What do six gay men sitting in a room have in common?
After one seminar at The Velvet Journey, I was reminded that it’s our similarities, not our differences, that make the gay community such a wonderful camaraderie.
Most, if not all, gay men at one point in their lives are faced with issues surrounding sex, drugs, family, the fear of failure, yearning for acceptance and the desire to love.
Not that these issues are gay-specific, but The Velvet Journey founders have developed a series of events and workshops with the mission of inspiring gay men to tackle these issues head-on.
Founded by wellness expert Tony Selimi, personal trainer Will Pike and events specialist Jenny Dainton, the Velvet Journey roster is comprised of different events that include round-table discussions, group therapy sessions and fitness retreats that cater to the personal development of gay men.
Turned on to me by Will Pike, who has written fitness articles for GSN and helped fellow reporter Matthew Jenkin achieve his Olympic Body Challenge, I was admittedly reticent about sharing my deepest hopes and insecurities with a room of strangers.
After all, what could I possibly have in common with five other gay men whom I had never met?
The first exercise required me to turn to the man next to me and discover three things we shared in common. Within the first five minutes, I discovered that my new friend and I had a journalism background, spent the majority of their lives in the US and had an affinity for Latin men.
The seminar was quite a surprising experience, where a group of strangers were able to openly and safely discuss, debate, meditate and laugh about some of the issues we as gay men face today.
GSN caught up with Velvet Journey founder Tony Selimi to gain more insight as to how The Velvet Journey is helping gay men along their path.
How do you describe the Velvet Journey?
We are one stop personal development, wellbeing and social events company to support gay men in their journey of life. By using our combined expertise and skill set gained over many years, we are giving other gay men the choice to embark on a road that will help them add great value to their life, make the steps that lead them to their personal and professional development, and enjoy the company of like-minded men.
How do you help gay men with their personal development?
We are doing this by facilitating change through personal transformation.
This is done through a range of services on offer: workshops, webinars, life coaching, CBT therapy, NLP, energy healing, aura readings using the latest bio feedback technology, personal training, nutritional advice, and in 2013 retreats, and combining all of those under one roof.
How did you come up with the Velvet Journey?
Initially I got together with my friend Daniel that I went to university with and started to bounce ideas with each other about the many issues we as gay men were facing. I then mentioned this to my personal trainer and a close friend Will Pike who, like me being disheartened with the gay scene and gay life in general, wanted more, and then my friend Jenny Dainton also got involved, to support me in creating a company to be the change we want to see.
We loved the idea, we continued to meet, discuss, socialise and listen to the issues our friends and people we spoke were facing, the vision started to take shape and the rest is history.
What issues do you deal with in your seminars?
I have dealt with so many issues and health concerns that gay men face, such as HIV and AIDS, safe sex, substance use, sex addictions, depression, anxiety, hepatitis immunization, sexually transmitted infections, prostate/ testicular/ colon cancer, alcohol, tobacco, fitness, diet and exercisem, their own self-destructive patterns of behaviour. There are also other cultural competence issues — gender identity, race, ethnicity, economic status, for example, denial, anger, swearing disappointment and helping them in various relationship issues that arise from not being aligned with one's true identity.
What do you hope people will get from The Velvet Journey?
Our attendees and customers can expect a safe, professional, experienced environment in which they can explore difficulties and transform them into personal growth.
We are a call to action for gay men who want to make this journey and invest in one’s true sense of identity delivering dividends and stabilises the collective-the family, the organisation, our relationships and community.
I believes that it's only when you find your true purpose, you start doing what you love and make a shift from love of power to the power of love consciousness that you can really become the change you want to see.
What’s next for the Velvet Journey?
Upcoming workshops and events in 2012: