The fact is, many spiritual traditions aren’t welcoming of the LGBTQ community. So it is refreshing, and worth talking about, when they are. Even better when they are specifically about us!
While some people find that regular attendance at a church, temple, meditation center and/or mosque suits them, another option is to look into spiritual retreats. They usually happen on weekends, though longer retreats can be a week or more (in which case many people use vacation time, and consider it time well spent).
I myself have attended a number of retreats over the years, some of them silent retreats (no talking, no writing, no reading, no eye contact), some of them more interactive. While I personally attend a weekly practice in NYC, I have found that a retreat can give a deeper, more sustained experience. A retreat gets you completely out of your daily routine (I guess that’s why they call them ‘retreats’), and lets you focus much more than the hour or so of a weekly meeting.
But let’s face it: most retreats are for the general public (i.e., the straight majority) and even if they are very welcoming of gays, it can still feel like you don’t fit in.
One upcoming retreat specifically for gay, bisexual and transgendered men and women is “Spirituality and Intimacy” on April 27-29 in Garrison NY, about an hour north of New York City. It is not based in any one religious tradition, and welcomes women and men with any, or no, spiritual background.
This retreat teaches a variety of ancient and modern practices to discover and embrace one’s own spiritual gifts. The description on the website reads:
Spiritual practice is the “axe that breaks the frozen sea within us.” Embedded in each of our souls is an ancient, profound longing for love. As our hearts begin to thaw, this longing is released and healing insights about our lives unfold naturally. Through gentle but powerful processes, we will work with these insights as invaluable personal lessons in our journeys toward love.
The director of this retreat is Ken Page, a widely recognized psychotherapist, lecturer, and licensed clinical social worker, and founder of Deeper Dating.
Of course this retreat has a cost, depending on whether you want your own room ($416), a double ($361) or a triple/quad ($296). Frankly, for a two and a half day retreat including the cost of food, accommodations and instruction, these are great rates. And for those who might struggle financially, the retreat organizers offer partial scholarships.
Nina has discussed her personal search for gay-friendly spirituality, and shared her debates on figuring out an appropriate financial contribution. Another approach is to know the total cost of making a spiritual opportunity available, and understand what is your fair share. That is: total cost / number of people = cost per person. When you’re talking about an ongoing community, this is hard. When you’re talking about a one-time event, it’s pretty easy.
Coming from the world of corporate training as I do, I can share with you that technical training can run $1200 per person PER DAY, and executive coaching costs $300 to $500 PER HOUR. One can argue that such investments have a direct link to a financial payoff, hence worth the money.
But then how do we figure the value of a spiritual retreat? I say: you can’t. Oscar Wilde (one of our clan), wrote in his comedy Lady Windermere’s Fan, that a cynic “knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”
I think it is wrong-headed to try to assign a financial value for spiritual opportunities: they are priceless. It doesn’t compute. But it’s also a fact that these opportunities do incur costs in making them available: physical space, meals, materials, the time of the expert facilitators. And I think it’s right to know one’s fair share of the total and pay up (or earn a scholarship, often through volunteering one’s time). I would resent a significant “markup” above the actual costs, and that happens to be a great way to spot a cult (which I define as a cynical attempt to gain power and/or money by manipulating people).
But if we believe that investing in ourselves is worth anything, the way we invest in our homes, our education, and our future financial security, then I do support investing in our search for meaning, and finding our place in the universe. When these opportunities are not only gay-friendly but specifically developed for our community, then sign me up.