Be Free Where You Are

Sharing siblinghood and freedom joyfully together. Reflections at our recent LGBTQIA+ Retreat at the Dharma Mountain Center.

Brother Bao Tang teaching at Dharma Mountain Center during the LGBTQIA+ Retreat in Oct 2023

From October 2nd to 9th, 2023, in La Boissièr, located in the south of France, we hosted a wonderful Affinity Rainbow Retreat for our LGBTQIA+ friends at Dharma Mountain Center.

The Dharma Mountain Center is dedicated to mindfulness practice, rooted in the tradition of Zen Buddhism and committed to the Plum Village Tradition. Situated on a mountain adorned with chestnut trees in the Hautes Cévennes Gardoises, this center is managed by the Cévennes Zen association.

During this retreat, we had the opportunity to come together and practice mindfulness, celebrating the wonders of life with the energies of peace, happiness, siblinghood, sisterhood, brotherhood, and freedom. We practiced mindfulness in various forms, including sitting, walking, working, eating, sharing, and cooking, all within the serene setting of the mountains.

Hiking joyfully together during the LGBTQIA+ Retreat at Dharma Mountain Center in October 2023

Our schedule included a noble silent day, a lazy day, a hiking day, and a picnic lunch in nature, playing by the river.

Practicing “Be beautiful, be ourselves” is good but it  doesn’t encompass everything.

Even if we are comfortable with our gender identity or sexual orientation, as human beings, we also need healthy connections that can nourish and heal us from the feelings of separation and isolation.

Br. Bao Tang

During the retreat, we learned how to reconnect with ourselves and reach out to one another, creating a safe space for living harmoniously together.

“Be Free where You are” is an expression of ethics. Ethics (Mindfulness Trainings) can allow us to live freely – free from craving, desire, and confusion. It allows us to connect with each other safely and with compassion.

Throughout the week, we experienced profound inner peace and newfound hope. We left the retreat feeling recharged, understood, and empowered to face life’s challenges. Our nourishment also came from a generous and lovely cooking team that provided us with delicious vegan meals each day.

We learned from each other how to take care of ourselves, how to build connections, take care of our strong emotions, and cultivate meaningful relationships while letting go of what is not love in a relationship. It was an incredibly enriching experience over the course of a full week.

“Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid.” Practicing sitting meditation together.

We left the retreat feeling recharged, understood, and empowered to face life’s challenges.

Br. Bao Tang

Here are some reflections from the organizers, Plum Village monastics, and guest teachers.

Brother Bao Tang

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the monastic sangha that allowed me to be part of this retreat. Also, I extend my appreciation to the organizers of Dharma Mountain for inviting the monastic community to be part of this beautiful work. It brought me great joy to witness a space where queer siblings, both monastics and lay practitioners, could grow together spiritually. I now hold even more hope that queer siblings can live happily and freely with ethics embedded in their body, speech, and mind. I was full with joy to see many queer siblings committed to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings at the end of the retreat.

Brother Niem Khiem

As a novice monk ordained within the Chestnut Tree family (monastics at Plum Village ordain in peer groups and are given family names inspired by trees and flowers), I feel as fresh as a flower after spending a wondrous week at Dharma Mountain, practicing mindfulness with queer siblings and friends. Much gratitude.


Yet another beautiful retreat at Dharma Mountain, where we were blessed by the chestnuts and the enchanting colors of the forest. I’m truly grateful that we could host this retreat in collaboration with our monastic brothers. It was profoundly moving to witness so many Queer siblings from around the world coming together to practice in this secluded forest and mountain that I hold dear. Their deep connection to the natural surroundings and the presence of our ancestors was truly heartwarming. I hold a sincere wish that we can continue to provide spaces like this in the future.


Fifteen years ago, I embraced Buddhism, initially through Theravada and the teachings of Ajahn Chah, and later, I discovered the wisdom of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh a decade ago. For a long time, I practiced in solitude, overlooking the importance of Sangha. During the first Queer retreat at La Montagne du Dharma, I found the strength and wisdom of a Sangha.

Now, my practice involves nurturing this Sangha and creating a “safe space” for the LGBTQIA+ Plum Village community. This retreat marked a significant milestone with the presence of three Plum Village Brothers, and I hope it’s the first of many LGBTQIA+ retreats with the monastics. It provided strength, peace, freedom, and insight, helping me confront my judgments, habit energies, and continue on the Noble Eightfold Path.

We hope you enjoyed our reflections, and we look forward to the possibility of meeting at another retreat. We hold you close and release you to be free like the birds.

Here is some joy we’d like to share with you – the teachings and some photos.

One of the teachings during the retreat

More teachings

Beautiful mountain scenes from Dharma Mountain Center
Nourishing our siblinghood together as a multifold Sangha on the spiritual path
Sitting as a Sangha: Together we are one

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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