Jun 302015

By Tina Boehm. Tina is soon leaving her post as a Haven Registrar, and will be greatly missed. Here she reflects on three programs she has taken recently and looks ahead with gratitude.


The Process Work Approach to Transformation group. Tina is third from the left.

This Spring I started to feel the inklings of something stirring inside me. A restlessness and discomfort started to set in. In an effort to deny and appease this, I countered with conscious awareness and gratitude for the amazing gifts and opportunities I have been graced with since I started my “work” here at The Haven eight years ago. Since then, I have taken over 40 programs here and have enjoyed the knowledge and confidence this has given me, particularly as it pertains to my job here as Registrar. I barely recognize myself now from the shrivelled, traumatized, fearful individual who tentatively stepped in to Come Alive in 2007.

Unbeknown to me at the time, I was about to discover what was moving in me, or rather what I was moving myself towards. Three programs taken in fairly quick succession starting in May this year have given me the clues and courage to face a new direction which I am now following. I want to share a little of this experience with you as an expression of gratitude to The Haven and the leaders of these life affirming programs, and as encouragement to you all to follow and take delight in your own personal journey of discovery.

Spirit Journal Intensive

Spirit Journal Intensive was led by Ellery and Mary Helen Littleton. This gentle, generous couple provided a safe and inviting space for a small group of experienced and intrepid journallers to unfold the deeper stories and meaning of our lives. The journalling process, as developed and articulated by Ira Progoff in the 1970s “provides deep therapeutic effects not by striving towards therapy but allowing the individual to draw upon his inherent capacities for self expression and discovery, establishing a sense of his own being by enriching his inner life with new experiences of a creative and spiritual quality”. What transpired was four days of intensely moving personal stories and insights. In the three years since I first took one of Ellery and Mary Helen’s journal programs, I have used this process regularly with a group of friends. I have come to know myself and my friends on a deeper more intimate level through our writing and sharing together. It is truly a very creative and transformative process. I have learned to connect with the deepest and wisest parts of myself. The deeper person within the person that knows me , flows through me and taps into essential and universal intelligence. I have come to understand the essence and hidden longings behind my actions. I felt seen and heard and validated by this incredible group of individuals. What a gift you are to me and to The Haven Ellery and Mary Helen.

The Power of Balance

A couple of weeks later I took The Power of Balance with Kim Hudson and Laurie Anderson. This is in my opinion, a sleeper of a program. I was lured in by my own curiosity and a desire to learn more about these relatively new Haven leaders. Gently and skillfully supported by Laurie Anderson, Kim Hudson brought many years of experience and application in the field of storytelling, scriptwriting, Jungian archetypes and education. Following a career in geology Kim found her way to Vancouver Film School exploring film studies and script-writing. She quickly identified a lack of any feminine counterparts to the Hero’s journey as originally described by Joseph Campbell. The Hero’s journey being an external (fear based) drive towards consciousness and individuality. By contrast the Virgin’s internally driven (love based) journey is towards transformation and authenticity, by following his/her dream or authentic nature despite the wishes of others. Kim identified 13 “beats” which form both the character arc and actions that symbolically represent the archetypal transformation towards wholeness. The balance between the two themes of fear and love, both of which are essential human drives was both fascinating and illuminating. Kim’s book The Virgin’s Promise and the card series she has developed were both a helpful and fun way to identify my own journey towards wholeness and authenticity. I felt both validated and excited to discover my personal storyline as it is unfolding and to track myself using this model.

Process Work Approach to Transformation

The final and newest program in this hat-trick of programs came in the form of Process Work Approach to Transformation, masterfully led by Gary Reiss and ably supported by his delightful and joyful wife Sage Emery. Gary is a 30 year veteran of Process Oriented Psychology, or Process Work, as developed in the early 1960s by Arnold (Arny) Mindell, a quantum theoretical physicist working in Zurich and later at Esalen, which is now a world wide movement. Essentially Process work involves many different modalities and is used in multiple applications including conflict resolution, relationships, coma patients and the dying, dreamwork, quantum healing, movement and meditation. The wisdom and experience our bodies hold and which is accessed through the “dreambody” (that part of us that has access to the ethereal plane and “process mind”) provides guidance and information through a deeply personal and transformational journey. Identifying and using the “edge” or resistance to anything we are moving towards offers insight and guidance to move through our blockages and body held traumas. This new four day program truly was an exceptional journey of discovery and quantum healing at work for many of us. It was liberating, fun, and a wonderful exploration and testament to the healing benefits of Process Oriented Psychology. I cannot speak highly enough of this amazing process, and of Gary and Sage’s leadership in deepening and personalizing the models used in many of the Haven Core programs.

