Awake and Alive: Mindful Living with Cancer 2014

Clinton, Washington
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Awake and Alive
Mindful Living with Cancer Retreat
with Erica Rayner-Horn & Diana and Kelly Lindsay
May 22–26, 2014


We welcome you to this life-affirming, empowering retreat that offers anyone with a cancer diagnosis the opportunity to explore what it means to live fully awake and alive—even while facing serious illness. 

Cancer can be one of the greatest challenges in life, it can be a stressful, lonely and overwhelming for everyone it touches. This retreat is designed to help you to navigate the emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of the journey with cancer with more ease, courage and acceptance.

We bring together powerful researched-based healing modalities that have a significant effect on physical health, emotional stability and improved resilience to cope with the stress of serious illness. You will be introduced to the transformative healing practices of mindfulness and stress reduction; the ancient discipline of Qigong; and the expressive arts as a vehicle for deeper exploration and self-reflection. You will learn tools that help transform fear and anxiety. Both body and soul will be rejuvenated with delicious, locally sourced organic food; acres of unspoiled peaceful forest; and the gift of the nurturing, supportive community we create together.

You are warmly invited to gift yourself with this unique opportunity for deep reflection, healing and transformation. You will leave with practical tools and living practices that empower you to live well in the midst of change and uncertainty.

Who Will Benefit?

Anyone with any type of cancer, at any stage, including remission. Living well with illness is a life-long endeavor, and regardless of when you were diagnosed, there are ongoing concerns and challenges those with cancer have in common. Recognizing that caregivers are also deeply affected by their loved one’s illness, the retreat is open to a limited number of partners, caregivers or significant others who feel they too will benefit from this program.

Please note: Whidbey Institute is a rural retreat center at least half an hour from the nearest hospital. This is not a suitable program for those who are significantly immune-compromised or requiring medical care. All participants must be fit enough to walk around the grounds and be physically able to care for themselves. Unfortunately we are not wheelchair accessible.

What to Expect

A small intimate group of up to 10 participants and a balanced program of activities designed to support deep healing and transformation of every aspect of being- mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. 

Grounding in Mindfulness

Impressive research results have put the spotlight on mindfulness recently; Time magazine featured The Mindfulness Revolution on its cover and it is gaining great popularity. In this retreat you will learn how mindfulness can help you live with more relaxation, awareness and capacity to buffer the negative impact and stresses of cancer. 

Through learning to pay close attention to everything that arises in your mind and body without judging or rejecting it. Mindfulness provides a way to turn towards painful emotions, stuckness and unhelpful thinking and discover how to befriend yourself with more compassion and kindness. Gentle and insightful mindfulness and loving-kindness practices help you discover deep relaxation of body and mind, softening of heart and deepening of your capacity to embrace life in the present moment – just the way it is!

Skills for Reducing Stress

You will learn skills from the research-based Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that help release tension and anxiety and promote a more balanced, calm and accepting approach to life.

Practices for Energizing and Balancing the Body

Restoring the proper flow of qi—or life energy—is the goal of acupuncture, tai chi, Chinese herbal medicine and Qigong. During the retreat you will learn how to access this force directly in order to increase your capacity for self-care and self-healing. We will practice a specific form of Qigong called Yi Ren Qigong, which helps us activate, circulate, and cultivate qi energy. The focus on the exploration and expression of the intelligence and wisdom already in the body can be a powerful tool for those facing cancer. This slow, fluid movement of energy through the body can be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down—freeing you to practice at home or on the road, to energize you in the morning or put you to sleep at night.

There will also be the opportunity to explore touch therapies, broadly derived from disciplines and practices such as Jin Shin Jytsu, acupressure, Healing Touch, Reiki, and others. The use of touch in healing has been around as long as there have been hands and arms. It is easy, accessible, and effective—for both the patient and the caregiver.

Skills for Accessing Your Inner Compass

Whether we’re deciding on a cancer treatment, choosing a healthcare provider, picking out dinner, or developing a greater awareness of what brings us joy and healing on a moment-to-moment basis, our intuition can be a powerful guide. This retreat will guide you through a variety of methods to discover how to tune into, strengthen and ultimately trust your intuition in order to become a better advocate for your cells - and overall health. We’ll explore different uses of imagery (in meditative, dream and expressive form), sound, imagination, movement and physical sensation in order to discover our own personal guides into our inner worlds. 

