SBS sought comment from Real Education and Murray Masarik in relation to the matters discussed in The Feed’s program ‘Life Coaching: Helpful or Harmful?’. The full questions and answers, which could not be published in the program due to length, are contained here.
Q1. What formal qualifications related to psychology, counselling or social work does Mr Masarik have that enable him to safely facilitate the kinds of workshops offered by Real Education?
"The Real Woman and Real Man workshops are designed for participants to achieve personal development. They provide self-help tools to participants to aid them during challenging moments in their life and to help them 'self-heal'.
Mr Masarik has more than 35 years of experience working in the industry of personal development, including training and facilitation.
Over the last 35 years, Mr Masarik has undertaken significant training in Holistic healing and alternative methods of transformation and healing. He undertook 5 years of training with two reputable international facilitators, as well as numerous other facilitators and trainers. He has learnt a multitude of modalities and practices through various teachers and philosophers, and has applied many of those teachings to his program which has produced amazing life changing outcomes for more than 12,000 participants to date.
The methods he uses include Psychodrama, Gestalt therapy, Mirroring, Roleplay, Express and Release, Rebirthing/Breathwork, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Meditation, Aspecting, Voice Dialogue, Witnessing, Emotional Self-Regulation, Ownership, Belief Integration, Inner Child, Shadow Elimination, Archetypes and Qualities, Masculinity & Femininity, Tantra, Aphrodite and Eros, Communication Skills, Role-modelling, Values, Themes with games and exercises, Spirituality, Ego Separation, Projection Recognition, Holistic Alternative Trauma Recovery, Disabling Masks, Authenticity Discovery,Reclaiming Sovereignty, Goal Achievement, Discovering Vision Purpose and Mission, Discovering Primal Instincts, Understanding True Intuition, Dismantling of the Dark Father and The Mother Complexes, Forgiveness, Right of Passage into One's Own True Identity of Womanhood or Manhood, The Power of Heart Communication, Cognitive Thought Process, Trusting the Real Truth in the self, and many more. Mr Masarik has been practicing and facilitating with these modalities and models for 35 years and has learnt which methods are effective. Mr Masarik uses these various modalities to encourage individuals to realise their own self-worth and self-determinism.
Many of the modalities which Mr Masarik implements, are not taught in traditional clinical education fields and most of these methods of self-healing are not available to individuals through more traditional clinical settings. Mr Masarik has found these methods to have been extremely effective in helping to effect positive change in those who participate in REAL Education's unique program. That is why they so many people show up to participate."
Q2. We have heard allegations that people have felt pressured to participate in various processes and activities during Real Education workshops (eg: such as getting naked with other participants). How do you ensure that participants are fully consenting to all activities?
"Participants of the workshops are not pressured into participating in any activities they do not wish to participate in. Furthermore, it is extremely rare that participants who sign up for the workshop decide not to participate in the activities.
The principle of sovereignty, as one's right over one's life, underpins the Real Education workshops.
At no point are any participants being pressured to participate in nudity. The workshops do have a number of unique activities designed to encourage personal freedom. The workshops include a sweat lodge (sauna) however, participants have the choice to participate and they decide whether they wish to participate either naked or robed. It is common for individuals to choose to participate naked, but some do not. The workshops do include wading through a creek or dam however, participants still have the choice to participate in this activity and they decide whether they wish to participate either naked or clothed. These are gender separate workshops.
Participants are made aware of these activities prior to the start of the workshops. Prior to attending, the workshop is summarised in very general terms, however, during the workshop, prior to each activity, that activity is explained in more detail in advance. Additionally, as approximately 99% of participants are graduate referred, the graduate participant has usually provided them with an insight and/or overview of the workshop.
We are not aware of any participant having voiced a concern or alleged that they felt pressured at any time. Without being told the source of that allegation, we cannot comment further on the allegations."
Q3. We have heard that breathwork exercises are used in Real Education workshops, and some former participants told us that during these exercises they started hallucinating, it made them physically ill, and that they felt the process was unsafe. What is your response?
"Breathwork is a practice that has been around since the 1960s, created by Mr Leonard Orr and Ms Sondra Ray, who attributed as the forbearers of Breathwork. Another similar practice was developed by Stanislav Grof in the 1970's. Prior to participating in any breathwork, participants are told what to expect and what the experience will be like, including that breathwork is a unique experience for each person.
