Daring Greatly with Brené Brown

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Ade shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené.

Ade - Daring

I remember being filled with such excitement and anticipation when in early April I discovered that Brené Brown was coming to London to give a talk at The School of Life. I immediately posted the details on Facebook, and notified a few of the guys who had journeyed with The Quest about the event. Since discovering Brené’s work via her TED talks, Darren and myself had often referred to her research in our work with gay men on the issue of shame, vulnerability and courage.

I got out my diary to put in the date and then noticed that I had another engagement on the same day, which I could not get out of – or could I? I was in the process of starting a monthly group coaching session in June, and our second session would clash with the Brené event. I debated whether to move the session, but everything was already in place and so I gradually settled to the possibility of the talk making its way to YouTube and seeing it there.

Few weeks later as Ernesto told me that he had his ticket for The School of Life event, I silently debated whether I could take my coaching group for an outing to see Brené, but by that stage the tickets were all gone. ‘Oh well, that’s that’ I thought! Continue Reading →

Meeting Brené Brown

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Darren shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .

Darren - BreneThere are moments in life where reality meets a dream. The moment someone agrees to a date, we hold the keys of our new home in our hand, we look into the eyes of our new born child for the first time, we open the letter containing the results of our hard earned qualification. These moments can be large or small, outwardly major or seemingly insignificant but they contain a magic where suddenly what we imagined becomes possible, what we dreamed of emerges in front of our eyes. And so it was for me on the day we met Brene Brown.

A few days before we received confirmation that Brene would be able to meet us during her upcoming trip to the UK, a friend had sent me an Internet  link to one of her famous Ted talks. Ade and I had just completed one of our foundation weekend workshopsand as I watched this talk I had the repeated realisation that almost everything she was saying was the same as what we were doing with the gay men who had just completed the workshop. It was as though her last 12 years of research was being plugged directly into what we were exploring within our workshop. Continue Reading →

About meeting Brené and being vulnerable

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Ernesto shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .

ErnestoSince I was a young teenager, I have been reading lots of personal development and psychology books. Throughout all these years I have come across wonderful books, those that change us and leave a profound impact in us. Brene’s latest book ‘Daring Greatly’ is definitely one of these wonderful books. Sometimes I even say that ‘Daring Greatly’ is probably the best book I have ever read – and yes, I know that is quite a statement to make!

I am also aware that how good a book is, depends highly on where we are in life at the time we read such book and it’s normally a very subjective matter. A book that can be great for me is not necessarily as good for someone else. I believe this is the result of how well we can relate to the book personally. If the book resonates with something we are going through or have experienced before, then the better the book is. It is like if the book was directly speaking to us. This is also why when we read a book again some time later we discover complete new meanings, because we are now reading it with a different state of mind.  And this is probably why ‘Daring Greatly’ was such a good read for me; because it came at the right time and it relates to things I have gone through; and I continue to go through. Continue Reading →

The Quest sits down with Brené Brown

– Navigating the gap between Shame and Pride

Brene BrownBrené Brown PhD, LMSW is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and has spent the last 12 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

Brené became a global sensation after her TEDx Houston talk on The Power of Vulnerability went viral and became one of the most watched talks on TED.com with over 10 million views. In 2012, she returned to TED and gave the closing talk – Listening to Shame – at the Conference in Long Beach. Brené and her work have been heavily featured in media all around the world, and Oprah recently interviewed her on Super Soul Sunday.

In our work at The Quest we spend time exploring shame and how it relates to the journey of gay men. Brené defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” In her research, Brené found that shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence and depression and that this ‘shame’ is ultimately what prevents people from ‘Wholehearted living’, which she defines as the ability to engage in our lives from a place of worthiness, and feel love and belonging.

Brené explains that for us to feel love and belonging, we need to embrace vulnerability, share our story and let ourselves be seen; this is the essence of our Weekend Exploration Workshop for Gay Men and lies at the heart of The Quest.

We sat down with Brené on her recent visit to London to discuss the insights from her research as it relates to the lives of gay men. Continue Reading →

Reflections on Gay Pride

Ade: Around the world, the Gay Pride season has truly begun! When you think of Pride what comes up for you?

Darren: Pride for me has always been synonymous with being within a large group – a sense of being the ‘majority’ for a day. I remember the feeling of walking on the marches with thousands of other LGBT people and looking at members of the public on the pavement and thinking ‘the roles have been reversed’.

It created such a wave of confidence in me. How about you?

