Awake and Alive: Mindful Living with Cancer – Spring 2016

Clinton, Washington
Monday, April 25, 2016


with Erica Rayner-Horn and Diana & Kelly Lindsay

April 25-29, 2016


Welcome to this life-affirming, empowering retreat and discover what it means to live fully awake and alive—even while facing serious illness. Gift yourself with this unique opportunity for deep reflection, healing and transformation. You will leave with practical tools and practices that empower you to live well in the midst of change and uncertainty.

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.

You will be introduced to the transformative healing practices of mindfulness and stress reduction; the ancient discipline of Qigong and opportunities for self-reflection and exploration through expressive arts. You will learn tools that help transform fear and anxiety, boost immunity, build resilience and help you cope better with stress. 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.


The emerging model of cancer treatment is based on the understanding of the Mind-Body connection that recognizes cancer is not just a disease of the body. Cancer affects us on all levels: mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical. This holistic view recognizes that in order to support your body and its ability to heal it is essential to address the broader picture of health that encompasses psychological, emotional, and spiritual health.

Our approach is based on understanding that there is no one right way to approach illness - we support 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 always possible—regardless of your physical condition. 

Cancer Patients and Survivors 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  of us with cancer have in common.

Caregivers/Companions Recognizing that caregivers are also deeply affected by their loved one’s illness, the retreat may be open on a space-available basis 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.

See What Past Participants said . . .


Participants said to anyone considering attending the retreat . . .
“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.” Betsy D.

“No matter where you are in relationship to your cancer, this retreat will provide you with tools and skills to bring greater peace, calm and acceptance.” L-M


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

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness can help you live in the present moment with more awareness, ease and peacefulness so you can strengthen your resilience and buffer the negative impact and stresses of cancer. 

Through close attention to everything that arises in your mind and body without judging or rejecting it, mindfulness provides a way to address painful emotions and unhelpful thinking and helps you discover how to befriend yourself with 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 highly effective research-based Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that help promote a more balanced, calm and accepting approach to life.

The benefits of Mindfulness and MBSR have been scientifically recognized to:

  • reduce stress and tension in body and mind
  • reduce anxiety, fear and depression and improve mood
  • boost immune system and lower blood pressure
  • transform relationship to pain
  • improve memory and sleep
  • improve attitude and enhance quality of 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. 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 Jyutsu, 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 patient and 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: imagination, movement and physical sensation 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 free time alone for rest, journaling and self-reflection.

Sharing Circles

It is deeply healing to tell our stories, so we gather each day in a safe and nurturing healing circle, to gently invite participants to speak from the heart — sharing their experiences and expressing their feelings. These skillfully led 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 ongoing 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 can also be a wake-up call inviting us to live up to our fullest potential for living with zest, courage and vitality.

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!


We encourage participants to use this retreat as an opportunity for deep rejuvenation—take a nap, rest, eat well 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.

7:15am – 8:00am        Yi Ren Qigong: Energy for Healing
8:00am – 9:00am        Breakfast
9:30am – 11:55pm      Healing with Mindfulness
12:00pm – 1:00pm       Lunch
1:00pm – 3:15pm         Unstructured Break
3:30pm – 5:45pm         Creativity in Healing sessions
6:00pm – 7:30pm         Dinner
7:30pm – 9:00ish         Sharing Circle

• Do you believe that you would benefit from learning and practicing mindfulness, 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?


Facilitator and Co-leader: Erica Rayner-Horn M.A., L.M.H.C.A.—a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in integrating mindfulness in her work as a therapist, presenter, workshop leader and writer. An instructor of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program she teaches mindfulness meditation and stress management in medical, educational and corporate settings and has extensive experience working with people living with cancer. As the founder of this retreat she designed and developed the program based on her personal experience as a cancer patient and her professional practice. She is passionate about teaching mindfulness as an effective way to cope better, and to live well, through the challenging experience of cancer.

Erica has presented and taught for CancerLifeline, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, and is a facilitator for Harmony Hill Cancer Retreats. She has appeared in various publications including Cancer Today, Corporate Wellness and Seattle’s Child, and given interviews on various radio programs such as Transformation Talk Radio. Erica is the author of the best-selling 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/Something More Than Everything: 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 the Program Directors of Healing Circles Langley, a Commonweal program on Whidbey Island that offers non-residential support for those impacted by cancer or other life-changing conditions.

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.


The retreat begins with registration and check-in Monday, April 25 in the afternoon followed by dinner, and ends after lunch on Friday, April 29. You are welcome to invite family and friends to the closing lunch on Friday, April 29.

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, $795–$1295 which includes 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 $795 covers 50% of the actual cost of the retreat, so 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.


We do not have specific scholarship funds available but any registration amount paid above $795 will be awarded to those requesting it. Please consider contributing if you are able. Your donation to the fund for scholarship is deeply appreciated.

For those requiring scholarship assistance please let us know on the registration form – we will do our best to meet your request based on funds available.

Registration Process
1. Click the "Register Now" button above to complete the preliminary application and pay a deposit of $200. This process will take up to 20 or 30 minutes, and must be completed in one sitting, so please allow yourself ample time.

2. Your application 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 comprehensive application and to complete the tuition and lodging 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 exceptional emergencies.



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