Oct 302012

By Jock McKeen and Bennet Wong

Ian McWhinney and Jock McKeen

When Ian McWhinney passed away September 28, 2012, the world lost one of its dedicated pioneers in medical thought.  There have been outpourings of condolences to his family, and many testimonials acknowledging his deep and lasting influence on the practice of medicine, not just in Canada, but around the world. Indeed, on the website where people could leave comments, many of the messages were not in English!  He was acknowledged as the “Father of Family Medicine” and his textbook is the key source for many practitioners. In his later years, he was given many honorary doctorates and awards, including being made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame was very appropriate to show the importance of this humble man (others in this august body include Wilder Penfield, Terry Fox, William Osler, Charles Best, Norman Bethune, Tommy Douglas and Hans Selye). This is what Ian became to the world.  But to us, he was a longtime special friend. An article written by Jock that was submitted at the time of publication of Ian’s memoirs has been updated, and is included on our Articles page on the Haven website.

He never lost his common touch. He was humble, a human being, who would have happily fit in at The Haven. He lived a life of inclusiveness, always interested in connecting with others, and earnest to learn other points of view. His philosophical mind was clear, and astonishingly vast. Those who really listened carefully to him learned a transformative vision they could adapt to their own practices and personal lives.

Ian visited us in our home in 2006, where the accompanying photograph with Jock was taken. He was by this time 80 years old.  His mind was clear, his feelings came readily, and he was enthusiastic to see what Ben and I had accomplished in our collaboration. He “got us” immediately, on many levels.  He celebrated our friendship, and approved of the idea of health and healing occurring in a growth centre such as The Haven, beyond the definitions of traditional medical practice. We had far-reaching discussions about global medicine and intercultural issues. Amidst it all, we experienced his gentle wisdom, and his loving.

Following this visit, Ian wrote a testimonial about our work, focusing on our then recently published A Book About Health and Happiness.  We have excerpted from this testimonial on the Haven website, and on the book jacket.  We reproduce it below this article, in its entirety.

We are dedicating the upcoming new edition of A Manual For Life to his memory.

In memory of Ian McWhinney






Ian McWhinney’s Testimonial about Jock McKeen & Bennet Wong

In 1968, Jock McKeen was a medical student at the University of Western Ontario. In the same year, I was appointed to the new chair of Family Medicine at Western. Jock stood out as a student who was different. He thought for himself and, even in those days, was critical of the way medicine was taught.

I was also seen as different. Never before had there been a professor of Family Medicine in Canada, and I was introducing new approaches to teaching. For me, Jock was like a breath of fresh air, an original thinker, who was open to new ways of teaching and learning. I was at times unsure of myself, and Jock’s validation meant a lot to me.

Once he graduated, our ways parted, but I managed to follow his career through mutual acquaintances. Then, Jock and his partner, Bennet, sent me their book, Health and Happiness. The book is full of wisdom, presenting fresh insights into health, illness, healing, and communication, which ring true to human nature and to science.

Jock and Bennet’s courageous decision to study their relationship with complete honesty has given us a whole new outlook on relationships. I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a new era for humankind and for medicine.


Ian McWhinney, O.C., M.D., Professor Emeritus

Department of Family Medicine

The University of Western Ontario

Aug 312012
There are many great reviews on amazon.com of Jock McKeen and Ben Wong’s The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought. Here is one example, by Michele and Bud Baldwin, who are themselves highly respected experts and authors in the fields of psychology and medicine. The Illuminated Heart is now available for Kindle and Kobo and from the iBook Store … as well as a 448-page soft back book which you can purchase on Amazon or from The Haven.

The Illuminated Heart is a major contribution from two dedicated physician/philosophers who have devoted most of their adult professional lives in a disciplined search for a better understanding of our human and divine natures  – and especially of the forces of creativity and integrity, of individuality and relatedness, in humans and in the universe.

