Apr 022014

Haven faculty member Ernie McNally lived his belief in relationship even as he was terminally ill.

By Julie Chadwick. This article originally appeared in the Nanaimo Daily News, March 31, 2014.

When Ernie McNally was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour 18 months ago, he approached the looming potential of death much like he had his life: with a deep sense of love and profound honesty.

As a former director and teacher at The Haven Institute on Gabriola Island, a centre for personal and professional development, Ernie utilized his skills in music and counselling to facilitate workshops with his wife Cathy that touched the lives of hundreds of people all over the world.


Cathy McNally with a photograph of herself and Ernie

He viewed The Haven less as a retreat centre and more as an “engage centre,” said Cathy.

“The commitment of the founders is that their workshops would be heuristic, which means you learn through experiencing. So you may get a bit of theory, but if that’s all you get, it’s useless.

“The idea is that when you leave the place, you’ve actually already skinned your knees trying the new stuff … which gives you a better chance to keep going when you get home.”

Using this experience-based approach to enact change in one’s life and develop deeper and more meaningful relationships was an idea that appealed to Ernie’s existing philosophy, and he took to it immediately.

“He stuck out for me. I saw this guy, and I knew there was something really special about him,” said Jock McKeen, who founded The Haven Institute with the late Bennett Wong in 1983.

“He had an open heart and an extraordinarily quick mind. He grasped what the concepts were – about human values and about relationship, and he understood them.

“And with a really glad heart he just said, ‘I’m going to live like this,’ and he started.”

As his illness progressed, so too did the intensity and depth of his engagement with other people, said Cathy. Though McNally died on March 1, surrounded by family and loved ones, the legacy to the lives he changed during his work were immortalized in a song his brother Steve wrote for him not long after he was diagnosed with the tumour. Titled “We Got This,” it was a collaboration between 63 musicians, family members and friends spread out over 18 countries. The entire project was a surprise for Ernie, who was given an emotional presentation of the song by Steve and many of their friends at The Haven’s New Year’s Reflections ceremony in December of 2012.

“One of the most remarkable things about Ernie is that even as a boy, in the stories his dad told me. .. I think he had a sweet romantic dream that if everyone cared for everyone, if everyone was kind to everyone, that we could make it work – that the world could work,” said Cathy.

“When he was somewhere between 14 and 16, his dreams of the world working – he had to shove that away a bit. It was too hard, he kept seeing things that weren’t working. But I don’t think it ever disappeared from who he was.”

Ernie and Cathy met in 1996 at a 26-day intensive Haven “long program” workshop where they were part of a team of four interns assisting the teacher.

The interns decided among themselves that they would try out being “rigorously honest” about their lives, and in all of their interactions with one other. On a day trip to Victoria, Ernie and Cathy decided to deepen the experiment, deciding to each reveal and discuss the very things about themselves that they hoped the other would never find out.

“In a funny way, I assumed that this mess of another possible relationship would just get done with, because once he’d heard the messy, not-nice parts of my life, that would put him off,” said Cathy. “It was, all in all, about an eight-hour journey. .. and we talked, and we cried, and we went about as deep, I think, as I’ve ever been with anyone.”

It was beautiful, she said, with tears in her eyes. Rather than something that repulsed them, the honesty actually made them view each other with an even deeper admiration.

Though she was living in her childhood home of Hong Kong at the time, when they later began a relationship that initial honesty provided a rock-solid basis from which their love grew, unfettered.

From there they spent 15 years teaching workshops together, and managed The Haven Institute for four years.

Once Ernie was diagnosed with the tumour, they both decided to keep their loved ones aware of what was going on. What started as a series of update emails to friends and family ended up blossoming into a narrative of their experiences and lessons along the way. Email topics ranged from analyzing how to make the most of every “right now,” to “What do you want to hear as you’re dying? What do you want to know?” said Cathy. “All kinds of conversations that I would never have had, because I was too busy living. But none of us knows how long we’ve got.”

True their philosophy, these were not theoretical musings but their real-life experiences; the confessions and questions of a couple passionately in love and facing the challenge of a lifetime.

It transformed the lives of those around them. People in their apartment complex would stop them in the hall and remark on how the latest email had caused them to pause and reflect, to open up to one another in new ways.

It also normalized the discussion of death, said McKeen. “That was incredible, because most people would pull into themselves, and lick their wounds and become isolated,” he added. “And he became more and more and more engaged, right up into the last days of his life.”

