Star-Bulletin Features

Saturday, August 11, 2001

Retired professor Abe Arkoff founded the
Illuminated Life program in 1985.

Workshops light
path to self-discovery

Participants learn about themselves
while they learn to listen to others

By Shirley Iida

After taking a life-enhancement workshop last year, 72-year-old Lynne Halevi discovered strengths she never knew she had.

In the process of self-discovery, Halevi gained a new appreciation for her mother and, by keeping a personal journal, discovered a hidden talent for writing. More important, the Illuminated Life workshop helped her understand and accept herself.

"I'm a lot stronger person than I gave myself credit for," she said. "Any time that you can start to do a lot of introspection, you're going to grow."

Abe Arkoff, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who founded the workshop in 1985, said the Illuminated Life program has helped many people pursue a journey of self-fulfillment by giving them an opportunity to examine their lives.

Halevi said the workshop helped change her perspective of her mother. As a quiet, introverted teenager living in Los Angeles, Halevi said she felt "mortified" growing up with a mother who was too friendly with people. Her mother talked to everybody, including people on the bus, and exchanged phone numbers and addresses.

"To me, it was just so embarrassing that she would talk to every stranger she met and became friendly with them," she said. "But then as you get older, you realize, 'What a gift she gave me, and what a treasure she truly was.'"

Halevi found that she, too, cultivated the same friendly personality and has since shared stories of her mother with her son and two grandchildren.

"What I found is that within each person, I think the most precious story we have is a story of our own life, and unfortunately it's a story that often goes untold," Arkoff said.

After 16 years teaching the workshop, Arkoff said he's continually surprised at how people in small groups under the right circumstances learn new things about themselves.

Most people don't take enough time to examine their lives and see where they're going, Arkoff said, adding that a "life checkup" is just as important as a regular physical checkup.

The workshops, taught by Arkoff and psychology professor Sebastian Mudry of Manchester Community College, consist of 14 two-hour sessions.

The program provides an examination that is both retrospective and proactive, Arkoff said. By examining the past and present, a person can set new goals and look forward to the future.

Participants also learn how to become good listeners who don't give advice and also how to be nonjudgmental. They also learn to be "caring disclosers," careful not to dump their problems on other people.

"I think if you write your autobiography, you come out with one account of your life," Arkoff said. "But if you just wrote one chapter of your life and brought it to a group who's also writing the same chapter and listening to what you were saying, you come out with a different autobiography.

"As you share your life with others and they share their lives with you, you see yourselves differently."

The cost of the workshop is $25.07, which includes a workbook and handout materials.

The sessions are scheduled for 1-3 p.m. on Mondays beginning Sept. 10 at the Academy of Lifelong Learning, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and 1-3 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning Sept. 12 at the Kapahulu Senior Center, 3410 Campbell Ave.

For more information, call Arkoff at 956-6728.

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