This is a remarkable book; a true magnum opus for this dedicated pair of physician/philosopher/seekers, who have distilled the  readings, teachings, and discussions of their 40-year professional and personal relationship into a wide-ranging, scholarly, engaging, informative, interesting, very readable discussion and summary of Western and Eastern philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. Their grasp of both bodies of thought and practice is vibrant and scholarly and represents a colossal achievement and contribution to the literature.

Many writers have attempted to explore and describe the breadth and depth of Western and Eastern philosophy, psychology, and medicine. Few have had the broad vision, the intellectual capacity, the rigorous discipline, the dedicated commitment, as well as the lifelong experience and fundamental engagement in both worlds, to fully understand and integrate the essences of these great traditions.

Throughout their detailed, yet jargon-free and crystal clear distillations of the contributions of Western thinkers over the past century, they maintain a rich undercurrent of thoughtful discussion that renders these immediately and easily understandable, many for the first time. The same is true of the rich heritage of Eastern medicine and metaphysics, into which they have delved so deeply as to be considered respected sinologists and teachers throughout the Far East. Their special genius emerges in a unique and imaginative series of dialogues involving themselves in a contemporary discussion of each of the book’s some 16 salient issues with two historical alter-ego figures – Carl Jung, representing the West and Confucius, the East – in which the four engage, converse, and interact animatedly and cogently about each issue. Here the distillation of their own thinking and methods is vibrantly alive. It is a stroke of genius, bringing the reader as silent participant into the richness of their teaching.  

In some ways, the book is a reflection and outgrowth of their unique personal and professional lives together as fellow seekers, teachers, long-term friends, drawing on the creative wellsprings of their own relationship to develop a liberating model of human relationship, which in turn serves to understand and liberate the yearnings and learnings of countless friends, patients, colleagues, and fellow searchers across the world
Jul 312012

By Bennet Wong & Jock McKeen

Jock and Ben

Jock and Ben at The Haven in the early 80s

The excellent video about Come Alive on the Haven website states that “Since 1983 Come Alive has helped thousands of people communicate better, experience life more fully, improve their relationships and develop health in mind, body and spirit.” To this we would add “… at The Haven.” For the Come Alive program was already over a decade old when we moved to Gabriola Island in 1983 to establish The Haven (or simply Haven as we knew it in those days). Furthermore, the program existed in preliminary form before it acquired the name “Come Alive.” Ben developed the precursor to it in the late 1960s and we re-named it “Come Alive” sometime in the 1970s. So, by the time we came to Gabriola and founded The Haven, Come Alive was already a developed program. Remarkably, it has remained much as it was, with only minor variations throughout all these years. It is the key program that runs through the programming at The Haven, and indeed, is the cornerstone of the school’s educational series.

The Background

So, how did it come to be, and what went into its development? Both of us identified with the Human Potential Movement of the late sixties. When Jock came west to continue his medical training, he was already involved in nontraditional therapies, and we found a ready fit with each other in our desire to blend the science of Western medicine with the art of interpersonal communication. We were both trained in traditional Western medicine, which emphasizes science over interhuman concerns. We wanted to find a more harmonious balance between the objectivity of science and the art of human interaction. In 1970 when we met, Jock was a recent medical graduate, completing a hospital internship; he had a deep interest in youth after his stint in drug crisis centres in Ontario during medical school. Ben had been practising adolescent psychiatry for a decade, and was frequently featured in the media as a professional spokesperson regarding issues of youth. We were both interested in energy ideas. Jock studied acupuncture and Eastern medical ideas about energy in England, and upon his return, we both studied Reichian breathing therapy together. We endeavoured to integrate Western psychology and medicine with Eastern energy ideas into a comprehensive approach to working with people. We discuss this project in detail in our newest book The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought.

We offer here a few words about the social atmosphere in the early 70s when we met and began to work together. It was an optimistic time of questioning old ways, and bringing forth new ideas that put people at the centre. This was the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, in which young people were dreaming of a new world order with people caring for each other and for the planet. The cultural atmosphere was of joining, of a planetary awareness. This human perspective was the forerunner of ecological movements, which began at the same time. We were all citizens of the planet, we all belonged, and we were all on the same team — the human team. This positivism was summed up in Joni Mitchell’s lyrics:

“We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

Joni’s lyrics echoed the idea that people had gone astray, had lost themselves in the increasingly complex, fast-paced world of technology, which was beginning to be evident. Little did we know how extensive this was to become! People wanted to find their way back to a harmonious way of living with nature and other people. This was the garden they sought — human based, living harmoniously with nature and each other.

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May 012012

A Reading of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets  by Jock McKeen

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library | May 4, 2012, 6.15 pm for a start at 6:30 sharp  | Free admission

Part of Crimson Coast Dance Society’s Four Quartets performance and workshops

We hope you’ll attend!

T.S. Eliot’s poetry is often quoted, but usually in short renditions. Only rarely are his longer works presented in a public forum. More than 70 years after their first appearance, the Four Quartets is still immediate and relevant. A full reading of these poems requires nearly an hour, the length of a musical symphony. Dealing with issues of time and eternity, worldly dissatisfaction and spiritual yearnings, it can be seen as a lyric prayer for modern people.

Jock McKeen, MD, LicAc(UK), DLitt, who trained as a physician, has always had a passion for poetry, dance and music, along with a burning curiosity and concern for the human condition. While studying classical Chinese medicine and philosophy, he became fascinated with the art of living, which he has combined with his studies of the science of life. He combines his deep knowledge of people with a love for language and artistic expression. He is a dynamic and engaging reader of poetry; people are enchanted by his passionate renditions of his own work, as well as creations of other authors.

T.S. Eliot is one of his favourite poets. Jock says of Eliot:

“His language covers the entire range, from the commonplace to the celestial. His scope is comparable to a singer with an extraordinary range … the lows are deeply stirring, and the highs take one into the sky.”

Jock says, “This is a special treat for me, to really be able to dig into a full-blooded reading of this masterful work.”

Jock has worked with his partner Bennet Wong, a psychiatrist, for over 40 years. Together, they developed The Haven Institute, an educational centre for personal and professional growth on Gabriola Island. Besides their work at The Haven, these two men have presented their ideas and seminars throughout  Asia and Europe, as well as in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. They co-authored six books which describe much of the germinal philosophy underlying their work with people. One of these books is a collection of Jock’s poems entitled As It Is In Heaven. Their most recent book,  The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought, is a comprehensive distillation of their views; it has just been released by The Haven Institute Press.

In a recent article, Jock wrote, “We are involved in a much bigger enterprise than we usually realize. The forces of the universe flow through us. We are, in our deepest imaginings, linked with each other, and the larger picture.”

Jan 302012

Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC.  Jim leads the Live, Virtual, Facilitator-Led Workshop – For Men Over 55.

I first met Ben & Jock at Cold Mountain, Cortes Island in 1973 during a Come Alive Workshop.

I was terrified for the first three days, trying to hide in amongst the group — didn’t work!

After watching people scream and yell during their bodywork sessions, I finally decided to risk entering that seemingly brutal gauntlet of growth.

Well, much to my surprise – and Ben & Jock’s – the more I breathed, the more Ben pressed his thumbs into my jaw, the more needles Jock stuck in me, the more I laughed and laughed and laughed! It was a wonderful surprise to experience that first primal giggle.

I had no idea I was holding in so much joy. No wonder I was such a serious young man – takes a lot of “seriousness” to hold in all that joyful energy.

There were lots of pain and tears to come later but that first joyful experience was a wonderful event.

At the end of the workshop I was having lunch with Ben & Jock. They said, “You know, Jim, when you learn how to become a human being, you’d be great working with people.”

I thought, “That seems reasonable, whatever it means. I’ll do it.”

Next thing I know I’ve quit my job, sold my house, separated from my wife, got a scholarship to get my MA in psychology and was interning in the 12-week-long resident fellow program.

So the journey began and now some 49 years later I appreciate how taking that first risk has been crucial to my development as a man – saved my life, actually.

Most of my work these days is in the corporate sphere, most often with men who are living within the painful, lonely confines of The Phallic Imperative – the set of unspoken but powerful rules that men are supposed to live and die by.

