The 'Who am i?' virtual retreat programme combines different experiential workshops to explore identity as a gay man in 2020. These workshops are carefully designed around tried and tested powerful psychological and meditative techniques to take twelve participants on a unique process of self-exploration. These include compassionate self-inquiry, sharing in groups, breathwork, creative workshops, and transformational techniques to elicit a deeper connection and understanding – which we can then use this as fuel to instigate change, while becoming more present and powerful in the world.
Why do I care so much?
Why do I want this so bad?
Why is nothing ever enough?
Is this really it?
As gay men, the shame we experienced growing up has likely shaped the way we now view the world, each other and ourselves. The overwhelming need for external validation in all areas of our adult lives can largely be attributed to the challenges around love and acceptance that we wrestled with as a child. It’s driven some of us to unrealistic, unnatural and highly competitive standards of perfection and success. It’s no surprise that we find it hard to feel comfortable or satisfied. Addiction, depression and suicide rates within our community, all suggest that, perhaps some of the things we value as important aspects of who we are; the things we think will make us happy - money, status, recognition - unfortunately won’t. No matter how much of them we have. And, somehow despite our numerous achievements, we actually feel worse at times. Trapped in a repetitive cycle of anxiety, fear and disappointment. The good news is that you’re not alone. And there is still plenty of time to choose how you show up in the world.
1. Do I really want to understand why I feel this way?
2. Am I ready to explore who I am?
(without the title, salary or self imposed expectations)
3. Am I prepared to make significant changes in my life?
Transitions are some of the most difficult yet powerful phases of our lives. Moving from one stage to the next rarely comes easily, even less so if it’s a radical shift that you’re embarking on. Preparation to change requires effort, space and time. More too often than not though, we go from one company to the next, project to project, one meeting straight into another... all without pausing to evaluate. We acquire more and more ‘stuff’ to deal with. The same can be said for our personal lives. How many of us can say that we fully gave ourself the space to deal with aspects of our sexuality after coming out. It’s likely we jumped right into living a new ‘authentic life’ as a gay man without understanding that our social conditions had perhaps changed, and that deeply ingrained parts of us needed some time to catch up, adapt or be let go of.
Retreats offer us the opportunity to fully connect with others, and ourselves. When we remove the static of daily life for a period of time, we can more easily tune in to what we really need. A retreat also offers a unique blend of complementary techniques, which can allow for deeper self exploration and understanding. It’s not always comfortable work, but it can offer you fresh perspectives and the necessary kick-start to making important changes in your life. There will be a maximum of 12 participants in this retreat.
What are my underlying beliefs?
How have they influenced me so far (protection, need for safety)?
What are the coping skills I’ve utilised until this point?
How have they served me?
How is that working out for me right now?
What changes do I need to make in my life?
We will play with different combinations of creative exercises and transformational techniques. There will be a maximum of 12 participants in each workshop.
No one will be forced to share anything they don't want to, or anything at all if they don't feel comfortable. Sharing has a proven benefit to processing experiences and emotions. These sessions are intended to allow participants to learn from each other, build a stronger connection as beings, and perhaps demonstrate that you are not alone in what you are feeling or going through.
This session is about waking up and energising ourselves. Preparation is really important when doing this self-discovery work, and the way we start our day is key. Nick will guide you through the session, as you start to slowly connect the mind and body. It's not a Barry's bootcamp workout, but more a gentle movement practice that incorporates elements of tai-chi, body scanning and some mindful breathing.
Most of us are hardly aware of our breath, yet it sustains every cell in our bodies and supports every life experience we will ever have. Using techniques – now supported by credible scientific research – breathwork enables us to bring vital life-force energy and well-being to our entire mind-body system, supercharging its ability to self-heal. James will guide you through a breath workshop designed to reveal emotional blind spots and consciously strengthen the mind’s ability to remain centred and calm amidst the noise.
Don’t worry you don’t need to be an artist to take part in this creative workshop. We will lead you on a simple yet powerful guided visualisation with the aim of taking you deeper into your subconscious. You’ll have the opportunity to journal what comes up for you by whichever way you choose - if you prefer to write that’s great, or if you’d like to try drawing or use collage, that is also fine. The important thing is that you get the chance to lean into what you are feeling.
Ahead of the retreat a recommended reading list will be provided. This is not vital or compulsory, but it may benefit your long term learning and development. At the end of day one, participants will be provided with a workbook to help with process and reflection. Again, this isn't compulsory, but it has been designed to maximise your experience.