Time Together - Time Alone

Group activities will include meditation, movement and creative expression with poetry, stories, music, movement and interactive dialogue. There will also be celebration, ritual, play and laughter. Each day there will be time alone for rest, journaling and self-reflection.

Empowering Inquiry  

Our approach is based on understanding that there is no one right way to approach illness and we uphold and respect each person's unique path. Our objective is to help each participant delve into the truth of their experience and feel empowered in taking ownership of their own way of living with cancer and its challenges. Distinguishing “healing” from “cure,” we believe that healing is mysterious and multi-faceted and is always possible- regardless of your physical condition. 

Sharing Circles

It is deeply healing to tell our stories and so we gather each day in a safe and nurturing circle, a “council”, to gently invite participants to speak from the heart - sharing their experiences and expressing their feelings. These skillfully held circles encourage listening deeply to yourself and to one another, and support each person’s inner exploration, discovery and growth.

We may touch on subjects such as: how do we make meaning of a cancer diagnosis in our lives and how do we meet its challenges? We’ll ponder what it means to live with change and uncertainty. Knowing that for some people serious illness has proved a catalyst to leading a richer and fuller life, we may explore whether cancer also be a wake-up call inviting us to live up to our fullest potential for living with zest, courage and vitality?

Caregivers will meet in their own circle and explore topics such as; how to build a healing environment; increase our capacity to heal each other through love, touch, and connection; and transform our relationship to the unknown.

Expressive Arts

There will be opportunities for creative expression through different media of drawing, music and movement. Artist Deborah Koff-Chapin will introduce the very simple and effective Touch Drawing technique, which allows for direct and powerful self-expression.  Diana Lindsay will guide us through simple movement and music activities designed to stimulate our imaginations and unlock the healing power of joyful play. No artistic skills or experience required!

Nourishment and Nutrition

Past participants were amazed by Whidbey Institute’s master chef Christyn Johnson’s skill at creating delicious, gourmet, healthful meals for people with restricted diets. Christyn will offer a special session Healing with Food on cooking with organic and locally resourced foods that incorporate dietary restrictions and nourish both body and soul.


We encourage participants to use this retreat as an opportunity for rejuvenation—take a nap, get enough sleep, have a massage and replenish depleted resources. The tranquility of this beautiful and secluded land is itself a deeply healing aspect of this retreat. There will be ample time for exploring the sacred Labyrinth, gardens, and wooded trails winding through 70 acres of protected old-growth forest.

Is this Retreat Right for Me?  
Ask yourself these questions and please be honest with yourself in answering.
  • Do you believe that you would benefit from learning and practicing mindfulness and stress reduction skills and Qigong? Along with group support, deep relaxation exercises and expressive arts?
  • Can you work well in a small group setting where people are exploring and sharing deeply personal issues and often powerful emotions? 
  • Do you recognize that each participant must find his or her unique way through their cancer experience that may be different than yours? In this setting we do not offer advice or try to fix things but support each person in finding their own way.
  • Are you medically stable and well enough to benefit from the program knowing that we do not offer medical care?
Past Participants said….   

“This is my first time in a group with other people living with cancer, it has been so healing. I feel somehow heard and understood at such a deeper level. Folks were able to share without judgment and without trying to fix each other. There was humor, love, humility and poetry. The Whidbey Institute is beautiful, calm and the food is incredible.”-Robin B.

“It has helped me to be in community with others going through the feelings and thoughts of being diagnosed with cancer. The exercises, stories, poems, and teachings helped me to shift my way of looking, being, experiencing life; which includes life with cancer.”  - Lisa

“This retreat really helps one deal with the pain and uncertainty of living with cancer. Helps one live a “healed” life, regardless of diagnosis and prognosis. I loved council and having people feel safe to share. Really love meditation and instructions/guidance for mindful practices.” -Betsy D.

If Someone were Considering Attending the Retreat-What Would you Say to Them?

“Do it! I had apprehension stepping into it, but felt transformed at the end in a way that makes me feel more at ease and open-hearted to myself and others.” –L.S.

“Go. The community, the practice, the land are all wonderful and deeply enriching.”  -Anonymous

Retreat Staff

Facilitator and Co-leader: Erica Rayner-Horn M.A., L.M.H.C.A.—is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in private practice in Seattle with extensive experience working with individuals facing life-threatening illness. A primary focus of her professional activity is teaching and developing mindfulness tools and practices. As an instructor of the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program she leads workshops and retreats on mindfulness, meditation and stress reduction. She has taught for CancerLifeline and local hospitals and presented at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. She has appeared in various publications and radio interviews and was recently interviewed by Cancer Today magazine.