JChadwick@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4238

© Nanaimo Daily News

 Posted by at 10:25 am
Mar 302014

Mitch Miyagawa

Join Mitch Miyagawa at The Haven April 25–May 2

By Mitch Miyagawa. Mitch is leading Nonviolent Communication (NVC): A Process of Life,  April 25 –May 2. This week-long program is designed to support the ongoing development and integration of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) consciousness, whether participants are relatively new to NVC or experienced practitioners.

Want a free 20-minute empathy session and to find out more about the program?  Contact Mitch at 250 538 7696 or mitch.miyagawa@gmail.com

So. You like this NVC stuff.

You’ve taken a course, or read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, or looked at some videos on the web.  And you’ve tried it out.

It still feels new, hard even, but you’ve noticed some shifts.  And they’re adding up.

Maybe it’s that sense of relief you experience when you remember your beautiful needs behind your fury, when your partner says, “Oh, and is that all you did today?”

Or it’s the feeling of connection after guessing at a friend’s need for recognition, and getting an emphatic “yes”.

Or you expressed your sadness with clarity and power when your father made yet another comment about your “spoiled kids”.

Or you felt a little more acceptance for your longing for joy, and made an hour to listen to music last week.

Or you were able to tell your boss, clearly and confidently, why it was so important to you to take on a new project.


Whatever the shifts are, you’re feeling the call.

Do you recognize any of these voices?

I want to do more than just know about my feeling and needs. I want to know how to respond to them and take action.

I know I have a pattern of getting triggered around certain things. Now, I want to dig in, bring my core hurts to the light, and release them.

I want to get so fluent and natural with my empathy that it’s second nature.

I’m still having trouble figuring out my feelings and there seems to be a huge web of needs there.

I want to deepen my experience of NVC in groups, and find more and more uses for it in the way I show up in my work and in my community.

I want to explore how NVC fits with my spiritual path, how it helps me feel and be with my Source.

I just want to live and breathe NVC!  More!  Give me more!

I’m ready for more, too.

More connection with you and others.

More opportunity to really contribute to shifting your life and mine to deeper compassion.

More growth and learning with this life-giving process and orientation called NVC.

Come learn, play, and grow with me.  We’ll be joined by special guest trainers throughout the week.


Our intentions:

We intend, first of all, to model NVC, in our self-awareness, our interactions with each other, and with participants.

We intend to hold the diverse needs of the group as equally important, and tailor the content and processes we facilitate to best meet these.

We are committed to “transparent facilitation” – where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable about our own journeys with NVC and experiences in the workshop, where it serves the group’s learning and connection.


What others have said:

“Mitch is a gifted facilitator.  He’s respectful, authentic, and able to establish rapport with a range of personalities.”

“Mitch is really exceptional at ensuring everyone is heard.”

“I so appreciate Mitch’s calmness  and how he models the NVC process in all he does and in who he is as a person.”

 “Mitch has a great, welcoming presence, which created a safe, open space.  His words were authentic, and I love how he was involved in our group as both a leader and a participant.”

 Posted by at 6:05 pm  Tagged with:
Mar 132014

by Ian Curtin

Ian is a core Haven Faculty member and a Haven Coach. You can learn more about Ian or contact him for coaching by clicking here


Ian Curtin is a Haven Coach. Find out more about this new initiative by clicking on the picture.

New! Free 20 min starter session now offered by all Haven Coaches.

I was thinking about how easily I can disconnect from what is important to me. Something happens – a “bad” interaction, a situation in which I feel under pressure and I disconnect from my needs and values.

I start experiencing tension, anxiety, frustration … And soon a lack of energy, loss of motivation, and if it adds up it could lead to fatigue, exhaustion … even burnout. How is that possible?

How can I lose, in an instant, my best self or best intention? 

It’s like I am at the mercy of something I can’t quite get a hold of. Hmmm?

We all have challenging situations that we have been dealing with for years where this phenomenon happens. We have tried everything to resolve a recurring challenge to our well-being and are still at the mercy of the situation. It seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

For example, I still find myself at the mercy of my need for perfection, so if I continue to focus on every little detail and micro-manage projects, I get overwhelmed and exhausted. If I let the details go, I feel resentful that others are not keeping up the standards I expect. Either way, I am continually at the mercy of my perfectionism.

