Flying pigs and photo created by Joke Mensink, a dear friend and a special light amongst the many wildly creative and talented artists within our amazing Gabriola community.

This week another Herceptin and chemo treatment and then, if all goes according to plan, Maria Gomori and I will be off to Anaheim, California for the Milton Erickson Evolution of Psychotherapy conference.   I’ll be doing all I can to muster my strength so I don’t miss this.  It only occurs every four years and we have made it a tradition to attend together for the past several conferences.   In 2018 Maria will be turning 98 years old, I will be discovering what it means to be on Sabbatical.  We will be traveling by plane unless one or two of Joke’s pigs appear to offer us a ride.

Maria will be presenting at the conference and honored as Faculty.   Approximately 8,000 people attend from around the globe to experience luminaries in their varying fields such as Irvin Yalom, Jean Houston, Dan Siegel, Jack Kornfield, Erving Polster, Peter Levine, The Gottmans, Harville Hendrix, Sue Johnson, Martin Seligman, Esther Perel, Antonio Domasio, Robert Dilts, Jeffrey Zeig.  Apparently Tipper Gore will be there this year, I am curious about that.  Last conference the guest was Alanis Morisette.  Past Faculty has included Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Carl Whitaker, Thomas Szasz, Rollo May, Ronald Laing, Viktor Frankl, James Bugenthal, Bruno Bettleheim and most recently Salvador Minuchin. I’ve always found experiencing people in person to be rich learning.  I, and several of us who have been involved with Haven for so many years have had the privilege of learning directly from Virginia Satir, Thomas Szasz, James Bugenthal and Carl Whitaker in the Heron session room.   I call this conference my “appreciation fix” for what is offered at Haven, recognizing the depth of integration of so many current approaches, including the skilled and deeply relational aspect that is so often missing from others.

One of this year’s presenters that I am most excited to experience will be David Whyte, speaking about SOLACE:  The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question.  I often offer his poetry to those who participate in my workshops.  Here is one of the passages I love to share, and also take guidance from for myself, from his book Consolations:

SOLACE is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments.

Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavor; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.

Solace is the beautiful, imaginative home we make where disappointment can go to be rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation. Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate wisdom to come to the fore, the part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.

To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even amusing companions for others. But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable that is coming to you? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you are beginning to understand it, take you away?

Albert at his best!

So, I wonder what is your beautiful question?

Doing my best to show up, be present, tell the truth and let go of the outcome.






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Linda Nicholls


November 28, 2017

in Waking Up, Growing Up

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
(from Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter in Through the Looking-Glass)

Wondering whether pigs have wings is not out of the ordinary for me these days. In fact, the day has arrived — I believe it is possible.

I have now made decisions that I thought I would never make. I have been teetering on the edge of the precipice for what seems like eons – for one hour in one day, and even sometimes for several consecutive days, I would believe myself ready to take the leap and then at the last moment retreat. A few days later, a week later, a month later I would again be just about ready, telling myself tomorrow I will act. Then go scurrying back. A few times I fantasized myself actually leaping, flying off the edge into the open space and tell myself, this is it, I’m ready! Then retreat yet again.

Now, it is done! I am committed to a one-year sabbatical, beginning now. Currently I am teaching my Grieving: Growth and Change workshop at Haven, and relishing every minute of it. We end Monday, November 27, at noon and that will mark the beginning of my sabbatical. As I type this and see it clearly staring back at me from my screen I expect a pig to fly by.

Describing by ultimate arrival at this decision is not as easy for me as some may think. 2018 will be my 72’nd year on this planet. I left home and have been working since I was 15, there are many such facts although they are not my primary reasons.

My heart is deeply intertwined with the people of Haven in Canada and the people in China, I am profoundly dedicated to being of service through my work so the tentacles of this decision are threaded throughout by being.

For me the sabbatical is my commitment to wholeheartedly embracing and embodying what I believe is the transformational passage that I am experiencing. Being held and supported in many dimensions by amazing people like you is providing the enriching fuel for my resilience as I go into free-fall.

I am discovering that genuine transformation simply cannot be controlled, I have to truly let go, no half measures. Willingly surrender and dissolve into formless goo as the caterpillar does in its chrysalis in order for the metamorphosis into its completely new butterfly form to occur. The caterpillar endures several moultings in the process along the way—I think I have gone through, and am going through, a few moultings myself. Tiny bags of cells called imaginal discs activate within the goo and grow into the butterfly. My desire is to discover, nourish and grow whatever imaginal discs lie waiting in the depths of my soul. For that I believe I require some spaciousness and some compassion for all that this body of mine has been through. I have taken my body for granted, been arrogantly entitled about my health, indulging, pushing, driving, noticing the messages but then ignoring or overriding them, not honoring my body’s limits – for a long time.

