This was the fifth retreat we have held at SIBA in East Gippsland. How
The journey to the retreat centre from Canberra is about six hours. It
is a glorious drive through the alpine country and down to the coastal
towns of Cann River and Orbost. Heading up to the retreat centre takes
you through a picturesque valley, past the town of Buchan and its famous
caves. A winding road passes beautiful forests and mountain views on
its way up to W Tree. Then, at last you arrive at SIBA, a uniquely
designed retreat centre. A great sense of peace envelops you
and feelings of well being are noticeable right away. A long journey is
rewarded with a special place where retreat hosts Venerable Jampal, the
Head Monk and Keeper, and Helen, the hard working, happy and creative
cook are waiting to welcome us.
As the guests arrived on Friday, they were warmly greeted and shown to
their choice of accommodation, which consists of motel style suites,
cabins and camp sites. The first evening was spent getting to know one
another, with an introductory talk and a qigong session before bed. It
was great to meet new participants from Queensland and Melbourne. And,
also many old friends from the South Coast, including Dave Tooley, the
bear, all 6 feet 8 inches of him.
Each day began with loosening, stretching and a qigong session to
awaken our energy. The set we taught was called the Wudang Mountain
Qigong. The group all commented favourably on the strong energy or qi
felt during these sessions. After our morning session, everybody was
ready for a hearty, healthy breakfast. Helen and the crew did a great
job catering for everyone’s needs.
After breakfast was the meditation session with Fontane. From
all reports, these sessions were a revelation to both beginners and many
long term practitioners. People who attended last year’s retreat were
surprised how different the presentation was, even though the essential
materials were the same. People who have attended many meditation
courses and retreats in the past, including Senior Instructor Chris
Radnedge, were amazed by the clarity and structure of Fontane’s
sessions. Fontane’s explanation of meditation in terms of energy was an
eye-opener to everyone. They now see meditation in a different light –
more accessible, calming and so relevant to their daily lives. Everyone
was enthralled by her presentation and her ability to interact in terms
of answering and prompting questions. Many long held unexamined beliefs
were challenged and there were many important “aha!” moments.
Also, an unexpected surprise – that most sessions were full of laughter
– not what people had anticipated.
Afternoon sessions were devoted to Tai Chi practice. Students
were divided into two groups : those who had learnt the form (in the
Golden House) and the beginners (in the Temple). After the tea break,
we all congregated at the Golden House for a workshop on body mechanics,
Push Hands and many other aspects of this fascinating art. Students had
the opportunity to work with each other, checking the details of posture
etc. Being able to test the principles with a partner is an
indispensable aspect of Tai Chi training. We also did some Push Hands
with each other. Students tend to have a resistance to this sort of
training at first. However, once they experience it and understand its
purpose, they are quick to embrace it and sing its praises. In Push
Hands, you learn to interpret your partner's strength and neutralise his
power. It is the embodiment of yin and yang and is an invaluable tool
in developing the power and skill of Tai Chi in application. Chris
Radnedge and I demonstrated the eight powers of Tai Chi and how they can
be applied in self defence situations.
After dinner, students again practised meditation and listened to
Fontane’s elucidation on the different aspects of this sitting practice.
On the last evening of the retreat, we heard from all participants once
again. This time they commented on what they had gained from the
retreat. Their comments were powerful and humbling testimonies to the
magic inherent in these internal arts. We learnt just how much we can
change and awaken when we apply ourselves to a time proven system. Fontane and I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt comments
and willingness to share them. We look forward to our next retreat in
2013. We hope you can join us for an unforgettable, nurturing
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
“Book me in for next year ……
These few days have to be the best value, just ask Dominic, to be found
Great value, amazing food and gracious hosts.
As intense as it is, both physically and mentally, the experience is
utterly relaxing and rewarding.
The meditation for a novice was exceptional. I’ve learnt to be my own
best friend and did let go some negative situations which I feel much
The Tai Chi has helped me consolidate and as always has invigorated and
refuelled my enthusiasm to tackle the path ahead.
I leave with a stronger body, a warmer heart and a free spirit. A real
“What a fantastic way to get away from the constant information overload
of daily life. The refinement of the form was fantastic and something I
had been craving.
Words cannot describe the feeling and relaxation from Qigong.
Insights from the meditation will undoubtedly help me cope with the
stresses of my working life and have given me insights into my monkey
The quality of the teachings, the environment, food and the participants
have all contributed to what would have to be the most relaxing
insightful periods of my life. I thank you all."
“Firstly, I would like to congratulate Fontane and Brett on a most
wonderful experience. Although I am a newcomer to Tai Chi and
Qigong, both of you made me feel part of the group, and your
explanations in all the classes were detailed and very easy to follow
for a newcomer. You both were very sensitive to where newcomers might
have questions in a class, but you managed to talk about these before it
ever occurred to me to ask a question. I can see that you are very
experienced teachers and I think that comes from the fact that you are
both such sensitive and caring people, not to mention Masters of your
The environment at SIBA is absolutely unique and special.
