In October 1998 the Concord Institute for Integral Studies was set up as the main education and training centre for the Community Health Foundation (CHF), a registered UK charity founded in 1976 on Old Street in London. The mandate of the Community Health Foundation is and has been to offer educational programmes and services to the community at large that enable people to become more self-reliant in terms of assuming greater responsibility for their health and well-being.
The particular education and training in “self-health” offered by the CHF has been variously referred to as the macrobiotic, holistic or integral approach because it takes a larger and more comprehensive view in understanding the human condition. Among other things, this approach encompasses the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of people’s lives. The institute discovered that taking a holistic approach was more efficacious in the long run toward restoring health and biological integrity, and for building more powerful immune capabilities for dealing with potential health problems that may lie in the future. It also found that the effects of this approach went beyond merely feeling better or avoiding sickness. In some unknown and unqualifiable way, the process seemed to expand the scope and range of possibilities in which people see and experience their lives, thus contributing to a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in being alive; free from the resignation and cynicism that grip the lives of many people. Health, thus seen in integral or holistic terms, is not merely the absence of illness or disease but has as much to do with engaging with life in an unfolding evolutionary process or adventure.
After its founding, the building which housed the CHF came to be known as the East West Centre, where it became the focal point for the nascent complementary and alternative health movement. In the beginning, the main educational emphasis of the CHF was placed on the role of diet and nutrition in restoring and maintaining health — a body of work known as macrobiotics. It would be no small exaggeration to say that the CHF was a key player in launching and popularising the macrobiotic, natural and wholefood movement in the UK.
Following that, the CHF began expanding its range of health-related disciplines. In the field of bodywork, for example, it instituted passive bodywork programmes in shiatsu (Japanese finger-pressure massage) and, on occasion, classes in Swedish massage and reflexology to name a few. During its history it incorporated dynamic bodywork classes in do-in (a self-exercise system), yoga, martial arts (tai chi, chi kung etc), and dance. Most recently it has begun to promote a system of physical movements and postures, originating from the shamans of ancient Mexico, known as the magical passes or by the more modern term of ‘tensegrity’, a body of work made popular through the writings of Carlos Castaneda.
In 1994 the CHF expanded its curriculum once again to move away from promoting solely ‘translative’ systems and modalities that seek to make qualitative improvements and introduced a whole new series of programmes referred to as ‘transformational’ ones that seek to achieve a more fundamental change or transformation (see WIE article “TRANSLATION VS. TRANSFORMATION”). After years of research it had become apparent that, in addition to the obvious problems and difficulties most people face, their lives were trapped rather unforgivingly and unknowingly in a certain recurring pattern of existence. The pattern manifested as a particular way of being in the world in which, as time went by, people became less effective and more powerless, particularly when it came to dealing with certain core issues in their lives, beginning with but by no means limited to their health, vitality and well-being. The institute developed a series of programmes that enabled people to witness these patterns and with a certain amount of training eventually break free of them. The process of breaking free came to be known as transformation because it involved a fundamental or paradigmatic shift in the way we experience ourselves and the world around us. That is, the process of transformation literally transforms the system of cognition, the very lens through which we know and thus experience ourselves and the world.
Currently the institute is located in Thane Works, Finsbury Park, London, which is where you can find our business office and bodywork centre on the first floor and the Concord School of Culinary Arts on the ground floor, offering a formalised training in wholefood and macrobiotic cooking.