Easton Mountain: Honouring The Gay Spirit

easton mountain retreat centre
Easton Mountain is a community retreat centre that truly honours the gay spirit. It really is a unique and exceptional place.

Easton Mountain is a community, retreat centre and sanctuary created by gay men as a ‘gift to the world’. It provides a number of workshops, programs, and events that aim to to celebrate, heal, transform, and integrate body, mind, and spirit.

Easton Mountain Values

Easton Mountain is a volunteer-run organisation. 100% of the revenue they raise is used to support the upkeep of their sanctuary and for making their programs accessible to all.

Many visitors become monthly contributors, which supplements revenue from the programs. This allows Easton Mountain to help those in the LGBTQ community who most need the gay community’s support, by providing youth programs and recovery weekends for instance.

easton mountain lodge and rooms

Easton Mountain is driven by their core principles which incude valuing:

  • Each individual’s spiritual path and the quest for connection and understanding.
  • The beauty of the earth, and our practice of stewardship of it.
  • The joy and wisdom our bodies bring.
  • The expression of love, intimacy, and erotic communion.
  • Service, and those who strive to make life better for others.
  • Creativity, celebration, fun, and gaiety.
  • Respect, honesty and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
  • Community, the support it provides, and the strength and love it brings.
  • Work towards peace, nonviolence, and social justice; ending oppression and healing its impact on all people.
  • Hospitality that welcomes all others as sisters and brothers.

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How Easton Mountain came to beJohn Stasio is the founder of Easton Mountain. This is his story of how Easton Mountain came into existence.

easton mountain founder john stasio

The seeds for Easton Mountain were planted in my psyche as far back as my college years when I lived in a student community committed to social justice. Haley House was the one place on campus where it was safe and welcoming for Gay students to meet. It was in fact a sanctuary.

Later in my life I was working as a massage therapist and body worker. My practice, housed in a Jesuit rectory, was largely for Gay men, many of whom were trying to stay healthy as they dealt with being either infected with or affected by HIV. The JUC, or Jesuit Urban Center, was one of a few Catholic Churches in Boston in the early years of the epidemic where Gay men and persons with HIV were welcomed and treated with dignity and respect. Many family members who sought to have the funeral of their loved ones at other locations told stories of being refused ministry from their suburban parishes and funeral homes. Again I found myself living and working in what could easily be described as an urban sanctuary.

As the plague of HIV continued to claim the lives of friends and loved ones, the desire for refuge grew as a need in my life. This need was echoed by the colleagues and friends whom I asked early in 1989 to plan and lead a men\’s retreat with me. We planned and sponsored a retreat for men who love men and titled the experience AWWOB — A Weekend With Our Brothers. It was the first of scores of gatherings that would be sponsored by a community of men that would later incorporate as Brothers Together ( BT ). BT would offer weeklong and weekend programs that hundreds of men would experience as a safe and supportive place in their lives, and for a decade we were in fact creating a temporary bit of sanctuary.

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easton mountain is a male retreat

These experiences along with many others would send a small group of men in search of real estate in the summer of 1999. We visited farms, cabins and tracks of land in New England and Upstate New York and finally end up at a dilapidated ski resort in the town of Easton, NY and began what has been a decade-long experiment in creating community and offering a place of sanctuary. What follows is a piece of that story.

After a long and difficult negotiation, and with the help of a business partner who would remain with the project for only a few months, I managed to acquire Easton Mountain. The 175 acres of mountain, fields, ponds, streams, orchards and buildings had been called the Phoenix resort, and had been sitting abandoned for the five years prior to our arrival.

My vision was clear, at least to me, as I had been dreaming a quasi-utopian dream for nearly twenty years. With a group of committed men we would create a place apart from the world where we could grow and heal, play and pray, dream big dreams and wild schemes for making the world a better place. From this hilltop the light of our queer gifts could shine for all the world to see and we could spawn a revolution of love, or at least, as Peter Maurin would say; we could build a world in which it is easier for men to be good.

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easton mountain gay sanctuary

Next, with the help of some buddies, I assembled a plan and wrote to everyone who I thought might help with this endeavor. In my solicitation letter, I told them what I wanted to do. I put together some numbers, pictures, ideas and then described the vision this way:

Easton Mountain will be the home to a spiritual community dedicated to transforming and healing the human soul. We commit to living lightly on the earth, promoting social justice, and celebrating together. We vow to spread beauty and encourage creativity. We value openness and a radical hospitality, which seeks to embrace all others as sisters and brothers. We respect the wisdom of the body, the interdependence of all life, and non-violence in the resolution of conflicts. We promote peace and freedom for all. We seek an ever-deepening connectedness to self, others, and all of creation.

I tried to make a case that we could do something wonderful if we had help. I said a prayer and I mailed out a stack of plans. To my amazement only a few days later checks started arriving and the phone started to ring.

From the start, I wanted to bring the gifts I had received on my journey to bear on the creation at Easton Mountain.

Volunteer Programs At Easton Mountain

Apart from donating money, many people choose to help Easton Mountain stay afloat by volunteering. Easton run a number of different volunteer programs including:

Short-Term On-Site Volunteer – Stay for up to one month

For volunteers who have already experienced volunteering on the weekend basis and who want to stay longer, it is possible to request one-week, two-weeks, three-weeks, or four-weeks.

Long-Term Volunteer Stay – For one to three months (or longer)

After having served as a volunteer and having attended several of our retreats as a participant, the Residential Community of Easton Mountain may consider an application for a Long-Term Volunteer position. In exchange for a minimum of 30 hours’ work per week, you will be given suitable housing and meals for the time of your stay.

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Work-Exchange Program

Volunteers who have successfully volunteered for three full days (or the equivalent) of approximately six hours per day, earn credit towards one free day of a retreat (based on approval).

Special Project Volunteering

If you have a special skill you’d like to share with the organization from your home, please get in touch with us to discuss your idea. Examples may include help with marketing, fundraising, public relations, writing and so on.

Easton Mountain Interview

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Wil Fisher from Easton Mountain.

easton mountain interview with wil fischer Here’s what we chatted about:

Who comes to Easton Mountain, and what are some of their reasons for coming?

Wil – People from the LGBT community who want to experience nature, play, and comradeship; people looking for opportunities to grow personally and spiritually; people seeking peace and healing; people seeking play, celebration and new connections. The groups that come to Easton often vary depending on the retreat that is being offered- but there is a retreat for everyone, and all are welcome.

There is a spiritual component to Easton Mountain. Do people need to be spiritually inclined in order to get something out of their visit?

People who come to Easton define spirituality in many different ways, and Easton does not subscribe to one definition. With that in mind, guests who come specifically to connect with spirit may get just as much out of a visit as someone who doesn’t have spiritually in mind when they plan their visit.

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Do you believe that being gay gives us a unique perspective on things such as mindfulness, connection and other aspects of spirituality?

Being gay offers us an opportunity to think outside of the box more easily. We have been outsiders for centuries, and one of the results of that is we can create our own paradigms that do not follow the hetero-normative models.

Easton is a prime example of that opportunity manifesting something unique and special. In terms of mindfulness, and connection, I think everyone has access to those aspects of spirituality, but the difference is we have opportunities to nurture those parts of ourselves with like-minded community members at extraordinary places like Easton Mountain.

What do you personally love most about Easton Mountain and why?

Personally, I love the community that comes together during retreats at Easton. There is a trusting energy that has been cultivated here that helps people quickly let down their guards and find closeness and connection with each other that you don’t see happen in big cities, or even small towns anymore. When that supportive and close-knit community is built, people become unafraid of sharing their gifts with each other, and the world. It’s beautiful to witness and celebrate when that occurs.

Are there any plans to create more places like Easton Mountain either in the USA, or around the world?

There are no immediate plans to build more Easton Mountains, per se, but we certainly hope to expand the facilities we currently have so that we can welcome more people here. Also, as the Easton Mountain community continues to grow, so does the possibility for new spaces like Easton being created around the world by people who have experienced the magic here.

You can learn more about Easton Mountain by following them on:
Facebook,  Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

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