[drɪŋks wɪð] Christine Lines

First off, some unsolicited advertisement: zoom is awesome. That’s all.

Zoom is how I connected with Christine, after she had visited Yasodhara ashram, my current place of residency, earlier in 2019. By the time we talked, she had travelled on to Kashi ashram in Florida, another one of those places in the world where she feels at home. Living life on the move has been Christine’s modus operandi for the last few years, and by the sounds of it that’s not likely to change anytime soon. But let’s start at the beginning.


Christine came to Yasodhara after she met the ashram’s president at a gathering of the Holistic Centres Network, short HCN, at Hollyhock on Cortes Island off the coast of beautiful British Columbia. She stayed with us for three weeks, resting, recuperating, working in the garden, and at the end of her stay, gave what is called a “Lunch & Learn” in ashram lingo. Basically, the community comes together for a little while after lunch to learn about things. Makes sense, right?

Christine introduced herself and told us about the role of HCN, and her work within the network. One of the questions that someone asked was: What is a Holistic Centre?


According to HCN’s website, Holistic Centres are “places that change people’s lives”. If you look a bit further, you’ll find the words: “All have in common a dedication to the creation of a more holistic, spiritual and ecological world”. What that means is really not clearly definable. And, of course, there’s always the question of who is trying to define it, from which cultural and sociological background. But that’s a different story.

Ralph White, one of the founders of the Gathering – a yearly get-together of Holistic Centres representatives from and in different parts of the world that has been happening for more than 30 years – speaks to what he calls “some kind of awakening of consciousness happening throughout the planet, (…) a global paradigm shift”, and how due to this stirring of consciousness, more and more centres have emerged throughout all societies and cultures, all over.

“So what exactly are holistic learning centers? They are places that change people’s lives. Books and magazines are wonderful but alone their influence is limited. We need places where the new cultural paradigm can express itself, places devoted wholeheartedly to the great work of awakening consciousness. In the modern age, these are unlikely to be limited to monasteries and cathedrals. They emerge instead from a few seemingly crazy individuals who feel that their city or region needs some kind of focal point for life enhancing new ideas and practices.” (Ralph White)

So basically, the assumption is that Holistic Centres are places that provide a space for those people who are experiencing a shift in consciousness – who don’t “fit in”, who feel like there’s gotta be something else, and a need to figure out what that might be – to explore this shift, to go deeper into it, to learn how to change and integrate those changes into their daily lives.

Christine is one of those people. Originally from the UK, she moved to Australia when she was 21, and ended up emigrating there. Her first career was in tourism and travel, which evolved into organising meditation and yoga retreats out of Byron Bay, on the west coast of New South Wales. Living there, she first heard about the Gathering which, at the time, didn’t have a web presence. This was about ten years ago, and she felt called to attend the Gathering, which happened in Hawaii that year. There, she met Ralph who told her about his life at Findhorn in Scotland in the 70s, and a few weeks later, she felt called there, too, deciding to return to her home country to live in spiritual community. That’s the geographical nutshell.

After visiting Findhorn in 2009, and then again after the Gathering for a workshop called Life Purpose, Christine became more and more immersed in the community and her commitment there. So instead of returning to her life in Australia, she became part of the staff, first working in the community garden, then moving into the Communications team and  finally joining the Guest Department which focuses on the core curriculum of the Findhorn programs. At the same time, Christine developed a website for the Holistic Centres Network, which is what the Gathering became over the years – not least because of her passion for networking with centers around the world.

Networking is something that is very much at the core of the Findhorn philosophy – it’s “in our DNA”, Christine says. Peter and Eileen Caddy, two of the three founders of the Findhorn foundation have been working to strengthen what they call the “Network of Light” since Findhorn’s very beginning – which, coincidentally (or maybe not), brought them to Yasodhara ashram in the 70’s. That networking aspect of the community has always resonated with Christine, and so she feels like she is “very much following in their [the founders’] footsteps” as she travels the globe to expand not only Findhorn’s, but also the Holistic Centres Network.

“I’ve always been a traveler, I’ve always been interested in that global sense of community – I feel like Findhorn shaped me for this role with HCN. (…) I feel like I was really picked up from Australia and placed at Findhorn, feeling: This is where you need to be, this is your soul’s work.”

