By Peter Moore, Business Director
From ‘Holy’ to ‘Holistic’
For more than 30 years, the annual “International Holistic Centers Gathering” (IHCG), has brought together founders, administrators and program directors from holistic centers located throughout the world. The term ‘Holistic’ equates to personal growth and self-actualization; participating centers are un-affiliated with political parties or religious institutions. Each year the IHCG convenes at a different center in the world and a deep conversation ensues. I’ve had the sincere pleasure to attend the annual IHCG over the past decade and both I and Breitenbush Hot Springs have benefitted in many ways from the unique mind-meld and practical information exchanged between colleagues involved in this meaning-making field. What a gift.
In spring, 2013, I attended the IHCG at Esalen Institute, in California. There I met a first-time participant, Isabelle Duchesneau. She told us about a new holistic center forming at the site of an historic monastery, in Quebec City, Canada. This monastery, established in 1639 by three nuns of the Order of Saint Augustine, was devoted to the healing of body and soul. These nuns, and the many who followed their example over the next nearly four centuries, built their “Hotel de Dieu” inside the fortified walls of the old city, including hospital, church and four stories of rooms dedicated to the cloistered life of service and prayer. Here they mixed their apothecary medicines influenced by healing traditions from both Europe and regional native people, and here they tended the injured and ill. During the war between the English and French in the 18th Century, nuns from this monastery cared impartially for wounded soldiers from both sides. From this monastery, satellite centers of healing to help all people were established throughout the Province over the centuries.
In recent years the Catholic nuns, aware of their aging and dwindling population, realized they couldn’t sustain their mission much longer. Thus they made common cause with Isabelle and other nonsectarian visionaries to plan for renewal of this space, where their work in service of healing, and their pursuit of the conscious sacred, could be continued beyond the boundaries of their own denomination. Isabelle and her team conducted a major fundraising campaign to upgrade the historic buildings, raising millions of dollars in public/private donations, and the work commenced. It was at this point she attended the IHCG, seeking useful holistic models of healing and personal transformation applicable to developing a curriculum for the newly established holistic center at Le Monastére.
Fast forward to present. In May this year, the International Holistic Centers Gathering convened at the newly reopened Le Monastére des Augustines in Quebec City. Representatives came from holistic centers in Canada, China, France, Greece, India, the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as the Global Ecovillage Network. Discussion items included a brief state of the holistic union—a report from different centers about issues, trends, best practices, challenges, etc. Networking, marketing and the exploration of new technologies to share information were dreamed into. Balancing cooperation between centers with the reality of a shared demographic of potential clients was discussed. This last was considered in context of growing that demographic (“growing the pie”) based on cultural values that are changing all over the world, moving incrementally toward holistic awareness. Similarly, the mission, vision and purpose of holistic centers operating in a world-culture that, despite the turbulence of terror attacks and tortured politics, is inexorably shifting from materialism and xenophobia towards ecological sustainability and inclusive diversity were also discussed. The challenge of remaining true to holistic ideals and curriculum while paying due attention to practical “realities”—to survive and thrive economically—was explored. These and many other relevant conversations were engaged in our time together.
Personal reflections: Each participant of this year’s Gathering received a gift from Le Monastére, an old key that once opened a door in the monastic past, to symbolically re-enter the sacred space consciously. This key provided a poignant example of the Quebec motto, imprinted on the license plate of every vehicle in the Province, Je me souviens (“I remember”). Le Monastére des Augustines offered participants a beautiful mix of monastic and modern amenities, enhancing the experience of the IHCG, thus honoring the heritage of the place with its new holistic mission to work toward solutions for the future. The tradition to heal body and soul, carried on for centuries through devotion of the Augustinian nuns, finds continuation in the dedication of contemporary visionaries who build on that tradition through the nonsectarian work of this new holistic center. By extension, the coming into existence of holistic centers, emerging over the past half century throughout the world in all economies, cultures and continents, is an important development in human consciousness and social organization. Taken together, these centers constitute a worldwide network of institutions devoted to the principles, practices and peak experiences of the human potential movement. I think of Breitenbush—our curriculum, connection to nature, guests and staff—as a local expression of this worldwide movement. It’s an important evolutionary trend of our species.
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