How Xenia Came to Be
Xenia is a 38-acre Sanctuary in the heart of Bowen Island, one hour from downtown Vancouver and 90 minutes from our international airport. It is also surrounded by hundreds of acres of protected government forests and lakes. It is a place of safety and beauty. It is a place to heal, to rest, to play and to discover one’s true nature and inherent gifts. One guest explained the essence of Xenia so eloquently:
“I thought this miraculous, spiritual experience was in the land – and it is. But I have walked many lands, in India, Africa, Europe, Canada and the U.S. – and have not experienced it before. And then I thought it must come from the structures and holy places like Opa and the Sanctuary – and it does. But I have been in many structures and holy places around the world and have not felt this before.
And then I thought it must come from the spirituality of the people there, those dedicated, that enliven the Creative Force – and it does. But I have been with many people in many structures in many lands and have never experienced this kind of spirituality before.” - Joan O’Flynn
“Xenia on Bowen Island, British Columbia, was created out of a vision for children to feel safe to be creative. All children, including the magical child within you. We are born into this world with a seed, a gift awaiting expression. If given the right environment it will flourish and fulfil its destiny.” - Angelyn (Founder of Xenia)
Check out the history of Bowen Island here: https://www.bowenheritage.org/a-short-history-of-bowen-island.html
A Short History of Bowen Island
The Squamish are a coast Salish people whose traditional territory stretches from Point Grey in Vancouver to Roberts Creek, encompassing all of the islands in Howe Sound, including Bowen Island. The Squamish name for the Island is Xwlíl’xhwm, meaning “Fast Drumming Ground”. Some authors attribute the name to the sound made by the ocean as it passes through the tiny pass between the Island’s northern point and Finisterre Island.
In the Squamish creation story, Xwlíl’xhwm is often referred to as the place where the deer were created.
On Xwlíl’xhwm, the Squamish established a tiny village called Qole’laqom and
here they hunted, fished or stopped over during long voyages up and down the coast. While there remains no trace of the village, archaeological surveys conducted by Dr. Charles Borden and a team of students from the University of British Columbia in the 1970’s discovered clam middens at the perimeter of the Island. More recently, a developer’s survey unearthed a fire pit and arrow head. The whole Island is thought to have high potential for such sites.
From the Founder, Angelyn:
“When I first walked on this land it was a derelict old sheep farm and every single building was dilapidated. Most people thought I was crazy to imagine it could be transformed into what it is today but see it I could and believe in it I did. Over the years I have watched this place emerge out of the ashes into a beautiful natural and inspiring sanctuary. Visitors are always astonished to see pictures of what it once was. Where once a junkyard littered the landscape, there now lays a forest glade with a sacred Labyrinth at its centre.
Thousands come every year, quietly arriving unannounced along
the shaded forest paths, just to walk the Labyrinth and be brought once again to the centre of their being.
A ramshackle neglected shack has been restored to reveal one of Bowen Island’s proudest heritage buildings. The original split-log dwelling built by pioneers in 1882 (the oldest still standing on our island) is itself an education in the wisdom of native building techniques, developed in this region over thousands of years. Its thermal properties excel any other we know of, both in winter and in summer. Just to sit quietly within this central room at Xenia is to feel nurtured.
The energy from its ancient walls (massive slabs of wood from original growth trees over 600 years old) soaks into your cells, giving you an experience of what a humble shelter can be. This Lodge now forms the heart of the Xenia community and has been expanded to include a kitchen and dining room that comfortably services over 25 people at a sitting.
I remember the first year noticing the lack of birds. Literally, I couldn’t hear or see signs of birds on the land. It seemed dead energetically. Now it is a vibrant and prolific home for many a flyer and crawler – not to mention the four-legged. Healing and transformation happen regularly because of their presence on the land. The energy has shifted so radically through the hundreds of people who have contributed with their love, skill and gifts. It is a place people love to come and be of service and it still amazes us that people work hard all day and then phone and thank us for the privilege. They consider they are the ones who received the gift. This is so rare in our society.