Erica brings her personal experience as a cancer patient to her professional work and is passionate about teaching mindfulness as an effective way to cope better and to live well through the challenging experience of cancer. Drawing on more than 30 years of meditation training and practice, Erica is the author of the CD “Finding Tranquility-Guided Mindfulness Meditations for Stressful Times,” and an upcoming book and audio series on cancer and mindfulness.

Facilitators and Co-leaders: Diana and Kelly Lindsay—authors, speakers, workshop facilitators, and coaches for those in a health crisis and their caregivers—bring their skills as instructors of accessing embodied knowledge and energy work to the retreat. Together they have decades of experience in developing creativity, communication, and collaboration skills in people of all ages, whether in the schoolroom or the boardroom to help them succeed in the performing arts, community building, international business, and now healing. 

They are the authors of Something More Than Hope: Surviving Despite the Odds, Thriving Because of Them, based on their own adventure through cancer as patient and caregiver. Diana also has a Master’s degree in dance and is a trained Yi Ren Qigong instructor; Kelly is a Reiki Master with a degree in biology. They teach Body/Mind Healing for Antioch University and are opening a Healing Circles Wellness Center in Langley, WA.

Artist: Deborah Koff-Chapin is the originator of Touch Drawing - a helpful tool for healing and self-expression that has been used by cancer patients in hospitals and treatment centers worldwide. She is also the creator of SoulCards and the author of Drawing out Your Soul.

Master Chef: Christyn Johnson
will be creating wonderful, nourishing meals for us during the retreat.  She will also offer a special session "Foods that Nourish," with practical hands-on information, and even some of her famous recipes. Christyn will share her expertise in creating health-supporting  meals from organic, locally-sourced ingredients.

Massage Therapist: Robyn Jones, L.M.P., offers participants wonderfully relaxing deep tissue massage and craniosacral treatments. (Appointments are made directly with Robyn).


The retreat begins with registration and check-in Thursday, May 22 afternoon followed by dinner, and ends after lunch on Monday, May 26.  There will be the possibility to invite family and friends to the closing lunch on Monday, May 26.

Please note: There is no part-time attendance and all participants should plan to stay on-site for the entire retreat at the Whidbey Institute- including those who are local residents. Whidbey Island has beautiful land and beaches to enjoy but please plan to explore them before and after the retreat. consider extending your stay if you can.

Cost of Registration
Registration is on a sliding scale, $750–$1050 including all retreat tuition, meals, and lodging.

In order to make this retreat affordable for as many people as possible we are offering a sliding scale with as broad a range as we can.

The minimum registration payment of $750 covers 50% of the actual costs of the retreat, s
o when you make your tuition payment please consider your financial situation carefully bearing in mind that all payments above the minimum enable us to make the retreat available to those otherwise unable to participate.
If you need scholarship assistance to attend the retreat please indicate this when registering. We understand that living with cancer often creates financial hardship and we do our best to meet requests for scholarship with the limited funds we have available. 

Our capacity to offer scholarship is based on a) any contributions or donations we receive designated for scholarship, and b) any registration amount above $750. 
Contributions to this scholarship fund are deeply appreciated and will be awarded to participants requesting financial assistance.

Registration Process
  1. Click the "Register Now" button above to complete the preliminary application and pay a deposit of $200. PLEASE ALLOW AT LEAST 30 MINUTES to complete your registration as there are several questions in the application.
  2. Your applications will be reviewed and we will follow up with you for a phone interview with one of the facilitators.
  3. If we can offer you a place in the retreat your deposit will become non-refundable. If we cannot offer you a place it will be refunded to you in entirety.
  4. Upon acceptance we will ask you to complete a few additional questions and complete the tuition payment.
We appreciate your patience with this process - we are committed to building a cohesive group of participants who will be able to benefit from this retreat.

Cancellation & Refund Policy

We understand that life challenges emerge and changes happen; we request your help in ensuring that we are operating together in integrity. If you find it necessary to cancel, a full refund minus your $200 deposit will be given if notice is received at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the session. For cancellations received less than two weeks prior to the start date, no refund can be given, barring change in medical condition making it impossible to attend.


Contact Information

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