I am hopeful and excited by what lies ahead for me, and am transformed by the recent knowledge and insight these programs have offered me as I continue my journey. It seems that each program I take at The Haven takes me further to my own voice and truth, and to the essential nature of what it is to be human on this profoundly personal and rewarding journey. As the external world careens towards chaos and destruction, I know now that this is only part of the story. I take responsibility for my own part in and contribution to it. I want to use what I have learned, and continue to learn, by way of offering it to the world, rather than taking what is wanted or what I think I am entitled to or deserve. I have some tools, and insights and a desire to move consciously, and courageously towards wholeness and healing. In the words of Mary Oliver, “My work is loving the world”. My personal work starts with loving myself and that starts with knowing all that is stirring and stirred within this fragile and passionate body. My gratitude for The Haven and the wonderful range of programs and leaders is immense. I would not be where I am today without you. The journey continues.

Mar 122015
Wendy created her mask in one of Marlyn's programs.

Wendy created her mask in one of Marlyn’s programs.

By Wendy Schulz

Sometimes things of value are hidden in plain sight and once experienced I wonder what took me so long to include myself in this experience. This has been my story about the programs and work that Marlyn Farrell of Primal Nudgings offers.

For years I waited to take programs thinking that because I ‘knew’ Marlyn for so many years that I ‘knew’ what she was offering … not so. In the words of Cathy and Ernie McNally I had not been willing to not ‘know’ Marlyn as a way of opening and being curious about her, opening to ‘seeing and knowing’ her with fresh eyes and in ways I had not ‘known or seen’ her and the wisdom she brings to her offerings before.

Over the last few years I have taken several of Marlyn’s programs, volunteered with new ventures and worked with her privately. All of these experiences have been catalysts to significant changes in my life, significant changes to how I relate to my ‘self’, how I talk to my ‘self’ and how I see myself and my place in the world.

Marlyn has a unique way of including people during her courses and making room for all to participate in their own way. Each opportunity to participate with Marlyn I have met myself in a very deep, quiet and gentle way, always surprising myself with this result. Often the learning comes later; gently creeping up on me when I am about to jump into an old pattern of reaction. I feel this soft nudge, prodding me in a different direction, reminding me that I know a different way. I think it’s the creative, respectful and encouraging environment Marlyn sets up that bypasses the logical mind, creeps and in takes root in a place so deep in my body I barely recognize it. Each time I participate with Marlyn in one of her courses or with her privately I am a little more grounded in my self, within my body and in the knowledge of what is important to me.

I love logical left brain learning, I get a great sense of satisfaction from logical learning and yet the kind of learning environment that Marlyn sets up has been so valuable for me too. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of both sides of the brain. At any rate, I invite you to look at these hidden gems, take a deep breath, check in and see if you can sense a wee nudge that is saying ‘yes’ dive in!

Here are two programs taking place at The Haven in the near future:

Inner Wisdom for Women, Mar 19 – 22

Career Revisioning, April 2 – 5

For more information about the workshops Marlyn offers visit www.primalnudge.com or to subscribe to her mailing list for workshop updates and ongoing support click here.

Sep 192013

Brooke in rehearsal

Brooke in rehearsal

My name is Brooke and I am the artist-in-residence! I am a devised performance creator and director!

Since coming to this beautiful island, many people have asked me about my art form. I find this question tricky as it doesn’t seem to fit neatly into one accessible category. I create and direct devised performance. My personal definition of devised theatre is performance created without a script or set beginning plan of what to create. Its building performance from scratch: just bodies and a concept.

Every process is different, just as every group is different. Generally the process starts with a concept. I love big, meaty and meaningful topics: boundaries, death, birth, and for this project – my personal body. Yet these big topics just stay intellectual ideas without rooting them in the body. So I work with performers to get concepts into their bodies. It’s taking an idea and making visceral. Sometimes it’s very direct: replaying a funeral, a visualization exercise reliving the facts of death. I can also be something completely abstract—building a patterned web of string as a set/installation in a piece about birth. The red string became a mixed metaphor for bloodlines, the womb and family constellation work.

Cementing ideas in the body is the most original and yet most difficult. I find it best to use the strengths in the room, but make sure to not have performers get into the heads. Once a performer stops an exercise to think about it, you’ve lost them. The best way to get performance in the body is to lead them through an exercise. A nice one is “tell me a story using your body about x”.

Sometimes you can be very mathematical: 3 actors in as many combinations as possible, each combination with it’s own story line, exploring different aspects of the huge concept. This gives structure to something to ground the organic process.