Our 30 ft diameter yurt, a circular structure based on a traditional Mongolian design, provides a functional and attractive venue for workshops and group events. Xenia is the venue of choice for many providers of weekend workshops, not just from the Vancouver area, but also internationally. Pioneers in sustainability from Britain, film-makers from Germany, healers from Japan and Peru, Tibetan Buddhists, Australian educators, and many other groups have all found Xenia an ideal place to foregather. Over the years has grown up an extraordinary community that embraces Xenia. This extends out to the larger community of Bowen Island as well as globally with many members around the world who visit yearly.
Born and raised in England, at 19 Angelyn travelled the world expecting to return to her homeland but there was another plan in store that led her to Vancouver, Canada and a corporate career. After a decade working in advertising, radio and then as a consultant in communications and interpersonal skills, she withdrew to a tree house on Bowen Island in 1986, to re-assess her life.
Her greatest joy of all was the birth of her beautiful daughter Kasara, in 1987, who is a now a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, specialising in Chiropractic and Equine Sports Medicine. Kasara has since started her PhD while raising two beautiful boys, Angelyn's most precious grandsons. Another big passion of Angelyn’s has always been horses, so what a delight it was that her daughter chose a career in the equine world.
In 1994, Angelyn purchased a thirty-eight-acre, broken-down, old sheep farm to begin her Vision of a Sanctuary in nature where people could come to relax, unplug, and allow their creative muse to awaken. Xenia Creative Development Centre was born. The transformation involved a huge undertaking and a labour of love and dedication. It involved the support of hundreds of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Chrystalle Grace, Angelyn’s best friend and co-Founder of Xenia was a major support in saying “yes” to most of Angelyn’s great visions and crazy ideas. Together they were a solid team in unfolding Xenia’s mission along with Diane, Chrystalle’s sister, other community members (see acknowledgements) as well as hundreds of volunteers. Sadly, Chrystalle left this world on October 1st 2010 and is greatly missed. Her legacy lives on and she still makes contact with the Xenia community, in a variety of different ways.
A decade into the initiative, Angelyn underwent major financial stress and nearly lost her beloved Xenia back to the bank. At one point, she fell five months behind on the mortgage, three years behind in property taxes, and received disconnection notices. She refers to this time as her dark night of the soul. It lasted two long years.
In 2005, Relationship Marketing came into her life and, at first, she almost didn’t recognize it as the miracle for which she had prayed. It happened because of the fortitude of a colleague, who had visited her Retreat Centre many years earlier and strongly suggested Angelyn take a look at a business vehicle. A vision they both shared was to bring together leaders from around the world to have an impact on education, health, and business.
Many years later, Angelyn cannot believe the transformation in her life and in the lives of those with whom she has worked. She has a wonderful team of loyal and dedicated people.
Angelyn won the Associate of the Year Award for North America in 2008, for exemplary leadership, and got inducted into the Millionaire Club, having personally earned one million dollars by January 2013. She has served on the Field Advisory Board of her company for several years and is the top income earner in Canada. In 2015, she won the company’s highest award for Leadership, Integrity, and Service, the Yun Ho Lee Award. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh_LtPBck00. In 2016, she won the award for Leadership Excellence. Having a successful Relationship Marketing business not only sustains her Retreat Centre, but she also loves her life and the freedom it allows. The biggest surprise of all was finding the perfect partnership and parallel path with her work of transformation. It fulfils her desire to serve others to awaken their greatest gifts and talents.
Her passion for animals and transformation got combined in her book: From Squeak to Roar, Unleashing the potential in your Relationship Marketing Tribe.
Angelyn leads programs at her Retreat Centre and is developing a Global Program in collaboration with a faculty of conscious entrepreneurs to change the way we do business, education, and life in general.
Her latest book, Radical Trust, Manifesting a Vision When It Seems Impossible is out now in paperback and audible: https://angelyntoth.com/books_post/radical-trust. Radical Trust is about Angelyn's journey through the fire of surrender into the deep pool of listening. It is a story about waking up out of the swamp of confusion the mind serves up, into something far deeper that knows the truth and guides us. This book is a story of feeling our feelings, not as a pure guide but to liberate their missive. It is about listening to, and acting upon the messages life delivers by way of symbols, relationships, and encounters. Finally, Radical Trust helps the reader find the courage to follow their individual path and deliver the gifts with which they were born. It is, ultimately, a story of inspiration and transformation on many levels and in profound ways.
