For the seventh year in a row, the Garrison Institute hosted their annual “Waking Up Fabulous” retreat for the LGBTIQ community (sangha), which was sponsored by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. 114 practitioners from up and down the east coast and beyond joined teachers Maddy Klyne, La Sarmiento, Gavin Harrison, and Jacoby Ballard; retreat manager Isabel Adon; and sound tech Peter Iannarelli for four days of rare silence and a slowing down to turn inward from the outside world.
Gavin beautifully described it as a “gathering of unbridled courage, strength, humanity, love, and laughter; a visceral reminder that even when the winds of the dominant culture appear harsh, violent, intolerant, and inhuman, the Love and Beauty of our courageous hearts will prevail no matter what! This is the truth of who we are NOW and for all time.”
It is so vital for our LGBTIQ community to acknowledge and honor the ways we have shared experiences in our lives and the unique differences and needs within the communities represented by each letter of our acronym. The teachers name and address the diverse backgrounds and experiences present in the sangha, which helps to break down ignorance and deepen our understanding of each other. We all get to be seen and respected for all of who we are, which brings each of us closer to truly knowing our own innate goodness and that of each other.
Over the course of three days, as a sangha, we kept a rigorous schedule of sitting and walking practice as well as guided heart meditations to cultivate lovingkindness and compassion, so we could hold all that arose as we became more mindful of body sensations, emotions/feelings, and thoughts.
We enjoyed opportunities to practice mindful eating during meals, group meetings to share about how the retreat and practice was going, and dharma talks for teachers to embody and inspire yogis to keep going. Jacoby’s early morning mindful movement and afternoon gentle yoga practices were also integral in allowing practitioners to be present and empowered in their bodies after long periods of sitting.
Though the practice is rather simple, it is so hard to do. And practicing together in sangha helps us remember that we are not alone in our aspiration to awaken to this life with its ten thousand joys and sorrows with wisdom and compassion.
When we can fulfill the remembrance of who we truly are, we are liberated from anything external trying to keep us down.
We are Waking Up Fabulous!
Our next retreat at the Garrison Institute is Memorial Day Weekend, 2019, with Maddy Klyne, La Sarmiento, and Lama Rod Owens.