Thich Nhat Hanh Retreat for Educators

Hollyhock is honoured to support this upcoming Mindfulness Retreat for Educators
led by Thich Nhat Hanh
, August 11 – 16, 2013
Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

Thich Nhat Hanh is a world-renowned Zen master and peace activist. He grew up in Vietnam, was exiled and settled in France in 1966, and in 1967 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. for his efforts to end the Vietnam war. Now 86 years old, he wants to bring mindfulness to teachers and all those involved in education.

The practice of mindfulness has been proven to make a very valuable and efficient contribution to the problems so many of us face in our schools. Studies with K-12 students demonstrate “improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress and fatigue.” They also show mindfulness training “can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behaviour and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students” (Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students, Meiklejohn et al., Mindfulness, Springer 2012, pages 1-2).

The retreat will be 5 days, from Sunday, August 11 to Friday, August 16, 2013, and will take place at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, located between Niagara Falls and Hamilton, and sitting atop the Niagara Escarpment in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The retreat is focused on educators. It will include international guest speakers from the field of mindfulness and education. At least half the spots will be reserved specifically for those in the field of education, including school, university and college teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and social workers, as well as teachers of mindfulness, yoga and related fields.

This is not a silent retreat. No meditation or mindfulness experience is required to attend. The retreat is open to everyone, from beginners to very experienced mindfulness practitioners. If you are a complete beginner, don’t worry! The retreat is not hard work. It is a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the present moment.

Registration is expected to open February 1. For more information, or to sign up for the retreat’s email list and be notified before registration opens, see

Thank You Vancouver! Catalogue Party Success!

Last Thursday, 150 people attended Hollyhock’s Catalogue Launch Party at Vancouver’s historic Waldorf Hotel. Together we raised $1630 for the Hollyhock Scholarship Fund. Thanks Vancouver!

View the 2013 online catalogue here.

Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story

by Christina Baldwin via

Be a Storycatcher Today!

1. Invite story telling and listening into little pockets of public time.
When you’re in the coffee line—ask someone about his or her first memories of coffee. When you’re in the grocery line—ask someone how to cook an item in their basket (Turnips? Artichokes? Chicken livers!?) When you notice something unusual—don’t judge it, ask for the story about it… so why does your niece have 27 holes in her ears?

Because it creates social connection. When people are connected they care about each other. And people who
care about each other start taking care of their communities, and sharing resources, and telling each other the
really good ideas about how they are doing. You get the idea!

2. Ask your colleagues how they are—then stop and really listen.
So, did your daughter make the soccer team?
How’s your spouse/partner doing after last week?
I heard about X—I’m so sorry, anything I can do?
Hey, way to go with that report, what was their reaction to the Powerpoint?

See above.
And think about it: you are working together. When you know something about each other you make a better
team. You are more efficient at accomplishing tasks, understanding how to use each other’s talents, or supporting someone who is temporarily overwhelmed. You get the idea!

3. Create time in your family and/or friendship group devoted to story.
When children are playing—help them make story out of their games.
Read to each other—read to the kids, read to your partner, read to your parents, read to the dog.
Unplug the machinery, circle the chairs, linger at the table or on the porch, ask a story-invoking question.
Laugh. Cry. Tell one of your own stories.

See above.
Knowing how to tell a story is a necessary life skill! Can you imagine not being able to say who you are? What
you know? Love? Want? Story is the basis of everything. Story is how we relate. Story is how we belong.
You get the idea!

4. Repeat every good story you hear—
Say something nice about a neighbor, colleague, family member who bugs you—maybe even say it to
When someone is complaining about someone else, ask, “But what good things have they done?”
When someone is complaining about all the changes we face, ask them, “But what are we learning?
What do we want to leave for the future?”
When someone is gossiping, ask, “Tell me a story about a time you kept another’s trust?”

See above.
Social space feels good or bad depending on the stories people share about each other. Stories are how we
build each other up and encourage the best out of each other, or we can tear each other down. You choose—
every time you open your mouth. Be intentional: you have huge power as a storyteller. You get the idea.

Based on the book Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin.

Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea present The Circle Way in Vancouver April 6 & 7, 2013.

Transformative Change

by Kate Sutherland via

If you have a pattern or block you’d like to transform, consider creating a ritual. Distilling the change you want to make into a rite of passage supports shifts in non-linear and almost instantaneous ways.

Years ago I was in a workshop with the great Jean Houston. The culmination of three days was an invitation to cross a threshold between who I had been and who I might become. We could do this by stepping over a line marked out on the floor by a string of tealights — a ritual of conscious and transformative change.