Ade: Yes, I feel the same. I always equate Pride with ‘the day being gay is celebrated’. I went to my first Pride in 1995 in London. I was still in the closet and had tagged along with some gay friends – out of curiosity. I remember calling them to ask if I could come along and feeling a sense of shame about asking. On getting there, I wanted to be ‘Out & Proud’ like everyone else, but remembered feeling unworthy and deeply flawed about being gay… 12 months later, I was out and proud, and a steward at the 1996 London Pride – from Shame to Pride!!! Continue Reading →

My New Best Friend!

When I was in Thailand recently a very powerful thing happened to me. Bear with me as this may sound a little strange… my body started talking to me.

Many times before on holidays I have made it a routine to go running along the beach and this time was no exception. I found myself jogging, barefoot along the beach and I could suddenly hear my body talking.

“oh, this feels gooooood ” it told me, “I really needed this, I need to move through space”

It was a different sounding voice to the one I was used to. That voice said things like –

“oh, ok, were going running but not too far. Look for a marker in the distance and that’s as far was we will go and then turn back. Let’s not overdo it”.

This voice was absent. Continue Reading →

The List – A new take on speed dating

You must know the feeling. You go through your drawers and find an old favourite shirt you’ve forgotten about. You think: “Gosh, I wondered where this had gone. I thought I’d lost it.” When you put it on and look in the mirror, it still fits like a dream and looks smashing.

That’s how I felt when I recently landed back on the ‘dating scene’ — pleasantly curious and ready to strut my stuff. With 40 around the corner and because I’m wary of repeating old patterns, I was a bit apprehensive too despite my enthusiasm.

Nowadays, gay men are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to how we can connect with other guys. The obvious and easy choices are online dating sites and smartphone apps. I’ve tried both and I know they offer loads to look at and hold the alluring promise of immediate gratification, but they’re also time-consuming. I mean really, how many frogs can one man kiss? Continue Reading →

Rediscovering my core need for intimacy

A participant on our recent one-day workshop ‘Getting Clear on Sex & Intimacy’ shares what led him to attend, and his insights from the journey.

Reaching my mid 30s and not having a sense of what imtimacy is, let alone what it means to be, has been rather disconcerting. A comment Darren (co-founder of The Quest) made recently resonated with some of the thoughts on sex and intimacy I had been having in recent months. He reminded me of a time when I was younger, when my identity as a gay man was not determined by sex or the overt sexualisation of the gay scene I find around me. It permeates so many aspects of our lives whether we choose to admit it or not: the gay press, scene magazines, limitless online pornography, online hookup sites, phone applications.. the list is endless. Continue Reading →

Stories, Ghosts & The Art of Performance Storytelling

In the third and final conflab between The Quest co-founder Darren Brady and international theatre practitioner and academic Paul Woodward, they make their final reflections on the power of crafted storytelling for the stage and its potential within The Quest provision, as well as heralding the launch of the next phase in storytelling The Haunting

Darren
So this is our final conversation about storytelling. I know that you have recently performed yourself and I was interested to know- What do you think happens when somebody shares an important story about themselves with an audience? Continue Reading →

Reflections on The Quest Mastery Weekend

sunrise over london croped flattenedI’m real pleased that I signed up to do The Quest’s Mastery Weekend. It helped to complete a few of the things that I started to deal with during The Exploratory Weekend. In fact, I kind of think of them both now, as a single entity. A week’s worth of Questing, with a bit of an intermission, half way through.

Seeing guys change, seeing guys free themselves from their shackles and weighted chains, has been truly heart-warming. So fantastic to witness. And I hope the other guys who have drifted away, are in a better place than they were before.

I suppose it’s about Expectations, ours and others. Do people really think that spending a weekend or two with Darren and Ade is going to immediately transform all of our lives? Ah, but wouldn’t that be miraculous if they could. Just a swish of their magic wands. . . Unfortunately though, we live in a world without that specialist brand of magic. Continue Reading →

Getting Clear on Sex & Intimacy

Ade: In our upcoming one-day workshop on April 13th we will be exploring  Sex and Intimacy. Do you feel that many gay men are able to distinguish between the two? We often see Sex portrayed in many of the gay magazines, and very little said about Intimacy, Connection, Openness and Engagement. I think many of us know the language of Sex and only few know the language of Intimacy. When I look back to when I came out in my late 20s, my approach based on what I saw was – sex first, intimacy second.

Darren: Yes and often we think the act of sex is intimacy when in fact it can be totally lacking in intimacy. So how would you describe the ‘language of intimacy’?