A few of those rules:

  • Live by a brutal omnipotence — harder, faster. Ya snooze, ya lose.
  • You must be problem-solving in order to prove your worthiness (no matter that there may not be a problem. Make one up if necessary) — the intimate relator thing is for women.
  • We men think we need sex and women should give it to us. This Phallic Imperative leads us into temptations, often with dire consequences in our youth. In old age, we judge ourselves harshly for not being able to “get it up” and “keep it up.” This Imperative is gold to big pharma.
  • Never show any weakness. Never let a woman control you — a sign that you are weak and stupid.
  • When in doubt get mad! Over-power the person who has questioned your authority (masculinity), just to show her/him “who’s the boss.”
  • Fight your way to become “King of Dunghill.” You must be at least better than anyone else, but best is preferred. Competition is the name of the game.

You get the picture?

As we men age into our 50‘s, 60‘s and 70‘s we find, much to our chagrin, that we can no longer live by those rules – it’s just too tiring to try to “keep it up all the time.”

Many men give up while sliding into depression, an ennui, grumpiness, alcoholism or . . . (name your coping mechanism.)

We do not have to succumb to that seemingly inevitable decline of mind, spirit and body.

We certainly need to recognize that our energy, interests and values are changing.

Our primal giggle is still there in force.

We just need to find more age-appropriate ways of accessing it for more joy and a sense of adundance  – should we choose to take the assignment.

Mirror, mirror on the wall: “Am I able and willing to live a full, courageous, creative life until the day I die?”

These are some of the things we’ll explore and confront in the Live, Virtual, Facilitator-Led Workshop – For Men Over 55.

Most men’s lizard brains jump into action here:

“But wait! Just hold it right there, Dr. Jim, did you say virtual!? You can’t do personal growth over the internet!!”

“Yes I did say virtual. Uuumm, is that one of your Phallic Imperatives?”

Don’t let yourself become a “Male Dinosaur” viewing life from the swamp!

Risk nothing, get nothing.

Oct 242011

By Bennet Wong

Here’s another story (both the text and Ben’s recording of it) from In and Out of Our Own Way by The Haven’s founders, Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen. Both the book and the CD are available from the Haven store.

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Bennet Wong

Bennet Wong

When I was in the private practice of adolescent psychiatry, one patient who taught me the most was Earl who had been diagnosed as suffering from a chronic schizophrenic process. After knowing him for many years, he had become somewhat of a fixture around my office, accepted by most as part of the family-like milieu that had developed there.

Occasionally, I would give Earl permission to take my car to run errands, mostly for himself. In my mind, I was providing him with the experience of “borrowing the car” which other youths were having, but which Earl’s own family could not provide. On one occasion, he reported back to me that he had been driving two other patients home from my office when he was stopped by a police car and commanded to pull over to the curb. When the officer sauntered over to the driver’s window to talk, all three were terrified. Not identifying what infraction had caught his attention, the officer opened his encounter with “What’s your problem?” Wide eyed with fear, and with all innocence, each of the car’s occupants answered with utmost honesty: “I’m a hysteric”, “I’m a psychopath” and “I’m a schizophrenic.” I was not apprised of any further details (although I have often imagined what the officer must have thought!) other than that he quickly waved them on their way.

One day when Earl asked to borrow the car, I asked him if he would mind taking it in for a change of oil while he had it out. He frowned and refused. I was indignant: “After all that I’ve done for you? … all the times that I’ve let you use my car, filled it with gas, paid for the wear and tear!” All these parental expletives rolled freely from my mouth out of some deep, unfamiliar place within me; even more so as it became evident that Earl was not feeling appropriately guilty! Rather, a look of puzzlement spread over his face as he cocked his head and stared deeply into my eyes.

When I paused to take a breath, Earl seized the opportunity to speak. “Ben” he said, “I thought that what you have done for me has been out of your loving. You get so much pleasure in loving, why do you think that I should owe you anything for it? You have already had all your pleasure!”