From there, you add the text. It can be written and brought into rehearsal or completely improvisational and in the moment. Both have their advantages.

Now from here, you do what needs to happen to make the work it’s best—sequencing, placing it into a space, sound, film.

The joy about devised theatre is the organic-ness and the potential for large rule-breaking creativity. At times it blurs the lines of performance art, theatre, music and contemporary dance. It makes it hard to tell people what I create! Warning: it may not have what you’re used to when you think of theatre.

Oct 062012

By Sande Waters

Here I am back at home and work, almost one week after the residency.  I have wonderful memories of my new friend and fellow artist in residence, Shirley Serviss, and our explorations on Gabriola Island, getting to know each other and our collaborative artwork.  I found the environment at The Haven and on Gabriola incredibly encouraging and supportive.  I have never experienced anything so positive before.

On Sunday, September 30th I presented an all day workshop for eight women on ‘Honouring their Divine Goddess’.  The workshop unfolded with a relaxed sharing and discussion by everyone as to what exactly the term Goddess meant and how one becomes conscious and honouring of femininity.  As the discussion took place I photographed each person with the objects and symbols they had brought and also created portraits that they felt conveyed their individual expression of femininity.  After lunch we proceeded to make a variety of art, which communicated each person’s ideas and expression of femininity.  Everyone really enjoyed playing with an assortment of materials and viewpoints.  All the while I was photographing the process of art making and the works created.  This was an amazingly fun and imaginative group of women who were really open to communicating both verbally and artistically.  I have made an individual photo journal of the workshop for each participant and mailed it to them, as well as emailing them all their individual photographs.  I hope they enjoyed the day as much as I did … it was a delightful experience.

I would like to send a thank you to everyone who made my stay at The Haven so special.  Hugs to Rachel Davey and Mary Holdgrafer who helped make everything run so smoothly.

Oct 062012

By Sande Waters

Last week in the Phoenix Auditorium I presented an artist talk about my work to a very supportive and interested Gabriola audience. The talk lasted about forty-five minutes as I worked my way through the ninety-five slides in my powerpoint presentation, explaining the thread of continuity through my work over the last twenty years. My new friend and fellow artist in residence, Shirley Serviss, read a poem she had written in response to one of my paintings titled ‘Goddess Listening to her Ovaries’. I am giving this painting to the Haven in appreciation of the amazing opportunity to be an artist in residence.

The Goddess Listening To Her Ovaries

Nice girls paint flowers not
goddesses with bright pink vulvas,
with large drooping breasts, with
flabby underarms and sizeable asses.

Nice girls don’t. Don’t know the names
of body parts between our waists and knees,
keep our legs crossed, not splayed open wide.
We hide our vulvas and vaginas, our
breasts, our bra straps, slips and garter
belts, the tops of our nylon stockings.

We try to please, bat our lashes, and smile
politely, keep our opinions, our rage,
caged inside. Nice older women play the same
game once our ovaries stop dropping eggs
every twenty-eight days like clockwork,
once our wombs stop nurturing life.

Or do we celebrate our aging bodies, silver
hair, our well-earned wrinkles, proudly
bare our arms and wear our rounded bellies
without worry, draw attention to our selves.

Shirley Serviss

Sep 202012

By Shirley Serviss, artist in residence.

I live surrounded by sound. This time of year the students are celebrating being back at school with all-the-beer-you-can-drink parties at the fraternity houses next door, down the street, and across the back alley. STARS helicopters hover overhead landing on the hospital roof a block away. Sirens from ambulances, fire trucks and police cars add to the cacophony of the busy streets and avenues nearby. I hear the comings and goings of condo neighbours: voices in the courtyard, doors closing, a child crying, a dog barking.

Here, at The Haven, there is silence. The occasional bellow of a ferry’s horn, drone of a boat or an airplane overhead. I can almost hear Sande’s brushstrokes, her fingers on her computer keys, it is so quiet.

I had forgotten the absence of sound — the sound of silence, as Simon and Garfunkel put it — the strain it puts on your ears as you listen, listen, listen, listen harder, trying to tune into the frequency of something. How, at first, you feel as though you are in a dead zone, before you start to pick up the smaller sounds of nature.

All I can hear are my thoughts, the words in my head. Exactly what a writer needs to hear.

Sep 112012

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley and Sande Waters are The Haven’s 2012 artists-in-residence.

Monday, September 9

I’ll be at The Haven a week from today and I’m in panic mode. I’m frantically marking the first assignments for the course I am teaching for Grant MacEwan University-all 49 of them. I still have to finish preparing my lectures for this week. It’s a course I’ve never taught before so I can’t just reuse materials or wing it. I teach again the day after I get home so hope to have that session prepared before I go as well.