The way to explain breathwork is when we feel some pain or trauma, we breath deep and fast naturally. In the breathwork, Real Education uses connected breathing. The idea behind breathwork is that the participant becomes in tune with themselves and can thereby tap into experiences from their past which remain stored/trapped in the body. Participants focus on that experience and let it go and release it through the breathing process.
This release is part of our body's natural healing wisdom. For example, if you hit your thumb with a hammer, you hurt and you breathe deeply and quickly to let go of the pain. That's what children do naturally. During growing up, what we've learned is when we hit our thumb we contract, stop breathing, squeeze down and lock the pain in our body. So, it is a practice to go back to our instincts to breathe and let it go
Children do it all the time when they hurt themselves, they breathe rapidly express their emotions and they let it go. The human body does it authentically. When women give birth, the breathing is used to ease the pain, relax the body and help them get through the rigors of the birthing process.
It's a very safe practice. The practice does not involve any drugs or medicines. Real Education is not aware of any person ever being injured from the experience. The practice of breathwork happens independently in thousands of locations in the world.
During the breathwork, people breathe for 20 - 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes people concentrate on breathing until the body naturally takes over and does it authentically. The body knows what to do to heal, it simply needs the opportunity. Breathwork is one of the purest, cleanest ways of releasing stress out of the body. Your body fills up with oxygen and your mind lets go of all the chatter and distractions. For some people, they are actually paying attention to what is really going on for themselves and their life for the first time. This can be quite liberating for someone who has lived unconsciously all their lives. This is where you can listen to your own thoughts and feelings, unaccompanied by your fears and all your desperate survival strategies.
The breathwork helps to bypass the fears about survival, that intensely grip a person. It supports them to find a way past the judgement they carry on themselves and the world, and they find a peace and a tranquillity, a bliss and harmony inside themselves. It gives people the luxury and freedom for inner transformation.
There's something powerful with an unresolved issue where they can breathe through it and let it go. Some let go of stuff that has been in their bodies and minds for anywhere from 5 to 20, or even 50 years or more.
This model of breathwork can put a person into an altered state, similar to that of meditation. Mr Masarik believes people need to practice this before they go to bed to let go of the stress before going to sleep. Sometimes in a breathwork session, people get to see their unresolved complications and it is an opportunity to heal.
One of the significant outcomes that people love, is that they sit in their own skin and their own body with peace. It is a practice that helps a person to learn to sit in tranquillity and serenity inside their own body, and not let the restlessness and anxiety take over.
This is one of the processes that supports people in letting go but also in surrendering when you need to and accept certain situations, rather than hold on to circumstances. People do not have to let their circumstances define their destiny, they have the choice. Everything we do in the breathwork is authentic and according to how the body authentically and naturally knows how to heal, once the mind lets go.
The physical illness that is experienced very rarely, occurs to some participants due to the somatic level of disgust they have trapped in their body. When talking about feelings of disgust the use of terms such as a sickening, or nauseous feeling, are often ways to describe their feelings. Those disgust and illness experiences in breathwork are as a result of feelings that are left over from emotional trauma unexpressed at the time of the incident that originally traumatised the participant.
Mr Masarik's view is that people should practice it more, instead of using medication to numb out their emotions, anxiety or depression. Some amazing transformations come out of breathwork. If people just did 10 big sighs every hour, they'd be far better off.”
Q4. We have heard that Real Education workshops have a strong focus on secrecy: participants are not told in advance about the kinds of activities in the workshops, and are also told not to talk about the workshops afterwards. What is your response?
"Prior to any activity and/or exercise, participants are briefed on the types of activity they will be participating in, however it is Real Education's experience that revealing every aspect of the workshop to participants prior to the workshops, takes away from the experience.
Participants and crew (i.e. everyone present) sign a confidentiality agreement which is designed to protect the privacy of the participants. Participants who attend the workshops are encouraged to share their personal experiences and backgrounds. Some participants will express deep emotional and personal issues. We want to ensure that individuals can express themselves without the threat of unwanted disclosure, and thus we want to respect the confidentiality of such information outside the purview of the workshops. Real Education certainly has no objection to individuals talking to others about their general experiences at the workshop, or even their own breakthroughs, and in fact it is by word of mouth that has led to so many people trying the workshops out for themselves.”
Q5. What is the purpose of the dotting process in Real Education workshops?
“The dotting process is an activity which involves participants taking part in personal reflection in a group setting. It usually involves participants addressing some hardship or incident from their past which has caused them some grief or trauma that they wish they could change. The participant will be asked to reflect on the incident in a group environment. Often it will involve a re-enactment of a scenario, an argument, etc and the facilitator will then invite the participant to reflect on the underlying cause of their issues and how the person can respond.
The dotting process is designed to get participants to make a breakthrough by addressing and healing their wounds, conditioning, trauma and behaviours that have interrupted their way of being and their life.
Those who participate are fully aware of what the process entails before they participate, and they must provide their consent. Most of our participants are there to try to have that breakthrough. The people who show up to the workshops are most often recommended by other friends or family who have experienced the dotting process and have achieved some personal breakthrough themselves.
The scenarios dealt with in the dotting process can be as straight forward as addressing a relationship breakup (for example), but they can also address more serious events. Real Education has had everything from victims of domestic violence, to war veterans attend and use the process to address their underlying trauma. The dotting process has been extremely successful in turning around their lives.
There are thousands of stories of a similar ilk that testify to the incredible benefits those and the many others who have participated in the workshops now have. Most of the individuals who attend our workshops have already tried traditional models of clinical therapy and are looking for holistic healing and other alternative methods for help.
Real Education's 12,000 plus participants are testimony to the incredible benefits gained from their dot process. It has such a lasting memorable impact that people do indeed experience their lives changing with deep and permanent transformation.
Q6. Past sexual abuse is one issue that participants raise in the dotting process. What checks and balances are in place to ensure the dotting process doesn't trigger or retraumatise survivors of sexual abuse?
"Some participants, men and women alike, do reveal they have been sexually abused in their past. They often cite having done counselling and therapy and that they have been unable to get any closure in relation to the incident/s. They show up to the workshop to heal. Through the model they process the traumatic experience out of their nervous system, their mind, their emotional state, their beliefs and set themselves free to have healthy relationships and a happy life in the future. During the process, they are taught healthy boundaries and they learn the power they have to heal and return to themselves, and not be triggered from the tragedies of their sexual abuse.
Survivors of sexual abuse have constantly undergone triggers in their everyday life. The victim/survivor of sexual abuse has been living and suffering the agony they carry in their own body, mind and soul constantly doing everything they can to cope with and not to be repeatedly triggered, years after the original traumatising event that has crippled their lives for so many years. One of the reasons many show up is for the remarkable healing dot process where they heal these triggers that reactivate their past trauma(s). The truth is that participants were already living in a state of trauma as a result of the abuse perpetrated upon them historically. Their coping strategy was to be numb, dissociated and disconnected. This is an inhumane way of living, feeling the need to be ducking and weaving in order to survive their life existence. The result of them going through their dot process (which is aimed at confronting, rather than ignoring, their trauma) provides some closure.
Every individual that participates in the dotting process receives a one on one debrief with a Real Education facilitator and coach, where they can reflect on their experience. During the event, our facilitators are trained to check in on participants through-out the process to see how they are going and after big processes, they get frequent check in's from the crew and facilitator.
The overwhelming response to the dotting process by Real Education's participants has been extremely positive. It is possible that some individuals could consider this kind of process to be confronting. In our experience, those individuals elect not to participate in the process. Of the thousands who have participated in the process, very few have expressed dissatisfaction with the experience, and thousands have returned to repeat the experience."
Q7. What qualifications are Real Education staff/crew members required to have, particularly before playing a role in a participant's dotting process?
"Our crew go through comprehensive training, provided by Real Education, addressing how to handle course content and support participants throughout the event. The entire process is guided by an experienced facilitator and is designed to provide structure, systems, standards, policy and training. Crew progress through 4 levels, starting as "Trainees" and moving to "Core," who are our most experienced crew after having completed no less than 9 workshops. Some of the crew have been around for more than 20 years and understand the training procedures and guidelines provided, intimately. Many of the crew members are life coaches and some are professional practitioners."
Q8. Has Real Education established any policies or guidelines to prevent sexual relationships between Real Education staff/crew and participants? Can you provide details of those policies or guidelines, if any exist?
"Real Education has well-established and thorough policies and guidelines regarding behaviour between staff, crew and participants. These policies and guidelines are provided to, and known to, Real Education staff and crew.”
Q9. Former participants have alleged that sexual relationships between participants and Real Education staff/crew or leaders are inappropriate and shouldn't occur. What is your response?