Those words struck home! I was astounded at his wisdom and at my myopia. Since then I have often pondered over that dilemma, recognizing that most people are obsessed with being loved when the real pleasure is in loving.

Now, when people tell me that they love me, my response is no longer the inner voice of “How wonderful for me”. Instead I am apt to respond with my outer voice: “How wonderful for you!” Indeed, they are so fortunate to have been able to discover their own loving which, if true, will expand their very beings — How wonderful!


Love implies … that those who are loved be left wholly free to grow in their fullness, to be something greater than mere social machines. Love does not compel, either openly or through the subtle threat of duties and responsibilities. Where there’s any form of compulsion or exertion of authority, there’s no love.
J. Krishnamurti

Sep 172011

By Bennet Wong

This entry is from In and Out of Our Own Way by The Haven’s founders, Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen. The stories in the book are also available, read by Ben and Jock, on an audio CD – and we’re posting the recording here too. Both the book and the CD are available from the Haven store.

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Ben Wong

Ben Wong co-founded The Haven with Jock McKeen

I have found that people tend to be goal-directed. They frequently wish to fix some problems in their lives, to let go of unfortunate situations, to forget unhappy relationships, to finally deal with their feelings about the past, to be able to face the future changed and unimpeded. After devoting much time and money with counsellors and other people helpers, they are often astonished to discover their demons to still be with them. For myself, I now have arrived at the belief that nothing will ever be done with, that we will never be rid of the past, and that ultimately, the essentials about ourselves will never change!

I have shifted from a belief that human experience is a linear affair from past to present to future, to a belief that each of our lives is an immutable landscape of experience. We all have our mountains of exhilaration, surrounded by our cliffs of danger and hardships. Each of us has places of contentment and placidity, like soothing lakes and gentle forests; similarly, each has deep, exciting and sometimes threatening waters as well as scary, unknown jungles. There are in everyone various parched deserts and lush, productive wetlands. Each of our landscapes is endless in the variety of appearances and experiences.

Although the choices are numerous, most people tend to limit themselves to living in only a few parts of the total possibilities. Some people are mountain people while others tend to live in their valleys. However, no matter which part of their landscape that they may find themselves, if they would look carefully in all directions, they would see that the entire landscape is always there, but in the background. What they are experiencing has only moved into the foreground. Nothing has been exterminated or altered. All that has changed has been the location of the present experience.

So, when experiencing happiness, a person should be aware that somewhere in the background still lurks an area of sadness. While experiencing joy in the foreground, despair has only been relegated to the background at that time. Some people become fixated to one location; even when they are in safe and happy circumstances, they are unable to shift the dangerous, harmful childhood experiences from their foreground into the background. Thus, such a person is anxious and depressed even when the current context would provide ideal circumstances for security and pleasure. By remaining stuck in one area of the landscape, this person has diminished the scope of experience; the landscape has become a small window of the whole larger picture. Such a narrowing and fixation is what accounts for neurosis.

If this metaphor of life is understood, it would seem that to ensure good mental health, people should be encouraged to visit all parts of their landscape to remain aware of the wide range of possibilities of experience. If they are able to remain flexible to shift readily, not having to remain rigidly in one place (as occurs in a fixed moral position), they will be able to stay attuned to present circumstances. That would be a sign of good mental health.

Such a metaphor begs the consideration of another set of dynamics. What if the person were unable to sustain a portion of the landscape for a reasonable length of time? Such would be the case in people who experience sudden shifts and wide ranges of movement. Foreground and background are unable to remain stable. The person would experience severe dislocation, unable to have a stable sense of identification. They would be described by outside observers as being all over the map. The sustainability of foreground is another sign of good mental health.

Now that I have this picture of mental health, I no longer waste energy trying to fix anything. I now more focus on helping myself and other people to more easily move through our personal landscapes.

Aug 102011

By Maria Gomori and first published in Shen in 2008. Maria is the world’s foremost practitioner of Satir family processes.  Maria celebrated her 91st birthday this year and is leading The Journey to Self and Family Reconstruction in August. On August 16 2011 she will become a member of The Haven’s Emeritus Faculty.

