Reflections on the Tai
Chi and Meditation Retreat, April 2011
Twenty one participants joined us for the retreat at SIBA this
year. For most people, it was a five to eight hours drive. Their
willingness to travel such a long distance shows that they have a strong
commitment in gaining greater understanding and development of the mind,
body and spirit. A retreat is not merely a holiday. It is an
opportunity to recharge your energy and to get in touch with and
strengthen the mind, body and spirit without the usual distractions.
The location and purpose built facilities of SIBA make it an ideal place
for self cultivation. Situated in the snowy mountain region of East
Gippsland, it is a peaceful and picturesque area of Australia. The
centre has many charming buildings that make training here a delight –
the Gompa, the Temple, the dining hall and the Golden Room all exude a
Fontane led the
meditation sessions. Each session, two hours in length, was divided
into the meditation sitting(s), talks and discussions. The talks
covered different aspects of meditation from posture, concentration,
relaxation, mindfulness to beliefs and feelings. For many, this was
their first taste of meditation and as always, was challenging yet
rewarding. Some embraced it with an open mind, while others will need
more time to appreciate its benefits. Participants commented that they
were glad to have been given the time to ask questions openly. The
dialogue helped to clarify some misconceptions that they had held for
Meditation is a profound subject and is the focus of many books and
scientific investigations. A major aspect of meditation is the
observation of the mind while remaining relaxed and calm. Watching the
mind, that is, being fully aware of its constant chatter, emotional
outbursts and other forms of distraction is really an amazing show. At
first, one might not be able to go beyond the number one when counting
the breath before an intruding thought interrupts. Students found it
surprising to think they were unable to control the torrent of thoughts
that bubbled up from nowhere. The awareness of this constant chattering
is the first step in meditation and part of an ongoing process of self
When practising meditation, one of the common traps we easily fall into
is the judgment game. We tell ourselves things such as, “I am no good
at this”, “It’s too hard”, “I failed again” or “I can`t do this”. To do
so is to miss the process. Meditation is not a race. The journey is
the result. No matter what your judgment is over your meditation
session, you will always benefit from the actual sitting. Some of the
benefits that meditation brings include knowing not to respond with the
first reactive thought that pops into your head in a difficult
situation, being more aware of the consequences of your actions, seeing
the thoughts that lead to certain feelings, and recognising old beliefs
that may no longer be relevant anymore.
The Tai Chi and Qigong sessions were an opportunity to experience the
presence of awareness in movement. Moving meditation is a way of being
in the body and sensing the flowing of energy as we relax and focus the
mind on what we are doing. This is in contrast with the many
distractions we have in our daily lives. Most of the time, we are in
our heads, thinking about the past or the future. This prevents us from
being grounded, causing stress and illness. Practising Tai Chi keeps us
in the present moment. This balances and reintegrates the body-mind
system which relaxes and energises us. The combination of passive and
static practices enables a seamless flow of awareness from one state to
the next. The same mind that does sitting meditation practises Tai Chi.
However, in the initial stages, we are still familiarising ourselves
with the practices and might feel the Tai Chi and sitting meditation
very different. The retreat participants seemed to find the Tai Chi
easier. They discovered that Tai Chi and Qigong helped to settle them
into the sitting meditation. Ultimately, the calmness is always there,
whether you are moving or sitting. It will all happen with awareness,
time and practice.
From the feedback we
have received, attendees of the retreat gained a great deal from the
teachings and practices and enjoyed the company of warm hearted
companions. The staff at SIBA were hospitable and gracious. We thank
you all for making this a most memorable retreat. We look forward to
sharing the time and knowledge with you again in the 2012 April
Reflections: good food, great weather, kindred spirits gathered in good
will of enthusiasm. Your professional yet personal (approachable and
jovial) way of communicating is unique & endearing, without judgement,
without condescension & filled with gifted insight, skill and respect.
Above all I think it has rekindled the flame and given me the incentive
to continue with practice and to re-establish my routine (daily).
excellent combination of body work (including energy cultivation)
together with a very accessible approach to the meditation component,
plus a wonderful atmosphere – highly recommended.
Wonderful venue, food and hospitality.
Leaving committed, inspired, rejuvenated and a little sore.
Will take a while for all to settle in and be digested.
The door to meditation had been opened and I take away the basic
knowledge to progress.
The Qigong and Tai Chi has been everything I hoped for – and more.
I sincerely thank you both for your direction and encouragement.
I feel I have taken a stride down this amazing path.
I also feel privileged to have you both as teachers and mentors.
See you next year.
Many thanks for the opportunity.
– Rod, Capenter / Builder
to dispel several long-held beliefs, especially feeling like I always
need to talk!
Wonderful feeling to get back to good Tai Chi practice after many
years. After moving out of Canberra to Dalton, Tai Chi lessons were the
only thing I missed about living in Canberra. (Well, the only
thing apart from decent cafes.)
instantly welcomed by the people at the retreat and felt very special
having a birthday cake and so many people – even though I didn’t know
them – singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the acoustically amazingly built
hall!! It was the start of an amazing few days. Thank you Fontane and
Brett for everything and reawakening the magical feelling of Tai Chi
practice. I am looking forward to learning this beautiful form.
Meditation – before and 7 months after
attending the 2011 retreat, my body's inflexibility meant I was unable
to sit on the floor for more than a minute or so. The intensive yet
calming nature of the retreat meant that in just 4 days, I could already
feel my body starting to change, allowing me to sit for longer and
longer periods of time. After seven months of (mostly) daily practice,
I can sit comfortably cross-legged for about 30 minutes – something I
never thought would be possible.
still challenged by the mind's chatter, but the few times I have felt
brief moments of calmness were so amazing that they continue to inspire
me to keep trying. The other main benefit has been my ability to now
fall asleep very quickly after meditating. At the age of 40, I had
never been able to go to sleep quickly. My mind chatter kept me awake
for 1-2 hours each night before falling into broken, intermittent
sleep. But now, after meditating – even if for only 10 minutes – I fall
sound asleep as soon as I get into bed, and only wake when the alarm
goes off ...!
kind of hard for me to separate the effects of meditation and Tai Chi,
since I started doing them both at the same time. I don't know
whether other people have really noticed, but I definitely feel a lot
more accepting, and calm, about situations and people's behaviour than I
did seven months ago. It even takes me a lot longer to lose my
temper with the kids – sometimes. I think this calmness is
definitely a result of both meditation and Tai Chi. And I'm sure meditation, combined with insights from some of the
stuff Fontane said at the retreat, has been behind this. So thanks!
don't know whether this is related, but I've also become a lot less
attached to physical objects. Heaps of stuff I've had hanging
around for years, I've recently donated to op shops/charities etc.
I just feel like there's too much stuff around the house (and in my
head!) so getting rid of a lot of it has made me feel a bit lighter.
I've been wanting less stuff, and buying practically nothing, other than
food and paying bills. I've been getting enjoyment out of the
simplest things, like watching the sun set on the hills over the road
from my house, or the kids playing and giggling on the trampoline, or
just sitting outside listening to the birds. And practising Tai
Chi and meditating, of course! I've always liked these things, but
now they seem even more meaningful, and more important than most other
things in my life.
– Kath, Freelance Editor & Science Writer
venue and location
awareness all around
keep the combined Tai Chi and Meditation Retreat format.
challenging experience that goes straight to the heart of mindful
mindful, awareness practices do help stablise a chaotic mind and reduce
the damaging effects that we can impose upon ourselves.
attending this retreat, I have grounded myself during a difficult phase
of my life. By reinforcing mindful living practices, I now feel able to
deal with the next set of challenges that are imminent.
for the guidance.
– Shannon, Commercial Diver
the relaxation I was looking for and valuable tools for slowing the
constant barrage of thoughts through meditation practice. The qigong
was particularly enjoyable, learning new and dynamic moves (the Dragon
and Crane) while Yin Yang Fish and Ball moves felt great. Fine tuning
Tai Chi was also really beneficial.
course the blissful food and wonderful people, both course attendees &
the SIBA folk, made this retreat something really special, with so much
to take home. Hope I can come again next year.
– Antoinette, Public Servant
away in a different space
Tai Chi refinement
Enjoyed the retreat ambience
more about the meditation
you for this opportunity.
enjoyed the retreat so much. It was an outer body experience or
may be I should say an inner body experience. I am grateful for
this beautiful place that we have been surrounded by
as well as the beautiful people. My gratitude as well goes to the
two of you and the gifts you have so gently offered us. There is
nothing that I would offer to change. It was perfection down to
the challenges I was given. Thank you again.
you Brett and Fontane for a very organised and inspiring retreat in a
wonderful venue. I enjoyed learning the Dragon and Crane Qigong
and am most grateful for the Tai Chi refinement. There’s always
more to learn. Meditation was a struggle
but there was much less resistance by the end of the third day.
pass my thanks to the SIBA staff for providing excellent and healthy
food. And of course it was my pleasure to undertake the retreat with a
marvellous group of people.
enjoyed everything. The food was yummy! Great group of people. The
sound effects in the dining room were amazing.
though it’s all a challenge for me, I love it! I was proud of
myself when I was able to find that “space” in meditation.
able to learn more detail of Tai Chi helps too!
back next year because it’s all good and my health improves with it all.
you Brett & Fontane for coming into my life.
have an opportunity to reconnect with Tai Chi practice and was reminded
of how good Tai Chi form and Qigong practice make me feel.
needed also to be reminded that it’s up to me. Nothing happens without
my having an intention and acting on the intention.
Learning to question my beliefs, learning to be conscious (or try to be)
about what lies at the back of / behind / under my thoughts, judgments,
actions, …… What a bonus.
gained from the retreat in deepening my understanding of the form.
Refreshing the detail was very timely for me.
morning Qigong class was very beneficial – to move so much and so early
was a boost to my energy for the day.
meditation practice was new to me and I enjoyed
you to Brett and Fontane. I’ll be back next time.
– Lynda, Therapist
retreat was a wonderful experience for me, as it gave me a welcome
opportunity to explore the mysterious and elusive benefits of Tai Chi
and meditation in an ideal setting and under the guidance of two
experienced, enthusiastic and inspiring teachers. The organisation,
time table and execution of this program, consisting of the rather
demanding subjects of Tai Chi and meditation, was faultless.
teach beginners the rudiments of Tai Chi takes a great amount of
patience and perseverance, which Brett brings to the task with abundance
and style. He is always encouraging.
only admire the dedication of Brett and Fontane to their chosen aim of
enriching my life and that of the other participants, with the eventual
benefits of inner peace, serenity and strength that Tai Chi and
meditation deliver. The full extent of those benefits will manifest
themselves in days and weeks to come.
up to me now to build on this solid ground work that Brett and Fontane
extend my sincere thanks to both in the hope that I may have the
opportunity to attend one of their future workshops or retreats.
– John, 83 years old
retreat was an excellent opportunity to take a break from the busyness
of everyday life and pressures of work. I was able to reconnect
with the tangible benefits of Tai Chi and meditation – stillness in
always the surroundings, company and teaching were outstanding.
feeling refreshed & renewed.