishes, I continually surprise myself with the range of movement that I can do and my endurance. Musical accompaniment is necessary for the fullest range of motion and grace.

I am still very naive about what to expect from my body. I am disconcerted at how frequently my body stiffens when I sit too long or how sore it gets when I overexert. Fears of returning to the old rigidities regularly surface. But my massage therapist Susan Glass and several professional dancers soon reassured me that such temporary stiffness and soreness are part of the human experience. I do realize that all joints are much looser, and anytime I notice stiffness or pain, I can put on music and dance. Within a few minutes the discomfort disappears.

So what about my current dilemma? It seems to be part of a violent course correction. Complications of the ruptured appendix have forced me to leave a work situation that I should have bowed out of several years earlier, but had not heeded earlier warning signs. It has also slammed and locked the door behind me. I can not return to old ways. I am now learning to pay closer attention to my body signals. Right now the pleasure I get from improv dance is the primary motivation for trying to fully occupy my body. I have faith that as I become better at reading bodily signals the new directions for my life will emerge. In the meantime, “Let’s face the music and dance!”

 Posted by at 9:28 pm
Nov 022014


By Rachel Davey. This book review first appeared in the May/June edition of Scientific American Mind. Reading it, I am immediately reminded of the Haven Communication Model and one of its most important components, ‘check it out’. The reviewer seems somewhat disappointed at the end of the article that the best way of understanding another person is “just ask what someone is thinking”. Ben and Jock in their book Health and Happiness, saw this as an opportunity rather than a obstacle, saying “when we connect with another person, we connect with all of life”.

Downloadable copies of the Haven Communication model (and other Haven models) can be found on the resources page of the Haven web site.

Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
Nicholas Epley
Knopf, 2014
“Speech was given to man so that he might hide his thoughts,” wrote French novelist Stendhal. Research on how accurate we are in assessing how other people perceive us confirms his cynical assertion; the impression people give us generally corresponds poorly to their real views.In Mindwise, Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, expertly reviews a wide range of work of this kind to help us understand our “real sixth sense”: our ability to make accurate inferences about what other people are thinking. Even by age two, humans are far better at making such inferences than the most intelligent animals are—but we never get very good at it.This is important because accurate mind reading is fundamental to successful social interactions. If you believe everyone at the office party is thinking how silly you look in your new Rudolph-the-reindeer tie—even though no one is in fact paying the least attention—you might hide in a corner. If former French president Nicolas Sarkozy thinks Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not making good eye contact, he might infer—as indeed he did in 2011—that Netanyahu is “a liar.” In other words, the future of your job and relationships and even the future of humankind may depend on the accuracy of that sixth sense.

Unfortunately, the research on this topic is discouraging. Epley even admits that the main goal of the book is “to reduce the illusion of insight you have into the minds of others”—in other words, to burst your bubble of self-deception. There may be advantages to acknowledging one’s mind-reading deficits: you will be less likely to rush to judgment, he says, and more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Toward the end, when it looks like Epley is finally going to show us how to overcome our deficits, we are let down. If you really want to know someone’s mind, he says, forget the two most commonly recommended methods: evaluating gestures and facial expressions and trying to imagine the other person’s perspective. Current research shows that lies are difficult to detect, even for highly trained tsa personnel, and that perspective taking actually makes one less accurate in knowing a person’s mind. Instead, he says, just ask what someone is thinking. In other words, forget mind reading; we need “to rely on our ears more than on our inferences.” That’s all he wrote.

In short, Mindwise is a comprehensive and well-written overview mainly of things most people would rather not know, much like a textbook on heart disease, but without the cures.

-Robert Epstein

This article was originally published with the title “Our Flawed Sixth Sense”

 Posted by at 1:05 am
Sep 302014
Harriet removing the No Trespassing sign

Harriet removing the No Trespassing sign. Photo courtesy of the Gabriola Sounder.

By Harriet Thomas. Harriet is a long time friend and supporter of The Haven. She recently named 50 acres of forest on Gabriola Haven Woods in honour of The Haven, and allowed public access in partnership with the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GALTT)

The plight of the Canadian forests and my relation to them has somehow been intertwined with my personal Haven story since I first came to BC some twenty years ago. The more remote the better for me in those days, and it was on a visit to Haida Gwaii from the UK that I had first heard about The Haven.  I met a lumberjack and his girlfriend, who happened to have taken some programs. I thought these people and the way they were talking was interesting. What I didn’t like – at all! – was the shocking mile after mile of clear-cut logging I witnessed there. It was virgin forest and it was being turned into toilet paper and it heartily sickened me. It fed into my world view of that time, namely of a doomed planet at the hands of a freakishly uncaring human race. Thank god I managed to make it down to Gabriola and The Haven!

Ten years later I had the opportunity to purchase 50 acres of forest a stone’s throw from Haven’s main gates.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it. All I really knew was that I loved it with a passion and it was in very close proximity to my beloved Haven and I had real concerns that someone else would buy it and chop all the trees down (this has since happened on two of the large properties nearby). Over the years some of the ideas for what to do with it have ranged from a treehouse canopy walkway, a treehouse hostel consisting of giant wooden orbs that would hang from the trees someone on Saltspring Island was creating at the time, a community of wooden cabins, an equine therapy centre and a little cabin for myself and my daughter at the end of a very long drive through the trees!