Maria Gomori, Ben Wong, Jock McKeen. Reflections 2008.

For me, Haven has almost always been inseparable from Ben and Jock. I first met Ben in a Social Work Association meeting in 1974, where he was the invited speaker. Although as a busy Director of the Social Work department at the hospital, I had only planned to be there one hour, I was glued to my seat for the whole day. Afterward I asked him whether he would come back to my workplace, the St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg to do a workshop. He agreed, saying he would return with his partner Jock.

When they arrived in 1975, I had just gotten out of hospital following a serious illness, but nothing would keep me from attending that workshop. I was very anxious to see what they would do with my staff. I hid myself well in the midst of the audience, and said nothing about my condition. I was alarmed at what I saw unfold. Coming from intensive training with Virginia Satir’s ‘soft’ approach, I was horrified as I watched them working with a member of my staff, who had agreed to have bodywork done as part of his dealing with some anger issues. To my great concern, he was screaming, and then they added insult to injury by sticking needles into him too. Their work appeared to me to be far too aggressive, and I began to wonder why I had invited them.

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Aug 082011

By Susan Clarke

Susan leads Come Alive, Living Alive Phase I and Couples Alive at The Haven. You can read more by her at her really excellent blog: susanbclarke.com

What does it mean to be enlightened or awakened? I am asking myself this question because soon a yogi master, Shri Mahayogi, will visit our yoga studio at Jodi Petlin’s invitation.  Shri Mahayogi is a man who was enlightened at a young age. He has mastered all forms of yoga and various teachings. In preparation for his visit, I have been reading his book, Satori. This is a series of questions and answers from Shanghas that have taken place over the years.

I am enjoying a great deal of the book, though I still wonder about enlightenment. Personally, the closest person I have known who I consider enlightened is Ben Wong. I say this because he has a presence about him that is profound, and when I sit with him or witness him working with someone, my heart opens in resonance with his ability to locate himself and invite the other to be fully open. There is always a moment of deep connection.

But is that enlightenment? As I read, I am learning that to awaken is to tap into the true essence of who I am. This essence is not related to any physical, emotional or mental state that I may or may not reach, but is rather, a vibrational resonance that is universal to all religions, practices and states of being.

I cannot say that I have found that resonance yet through my yoga practice. Although as I focus more on lessons and classes, I am finding that my alignment is improving and my heart is opening, which is quite interesting. I am experiencing an energetic shift in my being. Not always and I would not say regularly—but there is a subtle, steady shift. I find at times I am uncomfortable with the shifting. I feel more vulnerable. This is a good thing but not always a comfortable experience.

Is this enlightenment? Or on the path? I do imagine it is a part of awakening. To be vulnerable and live in the world with an open heart sounds inviting and worthy of effort.

Still, is that really the essence of everything? I wonder.

Weeks Later—After meeting with Shri Mahayogi

The opportunity to meet and be with Shri Mahayogi was quite wonderful. He had a sweetness and sincerity about him with a deep resonance in open-hearted moments. Listening to his simple wisdom struck a note deep inside me and though I was not always certain of the meaning, I felt the warmth and possibility that transcends words.

A few bits that really rang true:

There is one truth. Many paths lead there.
It seems like some of us need to try many paths while others follow only one and that is where most of the problems start.  If we could just remember we are all heading to the same place and that all paths are possibilities.

Grace is a moment when immortal essence meets pure faith.
This was my experience, completely, at my first Come Alive when Ben’s music, Jock’s accupuncture needles, Father Jack’s holy oil and everyone’s faith touched my cells. Cancer—gone. Grace!

Find a guru (a bright light) and commit fully.
For me that guru came through my Haven experience. I came to that place and I fully committed. The light is bright and I am still on the path to relational enlightenment.

What to do when in conflict: Speak honestly and let go of the outcome or results.
This last one may be the least profound but the hardest for me to live day-to-day.

In summary: My path is not his. However, as I return to chopping wood and carrying water, Shri Mahayogi’s light is still bright and so is mine as a result!