Interview - Russell Collins, Taste Of Love and Yak Trak

Interview: Russell Collins, Taste Of Love (19 to 21 February 2016) and Yak Trak


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Mind, Body and Sprit Byron Bay Promotions

What were the main series of events that led you into the self development field, helping men with relationship and life matters and such?

I came to the end of an 8 year relationship at the age of 28 and realised I was confused about myself, masculinity, what it meant to be a man in the modern world, etc… and needed to dig into this. I found a weekend workshop called Real Man (based out of Brisbane where I was living at the time) and signed up for that. It was a powerful experience at the right time, and led me down the path of men’s work.

I helped form an ongoing men’s group with several other men who I met at that workshop, and over a period of around 8 years, a core group of us continued to meet on an almost weekly basis. We remain firm friends, and continue to stay in touch on an irregular basis. The depths of intimacy and raw emotion we experienced with each other in this group has helped to define the range of experience I am now capable of having with others, including my relationships with women.

What main obstacles and blocks have your overcome in your life?

This is a bigger question which I will try to answer simply if possible...

When I was born, my older brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died about 2 years later after a prolonged and painful battle with cancer. My mother was naturally devastated from this experience and as a result was emotionally unavailable to me and my father. He would later seek intimacy in another relationship (openly) and so I remember growing up with a mother I could not connect with and a father who would take me to visit his lover, who was very available to me as a kind of step parent.

This early childhood snapshot is a small indication of an environment in which I developed an insecure sense of self worth and where I found myself quite introverted and confused about human relationships, and ultimately about meaning and purpose in life.

As a result, I developed an interest in alternative spirituality early on and have followed that path for an extended period. I explored a wide range of new age ideas in the late 80’s, then delved deeply into Tibetan Buddhism, Osho and other mediation masters in my travels in India.

In the process, I came to understand that there is no simple escape from egoic limitations, but there are powerful tools that help one to overcome and evolve these limitations. I found that therapy and meditative processes are very complementary and support each other in the journey towards maturity, which is how I would now frame up my human experience.

What are your key strengths in the self development field?

I have a wide range of experiences to draw on, and a fairly diverse skillset. Having worked in mental health for 10 years, travelled in India regularly for over 20 years, trained formally in life coaching, adventure therapy, psychodrama and informally in a wide gamut of self development genres, I have broad understanding of the human condition and bring a non-judgemental approach to all my dealings with people. My motto is that everyone is doing the best with what they were given, and everyone needs support at least some of the time.

I’ve been lucky to receive support at times when I needed it.

How did your travel and touring business come about, and what are the main highlights of it for both yourself and well as for many your fellow travellers?

At the age of 22 I had a partner who was nearly 20 years older than me, and together we ran our first tour in 1992 into Spiti Valley, a remote region of the Indian Himalayas, for a group of 24 Americans and 12 Australians.

It was a defining experience, meeting the Dalai Lama and taking our group into a region that had never previously had tourists before us. I fell in love with the area and have continued to run tours into culturally Tibetan regions of the Indian Himalayas since then.

There is a different set of rules for life in India generally, and different again in the mountains. I came to learn how deeply the people of the Himalayas see their survival as intrinsically interwoven with each other in a way that is lost in the West.

I have too many journeys and stories from these times to share here, but the essence of what keeps drawing me back is the opportunity to experience (and share with others) that incredible quality of graceful and simple joyfulness of living, even when making a living is difficult.

How has the new media, internet and the social media landscape assisted you with your upcoming event and promotions?

I’ve spent a lot of time developing my own businesses, using the internet, and as a result taught myself to design and build websites and do all the associated graphic design aspects myself. This lead me to develop my own web design business which is now keeping me quite busy.

In the process, I naturally came to use and explore the various aspects of social media and have grown up watching how the internet has changed everything we do, and feel very excited to be part of the internet era. I love how we can now share ideas and events with a wide audience without the limitation of older forms of media.

What can you tell us about how things developed with you and the amazing Marion Ellyard of Taste of Love Festival, both on a business and personal level?

I met Marion when she came to me asking for help on developing the Sex Love and Consciousness Conference. In our meetings we realised there was a great area of overlapping interests and complementary skills, so she invited me to partner with her in directing the event.

As as result of our collaboration, we’ve made it more mainstream, more accessible to a wider audience, rebranded and shaped it into a festival and decided to focus on the larger issues of how sexuality, love and consciousness relate to our everyday lives and relationships.

Out of all the interesting topics and speakers coming up at the Taste of Love festival what main subjects do you personally find most interesting and why?

I’m very excited about the incredible diversity we are bringing together at the festival. It’s hard for me to say I’m more interested in any of the subjects over the other, as I’m totally fascinated by how they all inter-relate, and I’m very interested to see what our presenters bring to the overall conversation we are having as a society around these topics.

What do you anticipate will be some of the highlights, breakthroughs and experiences that yourself and attendees will be expecting at your upcoming TOL festival?

I’m sure that will be unique for each person there, as we are creating a space for people to really follow their own curiosity. It will be a safe and caring space with a genuinely inclusive atmosphere for all to join together. I’m excited about the conversations we will be having with each other, the connections we build, the bridges of understanding that come from seeing each other with fresh and open eyes… and the new ideas we will all be taking away from this event into our communities to be shared in ever widening ripples.

When you are not working, what do you do to relax and enjoy yourself, or is much of your work so enjoyable, it sometimes becomes one?

Well, I’m fortunately to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, so I try to take time to appreciate that every day. I get out and surf when the waves are good. I go bike riding with my partner into the hills on occasional weekends. We just recently bought ourselves a tandem kayak and have been taking it out on the Ocean, catching waves and hanging out with dolphins. And I just started playing with some friends in a funk based ukelele band busking on the streets of Byron for the fun of it!

What can you tell us about other upcoming events, following on from Taste Of Love, Byron Bay 2016?

Based on the response to Taste of Love so far, I expect we will do this again on a bigger scale next time. We will possibly take it to a city to make it more accessible to a wider audience, and who knows… maybe even take it overseas.

We are very supportive of other events in the area as well, with good friends of ours putting on the Byron Spirit Festival in Mullumbimby. Marion is also organising the ISTA based SSSEx trainings to follow on directly after the Taste of Love Festival.

I am organising a retreat in the Himalayas later in the year (August) called ‘Heartsongs in the Himalayas’ with Kevin James Carroll. This will be our 3rd journey together to the Himalayas, with the previous journeys being particular highlights for me. Bringing together mantra and chanting with the spectacular and sacred Himalayan locations I’ve discovered over the last 24 years is a real highlight for me, as well as co-creating with Kevin who is a delight to work with.

Link to that journey: