By Robin Kelley
With thanks to Ben and Jock
After recently surviving a very nasty bout of depression, I was thinking about The Haven and what it means to me, and of course, the passing of Ben Wong.
I’ve been thinking about how Ben (and how can we say Ben without “and Jock”?) has helped me heal my life’s wounds. I’ve been thinking about how The Haven has specifically touched my life after being involved there as a participant off and on for more than 20 years, and as a staff member for 3 years.
For instance, without Ben and Jock, there would be no Haven and there would definitely be no me, as I am now, because The Haven has helped shape the person I am today.
Yes, I may have learned the tools elsewhere that I’ve used in my life, but I’m not sure “the fit” would have been as profound for me.
For one thing, there’s no end of truly meaningful relationships that I’ve made there over the years and maintained.
It seems doubtful I would have met Joann Peterson, a former intern leader and all-round incredible woman. I was very fortunate in having some one-on-one time with her and she helped me find so many “ah-ha” moments I couldn’t possibly tell you all of them.
Ironically, I never created the opportunity to do her course Disengaging Depression* but Joann did share some of her wisdom from the course. She was crucial in helping me resolve some of my judgments about myself, including that I was such a failure for not being able to get off of antidepressants and just “get over it and get on with it”. I had thought that because I had done so many courses and various “work” on myself, I should have been able to be done with medication. She assisted me in understanding some of B and J’s “East meets West” philosophy that there are times when Western medicine is an extremely useful and needed adjunct to breath work, body work, acupressure and many more Eastern influences.
Without Joann’s course Mirroring** I don’t know that I would have gained the clarity and understanding of the painful dynamics of my relationship with my mother. Although my mother had put me high on a pedestal, she had also undermined me in other ways. Consequently, I grew to have such unrealistic expectations of myself along with so much low self-esteem, that I was on a perpetual roller coaster of achievement and self-sabotage.
Sex and Identity taught me acceptance of sexual differences in people without the need to judge or distance myself. And WHOA! it truly was an amazing eye opener, let me tell you, and I mean that in a good way.
And what a gift to have met Father Jack who shared his insight and knowledge on the religious sexual influences in our lives and the many subtle and not-so-subtle ways the church and religion has influenced our sexual behaviors.
How fortunate I was to have done Anger, Boundaries and Safety by the time my marriage ended. If I hadn’t found a safe and healthy way to vent my rage and anger, I could have been writing this from a jail cell … who knows what might have happened? (Yes, I’m being funny … but just a bit).
Without so many of the Haven courses in my life, I know (not think/believe/imagine), I would not be the person I am today … someone whose life has been enriched through the numerous connections, tears, laughter, clearings, teachings and self-knowledge I’ve gained about how to be in relationship with myself and others.
Thank you Ben and Jock, for bringing your vision to fruition in creating such a unique and beautiful place of healing.
Ben will be dearly missed by so many, but his far reaching arms, wisdom, humour and great gift for teaching will continue to embrace and impact many more on their path to self-awareness.
* Disengaging Depression was co-developed and led by Joann Peterson, Linda Nicholls and Judy Lemon. It is now Depression: Conscious Alternatives, led by Linda Nicholls.
** Mirroring was co-developed by Joann Peterson and Linda Nicholls and is now The Power of Direct Mirroring, co-led by Cathy McNally and Wendy Huntington.
Linda Nicholls writes:
Hearing your appreciation for how valuable you found the programs and what a difference the contact with various Haven leaders and facilitators made to you is touching, and a great testimonial for The Haven. I would like to add recognition for your huge part in making use of what you learned in such a positive way. You are the one who chose to apply yourself to meeting profound challenges, no small feat. Not everyone chooses to engage so diligently, so warm acknowledgement and appreciation to you, Robin, for grabbing hold of what was offered and assuming responsibility for making a difference in your life. You are an inspirational example of what is possible.