One feels a calm yet strong very, very good energy immediately on
arrival. Everyone there is calm and welcoming and the place runs
smoothly and seamlessly. I’m sure that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the
five days there, and felt re-energised and peaceful when they left.
The food was terrific, varied, lots of it and the way that everyone
chipped in to help with dishes etc. was great to see.
What did I gain from it? I don’t know where to start! Mentally,
Fontane’s meditation classes were a revision for me on the healing
powers of meditation. The processes you use are very easy to follow and
in this short time since 13th April, I have been able to
relax and gain calm more quickly than I would have believed possible.
Physically, as I mentioned to Brett on the last day, the pain and
stiffness in my shoulders and neck as well as my lower back started to
melt away. Really, before I came to the retreat, I was thinking
about asking my doctor to refer me to an orthopaedic surgeon for
possible back surgery, because I have had problems
for several years. Even though I tried yoga and Pilates for the
past two years, there was little improvement in my back. I believe
the Qigong and Tai Chi exercises, being as they are so very gentle, are
wonderful, as they train the mind to slow down and breathe well during
the movements. Even with old injuries in my left shoulder, and
previous fractures in my left knee and left wrist, I was able to do all
the exercises, so gentle are the movements, yet so powerful. I am
so grateful that I found your website and made the journey to work
through your 5 day retreat. I can’t thank you enough.
I can’t really think of anything that I would like to see changed for
your retreat. Everything you both did, the way classes progressed
through stages during the whole period was logical and planned. I felt
participants were given a very solid understanding of what and why we
were doing what you were teaching us.
I would like to visit again next year and repeat the retreat. I don’t
mind the travel. I really do enjoy travelling around that part of NSW
and Victoria. Next time though I might consider driving myself and
taking an extended trip through the area."
A Queensland Visitor
“The triage of meditation, Qigong and Tai Chi worked incredibly well
together, and made for a highly successful and satisfying retreat.
As always with doing Tai Chi with Brett and Fontane, I
gained a deeper understanding of the art.
I was delighted with the Qigong sessions which were most
energising as a start to a day.
The meditation was a real surprise in that I had viewed it
as a bit of a ‘fill-in’ between Tai Chi and Qigong, but it turned out to
be a highlight for me.
The retreat has also provided me with an insight I had not
expected in all three disciplines as well as providing motivation to
continue with them in the future and to try to improve my participation
Thank you once again Fontane and Brett. Keep up the good
work! I loved the time I spent with you at SIBA.”
“An understanding that I have potential I never realised. Finding the
joy of movement.
This was a weekend more rewarding than I would have believed
Thank you for everything !!!”
Gael, Public Servant
“I loved the laughter as well as the pain – though the latter in
Has deepened my understanding as well as the experience of
energy practice in the Qigong and the Tai Chi form. Very strong too in
the Wudang practice.
The explanation of Taoist energy structures has clarified so
much of the Tai Chi and Qigong practices and now I understand more of
where martial arts forms fit, as well as Chinese medicine and health
Very helpful to have concept of being my own best friend as a
way to break down the critical inner voice. It makes compassion a
natural result once acceptance is experientially real – not just an
“Met all my expectations regarding ongoing training in Hun Yuan Tai
Chi. This was important as I do not have a teacher at present on the
Provided a significant addition to my own Qigong training through the
Wudang Mountain Qigong set.
Took me further than expected in my understanding and practice of Qigong
– again important because I do not have a teacher to guide me in this.
The new meditation strategy was a revelation and another opening. I
- the guided practice
- the examination and discussion of participants’ experience during the
- the theoretical presentation of this form of meditation and the
analysis of practical and programmatic applications for practitioner
Brett and Fontane, I value highly the opportunity to study
with you both and greatly appreciate your willingness to provide that
opportunity. Thank you.
“I really enjoyed taking the Wudang Mountain Qigong set home to
I loved the meditation sessions, explanations and
I left the retreat inspired to deepen the practices and
details of the Hun Yuan form.
There was a lot of laughter which also enhanced the
atmosphere and total experience.”
Julie, Community Service Worker
“A wonderful opportunity to join my local ‘Tai Chi family’ on a retreat
in a beautiful, calming location and to meet others with a similar
passion. The enthusiasm was infectious and the energy through the
Wudang Mountain Qigong was just amazing.
I gained an appreciation of the connectedness between Tai
Chi, Qigong and meditation and am inspired to find a balance with these
in my practice.”
“Gained a deeper knowledge of the concept of meditation and its
importance of connecting it with Qigong and Tai Chi.
It has confirmed that the above disciplines are great tools
against depression, stagnant energy such as chronic fatigue and
re-gaining overall health.
It was a true pleasure to meet Brett and Fontane and to
learn from them as master teachers. Their philosophy of Tai Chi, Qigong
and meditation, but also as a couple interacting with each other, has
We had a great learning time with laughter and good food in
beautiful surroundings with a like-minded group where we felt welcome as
an extended family. Thank you also to the Buddhist Centre for their
good care and welcome.”
