Callanish Society is a non-profit organization providing retreats for people living with cancer and their families.
History of the Callanish Society

The Callanish week-long retreat program was inspired by the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California under the direction of Rachel Naomi Remen M.D. and Michael Lerner Ph.D. The Commonweal program has been in existence for many years and was featured in the first Bill Moyers series “Healing and the Mind”, in 1993. Due to great interest in their program from around the world, Commonweal designed a training program for health care professionals interested in setting up similar retreat programs.

In the spring of 1994, Janie Brown (present Executive Director of Callanish Society) attended the first Commonweal Tradecraft workshop. Following the workshop, Janie invited a group of professionals to come together: Karen Barger, Kathy Fell, Gilly Heaps, Madhuri Honeyman, Daphne Lobb and Maryliz Smith, to develop, facilitate, evaluate and refine the weeklong retreat program. Fiona Kus and Judy Stanfield were integral to those early retreats. The retreats were, and still are today, offered every two to three months.

Over the next fifteen years Janie, Daphne, Gilly, Karen, Kathy, and Maryliz worked hard in their “labour of love” to establish a unique and truly innovative program that has gained local, national and international respect and support. New members joined the team over the years bringing their unique expertise: Tessa Cherniavsky, Liz Evans, Gretchen Ladd, Eva Matsuzaki, Jeanne Russell, Danielle Schroeder, Carol Sutcliffe, Claire Talbot, and Meika Tennant. The team could not thrive without the support of many other people who contribute in ways, large and small, to the vibrant and vital community that is Callanish today.

“Having worked with people with cancer and their families for over 25 years, it is clear that there are some individuals who are seeking a more in-depth exploration of what it means to heal fully, emotionally and spiritually, even when the body is sick. Some people approach their illness experience from the perspective of learning, and an opportunity for growth and healing at all levels. There are people, who have had cancer, who are now physically well, who want to find ways to live more healthily and fully. There are others who are seeking ways to cultivate resilience and fearlessness in the face of death. The Callanish weeklong retreat has been designed as a refuge, for deep exploration of what it means to heal and to find peace of mind and heart in the face of one of life’s greatest challenges”.

- Janie Brown
Executive Director

Callanish Society became incorporated as a non-profit society in May 1997 and received charitable status in November 1997. In June 2004, the Society moved in to a beautiful retreat space in Vancouver, thanks to the gift of an anonymous donor. In the heart of Kitsilano, at 2277 West 10th Ave, those who have been on a weeklong retreat can participate in ongoing day retreats and groups.

House Blessing

(written by Janie Brown for the “opening” of the new Vancouver retreat space in August 2004)

May you hold sacred each and every precious life that enters here
Keeping us safe that we may soften the edges of our hearts
To risk opening to one another in truth

May you fiercely protect us that we might have the courage to express all aspects of our humanity:
Both the laughter and the tears
The fear and the hope
The despair and the faith

May your quiet presence help us to recognize and remember our wholeness
No matter how much sickness there is in the body

May your light bring us clarity and show us the truth in ourselves
And may your fires help to transform the suffering that keeps us from being free

May you show us the way to kindness and respect for one another regardless of our differences
May you lovingly support us as we honour life
and as we cultivate fearlessness to look closely at the transition of death

May your quiet grace help us to rest in the impermanent, non-changing ever-present field of consciousness that is the river of life, out of which each life arises and passes away

May we come home to ourselves in you
Contact info: 2277 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver BC Canada V6K 2J1 Ph: (604) 732-0633 Fax: (604) 732-0689