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3 Benefits of Attending a Silent Retreat for CEOs

What I learned from seven days without "noise"

Can you recall the longest period you’ve passed in silence (sleeping hours excluded)? Not just not speaking, but actual silence?

In 2016, I hit a mental and physical wall. I was exhausted and no amount of sleep could cure me. I was well aware that 16 hour work days weren’t doing me any favors, but I did not even consider that my “R&R” activities which included, podcasts, social media, books, partying, and Netflix (aka “noise”) could also be to blame.

It wasn’t until I implemented a daily meditation practice that I was able to identify noise and distraction were the culprits. Running a company means most of my mental space is already preoccupied with goals, strategies and work related to my business. My thirst for knowledge is insatiable, but filling the extra space in my head with the day-to-day thoughts and worries of others was hindering me professionally and personally.

My daily fifteen minutes of meditation soon turned into a half hour, then a full hour, and then I found myself Googling multi-day silent retreats to get away and unplug completely. Until that moment, silent retreats were filed away under “things not for me,” but I couldn’t deny how welcoming the idea of truly “getting away from it all” was.

A silent retreat with the Village Zendo at The Garrison Institute was highly recommended by a friend. Since I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, I chose the seven-day option.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At least once a day I wanted to quit. But the entire experience was the best decision I’ve made. It turns out there are lots of benefits to diligently practicing mindfulness and attending silent retreats like this.

Three of the most impactful that really stand out for me are…

1. Learning to Be Present

A silent retreat makes you very conscious about the present, being intentional about everything, and gives you a new appreciation for experiencing each moment.

As highly intelligent A-type personalities, CEOs are especially vulnerable to mental noise in the course of their daily business lives. If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking about multiple things at once or veering off in conversation because you just have so much being juggled in ‘the monkey brain’, you’ll probably find incredible benefits from attending a silent retreat.

Not just while you are there, but in your business deals and personal life when you return.

2. Clearing Your Mind

One of the top reasons CEOs and entrepreneurs seem to stall out today, fail to keep up, and get surpassed isn’t that they aren’t doing enough, lack ideas or aren’t multitasking.

It’s because they are often tangled up too much in their own thoughts. Taking time to clear your mind can quickly help you get back to clearly visualizing your goals. You also can better identify between what your next most important steps are, and what is just a distraction.

3. Achieving a True Perspective on Life & Business

It’s so easy to get caught up and carried away in the whirlwind of life and business. Some may have never really had the chance to take a moment out like this. Once you do, you can experience a real epiphany of what is most important in life and business.

Everything gets put in its true perspective and you gain a chance to find or remember your purpose and real mission. The domino effect of that can be completely game-changing.

More Benefits of Mindfulness, Meditation & Silent Retreats

Even though it can seem really hard, or is often ignored, I think we all know that there are great health benefits associated with unplugging from tech. Even just the constant buzz and energy of wireless chargers, your phone by the bed or in your pocket, and having a TV in your bedroom seriously impacts the quality of sleep and overall health.

The most empirically proven positive benefits of mindfulness meditation according to the American Psychological Association (APA) include; focus, reduced stress, and improved memory.

Harvard Business Review highlights the decreased anxiety, boost to resilience and enhanced performance under stress as key benefits for CEOs. These practices can also deliver a real boost to emotional intelligence, creative thinking, and divergent thinking. All advantages that are clearly needed and highly valuable for today’s business leaders.

Are Silent Retreats for you?

Silent retreats and meditation are not just for hippy type full-time yoga practitioners by any means. Among the business and thought leaders recommending and practicing these forms of mindfulness are Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, the executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and according to Business Insider; LinkedIn and Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff (who learned it from Steve Jobs).

Silent retreats are trending with elite CEOs and new startup entrepreneurs alike. They appear to have clear and tangible benefits that are vital and valuable for those in positions of influence and who are serious about success. This may not be an entirely new concept. Digging into history you might find these practices a common trait among some of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators. Try it and you may be very surprised at what you learn – not only the benefits for your business but your life as a whole!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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