Unknown to me at the time I was in very good company in my impulse to protect and nurture a green space. Germaine Greer’s latest book “White Beech” was published earlier this year. Turns out that at almost the very same time I was purchasing my 50 acres of Canadian temperate rainforest, she was buying 60 hectares of Australian tropical rainforest.  In the prologue Germaine describes how for 10 years she felt herself to be a servant of the forest: “just one more organism in its biomass, the sister of its mosses and fungi, its mites and worms.” Like her I have never thought of the forest as mine and I can totally relate when she writes: “I didn’t think I was saving the world. I was in search of heart’s ease and this was my chance to find it.”

The trails which people have used since long before my day were officially opened  to the public this summer when I signed a license agreement with GALTT  (Gabriola Lands and Trails Trust) handing over the job of maintaining and insuring them. I was absolutely delighted to be able to take down the no trespassing signs at long last and the name ‘Haven Woods’ will be printed on all future GALTT maps.

One of the already well-established and rewarding trails on the property takes you from The Haven and the King Road entrance, through the woods, across Berry Point Road and either back to The Haven along the beach or to the lighthouse. This summer, on August 10 the largest full moon of 2014 appeared on the horizon immediately after a particularly spectacular sunset.  A large appreciative crowd that had gathered on the shore opposite the lighthouse were able to see both events within seconds of each other as both the setting sun and the rising supermoon could be viewed from Berry Point one after the other in short succession. It was thrilling to walk back to The Haven at twilight through the trees.

When I first came to Haven long before I knew Haven Woods existed, I had very limited resources and I used to camp at Descanso Bay Regional Park sometimes, in order to be able to afford programs (no bursaries in those days). I am particularly delighted that GALTT is going to make possible a new trail which will take you all the way from Tamarac Street, across Haven Woods, through Cox Park and down to Descanso Bay and the sea.

We spent many happy hours this summer exploring potential new trails to open up for residents of the island and visitors alike. The relatively far less invasive traditional logging methods at the beginning of the last century has meant that a wide variety of large trees, shrubs, ferns and undergrowth has survived  undisturbed in situ since the days before the property was  once selectively logged. Though not virgin forest in the sense that the larger trees and any giants were picked out 100 years ago or more, it is nonetheless home to a wide variety of indigenous plants, growing as they have been, no doubt, for millennia. I was delighted to be introduced to a woman at Gabriola’s south end who has taken similar measures there over some land by putting on a covenant protecting the trees.  I shall be working with GALTT to put a covenant on the Haven Wood trees in the future.  I read about people doing similar things all over the planet.

I am now happily settled in Devon, UK, living in the centre of a busy town – a far cry from my fantasy of a tiny cottage in the middle of the woods or living on isolated archipelagos a long way from home! All around me I see evidence of nature doing very well indeed. People are telling me all the time in one way or another how much they care for animals and the planet and I hear them. Have I found heart’s ease? – I would say yes!  And it is my heart’s great delight and great hope to imagine that occasionally people coming to Haven for workshops might find their way to Haven Woods and find strength and solace in the trees.

 Posted by at 3:29 pm
Only One ...

Only One …

By Cathy McNally. The next Living Alive Phase I runs from October 10 to November 4 and is led by Susan Clarke and Toby Macklin. I recently had the pleasure of a conversation with a very remarkable and courageous young mother. She was mulling on what direction to take next in her life. She is […]

The Power of Direct Mirroring

The Power of Direct Mirroring

This article written by Joann Peterson, The Haven’s first Director of Education, was first published in Shen magazine in the spring of 1996. Joann co-created The Power of Direct Mirroring which is now led by Cathy McNally and Wendy Huntington. Join them for a transformative experience at The Haven October 9-12.  MIRRORING: The Discovery Of The […]

Claire Uhlick: 2014 Artist in Residence

Claire Uhlick: 2014 Artist in Residence

  It’s hard to believe that my trip to Gabriola Island is only a few short weeks away! I’m very excited to have focused studio time and a chance to break free from my day-to-day routines. I’m also looking forward to immersing myself in the vibrant island community. I was originally selected as one of […]

The Pleasure and Price of Remaining Unaware

At The Haven, on the evening before Ben Wong’s celebration of life, we showed a DVD of a talk that Ben and Jock McKeen gave at the Satir Institute of Manitoba in the 1990s, called the Pleasure and Price of Remaining Unaware. So many people enjoyed watching the talk that we asked Jock for permission to make this […]

I’m So Busy! The Power of Balance

I’m So Busy! The Power of Balance

Laurie Anderson and Kim Hudson are leading The Power of Balance at The Haven, June 6–8. How often do you find yourself saying how busy you are in one way or another?  I caught myself trying to impress my daughter with my busy schedule one day. I had to stop and laugh as she gave […]

Decluttering and Inner Beauty

Decluttering and Inner Beauty

Rachel Davey writes: We have just completed a ‘decluttering’ of the fireplace area in the lodge, with the intention of highlighting the beautiful mantel that was created and donated by Paul Arnold. When I contacted Paul and sent him the photo, this was his reply: “Thank you Rachel for your thoughtful email and attached photo. I […]

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