Uta, Retired and Marion, Bus Driver
“A month on from the retreat and many benefits continue to flow through
my daily life.
My Tai Chi form feels lighter, more grounded and balanced.
The Qigong Brett taught us has become a regular favourite. The
combination of standing and gentle twisting movements is deeply
relaxing, and wonderful for dropping tension and freeing up the spine,
pelvis and shoulder girdle.
The return to a habit of meditation also continues to bring enhanced
peace and clarity.
I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to enjoy such a high level of
For me it was a perfect combination.
The training, the beautiful setting, the great food, and the company of
a wonderful group of people was energising, inspiring and a lot of fun.
The whole experience has had a positive effect on my health and has
deepened my commitment and enthusiasm for the Hun Yuan system.
We both very much enjoyed the retreat, and hope to make it a regular
part of our year.
Thanks again to both of you, and I hope you're both well!”
“I have a deeper understanding of Tai Chi practices and the
inter-relationship between the form, Qigong, meditation and energy. I
have felt inner calm.”
Kate, School Teacher
“By doing this retreat, I found myself, my inner self. I slow down,
take time for myself. I feel more grounded, still a lot of work to be
My challenge was the meditation. So many things in my
head. I learnt so much in the past four days. My head was spinning.
However, at the end, everything slowed down.
I really enjoyed the Tai Chi and Qigong, still a lot to
learn. Thank for your knowledge you have passed to me.
The structure of the course was perfect.
Thanks from my heart.”
Marie-Claude, Massage Therapist
“Having recently come to learn the ‘end’ of the form, it was a
revelation to practise the form with Fontane in the seniors class. She
emphasised performing it very slowly. It was very helpful to see and
experience a greater degree of detail and emphasis on relaxation,
completing movements, posture and so much more. I hope I can retain
some of this knowledge with practice and support from our South Coast
Wudang Mountain Qigong was a wonderful set. I hope to
incorporate the practice in my everyday life. It felt beautiful,
expressive and energising.
And for the meditation, I have previously received lots of
other training in different methods. But I must say, I really
benefitted from Fontane’s techniques and explanations. It was
compassionate, forgiving and very accepting
of what is.”
Linda, Community Welfare Worker
Kath, Freelance Editor
“I was hesitant about going to the Retreat. The usual excuses
– the long driving, away from family, too busy at work, can’t afford
time away and so on. Well, how pleased I am that I didn’t listen
to my mind!
The Retreat indeed proved to be a valuable investment for my health and
wellness – quality time spent in a peaceful and calm
setting, time to reflect and reassess my beliefs and having good fun
without the usual distractions of a busy life.
Being with like-minded and fantastic people and sharing common goals
also helped me remain focused and interact openly with others travelling
on a similar journey of life.
The daily set routines included powerful sessions on Qigong, meditation
and Tai Chi. These were well structured and delivered dynamite
results. I felt recharged and energised and slept very well each
night. Waking up at 6.30am sharp to the sound of the Buddhist monk’s
gong and hearing the kookaburras each morning was special – a great way
to start each day.
The Qigong morning sessions led by Chief Instructor Brett gave me a
sense of enrichment and calmed my mind. They helped reconnect me with
my inner self and boosted my energy levels. I’ve never experienced this
type of feeling before.
The daily double sessions on meditation, led by Fontane, while an
important part of the retreat, were challenging. More time and work
need to be directed by me to this vital part of my Tai Chi regime.
Fontane ran a mind blowing session on energy structures. It was
extremely fascinating. She delivered the session in a clear and easily
understood manner. Never before had I heard of this topic. When asked
where further information could be found, she replied the knowledge was
handed down from generation to generation. The session helped me
understand aspects of how my energy levels operate and why I feel the
way I do. I hope she repeats this session at next year’s retreat. It’s
The resident Buddhist leader, Jampal, and the cook, Helen, displayed
superb culinary skills. I didn’t realise that one can be so artistic
when it came to vegetarian cooking. The food was delicious, meals were
plentiful and each day was different. I was fortunate as I was
nourished in two ways: with the best organically grown vegetables and
energy levels nourished by Qigong.
I left the Retreat feeling more energised than ever before, refreshed
and ready to tackle life and work with a positive outlook and knowing
how to use my mind in an effective way. Fontane taught us when not to
listen to our minds. Her sessions on understanding the mind in the
context of meditation were unbelievable.
The return on my investment has already paid handsome dividends –
created internal solid wealth, consolidated and capitalised my knowledge
and will lead to better profitable results both mentally and physically
that far exceeded my previous capacity.
Thank you to Brett and Fontane for presenting a high standard and
rewarding retreat that delivered inspiration, leadership, empowerment,
good fun, a sense of freedom and importantly belonging to a happy and
nourished Tai Chi family.”
Dominic, Chartered Accountant