Apr 162012

by Jock McKeen and Bennet Wong. Ben and Jock’s latest book The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought is available now from The Haven. Here Ben and Jock reflect on writing the book they describe as a “culmination of our investigations and adventures.”

Illuminated HeartThis book was conceived at the urging of our Chinese colleagues when we were presenting our extended seminars in Beijing in 2006. We have been steadily at work on this book ever since. We have been very invigorated by the opportunity to review our life and work together, and to discuss many ideas and concepts that have been central to our careers. We have looked at, discussed, mused about, pondered, argued, wondered, imagined, and struggled to put into words … what we have been doing together for the past four decades or more. We have been visited by memories of so many colleagues, many of them now deceased, and felt the solidity of our connections with them, and the influence that our relationships with them have had on us and our work. They appear in the book, sometimes named, and at other times in the flow of the words.

As we have done this, we have been reviewing our life and philosophy, and our perspective on the world and its people in this 21st century. This project thus has been deeply personal, and profoundly satisfying. We have clarified for ourselves what we actually think about so many topics, and we have a fuller appreciation of the integration of disparate topics from numerous disciplines.

The memories of past friends and experiences have been rich. And our appreciation of each other has been intensified by the hours of discussions we have had to get this book to print.

We are gratified to see that our basic perspective has not changed throughout our time together; we have always held relationships and human connection to be of paramount importance, and this shows itself to us as we re-read what we have created. We have learned a lot; and our long-held perspective is more deeply rooted through our re-examination.

We feel confirmed, fulfilled, at rest, and deeply, deeply satisfied with this culmination of our investigations and adventures.

The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought
Softback, 448 pages, $26.95 + HST and shipping

Order Your Copy Now!

Jan 302012

By Toby Macklin

Transforming Anxiety and Stress is scheduled in 2015 for May 28–31 and October 1–4.

One of the first things I remember about coming to The Haven was grappling with the idea that (to put it loosely) anxiety is a good thing. This was problematic for me, as I didn’t like feeling anxious and was taking significant steps to avoid having to do so.

For a start, I drank to reduce my anxiety. And, because I felt anxious about relationships with other people, I spent a good deal of time by myself, kept my thoughts to myself, and made sure not to get too close to the people I was close with. The result, however, was that I was drunk, lonely, and hard to live with.

According to David Raithby and Sandey McCartney, whose program Transforming Anxiety and Stress is running twice in 2015, my problem was not that I was anxious, but that I was not responding very effectively to my anxiety. And apparently I was not alone (though I certainly felt alone). Most people’s reaction to the feeling of anxiety, say David and Sandey, is to try in one way or another to avoid it, ignore it, reduce it or, ideally, make it go away.

David and Sandey, in contrast, think we would all do better to embrace our anxiety and transform its energy into something productive, creative, and life-enhancing.

Continue reading »

Nov 302011

By Danielle Richey

A group of students enrolled in the Royal Roads University’s MA in Intercultural and International Communication program visited Gabriola earlier this month and stayed at The Haven. They created a number of online Postcards from Gabriola Island. We’re delighted to publish one of them here, and recommend you take a look at the others.

My journey on Gabriola Island physically started at the Haven. The Haven is a center for growth nestled in the northern region of Gabriola Island. The words BREATHE, grow, transform, and connect instantly catch my eye as I nervously look around the gift shop with unfamiliarity. What am I to expect and why are these words planted around the grounds?

At first glance I am unsure how much I could actually soak up on this mini retreat and learn and grow from this experience. I quickly realize that the unfamiliarity of the island lifestyle, knowledge, and tranquility would teach me to take the time to slow down and smell the roses, or in this case the clean fresh air.

Our first group activity is to participate in the path of meditation. I am not a meditator, as my brains constantly run on overload and I could think of a million other things I could do with this time. After the second meditation session, I can connect to the purpose of the exercise.

Our yoga sessions remove us from our busy schedules and demonstrate the importance of a healthy balance between mind and body, which I might not necessarily have. It is important to ME to take time. To play, create, and to connect are essential skills to promote self care and personal growth.

From brief conversations with locals, I understand that to live here is to love your surroundings, to appreciate the silence, to let the moon complement your flashlight in the dark and that power outages are not grounds for panic but welcomed.

I forget to find value in kindness of strangers, magical landscape, and simplicity. This mini retreat has made me remember the importance of personal growth not in the context of monetary growth, but personal reflections on my daily actions, intentions, and karma.

Oct 242011

The intuitive mind, said Einstein, is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. But we have created a society that honours the servant, and has forgotten the gift. In this new RSAnimate, psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

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.

Sep 022011

By Ellery Littleton & Wendy James

Several years ago, Ian Curtin had a germ of an idea – one of those ideas that get hold of you and won’t let go. So he shared the idea with Brad Jarvis, Frank Quinby and Karen Stephens, and soon the idea became a vision – and thus the “Inner Activist” program was born.

The program – which is aimed primarily at people wanting to make a difference in the world – evolved after a five-year period of research and development. The five-module Inner Activist Program is a complex multi-disciplinary personal growth program – which incorporates many of the elements of The Haven philosophy, as well as the philosophies of several other notable personal growth institutions and programs around North America.

The first eight-day module of the program – “Building Personal Mastery” – took place at The Haven from June 12 to 19 2011, with 31 participants and eight facilitators. Although the program is aimed primarily at change agents, it would appeal to anyone interested in an intense in-depth approach to personal growth and transformation.

“The essence of the training is to learn to lead with strength from within,” says Ian, who is the Project Director. “In order to successfully lead as a change agent, and engage in the challenging process of social change – and avoid burnout – you need to develop an awareness of your strengths, limitations, motivations and intentions.” In other words, you need to do your own personal work, at a deep level, in order to survive what is an intensely demanding environment.

“Who are social change agents? The kind of people who imagine a better future and actively work for change in the community. This includes, for instance, people in environmental work and social justice; people who work for trade unions; groups who support immigrants or minorities, battered women, and aboriginals struggling against mining companies; people who oppose corruption and violence, helping marginalized people anywhere in the world. And people who don’t consider themselves the activist type – but who are active agents in the world who seek change and social justice.

“Our intent is to help you find ways to bring your personal awareness into broader application beyond yourself; a marriage between the political and the personal. This includes deepening your appreciation of diverse points of view to expand your understanding of our present predicament. None of us has the whole picture.”

Inner Activist – A Unique Amalgamation of Several Personal Growth Philosophies

The content of the program is an amalgamation of key concepts from several institutions that build upon one another. All the institutions involved have established track records, and have come together to support this unique initiative. Along with The Haven, the institutions include “Process Work” (based in Portland, Oregon); “Learning As Leadership” (San Francisco); “The Work That Reconnects” (drawing on the work of Joanna Macy); “Non-Violent Communication” (Marshall Rosenberg’s work); and “Anima Leadership” (Toronto).

The Inner Activist Program, which consists of five modules, takes a total of 15 months to complete (not necessarily all at once; there are four to five months between modules). The second module – “Building Strong & Respectful Relationships” – will take place at The Haven from October 11-16, 2011. “Building Personal Mastery” will be repeated from November 28 to December 5, 2011.

The third module – “Building Conscious Use of Power” – is planned for February 17-21, 2012 and March 13 – 17, 2012, to be followed by the last two modules, “Building Common Ground & Capacity for Change” and “Building Sustainability.”

Details about the program’s curriculum and goals, and extensive biographies of all the principals are available at www.inneractivist.com.

Here’s what participants are saying about Building Personal Mastery.

‘It is life enhancing. Personal Mastery changes who you are in the world so that you are more effective and more grateful on a personal and professional level.’
Bobbi Owens, Executive Director of the Mini 12 House, Los Angeles, CA

‘Transformational, essential work, time well spent in a beautiful setting.
Guaranteed to be moved, to grow, to connect, to have your ultimate “ah ha” moment(s)
Don’t wait. Earmark the dates and strike your budgets now!’
Catherine Talbot, Consultant, C. Talbot & Associates, Burlington, ON

‘This was an excellent program, with good modalities presented, good leaders and great vibe among the participants. Successfully integrates a diversity of approaches and leadership styles.’
Ian McLachlan, BC Ministry of Agriculture, Victoria, BC

‘Doing one’s work best requires a solid deep and curious outlook on one’s self. The work shop provides very useful tools for developing self-understanding.’
Christine Fletcher, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Victoria BC

‘I would recommend it highly – Stimulating, challenging, relevant and growthful.’
Thomas Hackney, Vice-President of Policy, BC Sustainable Energy Association

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!

Feb 162011

Jock McKeen and Bennet Wong

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos reports about the growing interest in psychoanalysis in China (Osnos, E. “Meet Dr. Freud: Does psychoanalysis have a future in an authoritarian state?” The New Yorker, January 10, 2011, pp. 54-63). Osnos notes that China has already imported other therapeutic models, including systemic family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sandplay. In China, psychoanalysis is equated in the minds of many professionals with psychotherapy, and its popularity and cachet are growing. The article notes that some analysts are now working from America with clients in China over Skype.

Historically, Chinese people have been reluctant to talk about their inner issues, believing in the virtue of “eating bitterness”. Osnos notes, “For most of Chinese history, mental illness carried a stigma of weakness so intense that the siblings of a disturbed person could have trouble finding a spouse.” Psychiatry has played a minor role until recently. “At the time of the Communist revolution, in 1949, China had some sixty psychiatrists for a population of nearly five hundred million,” notes Osnos. But this has changed as the growing middle class in China has time and money for exploration. This has been dubbed by the Chinese as the “psycho boom.” A search for spiritual values in a modern world brings increasing numbers to counselling, religions and psychotherapy.

Continue reading »

Jan 052011

Victor Wooten talks (and performs) with musician and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, the bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The World In Six Songs.

Victor is returning to The Haven March 19-21 2013. Places are filling fast, so register now!