Who am i? Meet the team.
Updated: Jul 15
The first in this retreat series brings together a global team of collaborators, including coach and facilitator Nathan Morse and guest speaker Jonny Benjamin.
About the 'Who am i?' series.
'Who am i?' is a two day virtual retreat, combing a sequence of experiential workshops exploring identity as a gay man in 2020. These workshops are carefully designed around tried and tested psychological and holistic practices, to take participants on a process of self-exploration. These include compassionate self-inquiry, sharing in groups, breathwork, creative workshops, and transformational techniques to elicit a deeper connection and understanding – which we can then use as fuel to instigate change, while becoming more present and powerful in the world.
For more information on the 'Who am I' series in general, check out this article.
To book onto this retreat or to see other available dates, click here.
About the team.
Throughout the duration of the retreat, you’ll work in close collaboration with each of the team members in respect of their given workshop. There will be a lead figure present throughout, whose role will alternate as facilitator and supervisor of each workshop. They will not be offering any counselling or diagnoses relating to psychological issues that attendees may be experiencing throughout the retreat. In the case of significant distress, additional or subsequent support will be sign-posted or referred as required.
Nathan is a qualified developmental coach and certified NLP Master practitioner. Like many of us, he’s come across his fair share of speed-bumps in his own life. With time, patience, self-enquiry and an openness to new ways of thinking, he worked through these challenges. His quest for truth and clarity led him to the guides and teachers who have taught him multiple paths of self-development. His mission is to use the knowledge he’s accumulated to make ‘self-work’ more widely accessible, real, playful and enjoyable.
"Life can seem impossible to navigate at times, but by learning to finesse our inner-relating and sharpening our self-vocabulary, the path can certainly become clearer." Nathan Morse
Jonny Benjamin MBE is an award-winning mental health campaigner, film producer, speaker, writer and vlogger. He speaks publicly about living with mental illness on TV, Radio and in print around the world to help educate and break stigma. He also talks openly about his struggles with sexuality and mental health as a gay man. He has also produced and presented documentaries on BBC Three and Channel 4 on the subjects of mental health and suicide. Most recently, Jonny has set up a new charity, Beyond, which aims to provide better mental health care to young people.
Many of the most transformative learning experiences I’ve encountered took place within a group setting. There’s something uniquely powerful about speaking and being heard in such an environment. Any nerves that I (often) feel at first about being part of a group quickly dissipate as I realise our shared vulnerability. I always find it incredibly refreshing to finally feel so connected to other human beings. Jonny Benjamin, Mental Health Campaigner and Speaker
James first discovered the healing power of the mind during a difficult period of chronic fatigue and pain. A daily practice of meditation and mindfulness improved his physical symptoms dramatically after 6 months and left him utterly fascinated and drawn to learn more. He went on to study breathwork under Alan Dolan. He now spends his time teaching people to harness the power of their breath to alleviate emotional issues, improve their physical health and connect them to a deeper understanding of themselves.
Breathwork is the quickest, most powerful and effective way to enhance and transform the state of one’s mind and body. Breathing is the only system in our body that is both automatic and under our control. This is not a coincidence - it’s an invitation to tap into and improve our state of mind and body. Once understood, breathing practices can be used as a tool to radically improve our physical and mental health, performance and emotional wellbeing.James Dowler, Breathwork Instructor
Mindful Movement Guide.
Nick first learnt to meditate in 1990, before later going on to live for 6 years as a Buddhist monk. In 2004, he left the monastery and moved to London to bring what he had learnt into the challenges of urban life. In 2009, he set up a group for teaching mindfulness to gay and bi men in London. His practice evolved to explore more compassion-based meditation, as he found a lot of the people he was working with demonstrated a lack of self-love, shame and low self-worth as core wounds.
Growing up in the ‘70s, I didn’t see any positive role models for being gay, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. All I saw on TV was men who were laughed at for not quite being ‘men’ – and felt a really uncomfortable sense in the pit of my stomach that I was one of these men. ‘Minority stress’ is the term that describes this experience of growing up as an outsider to the accepted norms of a society - whether that be race, sexuality or any other distinguishing feature that marks you out as ‘not one of us’. It leaves a deep wound, a sense of shame and not feeling at home in ourselves. Nick Kientsch
Michael is one of the organisers of this retreat. He is a mental health advocate and founder of Create Space Retreats and Workshops. Michael spent over 10 years working in senior creative leadership positions for some of the world’s most respected British brands within the fashion, travel and retail industries - including i-D Magazine, Vice, Liberty London, Ted Baker and Virgin Atlantic.
“I struggled for many years accepting my own sexuality. Since coming out over 10 years ago, I’ve also battled with mental and physical health challenges, and worked through periods of complete exhaustion. I am so thankful that I was eventually able to address these issues, and make some important life changes.” Michael Stephens
Maylis is another of the organisers. She is a transformational coach and events curator.
“It was in the darkest moments that I discovered the gift of desperation, and with it, eventually came the courage to talk. I wanted to devote my energy and curiosity to help others become more agile and connected emotionally throughout life transitions.” Maylis Djikalou
The virtual retreat schedule.
The itinerary is subject to minor tweaks but nothing drastic.
09:00 Mindful movement class
10:30 Guest speaker
11:00 Workshop and breakouts
13:00 Group share and closing
13:30 End of day one
08:00 Recap with Q&A
08:30 Creative workshop
09:00 Breakouts and group share
11:30 Final group share
13:00 Integration and closing
13:30 End of day two
We'll issue more information on each workshop in your welcome pack, but see below for an overview.
This session is about waking up and energising ourselves. Preparation is really important when doing this self-discovery work, and the way we start our day is key. Nick will guide you through the session, as you start to slowly connect the mind and body. It's not a Barry's bootcamp workout, but more a gentle movement practice that incorporates elements of tai-chi, body scanning and some mindful breathing.
Group work and sharing.
No one will be forced to share anything they don't want to, or anything at all if they don't feel comfortable. Sharing has a proven benefit to processing experiences and emotions. These sessions are intended to allow participants to learn from each other, build a stronger connection as beings, and perhaps demonstrate that you are not alone in what you are feeling or going through.
Most of us are hardly aware of our breath, yet it sustains every cell in our bodies and supports every life experience we will ever have. Using techniques – now supported by credible scientific research – breathwork enables us to bring vital life-force energy and well-being to our entire mind-body system, supercharging its ability to self-heal. James will guide you through a breath workshop designed to reveal emotional blind spots and consciously strengthen the mind’s ability to remain centred and calm amidst the noise.
Visualisation and creative workshop.
Don’t worry you don’t need to be an artist to take part in this creative workshop. We will lead you on a simple yet powerful guided visualisation with the aim of taking you deeper into your subconscious. You’ll have the opportunity to journal what comes up for you by whichever way you choose - if you prefer to write that’s great, or if you’d like to try drawing or use collage, that is also fine. The important thing is that you get the chance to lean into what you are feeling.
Ahead of the retreat a recommended reading list will be provided. This is not vital or compulsory, but it may benefit your long term learning and development.
At the end of day one, participants will be provided with a workbook to help with process and reflection. Again, this isn't compulsory, but it has been designed to maximise your experience.
Ready to secure your place?
Thank you to our partners.
For more information on the 'Who am I' series in general, check out this article.