Ade: I would say the language of intimacy is the same as the language of Vulnerability. I recently heard Brene Brown say vulnerability has three components – Risk, Emotional Exposure and Uncertainty. When I look at my own journey with intimacy, it’s when I allow myself to be open to those three components, that I find myself in a space of connection and authenticity with the person that I am with. You? Continue Reading →

Reflections on ‘Beneath the Surface’ (Part 2)

In the second part of a trilogy of discussions, the creators of Beneath The Surface explore the many issues raised in reviving a live storytelling performance

Paul Woodward: So… in resurrecting the performance Velvet Rage Live: Real Stories which was performed at the Sarah Siddons Theatre in November, it became the revised version Beneath The Surface which was presented last week at The Embassy Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama… I wonder if we could reflect this session on what happened in-between these events in terms of the cast and their relationship to the material…  and I guess within that there is a good question that we can use as a conflab starting point and focus…

Is a story completed once it is told?

Darren: The guys had moved on in quite a significant way after they performed their piece the first time. When we regrouped to go through the piece for the performance a few months later there was a different energy to the stories. It was less ‘charged’. They were assured and confident and had a distance between themselves and the events they had retold in their stories. It was actually quite beautiful to witness. It also created a challenge- how do we now make these stories have emotional impact for the audience? Continue Reading →

Journeying with The Quest

In December 2012, Gabriel participated in  The Quest Weekend Exploration Workshop. Here he reflects on his journey with The Quest.

Despite being a lot in my head, sometimes I take decisions without thinking too much; I just jump into the water. The Quest was such a case!

Late last year, a friend invited me to the book launch of ‘Love Me As I Am: gay men reflect on their lives‘, which appealed to me because it showed something I could easily relate to – my difficulties in growing up gay. That same evening, when I arrived home, I registered for the next available workshop with The Quest; no further questions asked. Continue Reading →

Reflections on ‘Beneath the Surface’ (Part 1)

In the first part of an ongoing Conflab, The Quest co-founder Darren Brady and Storytelling Coordinator Paul Woodward discuss their journey as Storytelling Facilitator and Dramaturg (respectively) for the recent performance piece ‘Beneath The Surface’.

The show was first premiered last year at the Sarah Siddons Theatre as part of our Gay Utopia weekend, and recently re-worked and performed to great acclaim at The Embassy Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.

 
Paul: I thought we could kick this off with our responses to a quote I read recently: The secret of a moving story is to tell it from a place of complete authenticity Annette Simmons.
Darren: Yes absolutely! But in reality that’s easier said than done! As gay men we learn very quickly (from the ages of 4 upward) to start hiding a key part of our true (authentic) selves, so showing ourselves does not come naturally to us.

Paul: And I think its interesting that the very nature of theatre itself presides on a kind of inauthenticity – in the traditional sense, the actors and the audience are collaborating in a lie – pretending neither is there in the same space at the same time. There’s always been speculation about why gay men in particular are drawn to the theatre arts. I wonder if its something to do with two forces prone to hiding reality, or a masking of truths based on some fundamental in-authenticities. Gay men and theatre – the mix in some ways was always going to be explosive, for our performers and audience both. Continue Reading →

“I’m fine. I don’t need any help”

Welcome to The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? It’s pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

Every fortnight, Ade and Darren, founders of The Quest, discuss and explore a different theme. The theme of this Conflab is – “I’m fine, I don’t need any help” 

Darren: Something I have been thinking about a lot is that as very young children we learned to be self sufficient in response to finding ourselves ‘different’ from others and not getting acknowledgement and support. This led me to thinking that this often gets in the way of us asking for help and certainly showing our vulnerability in front of others. It may also be the reason that many gay men find the prospect of the work we do as very daunting
Ade: When you say them ‘finding the prospect of doing the work daunting’, do you mean – doing the work by being with other gay men or simply them doing the inner work and facing their demons? I for one, think both apply. There are a number of gay men that I have spoken to who tell me things like – I don’t trust other gay men and I don’t like being with other gay men. And in terms of doing the work, I guess that ties in with what we discussed when we had our conflab on ‘talking a new language‘. Continue Reading →

Tenderness, Taboo & Togetherness

~ A Dramaturg’s Perspective on ‘Beneath The Surface: Real Life Stories’

As we await the next incarnation of The Quest storytelling performance inspired by The Velvet RagePaul Woodward, the production Dramaturg reflects here about how the original production Velvet Rage: Real Life Stories was shaped and structured, and the processes which brought the piece to fruition….

What is a ‘dramaturg’?