It took me over twenty years to write this book. The title became clear in 1999, but the content took years to write. I realised why when I heard about the importance of sharing the wisdom of your scars, not your open wounds.
It felt too vulnerable to share my journey because it was wrought with my judgments and fears of what others would think. Obviously, the wounds remained open, and I was embarrassed. But today it seems hard to believe I travelled through many of the experiences I did, and I choose to honour them.
I share my story because I am prompted from within and as a way of inspiring others.
Life speaks to all of us every day and all-day long. We can safely know there is a higher power guiding us. It takes courage to begin and radical trust to continue. My wish is that this book inspires the reader to find his or her deep inner knowing by truly witnessing the feelings arising and trusting the messages given. angelyntoth.com
Explore her book "From Squeak to Roar" which explores the dynamics of working as a team and features beautiful artwork of our animals.
To understand the vision and gift of Xenia read these two articles by Angelyn Toth (Founder of Xenia Centre) "The Gift Within", "The Creative Fire"
Watch this video do learn about Angelyn and the origins of Xenia
Interview with Angelyn with PowHERhouse:
Words from our Friends:
“A happy response to our love and joy. A sense that there is a lot ahead of it, a lot to be brought into manifestation. A lot to be achieved in service to the whole and that service to the whole is very important to it. It has an ordained role and is delighted that this is so and has long chosen this area. It thanks us and blesses us.”
Message for Xenia through Dorothy Maclean – Co-Founder of Findhorn
"All the architecture being artfully and lovingly crafted in wood and glass, to celebrate the glorious natural setting and be attuned to it. In another corner of Xenia stands Opa, our 1000 year old Douglas Fir tree. To simply sit and be with Opa is to be helped to a state of grace. A bench awaits you to sit and marvel at this sentient being, and thousands make use of this every year.
Nearby we have built a beautiful Sanctuary, all crafted lovingly from timber grown on Xenia. In all weathers, people come to sit in silence and meditation, sharing the space with a sacred and eternal flame. From time to time, people gather in the Sanctuary for a variety of spiritual purposes and silent vigils. You will notice an, absence of dogma here. All beliefs are respected at Xenia, none more than others.
“A lot of us arrived here not knowing what to expect and as the crazy lives of the city melted off everyone they were able to just be themselves. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place where you can just be loved and accepted for exactly who you are. Xenia is this place.”
- Nancy (Street Youth Program)
"Within sight of the Lodge, unique and beautiful wooden cottages dot the landscape, surrounding a broad grassy meadow several acres in extent. Leading away from this centre in every direction are easy paths taking you to secret places in the woods, to deserted lakes and beaches to beautiful views. Xenia and its surroundings are blessed with so many beautiful and spiritually nourishing locations, it’s impossible to detail them all.
Along all of these trails you soon find yourself exploring your own soul as much as the nature around you. And what you find is good. Xenia works its magic upon you and calls you home.
There are magical places that change our lives; this land is one of those places. Thank you for holding this vision of healing and for not giving up on your dream….You have dreamed-in power, beauty and grace. I leave here changed and transformed.”
- Sonya Weir – Editor Shared Vision
Xenia has a community of friends, angels and devoted people who have volunteered since the beginning and remain deeply committed to the full vision of Xenia.
Some live at Xenia, some live on Bowen Island and others live around the world. In particular: Chrystalle Grace, Saria-Suzann Bailey, Diane Leclair, Kasara Toth, Dale Hamilton, Mike Mommersteeg, Tarla Curran, Matthew Smith, Sheena Ashdown, Ellen Hayakawa, Ariel Cantin, Brian Silver, Doug Stelling, David Skinner, Bernard Leclair, Elinor Meney, Marina Richards, Lucas Gaudette, Tina Overbury and hundreds of Wwoofers- (willing workers on organic farms). Without these people's contribution of love and support Xenia may not be here today.
