Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Michael Edward Stephens is the founder of Create Space, and the organiser behind the LGBT wellbeing programme, 'Who am i?'.
I struggled for many years accepting my own sexuality. After coming out over 10 years ago, I’ve since battled with mental and physical health challenges, and worked through periods of complete exhaustion. I'm so thankful that I was eventually able to address these issues, and make some important changes in my life. ‘Who am I?’ was one of the key questions I found myself asking after I burnt out. I had decided to take some time off to rest, recover and reset. I didn’t have a job, so I wasn't earning any money, and couldn’t afford to stay in London. Taking away the money, the status and the recognition, it soon became clear that I didn’t really feel confident knowing WHO I was without these ‘things’ that validated me and gave me a sense of belonging, and identity. The things that I thought were going to make me feel content and satisfied, in fact left me feeling a bit empty when they got taken away. I realised that I knew exactly who I’d wanted everyone to think I was – but being that person had become all-consuming and tough to maintain.
I felt less of a human-being, and more of a human-doing.
It was clear that in order for me to start living from a place of authenticity, I needed to start processing my past and understand how it was showing up in my present. Something I had started doing several years before but conveniently swept back under the carpet, because it didn’t align with my ambitious career plans. Well, guess what - your past has a funny way of showing up over and over again.
Over the last 5 years I have tried A LOT of different things. From therapy, to group work, to psychedelics, coaching, holistic practices, retreats, books, webinars… I’ve spent a lot of time, energy and cash to try and fix my 'problems'. And actually what I’ve found, is some of the simplest techniques are the most powerful. I wanted to find a way for others to start a similar journey of, let’s call it, ‘discovery'. Because I’m so grateful that I am able to share my own story like I do now. I’ve said it before, I’m doing it for those who don’t yet feel able to share their own story yet. And I do it in the hope of educating, inspiring or empowering just one more person.
I believe it’s so important that we create safe spaces to openly share and learn from each other's past experiences. To encourage one another and to develop resilience together in the face of our adversity.
So the ‘Who am I?’ programme, is essentially a product of my own personal experiences - what techniques I found relevant, useful and transformational. But it’s not just that, it’s the product of each and every team member’s experience too, and all the many years of teachings they bring with them. This virtual retreat offers a unique blend of complementary bespoke workshops, all carefully designed around tried and tested psychological and holistic practices, which take participants on a guided process of self-exploration. These include compassionate self-inquiry, sharing in groups, breathwork, creative workshops, and other techniques to elicit a deeper connection and understanding. Preparation and integration are really important when doing this self-discovery work, so we provide pre-retreat workbooks, homework, and some further learning resources, all thoughtfully curated to maximise your experience with us. And enable you to continue with your process beyond the two days you spend with us. No one will be forced to share anything they don’t want to, or anything at all if they don’t feel comfortable. But sharing has a proven benefit to processing experiences and emotions. These sessions are intended to allow participants to learn from each other.
There’s usually around 14 participants on each retreat. Throughout the duration of the retreat, you’ll work in close collaboration with each of the team members, in respect of their given workshop. A couple of the workshops you may never have tried before. Such as guided meditation, mindful movement, creative visualisation, and consciously connected breathing. They are all used to reveal emotional blind spots and strengthen the mind’s ability to remain centred and calm. This allows us to go into deeper modes of personal enquiry and development. As I said, this is a lifetimes amount of work that we are trying to squeeze into 2 days. It’ important you make the most of it. It’s not always comfortable work, but it can offer you fresh perspectives and provide motivation to make important changes in your life. It’s important to state that we are not a rehabilitation or intervention retreat. Nor are we providing one-on-one medical or psychological advice. We are certainly not providing a ‘cure’, and this isn’t a therapy session.
We are however offering a safe space to discuss with others, aspects of your life you’re finding challenging.
This isn’t bootcamp, but it also isn’t easy work. To get the most out of it is going to require effort, commitment and an open attitude. We won’t be telling you to do anything such as quit your job or leave your partner. We're purely laying out some alternative routes of investigation. The actions you take and the changes you make will be your own choice. This retreat has very much a forward facing approach in terms of possible end goals and objectives. You’ll find it particularly useful if you're preparing for change or a transition. Needing to take some time to debate ‘what next?’. Or understand better your actions, thoughts and beliefs before making a start on a plan of action. Use the safe space to discuss and get curious. To find out even more about the team and the workshop modules just get in touch and I’d be happy to help. Looking forward to welcoming you soon.
Michael and the Create Space team x
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