Besides teaching three days this week, I spend two days at my part-time job as a literary Artist on the Wards for the Friends of University Hospitals. I will be giving a talk about our program while I’m at the Haven. I’ll also be facilitating a workshop on memoir. The materials I need to bring for that workshop are either in one of the piles of papers on the chairs in my office or maybe, if I’m lucky, in my filing cabinet.

I’m the president of an organization that is planning to build a facility in downtown Edmonton that will house arts organizations and also contain studios and live/work spaces for artists of all ages, family configurations, income levels and artistic disciplines. We have been working with a consultant and an architectural firm on the first phase of the feasibility study which we will be presenting to the City by the end of the month. I have to proofread the document one more time and meet with our consultant to revise the concluding summary.

I say all this not to bore you with my To Do list, but to illustrate the benefit of artist residencies and retreats. They allow artists to put aside all the day-to-day claims on their time and focus on their art. Perhaps some artists are better able to carve out such spaces in their regular lives. Perhaps they are able to limit their volunteer commitments and social interactions. Perhaps they don’t have to earn an income to support themselves. I’m not one of those artists. Having a dedicated period of time away from the distractions of my home allows me to immerse myself in my writing.

The residency at The Haven will give me the opportunity to forget about my students, the housing project, and the hospital and focus on a manuscript that has been sitting in draft form in a box for far too long. Being on the island will give me the distance I need to give me perspective on a prairie pilgrimage. Being in a new and unfamiliar place will give me a chance to reflect on my life when I’m not totally immersed in it.

I can hardly wait.

Sep 102012

By Sande Waters. Sande and Shirley Serviss are The Haven’s 2012 artists in residence.

I’ve spent many hours preparing a powerpoint presentation of my artistic journey over the last 20 years. I’ll be presenting an Artist Talk on Friday evening, September 28th at 7pm in the Phoenix auditorium. The presentation follows a conceptual thread weaving through my work, as well as including artists who have influence me. Hope to see you there and am looking forward to your questions.


I have also been putting together all the art supplies for my workshop “Meeting Your Inner Goddess – Creating Her Portrait”. Paints, brushes, papers, pencils, canvases, books, and props. Hope that this workshop will be a playful and creative experience for those who attend. It is on Sunday, September 30th from 10 to 4pm. No artistic experience necessary!

Aug 312012

By Ellery Littleton.

Ellery will be offering his memoir-writing program From Memory to Memoir at The Haven October 26–28, 2012 & November 1–3, 2013.

 “To write a memoir is to taste life twice.” – Anais Nin     

It was a weekend last fall, and I do remember it well.  As I sit here reading some of the pieces people wrote in that particular memoir-writing program, I can’t help but feel moved all over again, as I felt during the workshop, listening to these deeply-felt personal stories read aloud by the participants.  At the end of the workshop, I asked them to choose a couple of pieces they had written in the course of the weekend and e-mail them to me, so I could put them together in a booklet and send everybody a copy.

Following are some brief excerpts from a few of those heartfelt healing memories and reflections.  I have changed the names for obvious reasons.


From “Stepping Stones” – by Elena

“I knew about things my classmates didn’t.  I knew about slavery and racism and poverty.  I knew about homosexuality and concentration camps, the holocaust… I saw the duplicity of my parents in joining a club that had admission policies that went against our highest values of racial acceptance.  I felt myself to be running sometimes lonely outside the pack at school, feeling myself to be not understood.”


From “My Role in the Family”by Rose

“Another day done.  Well, not done, but almost.  The kids were upstairs getting themselves ready for bed and the darkness outside turned the curtainless windows of the house into mirrors, reflecting the lives of those within.  A huge house it was, with not enough furniture to make it cozy.  Not enough anything to make it what it might have been.

“Then looking more closely at the reflection, she took it in.  A wan, sad woman looked back at her.  Hair straggled, like her soul, her face expressionless with eyes red-rimmed from crying earlier that day, a ghost, joyless.  Who was that spectre in the window?  It sure as hell wasn’t her.  It wasn’t the little girl who entertained her family and sang happy songs with her sisters while they washed dishes in a different sink so long ago.”

“I was gathering images all my life, storing them away and forgetting them.  Somehow, I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.” – Ray Bradbury


From “The Turning Point” – by Louisa

“Without that nudge from Sandra, my best friend at school, I might never have become who I am nor had the life I am so privileged to enjoy.  Sandra was a bit fast.  By that I mean that she actually dated during high school.  I, on the other hand, felt lucky if finally asked to a school dance by some classmate (dared by his buddies).  Robert braved that, found that it wasn’t so bad, and from then on, he just kind of assumed we were going steady by default.  But that boy could sure as hell dance … Then Sandra suggested I dump Robert, and look for someone more interesting, which I did.