Who knew that such a simple exercise could be so powerful.

As I come up to the line, all my fears and resistance concentrate in my chest and throat. I stand at the “edge”, gathering myself. I have the distinct experience of energy moving, as though whole complexes and patterns are coming to the surface and breaking up in the face of my intention to transform. With time I feel a readiness — a clarity that I can and should step over the line —  and a quiet shift within that I know is a quantum increase in self-authority and self-acceptance. I step over, and instantly there is more space, and more vulnerability. I don’t yet have sea legs in this new ocean of possibility. In a short time though, I stabilize. I am excited. I’ve passed over into a new world.

If you are dogged by a pattern you’d love to shift, I recommend creating a ritual of transformative change for yourself.

Here are the basic elements:

  • Name what you want to transform and listen for the new that is seeking to emerge.
  • Create a container for yourself — pick a time and place that has meaning, and ask people from your inner circle to join you in the process, or to bear witness. Decide the format — what will represent your threshold?
  • Prepare yourself. Before a rite of passage there is an energetic need for a “vigil” — a time of reflection and cleansing that supports one to be ready for transformation.
  • Humbly honour your truth at the heart of the ritual: do you commit to what is emerging or not? Only cross over your symbolic threshold if you are truly letting go of the old and embracing the new. This is not a mental shift, but one that happens at the level of deep inner knowing.
  • If you cross over, celebrate! There is a reason that marriages and funeral always include food. The “nodal” points where we take a different path need to be marked, and celebrating with food is in our DNA.

You can also honour this basic five step architecture any time you do something new or big, since the newness/bigness involves “stepping over a line”.

I recently facilitated a three day board retreat for a large multi-stakeholder group. In the days before, I allowed myself more quiet time, knowing I was deepening and gathering myself as preparation to hold space for a dynamic group process. Afterwards, I celebrated (a part of the cycle too many of us neglect too often!!).

Creating rituals, and seeing more of what we do through the lens of ritual, are two ways to support transformative change.

Kate presents Make Light Work in Vancouver on March 14, 2013

Money Matters

by Laurie Anderson via

Laurie Anderson presents Intro to Balanced Leadership with Kim Hudson in Vancouver on March 8.

 In addition to protection against scarcity we need to have a symbol (money) that measures how much of what we love we have in our lives (Teague does an excellent job of giving us an idea of what that would look like).  That’s where balanced leadership comes in.

We recently watched a rough cut of an impressive new documentary by Katie Teague (, which explores society’s relationship with money. As the world grapples with yet another financial crisis, Teague’s film eloquently illuminates the unconscious assumptions and flaws in the current economic system as well as offering a fresh narrative on our relationship with money. It’s a powerful film but its central premise – the system is broken and needs to be replaced – is, we suggest respectfully, also flawed.  We don’t need to replace the current economic model, we need to be conscious of the meaning and direction it offers and choose when it best suits us.  Perhaps more importantly, we also need to understand the other half of the coin, pardon the pun.  In addition to protection against scarcity we need to have a symbol (money) that measures how much of what we love we have in our lives (Teague does an excellent job of giving us an idea of what that would look like).  That’s where balanced leadership comes in.

The dire fiscal straits we’re in – mounting personal debt; banks collapsing; entire countries in default; lack of trust in financial institutions – serve as a test case of one world thinking. In the absence of the balancing values of the love-based world – e.g. meaning, creativity, consensus and emotion – the shadow elements of the fear-based world can run amok. Order, goals, extrinsic rewards and control, competition and other essential elements of the fear-based world have their place, but too much of one world is detrimental.  The fear based qualities lose their inherent value when they are left unchecked.

The same dysfunction occurs if the shadow features of the love-based world take over due to excessive use – lack of discernment, chaos, inertia, envy, susceptibility to danger, and loss of connection with self. We need a balanced system that keeps the shadow side of either world in check.  Too much of either world becomes detrimental.

money and happiness

Teague’s film documents the excesses of our dysfunctional economic system in a compelling way.  She paints a powerful picture of what happens when a system goes off-kilter, in this sad case, millions unemployed, wracked with debt, and losing hope and faith in the economy that once served them well.

The solution to this crisis though is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but to be consciously aware of our relationship with money so the positive aspects of both the love and fear-based world have a place. A balanced, integrated economic model would hold space for people and profit, would value relationships and results, and would recognize that “wealth” is as much about our hearts as it is our heads.