Waking Up Fabulous

Taking Refuge in Every Moment, Every Day, for the Benefit of All

By Madeline Klyne and Jacoby Ballard

“From the first year this retreat happened, it has been such a blessing of refuge for me.  Last year, with all the constant fear and anxiety of world news, this retreat was an incredible gift of peace, silence, and loving community. My gratitude to the teachers and community is immense. There is nothing that compares with this sangha we create in our time together.” –Ellen Wolk

“Being able to look around (during a sit, in the meal hall, around the grounds) and see people who look like me is a gift. As a non-binary trans person, this is a rare occurrence in my day-to-day life.” –Ray Gergen

“I hadn’t realized just how loud everything around me was until I wasn’t.” –Cozana

 As we prepare for this year’s LGBTIQ meditation retreat at the Garrison Institute, we are inspired by these reflections of people who have attended this retreat in previous years!

Year after year, the presence of LGBTIQ practitioners at this retreat opens our hearts to what it means to practice together, connect, and heal in the face of trying times.  Meditating, walking, and eating in silence can be an antidote to busy-ness, non-stop news cycles, and other daily life stressors. At this retreat, we have the possibilities of connecting with our strength, courage, and resilience, and yes–our fabulousness!

The retreat is deliberately led by a diverse group of teachers, assistants, and managers in order to welcome as vast a group of LGBTIQ folks as possible, knowing that our practice, the ancient teachings, and our relationships with one another ultimately hold a container for refuge, healing, and inner transformation.

While this retreat is personally meaningful for us as LGBTIQ practitioners, it’s the reflections of participants that get to the heart of what it’s all about.  Below are some of the themes we hear consistently from participants, illustrated by their own words:

Coming Home

There is a different kind of unfolding possible when one’s guard is not up, when one’s whole self is unconditionally welcomed, accepted, and cherished:

“I recall the first time I attended a LGBTIQ silent meditation retreat. I had a sense of coming home and being in a space where I did not have to worry about another layer of my identity being scrutinized or hidden. I felt as if all of me had arrived; I was finally whole and seen truly as I am. The best part was not having to “come out” at the end of the retreat. I was just being, instead of planning my next sentence.” –Isabel Adon, Retreat Manager 


“Waking Up Fabulous has become one of the highlights of my year. In my daily life, I often find myself expending some level of energy to assess or protect my safety as a gay man. Most of the time, it’s a subtle thing, but it’s there, and it takes a toll. In the safety of this queer community, the need for that protection falls away, and in its wake, there is an energetic opening that allows my practice to deepen and restorative energies to flow in.” –Doug Edelman

Silence That Heals

The presence, vulnerability, guidance, and possibility transmitted in the silence is transformative:

“Attending this retreat year after year has been such a gift; each time there is a new unfolding. As I settle in to this retreat full of queer family in a beautiful setting, feelings of community and sangha take the place of separation and fear. Stillness takes the place of frantic ‘doing.’ As queer people, we know silence can mean death. But this is a silence that heals.” –Em Morison

A Multi-Generational Community

The participation of people ranging from age 18 to 80-something allows younger folks to embrace a mindful queer elder as a road map for where their own life may travel and allows older participants to touch the energy and passion of youth:

 “Participating in the Waking Up Fabulous retreat has given me the opportunity to find refuge in a rare and precious multigenerational LGBTIQ spiritual community. As someone who is one of the younger participants of the retreat, it is deeply inspiring to be supported in my practice by my elders in the queer community.” –Nina Brice

Compassionate Engagement OR Commitment to Social Justice

This is a sangha that recognizes intersectionality and the complexity of our lives. This is central to the importance of this retreat; an opportunity to practice with others who can relate to some of the ways we have experienced pain and beauty in this world.

“The LGBTIQ retreat at the Garrison Institute encourages an honest, compassionate engagement in our pain and our brilliance, without ignoring the larger social and political context within which we practice. It teaches us to remember that we can be sincere dharma practitioners who are also queer, fierce, and committed to justice.”–J

Affirming Our Whole Selves

The opportunity to be in a healing environment with other queer people can also counter what our families, our larger Buddhist communities, and the world put on us, and even how they may judge our queerness through the lens of shared practice:

“This retreat has been a refuge that I count on in this ever-changing world to help me interact in mindful ways through changes, both terrifying and self-actualizing. As a non-binary queer and trans person, I really struggled with whether or not to have gender-confirming surgery–specifically reconciling this struggle with Buddhist practices that have been such refuges in my life…I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this sangha, and La and Jacoby particularly, have been in holding me through that time, and affirming my whole self in this practice.” –Yana Calou


“This retreat was the first space I ever entered that did not question my identity, an embracing space where I was safe in the vulnerability of being my whole self, while engaging in intense Buddhist practice. It has changed me forever, in ways I am full of gratitude for, and it has increased my resiliency and faith during challenging times.” –Sarah Pendergrass


“This retreat is a chance to simply be alive for a few days, to feel the earth beneath your feet, and the love within you.” —Ben Lacker

A Place to Return

Many retreatants come annually, cycling back to practice together year after year which creates more and more intimacy and familiarity each year. Emily Kramer, who has attended all eight LGBTIQ retreats at the Garrison Institute, said:

“This retreat has become a bedrock of my practice. There’s nothing like being in community, in loving silence together. I am moved by the wisdom, humor, and camaraderie of the teachers, which I see reflected in the gorgeous beings beside whom I sit. Thank you for being there! I better hurry up and register for 2018.”

You are welcome to join us

We invite you to be a part of this community! All LGBTIQ folk have the opportunity to practice in community to take refuge and support all aspects of our lives at the LGBTIQ silent meditation retreats hosted at the Garrison Institute. You can read about the Spring Retreat here, or join us Memorial Day Weekend, 2019, with Maddy Klyne, La Sarmiento, and Lama Rod Owens.

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