On April 17 – 19, gay men from Utah and other states will gather at Wind Walker Ranch in Spring City, UT to explore what it means to be gay and what beliefs — good and bad — have shaped their lives.
The seasonal retreat is held by Queer Spirit, a Utah-based organization founded and run by therapist Jerry Buie and yoga teacher John Cottrell which also conducts a number of circles, discussions and workshops for gay men. The weekend retreat, however, is one of Queer Spirit’s most notable offerings.
According to the group’s Web site, queerspirit.net, the retreat is not about religion, theology, therapy or psychology. Rather, it centers around having “queer life magnified, examined and honored” in a culture “that seeks for gay men to marginalize our queerness.”
“Queer Spirit is an unfolding of the old stories of domestication and an unraveling of the ‘you should do…’ and is an exploration of possibilities,” the group’s mission statement reads. “We look to our unique cultural expressions, history, traditions, roles and archetypes and ask questions, explore and seek inspiration. Queer Spirit is a personal passion because it feeds participants on many levels.”
According to Buie, feeding participants on many levels means that the retreat weekends are always different, and always based on the needs of the participants.
“Every retreat is the reflection of the men who show up,” he said. “A goal we have with every retreat is how we deepen the relationships of gay men, so when they come home from the retreat, they feel not only connected to the experience but to other men who are going to support and share in the vision of what they want to get out of life.”
“As a therapist I frequently hear people frustrated with the bar scene and with an apparent superficiality of life within the queer community, and I think many gay men buy into that as their only option,” Buie continued. “What we’re inviting with Queer Spirit is to get out of the superficial and go into the profound in terms of who we are as gay men and what we offer each other spiritually, emotionally, intimately and allow that to be a seed for the future. I’m convinced that the superficiality people complain about is one reality, but not the only reality. We’re saying let’s shift the environment and see what we find with each other.”
Some of the tools used at the retreats, said Buie, are sweat lodges, opening bonfire ceremonies, and yoga, dance and movement workshops. While some are spiritual in nature, Buie said that all ultimately are used to encourage participants to go to an “edge” they haven’t visited before—such as confronting some of their fears about identifying as gay, or the direction in which their lives are going.
“[The idea is that] I may have to push myself out of my comfort zone in a safe environment to see where I can go,” said Buie. “To me that can be a very profound experience.”
Overall, he encouraged gay men to try the retreat or one of Queer Spirit’s many workshops for gay men, even if the idea of participating scared them a little.
“People [who have participated] are discovering very intimate gifts bout themselves and each other, and this is really leading to some pretty significant life changes,” he said. “People are stepping away from addictions. They’re embracing hope. It really is incredible w hat comes into people’s lives when they participate, yet just showing up seems to be a considerable edge for people.”
For more information on the retreat or to register, visit queerspirit.net.