Or maybe I am at the mercy of my stubborn resistance when someone repeatedly tells me what to do and how to do it. Without missing a beat, I point out the errors in their method or provide reasons why it can’t be done, my voice resonating with aggressive tones as I bark out my sense of indignation. All the while not noticing the negative impact I am creating in this relationship. 

Alternatively, I might quietly become stubborn and appear to agree while having the intention to do nothing. And in my silence I am building a mountain of resentment which preoccupies my thoughts too often. Either way, I am at the mercy of my resistance.

How do we get out of these cycles? Why do we keep drawing upon the same behaviour patterns as if using them again and again will lead to different outcomes? (Isn’t that the definition of insanity? – doing the same thing and expecting different outcomes?)

The first step is to clearly see the patterns we use when we are feeling at the mercy.

This includes understanding the costs and benefits that feed these behaviours. There must be some pay-off that we think exceeds the costs for us to continue the same old pattern. For example, my perfectionism feeds my need to be viewed as competent and has historically exceeded the cost of my exhaustion (although over time the costs to this approach are mounting).

The second step is to clearly understand that playing out the same pattern will result in the same outcome. Once this is firmly entrenched in your thinking, then when you are at the cross-roads of deciding how to react, you can see in an instant the result of taking the familiar path. It is in this moment that you can see you have other options.

Many at the mercy situations can be ignored for years, but often the costs just keep escalating. My own example of ignoring exhaustion rolled along for years, but slowly the balance of my equation changed as I more clearly saw the impact on my health and relationships.

So take a few moments to consider situations and/or behaviours in yourself and others that you believe you are at the mercy of. Using the Haven Communication Model concepts, what intentions might underlie why you haven’t been able to change this situation or behaviour? Considering your reactions, what are the things you did or didn’t do that made no difference? How do you make others wrong in these situations? What defences do you use?

You might just find a pattern of behaviour that you use repeatedly when this type of situation or behaviour surfaces in your life as you reflect on these questions. And the question to ask yourself is. “What are all the costs and benefits associated with this pattern?

Then you might have a sense of how it is you lose, in an instant, your best self or best intention. Now you can ask yourself, is this really the choice you want to make or are there other potential behaviour that are more likely to get you the result you want in this situation?

 Posted by at 12:02 pm
Mar 062014

By Jennifer Hilton. Jennifer and Toby Macklin are leading Communication Fundamentals at the Haven, March 27–30. This program, created and first led by Ernie and Cathy McNally, is an in-depth exploration of how The Haven Communication Model can help you in the art of self-responsible relational living.

letterwriting-1I like words. I like knowing the meaning of words. That doesn’t surprise me: my family has always been vocal and in the past, when they were apart from each other, they wrote letters. I come from five generations of sea captains who sent letters across many oceans, for many years – letters that were read and re-read by those at home. In those days, letters took months to reach their destination and were often saved for years.

My mother carries on the tradition, keeping letters I write. I am of the generation that wrote letters to family and friends, the early ones being forced (“thank-you” letters) and later for enjoyment and the anticipation of receiving one in return. Even though I didn’t have to wait as long as my grandmother did for a reply, it sometimes seemed a lifetime before it finally arrived. I loved going to the mailbox and finding a hand-written letter!

No longer do we have to wait for a ship to sail to know we will hear from someone. However, the term “hearing from someone” implies that there is a space between sending and receiving – a vast listening time. Today talking, texting, emailing, blogging, and tweeting cut that listening time into tiny pieces. Daily, as I engage in modern communication of any kind, I’m often overwhelmed with words, drowning in ideas, unable to concentrate on any one thing. I have to consciously slow down and create listening time!

One of the things I valued most about learning the Haven Communication Model is how, when I consciously choose to “follow the flow”, I can create more space in my thinking, talking and listening … especially when I slow things down.

Slowing down does not come naturally to me. But I know that when I do choose slow, I’m conscious of a lot of things that I would miss if I were going “fast”. Fast has its purpose, but what I am continually discovering is that if I want to improve in something, I have to back off and slow down. This applies to just about everything in my life, but especially communication.

In the past, letter writing was slow. Waiting for a reply to a letter was even slower. Those days are past – today we can communicate across the world in a heartbeat. But there is a great deal to be said for slowing down, pausing to breathe while talking. And making space to just LISTEN!

Join me and Toby this March 27–30 for Communication Fundamentals!

 Posted by at 10:35 am
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