Being Sanctuary: Guidelines for Hosts and Residents of Xenia
Sanctuary is the work of the moment. Unencumbered by agenda, judgment or fear. Instead met with understanding and awareness. All is accepted within the arms of Sanctuary – nothing to hide, protect or project. There is no one attempting to fix, change or save you, because Sanctuary is empty of motive, prejudice or agenda. Validation is offered by witnessing you as you are now. This doesn’t mean Sanctuary is always a gentle, tranquil environment. It can also be loud with music, laughter or emotions releasing. But in general, there is a pulse, a vibration of peace that sits at the backdrop and this itself is the Sanctuary we speak of.
Xenia offers the work of Sanctuary inclusive of all traditions, spiritual studies and cultures. It is an eclectic, non-dogmatic environment, offering a doorway through which one can know one’s true nature as a direct experience.
While Sanctuary is an open, inclusive place to come and visit, it is a deeply committed place to work and live within. It is a responsibility with principles and guidelines that have to be adhered to. It is important for the team who lives and works in Sanctuary to be cohesive. Communicating regularly, dining and attuning together. Keeping the place clean and tidy mentally, emotionally and physically. Holding the highest vibration possible at all times. It is a commitment and responsibility to live in a space that demands such integrity, co-operation and attention.
The essence of Sanctuary is love. ‘Finding Grace in Everyone’, is our practice. Noticing the beauty and perfection held in every moment increases awareness. Infinite love is the only truth – everything else is an illusion of the mind. We can choose love or fear in any given moment. Love connects us and fear separates us.
Remembering the meaning of our name: cross-pollination of ideas between guest and host - hospitality.
In a seemingly spontaneous invitation, we have noticed a remarkable synchronistic exchange between guest and host. Whoever insists on being in Sanctuary is welcome. Sometimes this may appear as a most difficult or wounded person. There are no mistakes. If you find you have difficulty with a particular person – good – your work has just arrived. Write a sheet on this person and turn it around. What a gift of healing this person brings. (The inclusive Sanctuary doorway does not include abusive or destructive actions). The mystery of people from all walks of life and circumstances coming together at a particular time and making profound connections, is part of the magic of Sanctuary.
Safety is very important in Sanctuary and being conscious of our own actions and mindful of the people in Sanctuary go a long way to supporting a space of safety. Allowing whatever arises in the moment is safety. Listening without wanting to fix or advise is safety. Trust is built through the safety of an authentic place and host.
Nature is Sanctuary
Nature is present and offers itself completely. Merge into nature and know what nature knows. “We are not separate – we are one”. At Xenia we are blessed with 38-acres of meadows, trees and a beautiful rich garden. Surrounded by parkland and nestled between two lakes, there are abundant trails with giant ferns, and a short walk to the ocean. Adjoining a bird sanctuary at Crippen Park, we have a paradise to play within. Remind guests and clients to walk the labyrinth, sit with OPA our ancient Douglas fir or visit the horses in the meadow. OPA, the horses, Khodo and Summer, Tofino the donkey and Mars the miniature horse along with Gracie our labradoodle and Charlie the pig are very good at offering Sanctuary to all those who spend time with them.
Silence & Stillness
Silence is an important part of Sanctuary and can be a natural part of the experience. Not trying to fill the space with complicated processes and theories, but instead to sit in the richness of presence available. It is not always easy and may appear threatening to a guest newly arriving from the city and a busy life. Fear may arise and they may find the silence deafening and the dark too dark. A little reassurance and offering a flashlight is all that is needed. If the hosts can hold the space of stillness with ease – it helps others to trust and relax into it. Though it is not always about having people feel comfortable. Discomfort and pain often arise in contrast to the peace and tranquility available. Be a bridge into the stillness. Once a person is able to relax into the stillness, they may hear the beautiful songs of nature as well as the sacred whispers of wisdom within.
When a circle is opened, and the group holds love without conditions - presence enters the room. A container then becomes available for whatever wants to move into it. It is a space where vulnerability feels safe to show up; where tears are willing to flow and where emotions can be met with understanding. It is where you are not only listened to – you are heard. In this space all can be seen and dissolved by the very nature of having been witnessed in a compassionate environment. The circle is about connecting and through this we can join with each other. If we are not at home within ourselves it is difficult to join with others. Separation or joining is a constant choice and takes awareness and practice.
