Mani’s own journey and unfolding as a person and a professional is in part anchored in her own attendance at residential retreats. It goes back to the early 90’s when she was able to attend grief and loss workshops that had been designed by the world renowned psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Mani eventually went on to start the training program that was offered for potential workshop facilitators. That training and the workshops offered through the EKR trust stopped due to a combination of many things including Elisabeth’s poor health. Mani was fortunate in attending further retreats in America.
Then in 2009 Mani was asked to be involved as a clinical support person in two queer youth retreats in New Zealand. Her love for retreats and their amazing potential to ‘change lives’ was revived and so it was when she visited Tasmania in 2010 she talked with me about the possibility of doing something in Tasmania. There were many hours spent rolling ideas about, in phone calls across the Tasman Sea. Through my networks and contacts the dream became a reality. Key and central was Choose Life Services, who own Parakaleo, near Sheffield under beautiful Mt Roland, which was perfect for us. We would not have had such a successful retreat without their support around costs and insurance matters and we cannot thank them enough. We loved the fact that our ‘symbol’ of the retreat the tenacious and long lived echidna provided us with a real live ‘guest’ and was there as we arrived and departed.
We had decided to facilitate a residential retreat for the LGBTI community as value adding to the “Exploring Gender and Sexuality Tour” as part of the TasPride events. We had a wonderfully diverse cross section of the community in terms of age, identity and experience in the 17 people attending. This increased the learning opportunities within our group during the retreat. We were moved by the trust that people showed, the authenticity of the sharing, the laughter, the tears and the willingness to move and be moved. The weekend was spent in the very beautiful grounds of Parakaleo, telling stories, watching movies, eating wonderful food and learning about each other – many people described the experience as life changing.
Due to the amount of interest we had decided to run a second retreat, this one for peer supporters and service providers. Retreats provide opportunities for those who attend to get to know more about themselves and others. Many of the same volunteer crew returned which was nice and the weekend had a very familiar and ‘family’ feel to it. We all enjoyed being back in the beautiful grounds of Parakaleo which will always hold a special place in our hearts. The second retreat built on the first and again we had feedback from attendees expressing gratitude for the opportunity to learn in such a ‘safe, nurturing and respectful environment’. We are grateful to the volunteers who cooked wonderful food for us and helped everything to run smoothly.
Mani says Being part of the Born This Way Retreats last year was one of the highlights of my 2011 trip to Tasmania. We placed confidentially as a safety cover for the weekend. What I will say is my journey and growing as a person and as a therapist continued in a new and wonderful way. I have a very special piece of hand carved and ancient “Purple Heart” desert wood that I hold in my hands and remember – I thank you all.”
Participants quotes: “I enjoyed the sharing of stories and feeling safe to participate in telling mine with supportive non-judgmental people.”
“I loved the sense of community and being part of that for the first time ever in my life.”
“I learned that I am ok just the way that I am.”
“The thing that I liked most about the retreat was the loving, respectful and nurturing environment.”
“I thought that gay men had it tough and had no idea that lesbians had so much to deal with as well. I thought that it was much easier for them. I have learned so much more about your experiences.”
“I feel like for the very first time in my life I finally have found a family that except me for who I am.”
“I have had very little contact with gender different people and I have learned so much more about them and have a greater understanding.”
“It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to learn from such a diverse group of LGBTI people and an honor to be here with you all.”