Throughout the duration of the retreat, you’ll work in close collaboration with each of the team members in respect of their given workshop. There will be a lead figure present throughout, whose role will alternate as facilitator and supervisor of each workshop. They will not be offering any counselling or diagnoses relating to psychological issues that attendees may be experiencing throughout the retreat. In the case of significant distress, additional or subsequent support will be sign-posted or referred as required.
Your safety is our main priority. For this reason, we will need to ask participants for some personal medical information, before we can confirm your place on the workshop. These are standard questions, there to protect your safety and everyone else involved. This information will only be shared on a need to know basis and will be GDPR compliant. We will also be undertaking other necessary safety measures, during and post-retreat.
It’s important to state, that we are not a rehabilitation or intervention centre. Nor are we providing one-on-one medical or psychological advice. We would highly recommend individuals with concerns relating to pre-existing mental health conditions, substance misuse and related disorders to seek immediate professional help. We are certainly not providing a ‘cure’, and this isn’t a therapy session. We are however, offering a safe space to get curious, open up and discuss with others, aspects of your life you’re finding challenging. This isn’t bootcamp either, but it also isn’t going to be easy. To get the most out of it is going to require work, commitment and an open attitude. We won’t be telling you to quit your job or become a spiritual healer. We won’t be telling you anything in fact. We are purely laying out some alternative routes of investigation. The actions you take and the changes you make will be your choice. There will be a maximum of 12 participants in this retreat.
This retreat series has been designed by Create Space and partners.
Michael is one of the organisers of this retreat. He is a mental health advocate and founder of Create Space Retreats and Workshops. Michael spent over 10 years working in senior creative leadership positions for some of the world’s most respected British brands within the fashion, travel and retail industries - including i-D Magazine, Vice, Liberty London, Ted Baker and Virgin Atlantic.
“I struggled for many years accepting my own sexuality. Since coming out over 10 years ago, I’ve also battled with mental and physical health challenges, and worked through periods of complete exhaustion. I am so thankful that I was eventually able to address these issues, and make some important life changes.”
Maylis is another of the organisers. She is a transformational coach and events curator.
“It was in the darkest moments that I discovered the gift of desperation, and with it, eventually came the courage to talk. I wanted to devote my energy and curiosity to help others become more agile and connected emotionally throughout life transitions.” Maylis Djikalou
Subsidies are available upon request.
For details on other workshops please visit our website.
Joining this programme has been a real eye opener. A facilitated 2 day session that sparks conversation with others but most importantly yourself. It helps frame thoughts and feelings that already exist and provides you with the tools to go back into your everyday life and workplace. For me it’s helped me refocus my intentions. Be prepared to face into some new thoughts and feelings. Nathan Jordan, People Transformation Manager at Dyson
A virtual retreat via Zoom with eleven other guys wouldn’t have been something that I’d have naturally chosen to do with my weekend - however it was probably the best ten hours I’ve spent learning about myself, challenging my feelings and helping me decide on a future course of action. The retreat was facilitated marvellously and I’d highly recommend it. Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Global Inclusion and Diversity Manager at ENEI
The retreat provided me with a moment to pause, reflect and review what motivates me and what I stand for. The knowledge, skills and techniques I learnt on the retreat will help me achieve my future personal and professional goals. Sheridan C, Youth Educator
Really insightful and thought-provoking programme, exploring what it means to be a gay man today. There was a good mix of ‘play shops’, visualisation, breath work, mindfulness, meditation, group sharing and break out sessions. The group itself was big enough to feel intimate and small enough to feel private - the perfect safe space. I would definitely recommend exploring this programme if, like me, you’re interested in being more self-aware, delving into your own mind, and learning some new thinking strategies! Adam Mallaby, Senior Communications Manager at Walgreens Boots Alliance
An opportunity to learn skills to help reset your body and mind in a world where it’s often hard to find time for yourself. Darren Burn, CEO at OutOfOffice.com
Most of us do not get the adequate education or tools growing up on how to manage our wellbeing, especially whilst enduring times of adversity. Programmes like this not only help to empower people with these tools but also offer a safe, shared space where people can express openness and vulnerability, as well as finding community and connection with others.
Jonny Benjamin, Mental Health Campaigner
Saturday 20th June
07:30 Mindful movement
Guest speaker and share
11:30 Breathwork Workshop
13:00 Group share and closing
13:30 End of day one
Sunday 21st June
07:30 Mindful movement
09:00 Recap with Q&A
10:30 Creative workshop
11:30 Facilitated group share
13:00 Integration and closing
13:30 End of day two
Ahead of the retreat, a recommended reading list will be provided.
At the end of day one, participants will be provided with a workbook, to help with process and reflection.