Even as a child, Christine has always been interested in what she now identifies as the “mystical path”. Growing up in a Roman Catholic family, she was naturally interested in the Bible – although not so much in the rituals offered to her in church. “It didn’t feel meaningful to me”, she says. Instead, she was keen on learning about other world religions, and years later, yoga became her “first conscious step” onto the spiritual path.

photo source: http://www.centersnetwork.org

„I felt like there is something here that I want to explore, but I don’t know what it is.“

After her introduction to yoga, Christine set out to discover more about different spiritual paths. She learnt meditation from a Buddhist teacher, lived in South Africa where she had a “heart-opening” experience with a Sufi group, and studied non-dualism in India with a Vedanta teacher. “I have a very eclectic path”, she says, which might be part of the reason she is drawn to places like Kashi, Yasodhara and Findhorn, where seekers from all spiritual traditions are living together. In Findhorn, however, she found a place of homecoming to her own Christian tradition, finding connections on all sorts of levels in her life, not least of them her own name.

Christine feels like the work she is doing now is very much connected with her spirituality, and one of the most prominent common denominators is “learning to love”: There is an underlying appreciation of the basic ideas common to all spiritual paths, and a willingness to explore their differences and similarities, to understand what draws people to them. As her work with HCN becomes more and more an integral part of not just her outer, but also her inner life, she’s aware of “such an inner motivation to make a difference” – to be a facilitator for creating connections – between places of learning and contemplation, but also between people serving in those facilities. There is a desire to strengthen that “power of linking up” she believes is fundamental for making a change in the world.

For Christine, one significant driver for change is to acknowledge the need for balance “between the quiet and the coming forward”, between connecting with others and expanding outward on one side and retreating inward to recoup, integrate and re-align with oneself. That, to me, is one of the main functions of holistic centres, which the HCN is supporting worldwide.

photo cred: http://www.centersnetwork.org

The Holistic Centres Network that emerged from 35+ years of  Centers Gathering is basically a forum for people working in such centres to connect, share best practices, and support each other’s growth in what founder Ralph White calls “an emerging ecology of consciousness, each with our own role to play as our cultures began to subtly embrace a more holistic and ecological worldview“. “Essentially”, Christine explains, “it’s a peer-to-peer learning community, also a chalice for the transformational impulse in the world“. Through the Gathering, which is still very much at the heart of HCN, as well as online courses, webinars and blog posts that can be accessed by members through the website, centres can help each other by identifying and addressing central issues in their work and finding solutions in collaboration with others. Christine, whose role within the Network has evolved from that of a volunteer who offered to create the first website for the Gathering to that of Executive Director of HCN, feels “at home” in her role of supporting and strengthening the global network of centres – for example by visiting them, like she did this year with Yasodhara, Kashi and other places in the US, Canada, China and Europe.

The different centres connected through HCN vary widely in their approaches, backgrounds, and even their setting: Some are to be found in the middle of a metropolis like New York, some hidden away in the forest. Depending on these attributes, they attract all different kinds of people. Ultimately, though, they all seem to have one thing in common: to provide a space where wholeness – that connection of the body and the mind – can be learned and/or experienced, to allow people to “tap into the wisdom of the body, connecting the inner and the outer”, says Christine – which ultimately is reflected in how we as individuals interact with our environment.

One way of achieving this is by putting spiritual practices into action in everyday life, with the intention of creating harmony with all life, and Christine enjoys witnessing these ideals being brought forward in the many different centers. Particularly in a world where Christine is noticing how social networks are being designed as addictive instruments to retrieve personal data, to hand over “anything that used to be inherently ‘ours'”, and where it is just too easy to fall into the abyss of negativity and depression, created by the sheer amount of bad news, fake news – you name it – she sees a tremendous need for “building bridges”: To bring us back to ourselves, to remind us of our oneness with our environment, and to provide space for those realizations to become a natural part of our selves again, so that we can act in a way that may just lead us into the change that we more than ever need to make happen.

There are many good things that are happening in the world – not always on the front page, and often still very much in small circles, but they are happening. Christine can see that on her travels, and thankfully – and not least of all because of my conversation with her – I’m beginning to see it, too. Like Christine, I believe that there’s power in numbers, and in connectedness, and collaboration – all of which Christine is helping to facilitate with her work at HCN. There’s always more to do, and it’s good to be reminded that there are places, people, movements that are doing just that: More.