Excerpts taken from an article by Ellery Littleton for The Haven Institute newsletter Shen, 2013

Linda Nicholls 2013

Linda Nicholls 2013

Once in a while, some deeply satisfying sequence of important events comes full circle. When this happens, there is a movement forward, profound and far-reaching. Recently, such a turn of events has unfolded, involving The Haven and one of our most accomplished and experienced faculty members, Linda Nicholls. In October, 2014, Linda will be the first Haven faculty member ever to offer a program at Esalen, the “mother ship” of personal growth centers, in Big Sur, California. She will be teaching her five-day Shadow Play program.

Over the last 25 years, Linda has led and co-led an amazingly wide range of programs, including many Come Alives, often in partnership with Ben and Jock  and several other core faculty members. Come Alive is The Haven’s best known program; introduced by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen, founders of The Haven Institute on Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, in the early 1980’s. This program has established itself as one of the best, and most well-rounded programs available anywhere in the wide world of growth and education centres. It is a key component of The Haven’s unique interlocking curriculum.

Throughout her thirty-plus year integral association with The Haven, Linda was also, she comments, “highly privileged” to have met and worked with many of the “masters” who have taught at The Haven, among them Virginia Satir, Bunny Duhl, James Bugental, Carl Whitaker, Irving and Miriam Polster, Joann Peterson and Maria Gomori.

From the south to the north and back again

What then is this “full circle” reference all about? Well, back in the late 1960s, an earlier incarnation of the growth center, The Cold Mountain Institute, was established on Cortes Island, off Campbell River. Cold Mountain was driven by Richard Weaver, who was trained at Esalen, and who introduced many of the ideas and techniques developed there – such as encounter, gestalt, role-playing, body work – the whole group therapy process, in fact, such as it was then – to the west coast of B.C.

When I first went to Cold Mountain in 1971, most of the visiting faculty who cycled through in the course of a year were from Esalen. They brought new and tremendously exciting ideas about self-awareness, communication, relationships, energy – the whole dynamic process of becoming fully alive emotionally – to Cold Mountain.

Eventually these ideas were enhanced and brought to full flower, and to The Haven, by Ben and Jock – who first began working together at Cold Mountain in the early 1970s (it ceased operation in 1980). It’s important to note that Ben brought a host of new and original ideas and techniques to Cold Mountain, which were skillfully blended with those from Esalen to form the basis of Come Alive and the other nuclear Haven programs, Living Alive Phase I and II and New Horizons Phase III.

Now Linda Nicholls is closing the circle by taking the energy back down south, where it originated some sixty years ago.

Linda has established herself as one of The Haven’s best-known faculty members since she began offering programs here in the early 1990s. She focuses on “personal transformation and strengthening relational skills,” and has presented her superbly engaging seminars all over the world, most often in China. In addition to leading Come Alive, she also leads (sometimes in conjunction with other senior Haven faculty): Body, Breath and Energy Training; Teens Alive; Breathe!; Conscious Sexuality; Shadow Play; Depression: Conscious Alternatives; Grieving: Change and Growth; Boundaries: The Vital Edge; and Relationships Review and Renew.

“The perfect choice”

Jock McKeen, one of The Haven’s founders, is an unabashed fan of Linda, with whom he worked intimately over the years. She became one of Ben and Jock’s most trusted and capable assistants and co-leaders.

“Linda is not a passive passenger of life,” he says. “She’s a voyageur, an adventurer, one of a kind, distinctive, singular; she forges her own path. She’s charismatic, classy in a down-to-earth way.

“She’s accessible and inclusive, sensitive, caring, humorous, able to work smoothly with people of different cultures and persuasions. She’s the perfect choice to introduce The Haven philosophy and style to Esalen, and a wider world audience.”

Linda is excited about her upcoming journey to the home base of the human potential movement.

The joy of seeing people light up

It would be easy to write more about the remarkable Linda Nicholls. But it’s probably more useful to let her speak for herself, in a few following comments, culled from interviews and from her own excellent website: www.lindanicholls.ca

“I find nothing more enlivening than going into a circle with people and engaging in intensely personal and inventive ways to facilitate individual and group transformation. People emerge with fresh insight, vitality, inspiration and well-being, prepared to thrive from a deepened sense of connection.”

“I celebrate the range of the life force, from still and calm to wild and unpredictable, dissonant to harmonious, gentle to rough. Diversity is a natural human resource which makes it possible for us to engage compassionately with the world from our highest and best self.”

“Breathing is far more than the unconscious functioning of our autonomic nervous system that we take for granted. In many languages the word for spirit and breath are the same, suggesting that breathing is the movement of spirit in matter. Breath is the chord that ties the soul to the body.”

“I have been inspired by several of the amazing teachers I have experienced throughout the years. One of the ways they stood out for me was that I felt better about myself when in their presence. Through them, I have been motivated to offer others the opportunity to learn things that make sense about being human, living daily life, relating with others in ways that enliven and enrich compassion, connection, meaning and fulfillment.” 

“My life’s path has been living and learning about being a relational creature, and offering that learning to others. It is a great source of joy to me to see people light up, lighten up, embrace themselves and each other with loving, acceptance and compassion.”

Check the Esalen site etc for more information about Linda’s programs. There will be a Shadow Play workshop some time in August or September, not scheduled yet.

Check the Esalen website for more information about Linda’s programs. There will be a Shadow Play workshop some time in August or September, not scheduled yet.

Check Linda’s website http://lindanicholls.ca and The Haven’s website http://haven.ca for her upcoming programs.



Linda is a respected and dynamic facilitator with an extensive background in group process.   Her innovative approach has been credited with sparking the potential within an array of individuals, personal and professional relationships, and public and private sector teams.

Linda’s expertise is an integration of her eclectic background in business, executive training, coaching, psychotherapy and a Ph.D. in Therapeutic Counseling, with three decades of experience dedicated to the relational arts and sciences.  Her work with groups includes combining theory and practice, using whole-person engagement through congruent communication processes, breath and body-mind-heart integration, meditation, and activating imagination.

Her direct yet compassionate approach establishes a foundation of respect and dignity, igniting a spirit for discovery to address the multi-faceted and often complex nature of accomplishing genuine whole-person health and harmony.

Based on her belief that harmonious co-existence in our world is created one person at a time, beginning within the individual, then between individuals, then extending among communities, her groups focus on personal growth and transformation, professional development, lifestyle education, and strengthening interpersonal relational skills.

Linda finds nothing more enlivening than going into a circle with people and engaging in intensely personal and inventive ways to facilitate individual and group transformation.  People emerge with fresh insight, vitality, inspiration, and well-being, prepared to thrive from a deepened sense of connection.

Linda values nature’s diversity — the vast and varied outdoor landscapes of our earth as well as the vast and varied interior landscapes of human beings.  She celebrates the range of life force, from still and calm to wild and unpredictable, dissonant to harmonious, silent to cacophonous, gentle to rough, tender sensuality to ecstatic charge.  Her work encourages the embodiment of diversity as a natural human resource, enabling compassionate engagement with the world from our highest and best self.

A keen interest in film-making, theatre, photography and wilderness adventures complement this vibrant great-grandmother’s passion for her global pursuit as an agent for creative transformation.

Linda is Senior Faculty, Core Plus Faculty and a member of the Educational Steering Group at The Haven Institute, a human relations learning center on Gabriola Island, BC.