The labyrinth is a powerful tool to find Sanctuary within. Walking the pathway into the centre slows the mind down and relaxes the body. Any stress naturally falls away with each step taken. Focusing on the breath and the sounds of the birds and the wind brings us home and soon there are no problems. A feeling of wellness ensues or an inspiration pops into our consciousness. Remind guests that it’s always a good idea to carry a journal and pencil with them – and do so yourself.
welcome ALL THAT ARISES
Whatever arises in Sanctuary is ok. Let it be, and know it has come up because there is enough safety and love present. Love brings up that least like itself —The Course in Miracles. If a tough situation arises, take a deep breath; stay present and watch the power of presence work its magic.
The WORK OF SANCTUARY
Apprenticeship programs, workshops and sessions are available within the Sanctuary with Facilitators capable of holding space. Areas of work that may arise:
The nature of Sanctuary brings up anything unlike itself. Therefore, it is fertile ground for “stuff” to come up for healing. This is not always understood or recognized for what it is. As facilitators and hosts of Sanctuary, it is our commitment to clear our own issues as they arise. In so doing we can hold the space neutral instead of projecting outwards onto each other or worse yet, our unsuspecting guests. This is a very important practice we have to stay vigilant of. If we notice judgment arising, we check in and see how it separates us from the ‘other’. The moment we become aware of this, we can turn it around and see where this judgment reflects something in ourselves. It has come to serve, so welcome it. As we bring this projection home to rest, the judgment dissolves through the awareness. Take note of any loaded or tenacious judgment for personal work at a later time. (See Inquiry Questions from the Work of Byron Katie, assess your reaction with Instinx® or use other methods of clearing).
Listening is a true Art. To really listen without a comeback or bigger story is to hold Sanctuary for another. Sometimes guests simply need a good listening to and in the space of sanctuary this can have a transformative result. As we learn to listen more outside ourselves we start to really hear what is going on inside. Uninvestigated thinking and stories we tell ourselves over and over again cause suffering. By investigating our thinking, we start to notice core beliefs and attitudes that have created our experience. As this awareness develops, we have a chance to hear the stories and, in this witnessing, they release themselves.
Everyone has their own answers
We all have our own answers within and this is so for young people as well. Get out of the way and simply be a safe, available space without any attachment to a result and watch what happens. When we work with teens, notice even more clearly how important it is to accept all that is presented; rather than judging it or stopping it. This age group more than any other wants to figure things out for themselves. They have their own answers as well. (See Sanctuary for Teens).
Being Without Motive
Being without motive may be a radical concept to consider. But upon exploration we have noticed how powerful and graceful things happen in their own way and in their own time. Holding the space is usually all that is required. To sit with another without agenda is the most spacious way to hold Sanctuary. The depth of Sanctuary is in the emptiness –”from what there is not” (— Lao Tsu). In other words, not trying to change, fix or advise. One way to see this is to look at motive. Do I want to impress with my great wisdom? Am I trying to “help”? Do I want approval from the group or person? Motives can be subtle, and it takes really wanting to know the truth to see this. Once motive is released a natural flow comes into play that can offer a direct intuitive response. Motivation is externally based. Intuition is inspired from within.
You cannot demand respect, you have to earn it. Be the respect and it will naturally mirror itself back to you. To impose, restrict, rule or demand has a built in “NO” vibration. To command respect means to hold it out towards others equally. Respect is an important quality of Sanctuary.
Happiness is our natural state. This may not be obvious due to the layers and levels of conditioning that obscures the true essence of who we are. Happiness is apparent in Sanctuary in the simplicity of being. So, have fun and lighten up. Laughter and song are most welcome.
Remember to keep our ears, eyes and hearts open to our brothers and sisters upon this journey of life.
And most of all: understand that the work of Sanctuary is first and foremost a spiritual path of Self-realization. In other words, it’s not for everyone, but for those who it is for … it is powerful path. As we become Sanctuary for others we become the recipients of this gift. As we learn to walk in the world with an inner stillness we become sanctuary to whom ever we are with including the animals and plant life. This is not always easy, but it is our conscious practice and we the hosts, are accountable for it within the community.
It is the centre hole that makes it useful
Shape clay into a vessel
It is the space within that makes it useful
Cut doors and windows in a room
It is the hole that makes it useful
Therefore, profit comes from what is there
Usefulness from what there is not"— Lao Tsu poem 11