"Real Education has strict policies and guidelines regarding such relationships As in any work or community setting, sometimes people do form relationships, which is unavoidable. Real Education has had participants connect with other participants and subsequently marry, and crew form relationships with crew and subsequently marry.
There is a moratorium on crew to refrain from pursuing relationship with participants. Real Education has had crew and participants, after the prescribed timeframe, form loving relationships.
The people on crew are volunteers and all parties are adults and are required to act within the appropriateness of the time frames and guidelines. Once they have passed the timeframe in the policy, it is not our responsibility to police mature adults and provide consent to them forming a relationship. To prohibit the establishment of relationships entirely would itself be inappropriate.
Real Education is certainly not aware of any "inappropriate" sexual relationships between participants and crew I leaders.”
Q10. Does Real Education have a complaints process where participants have an avenue to raise concerns about workshops, elements in the workshops, or those involved in running the workshops?
"Yes, Real Education has a process for listening to participants' concerns that are raised. Any issues raised are discussed between the parties and resolved. Real Education wants to ensure that participants have a positive experience and at the same time, they are always looking at ways to improve the workshop where possible.
At the conclusion of every event all participants are told to contact the office regarding any issues that arise after they return home, whereby Real Education will provide them with addition support if needed.
The week after every workshop each Participant is followed up to check-in to see how they are going and to discuss any concerns.
Post Workshop Aftercare Policy is:-
1.Every Participant is phoned within 1 week after the workshop to "check in" with them:-
a.to see how they are going since coming home;
b.if they are willing to share their experience
c.support them through whatever challenges, emotions or other issues that have arisen since coming home;
d.helping them remember their learnings from workshop;
e.giving them supportive strategies from their learnings to be able to implement in their life
2.Participants are advised they are always welcome to ring the Office for support and have brief discussions to get further understanding where needed;
3.Within the week after the workshop all Graduates are emailed a Contact List with the names and phone numbers all of all the Graduates who attended:-
a.so they can continue to connect with each other long after the Workshop;
b.encouraging them to continue building on the friendships created over the weekend. Continue to learn long after the weekend the supportive process of creating a tribe called 'Sisterhood' or 'Brotherhood' respectively;
4.Within the week after the workshop all Graduates are emailed a Contact List with the names and phone numbers all of all the (up to approx 40) Crew who attended:
a.who are very congruent with the work and understand the philosophies, methodologies and skills that underpin the process work;
b.encouraging the Participants to connect with Crew and create friendships, and
c.advising which Crew are Real Education certified Real Life Coaches, encouraging them to reach out for one on one support where needed;
5.A 2nd phone call within 3 weeks after the workshop supporting them as above;
6.A 3rd phone call within 2 months after the workshop supporting them as
7.A 4th phone call within 3 months after the workshop supporting them as
8.Participants can also speak to the Facilitator to gain further clarity should they require this additional support;
9.If further support is required, Participants are recommended a Life Coach or Therapist;
10.We provide approximately 10 2 hr face to face gatherings held in Brisbane each month between February and November open to all Real Man or Real Woman Graduates respectively;
11.We provide 3 x 6 hour Sacred Circles held on the Sunshine Coast each quarter between February and December open to all Real Man and Real Woman Graduates either separately or combined."
Q11. Is Real Education, and its directors, satisfied that the current level of regulation in the personal development industry successfully protects clients and customers from abuse and trauma?
"Personal Development as an industry has no established standards, however in alignment with other professions Real Education has adopted standards of conduct akin to similar professions, such as counselling.
Mr Masarik believes that there needs to be standards that are regulated and this would serve the personal growth industry. There are hundreds of people doing their little boutique personal growth workshops and events. These predominantly exist for only a couple of years and fall by the wayside rapidly. The Northern Rivers, Byron Bay areas are workshop centrals for Australia. They can be excessively unique and adhere to little or no regulation. Real Education, however, has existed for 25 years and has stood the test of time. We believe our longevity is a testimony to the overall management, and quality of the services provided. It is the longest standing personal growth organization in Australia.
However, what is unavoidable is people's traumas coming to the surface. These traumas can easily be triggered by any number of stimuli... from watching movies to any interactions in society as a whole. This happens in work-places, job sites, family functions and shopping centres.
Some personal growth environments are often the pioneers of creating change that gives people the opportunity to grow and expand rather than the alternative of sitting in a counsellor's room listening to one person's critical, analytical, sanitised perspective."