It’s a weird old word, German in origin (and boy does it sound it), which when I describe myself as such makes people check my breath, to see if I’m drunk and trying to say ‘dramatist’ or ‘director’ – in actual fact, its kind of a specialized combination of both of these things. I’m going to resort to Wikipedia here (the academic in me shudders at this of course) for the clearest definition I could find:

Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Dramaturgy is a distinct practice separate from play writing and directing, although a single individual may perform any combination of the three. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturg, to adapt a work for the stage.

Dramaturgy may also be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story into a form that may be acted. Dramaturgy gives the work or the performance a structure.

And that’s basically what my role was for this project. I was the structure and shaper guy for the piece, the guy in charge of production design, and who took a co-directorial position, alongside Darren Brady, who was taking the reigns on this particular project, as facilitator. Continue Reading →

Facing the Man in the Mirror

It’s been two years since Attitude broke new ground with the ‘‘issues issue’’ which focused on the sensitive and somewhat taboo issues of mental health problems in gay men. Sparking a national debate, this special edition of Attitude lifted the veil from discussing controversial issues such as internalised homophobia, depression, sex-addiction and shame in an open and transparent way.

But what has changed since then? Having identified the key issues we face, there are now a growing number of gay men who are seeking a new kind of conversation, one which allows them to explore the deeper meaning behind their experiences as gay men. This is reflected in the new book ‘Love Me As I Am: Gay Men reflect on their lives,’ which presents the moving stories of 24 gay men from all walks of life writing an open letter to their sixteen year old self. Developed from a workshop exercise by life coaches Ade Adeniji and Darren Brady, the book signals a new willingness of gay men to step forward and tell their stories in a way that empowers them to break free from the self-destructive patterns that have blighted our community.

In this article James Barber speaks with Ade and Darren, to find out how they are helping gay men to heal the wounds of their past so they can live more authentic lives. Continue Reading →

Gay Men Living their Best Lives

Welcome to The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? It’s pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

Every fortnight, Ade and Darren, founders of The Quest, discuss and explore a different theme. The theme of this Conflab is – Gay Men Living Their Best Lives

Ade: So, it’s the beginning of the year and many people are thinking ‘new year – new start’, for some this means living their best life. I guess its therefore apt that our theme should be ‘Gay Men Living their Best Lives’ – when you think of that statement, what comes up for you?
Darren: For me ‘best’ equates to ‘true’ – so when I am being and acting my truth, I have the greatest experience of life. When I am dishonoring my truth, problems and dissatisfaction set in. What does it bring up for you? Continue Reading →

Being Gay at this Time of Year

We hope you enjoy the The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? Its pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

The theme of this Conflab is – What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?

We would welcome your thoughts, reflections and feedback on the discussion.

Ade: So what are we conflabbing about today?
Darren: Christmas?

Ade: Not keen on that as it is a Christian holiday and potentially excludes so many people. Maybe something broader, like ‘What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?’
Darren: Good idea. This time of year for me has usually led to me feeling very much an outsider – like the uninvited guest looking through the window at the party inside.

Continue Reading →

Redefining Gay Community

This past weekend has been such an exciting chapter in the journey of The Quest. It was not so long ago, on one sunny Sunday afternoon on 8th May 2011, that Darren and myself sat in a Thai restaurant on Charlotte Street and talked about the journey of gay men. We had just left an event where Attitude magazine, in association with The Drill Hall, London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Pace Health had put on a panel discussion exploring some of the issues that gay men go through.

The event had used as its premise ‘The Velvet Rage – Overcoming the shame of growing up gay in a straight man’s world’, by Alan Downs. I was a big fan of the book, having bought it a few years prior and had since read it a number of times. The book had spoken to me on many levels and articulated my journey from childhood to adolescence into adulthood. Continue Reading →

Gay Utopia

A big thank you to everyone who was involved in making this event happen……..

For decades, gay men around the world have been marching down our own proverbial yellow brick road with protest banners and candles, fighting for equal rights and acceptance into mainstream society. We’ve survived the heartache and prejudice of the HIV/Aids epidemic, and with the advent of effective HIV medications, we can truly say ‘We’ve passed through that darkness too.’

We are now standing on the cusp of the dawn of a new age — our own Emerald City, where we can raise families, wed our boyfriends, name our own streets, have our own television shows and strut our stuff proudly. We are courted by businesses, consulted by the influential and powerful, encouraged, accepted and celebrated.

Surely, this must be the Gay Utopia we’ve been fighting for?

Continue Reading →

The Quest

Somewhere along the way
I lost touch with myself
From being told I was flawed
From believing that I was broken
From being an outsider
Learning that being different,
meant being abnormal.

Continue Reading →