White Crane Conversation
Queer Spirit in Salt Lake City
Gay Sanctuary Among the Mormons
Corey Taylor talks with Jerry Buie about Building Gay Sanctuary
Corey Taylor: Why did you choose rural Utah as your setting for the Queer Spirit Retreat? Is there something about the landscape there that is in harmony with or increases the spiritual essence of your attendees?
Jerry Buie: There are several layers to responding to that question so I want to start with the practical. Wind Walker Ranch is located amongst an ancient cedar forest in Spring City, Utah. The caretaker, Loretta Johnson, is a friend of mine who shares many similar values in reference to spirituality. Loretta tends the land as a living entity and honors a path that is in harmony with nature. Loretta understands the mission, the goal and the aspiration of Queer Spirit and our relationship to Wind Walker Ranch. She has provided a very feasible financial plan to be able to do these retreats on her land. The market value of the retreat is approximately $600 – $700. We are able to host the retreat at a fraction of this cost. This makes the retreat accessible and until we get foundation funding or donations this facilitates our needs. So, that would be the practical answer. There are more spiritual logistics to consider as well. The ranch is unique as an epic center for ritual and ceremony with an ancient history of the Paiutes in this part of Utah.
What happens when we step into the unknown and all we identify, both physically and spiritually? To stay in the city or to a place that logistically keeps you connected to what you know frequently can circumvent going to new dimensions. Typically when an individual stays where they are most connected they will cling to those places that the ego knows and identifies. So, if we were to stay in the city and try to accomplish this task, I’m not sure that many of the transformations that we see at the Queer Spirit Retreats could truly take hold and take effect. We are too close to what the ego comes to identify. Queer Culture is multi-dimensional and we create identities based on what is accessible and familiar. We travel to a new city and we look up the same venues in different locations. Those venues, like bars, are places we attach ego and identity, so when we go to the clubs, we take on a persona. We play out an archetype. When we are around our families, we play out other archetypes. When we take people and basically seclude them from what is familiar, we remove layers of ego and we search for a more authentic place in our hearts. We start to find what is organic about who we are and how we relate to each other as Gay Men. That becomes critical in the process of these retreats.
When we get back into nature, which is what Wind Walker is about, we begin to take lessons from nature. For instance; we don’t see wild life scrambling for existence or acceptance. Nature simply exists and in a very authentic way, the trees or rabbits don’t wonder if they’re good enough. Nature simply is. What I find at the retreats, by getting people back to nature, back to authentic living and exploring, that often very spontaneous things happen among participants. There’s a level of awareness, there’s a level of sharing and there’s a level of existing that becomes very loving, and nurturing. That’s why we go to Wind Walker Ranch, that’s why we go to rural Utah, that’s why we exist during this weekend in a somewhat primitive circumstance because then we can disengage things we know and we can flow more freely and accepting in the essence of who we are. What I also find is that what takes root and when people come home from the retreat, what we hear several days later is how they’re able to integrate those new awareness’s and that new sense of being in their walk and their existence with other people.
I have found, for instance, that my time with the Fairies, again a retreat, a community, and a sanctuary becomes a place to explore and a place to establish the freedom away from the familiar. Stepping into the unknown requires a certain amount of trust and a certain amount of willingness to explore. That’s why we go to Wind Walker Ranch.
CT: In addition to retreats you regularly offer other gatherings, Sweat Lodges and other things that allow for your members/attendees to maintain their spiritual connection. What advice would you offer to Queer People who do not have easy access to such programs?
JB: This is again another great question and the answer is incredibly simple. The illusion is that we don’t have easy access. The reality is about what you’re willing to create. Queer Spirit may look incredibly organized because I tend to be a very Anal Retentive Organizer. I’m looking into the community and I’m exploring what our options are. It appears to be a standard to look outside ourselves for solutions and we’re waiting for someone to step up and take leadership. That someone could be you! The Fairies have a very powerful ritual that they participate in and that ritual is the one of Heart Circle. Heart Circle is basically Gay Men, Queer Men getting together creating circle and with a Talisman or Talking Stick, simply going to a place of sharing, opening up and dialoging about the essence of who we are as Queer Men. This is not complicated. We simply have this discussion and the exploration. Heart Circle involves listening, witnessing and sharing, getting to a deep heart level. Often it takes several attempts to get to a level of sharing that makes the soul take growth and healing for the people. So, accessibility is conditioned upon the willingness to step into and create, then you invite others to join you, the magic begins.
Where Queer Spirit may be a bit unique is that I come to that circle with perhaps a little more exposure, a little more accessibility to some tools such as a sweat lodge or a practice of meditation. You will find that as you create or call in what you are looking for those with talents and like mind will find you! They always do. The spirit of Queer Spirit is less about the tools and more about the willingness to explore. The true magic of Queer Spirit is the willingness for men to come together to share and witness each other’s story. If we did nothing else but have those circles we would be a powerful movement for change. We (The GLBT Community) would be a powerful movement politically if we explored our sense of identity more deeply. We become a powerful, magical group of people when we step out of the shadows, when we step out of the marginalized places of existing and we step fully into our stories, and it is within the context of those stories that we find our true essence and that essence, consciousness and mindfulness takes us to a place of power, takes us to a place of peace and takes us to a place of balance. That in my mind is truly what Queer Spirit represents. Lodge, yoga, meditation are tools to find those gifts and to fully experience ourselves. Planning gatherings becomes an organic process of what are our gifts and talents? As we look around at our community, and as we’ve created these circles, we begin to recognize that so and so has a gift here, so and so has a gift there, let’s invite them to come to the circle in a place of active participation instead of a passive recipient. We encourage people to share what works for them and they in turn find their own gifts.
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