There have been a few pivotal events inviting me to the edge of this leap.

One was a mystical journey that I experienced last year. The intention I had set for that journey was to shift to a new paradigm.

I experienced my body, myself, tightly encased in a cocoon shape made of a grid of multi-colored lights. I was in excruciating pain, making it impossible to be distracted by the magnificence of the colored lights. Try as I did to make something beautiful of it I simply could not, it was harsh, long-lasting and agonizing. As much as I wanted out, I was not released. Now I view this as the foreshadow of my current journey and the connection to my butterfly metaphor.

A recent pivotal event was with a phenomenal Chinese doctor that gave me a treatment when I was in China a couple of weeks ago.  Although he was giving me acupuncture, after a while he revealed he is also a Qigong, Kung-fu master. He told me that my spirit is enormous, inspired, fast-moving, energetic. And, that my spirit has been moving too fast for my body, taking off without it. In other words my spirit and my body are out of congruence. You can imagine my surprise when he had me in a gestalt between my body and my spirit! Not the usual acupuncture treatment. He said my spirit will be just as happy to take off without my body, if they don’t start working together my body will simply give up and let my spirit fly. Either way is just fine, it is up to me to choose.

I spoke of my deep fear of letting others down by slowing my pace. For me that is my primary fear, although I recognize that becoming more and more ill, as well as dying is also letting others down. I also mentioned other fears such as being replaced, forgotten, missing out – these are fears I find myself more willing to face, still not easy though.

He simply said to me, bluntly, “Right now I suggest you fear the cancer cells more.”

I am emphasizing that I am taking a sabbatical, not retiring. I fully intend to return from my transformational passage, as well as share my journey along the way. My commitment is to creating spaciousness in my life focusing on compassion, creation, restoration, recalibration.

When I was in China, I met with the people there that I have come to know and love over the years. My current plan is that I will lead the Come Alive there in March. I have also spoken with David Raithby and then met with my beloved Haven folks this past Sunday – my current plan is to continue to work with the Teens this summer, however for the first time in I don’t recall how many years I will not be co-leading the January Come Alive with David. Floods of feeling about all this are rushing through as I type now, however I accept this as the nature of free-fall.

I remind myself that I have been and am being held in ways that I never imagined were possible and for now I am signing off in a state of awe, wonder and ongoing gratitude. More details and plans as they are formed.

Short medical update

Another new and different experience. I arrived home from China on Tuesday, the 15th, went to Lions Gate for my Herceptin and potential chemo the morning of the 16th. The doctor whom I respect highly recommended that I do up to four more chemo treatments to ensure the highest possible effectiveness of the Herceptin. I agreed. Because I had experienced a reaction during the last chemo treatment, they gave me an IV for the antidote prior to the chemo IV which put me into a bit of a stupor. I stayed at Jim and Barb’s (my brother and sister-in-law) and was well taken care of. I managed to get myself home to Gabriola by Saturday, the 18th. This time the after-effect was finding myself shaky, spacey, somewhat weak and some digestive upset. Jet lag likely didn’t help much. I had to give myself daily injections to help boost my immune system. This past Tuesday, the 21st I went back to Vancouver for my women’s group (over 20 years together now!) and to have some ultrasound tests at Lions Gate on Wednesday. I woke up 6:30 Wednesday morning in the most unusual, bizarre and intense pain I have known, indescribable, there was no position I could get myself into for relief. I cancelled other plans and drove to Lions Gate chemo ward.   They were very kind and suggested that the pain was possibly due to a reaction to the injections, they prescribed a medication, gave me a bed and a warm blanket and I laid there for several hours until it was time for my tests in another area of the hospital. Fortunately, although the medications had quite a powerful and odd impact on me, the pain was alleviated, I got through the tests and made it back home by that evening. Just today I am bouncing back after what seemed like being hit by a truck. Seeing so many friends at Haven, engaging with the group, and working with my team of skilled and caring assistants Gisela Sartori, Sean Kearns and Nicky Fast is by far the best medicine! My plan is to consider each of the next scheduled chemo treatments one at a time as they occur.

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Short Medical Update

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Last night I experienced ecstasy. Naturally. Within more-than-human community — communing with trees, stars, sky, the moon. I am in a hot-tub, fresh pure clean water located at the base of a hill, surrounded by forest. Different than the dense, wild, tangled forest that I love so much on Gabriola Island. This is a pristine […]

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