Waking Up Fabulous – Taking Refuge & Care

“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 Garrison Institute LGBTQIA+ meditation retreat, we are inspired by these reflections of those who attended past retreats!

Year after year, the presence of LGBTQIA+ practitioners at this retreat opens our hearts to what it means to practice together, to connect, and to heal in the face of trying times. Meditating, walking, and eating in silence can be an antidote to busy-ness, the nonstop news cycles, and other daily life stressors. At this retreat, we have the possibility 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 LGBTQIA+ folks as possible, knowing that our practice, the ancient teachings, and our relationships with one another ultimately holds a container for practice, healing and inner transformation.

While this retreat is personally meaningful for us as LGBTQIA+ 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 silent meditation retreat that was LGBTQIA+. 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 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.” – Retreat manager, Isabel Adon

“’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:

“Going 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 the 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 Morrison

A Multigenerational Community

The participation of people ranging from 18 year-olds to 80 somethings 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 the youth:

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

Compassionate Engagement & 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 Garrison LGBTQIA+ retreat 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 those changes, both terrifying, and self-actualizing. As a non-binary queer and trans person, I really struggled with whether to have gender-confirming surgery – specifically as it fit with the 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.” – Rion 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.

“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!!” – Emily Kramer

You are welcome to join us!

We invite you to be a part of this community! All who identify as LGBTQIA+ can practice in community, to take refuge, and to support all aspects of our lives at the “Waking Up Fabulous” LGBTQIA+ silent meditation retreat with Maddy Klyne and La Sarmiento at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY – May 27-30, 2022.

For more information and to register:

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