“Oh, I cringe looking back, but this was a major turning point in my life.  And I have to say it was a relief to have done it.  Richard never pursued dancing, the one thing he did well and loved.  He remains uninspiring, joyless, pinching his pennies.”

Continue reading »

Aug 102012

By Ernie McNally

The other day I was telling my friend Sylvia Edlund how excited I am to be sitting in with Eric Bibb, to help out with his workshop, Spirit in the Song, coming up September 16-20. My good fortune came through the good fortune of Eric and his wife Sari, who are expecting their first child this October. Sari assisted Eric last year, however this year she will not be travelling from their home in Finland to Gabriola so close to her delivery date.

Sylvia was a participant in Eric’s workshop last year. She was positively effusive last September, talking about her experiences during the workshop, and how she had connected her spirit of the song with her creative expression as a fibre artist. I was curious to hear from her what it was like for her now, in reflection a year later, with the intention of sharing her experience with others interested in learning more about the program. I was particularly interested in her perspective as a ‘non-musician’, as I sometimes hear from people that they would love to attend, but have no music training.

After listening to her, I realized I could never do justice to what she had to say. So I asked Sylvia if she would put her thoughts and feelings into written words. A few days later I received this…

I had first met Eric Bibb in a course at The Haven where several creative modes were offered for experiencing; and he gave a concert after his few sessions. I was so impressed by his easy, friendly style, and how quietly but meaningfully he got us writing lyrics to songs. But it was the soft, creative energy and love that he offered out to the participants, that hooked me! I have no aspirations to be a songwriter or a performer, and have only basic musical skills. But I was taken with the creative energy he exuded, and found that just that brief meeting stimulated my work in fibre art—my medium. 

So I signed up for the Spirit of the Song workshop immediately, for the next year. 

It was a fascinating course. Many of the folk in it were songwriters already, and performers. However another person and I were not musicians. But we were encouraged to fully participate as much as we wished, and Eric made this easy. He broke down the steps into easily understood ideas. He started us off writing a group song, and I was able to contribute enough to satisfy my needs, and did add my perspective on the subject. Soon after we were writing lyrics to our own songs, and some started working on songs that they had already started, or thought were finished. We shared our lyrics, and Eric made gentle comments on how we could improve them. And the other participants also helped each other.

Eric was able to figure out our weaknesses and strengths and to give gentle nudges to enhance our strengths and tempt us to try things totally foreign. He inspires confidence to try new things. I expected to be shy and awkward and had been willing to spectate through most. But I quickly found myself fully engaged and I did not feel embarrassed about my lack of talent or experience. I was able to develop and finish a simple and meaningful song, to which Eric made strategic suggestions for improvement. I was even able to create a simple tune to fit the lyrics. A highlight was having Eric accompany me, as I sang my song.

Eric gave each of us individual attention, tailor-made to each of our needs and skills. And we all produced wonderful songs that reflected the essence of ourselves. Each got the needed boost and mini-tutorial. We participants became close during the workshop and have stayed in touch. And I found my creative juices for fibre art were greatly enhanced for months afterward. 

I would recommend this workshop to anyone interested in creativity and of course those who are intrigued by music and lyrics that come from the heart.

I cannot imagine what I would add, other than a few closing thoughts; one is about Eric, and another is about creative expression.

If you have ever been to one of Eric’s concerts, you have likely felt his ease, warmth and passion for music and people. If you spend five minutes with him off-stage, you will find the same thing. For me, he is a rarity among performers of his accomplishment. He has been acclaimed and recognized around the world as one of the finest writers and performers. Music greats such as Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Ruthie Foster, Odetta and Guy Davis have joined Eric on his albums.

And yet, whether he is headlining at the London Blues Festival (as he did last month, to a standing-room only crowd of over 5,000) or in the intimacy of the Phoenix Auditorium, first and foremost for him is his love for the spirit of the song, and the spirit of the people. He simply cannot hide his delight to be with others as they seek, find and express who they are, in their own way.

Among Ben Wong’s many words of wisdom that have stayed with me is this:

The fullness of our self-awareness cannot be realized without creative expression.

I am thrilled, and honoured, to be part of the Spirit in the Song with Eric next month. I invite you to join, whatever your musical acumen. You may well discover more than you imagined in the spirit of your own song.

Here’s a taste of Eric’s music: