Being an activist fighting for structural oppression and marginalisation can be challenging. As an activist, we need to balance our work for human rights and our own personal wellbeing and health at the same time. Understanding the importance of nurturing both our efforts and our personal wellbeing, APTN decided to embark on a team wellbeing retreat, with wellbeing practices guided by Ouyporn Khuankaew (a Buddhist feminist activist who has been a workshop facilitator on feminist counseling, sexuality and anti-oppression, peacebuilding, and nonviolent direct action since 1995) and her apprentice Walra Peepathum, led to a rejuvenating and transformative experience for all.
The team was introduced to multiple well-being practices and exercises:
We were cultivating the art of deep listening, which became a cornerstone of our retreat. Guided by Ouyporn’s expertise, we engaged in active listening exercises that allowed us to be truly present and not interrupt when our partners were talking. This allowed us to fully hear our friends’ true thoughts and feelings, whilst allowing them to fully dive into their thoughts and experiences without interruption.
Walra’s mastery of relaxation techniques allowed us to truly unwind and release stress. Sessions involving deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. This provided the tools to manage stress and promote relaxation in the midst of demanding work environments – we were so relaxed that some of us even fell asleep during the process!
The retreat’s idyllic mountainous setting served as a backdrop for Ouyporn’s sessions that encouraged us to appreciate and connect with the natural world. These sessions offered a reminder of the serenity found in nature, fostering a sense of calm and renewal.
Awareness of Negative Emtions
Ouyporn’s guidance helped us navigate our negative emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. Far too often we face negative emotions, but we are often clueless about what those emotions are, where they come from, and how to process them. After the session, we learned to name these emotions, and acknowledge and process them rather than suppressing them, leading to greater emotional intelligence and well-being.
Ouyporn’s sessions were focused on helping us recognize and celebrate their individual strengths. We each came up with different strengths that we perceived ourselves to have, and what we thought we could work on. Overall, we gained a deeper understanding of their capabilities, leading to increased self-confidence and resilience.
Personal and APTN’s Vision of Wellbeing
A pivotal part of the retreat was the process of mapping out personal visions of well-being and aligning them with the overarching vision of the team. Guided by Ouyporn and Walra, we were empowered to set tangible goals that encompassed physical, mental, and emotional well-being by mapping out our ‘trees’ which included our foundations, support systems, goals, dreams, and what we’ve already achieved.
The Lasting Impact
The echoes of our wellbeing retreat continue to reverberate throughout our organization. We all returned to our roles with newfound clarity and a deepened sense of purpose. The practices learned during the retreat serve as tools for navigating challenges and maintaining balance in dynamic organisational team work.
The bonds formed during the retreat have translated into a stronger sense of community within our team, fostering open communication and understanding among colleagues. The skills acquired, such as deep listening and emotional awareness, have translated into more effective teamwork and collaboration.