By Rachel Davey
For the last ten days I have been in China, attending the first ever Centers Gathering to be held in Asia. It has been a rich and rewarding experience and I hope this article will give some insight into why.
The International Holistic Centers Gathering has been in existence for more than 30 years. It is a global movement for positive change, and describes itself as the principal meeting point for centers both well established and new that address the new consciousness currently emerging worldwide. You can find out more on the Centers Gathering web site. What I enjoy most about the Gathering is the spirit of collaboration that is fostered by the annual meeting, which continues through the year. The central ethos of the Gathering is that we are stronger when we work together, and our world view is one of abundance. Technically we are all competitors, and the fact that we share problems, solutions, ideas and reflections openly is deeply inspiring.
This year’s Gathering was graciously hosted by the House of I, and attendees included representatives from theFindhorn Foundation and Community; Breitenbush Hot Springs; Kalikalos; Harbin Hot Springs (despite the centre being destroyed by wildfire); Saratoga Springs; representatives from the Shanti Mission from Australia and Shanghai; The Haven’s partners in China Haiwen; the Process Work Institute; the Global Ecovillage Network; the Divination Foundation; and the Hawaii Island Retreat. The diversity of the group was clearly demonstrated when we organized ourselves in order of the ‘age’ of our centre, and we ranged from 50+ years to not yet born!
We spent the week discussing a very wide range of topics from new trends in education to marketing to growth and sustainability to the nitty gritty of operations. Despite our differences in geographical location, size and organization, we have much in common and the opportunity to discuss the challenges and delights of running a holistic centre with other managers is invaluable. The week ended with a three-day conference where we each presented our centre to a large group of invited guests from different organizations in China.
One lasting impression for me has been the strength of The Haven’s connection with China and the benefits that brings. All those years ago when Ben and Jock travelled to China and met a bright young tour guide who they subsequently invited to Canada, I’m sure they had no idea that Sean Feng would go on to create a partner organization that has now delivered Haven programs in China for ten years. The Haven has also welcomed groups from China to take programs in Canada for more than 10 years, and the number of programs is growing every year. I was able to take a day away from the Gathering to meet representatives from the Canadian Embassy in Beijing – on the day after the federal election! – and what I learned from that meeting will support visa applications for Chinese participants coming to The Haven.
As with any aspect of diversity, this link to China and other countries in Asia has benefitted The Haven as an organization as much as it has those who have been participants through the years. We are stronger for it, and have learned more about the world. Because the Gathering was held in China, I had the great pleasure of meeting with and hearing from Chinese participants in Haven programs, Haiwen staff and graduates of the Haven International Diploma in Leadership and Counselling. This was the highlight in a week packed with many wonderful moments!
I am committed to helping spread the word about the International Holistic Centers Gathering, so if you know of any holistic centres that might be interested, please pass on the web site address – centresgathering.org. Any centre can get a free listing on the site, as well as information about future Gatherings.