Rob Dube is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Detroit, speaker, author and proponent of mindful leadership. He is president and co-founder of imageOne, a managed print services provider and 2017 Forbes Small Giant. Rob is passionate about delivering extraordinary experiences for his team members, customers and community. We asked him about the benefits of silent retreats. Here's what he shared.
With meditation gaining mainstream momentum as a way to increase productivity and make better business decisions, leaders are eager to enliven their meditation practices. Could a silent meditation retreat be the perfect experience to deepen this practice?
I was curious. That's why, years ago, I decided to attend one myself. I learned that silent retreats could change lives--and companies--for the better.
What is a silent retreat?
In today's world, we're all going a million miles a minute. Too often, we believe perpetual busyness translates to success. However, silent retreats--and meditation as a whole--promote the exact opposite.
By taking time to meditate each day, you provide yourself with consistent practice of what it feels like to come back to the present moment. This "pays off" by enhancing your ability to show up fully present and aware, ensuring that you pause in that precious moment between stimulus and response. This skill offers a clearer perspective on what matters most in life.
The feeling of clear perspective isn't easy to describe, especially as we live such busy lives. Our brains have essentially been rewired to believe busyness is the norm. But just as your body needs a break after exercise, your brain needs a break from constant stimuli.
During a meditation retreat, you finally give your mind the total rejuvenation it craves--not just the few minutes you manage to squeeze in during the day. This allows you to fully understand the feeling of true mental rest. Once that feeling is not only understood but also familiar, it's easier to draw upon it in your daily life.
Before attending a silent retreat, I can now recognize the sensation of my mind literally feeling full. It's a sensation perhaps similar to overeating, but instead of consuming too much food, my brain has absorbed too much information. It needs a break.
After the silent retreat ends, my mind feels light again.
So how do silent retreats relieve the mind? It all stems from removing the overabundance of stimuli continually bombarding you. Everything--the good and the bad--fills your mind. Silent retreats offer the brain a refreshing and well-deserved time out.
What happens during a silent retreat?
There are fantastic programs around the world that vary in length, location and experience level. Each year I host a four-day, silent meditation retreat specifically for leaders. The schedule is as follows:
After acquainting yourself with the retreat site, your leader and fellow participants, we provide an overview of how the retreat will flow, key guidelines and lessons on meditation basics for those with less experience and reinforcement for those with more experience.
You'll learn mindfulness skills including body scans, mindful walking, mindful eating, how to connect with yourself while in silence and tips on incorporating these routines into your everyday life.
There are no restrictions on talking yet (though all electronics should be left behind at this point), so it's a great time to connect with fellow retreat-goers.
After breakfast, the retreat leader will teach additional meditation lessons, offer wisdom about self-reflection and prepare you for the upcoming silence.
In the afternoon, the silence finally starts. Participants are discouraged not only from communicating verbally, but also from reading, writing and making eye contact.
For the next day and a half, it's all about being within yourself―but don't confuse silence with stillness. In addition to sitting meditation, there is plenty of movement. Each day is expertly structured to keep participants active.
Between times of silent introspection, you'll eat nourishing meals, explore nature and listen to retreat leaders speak about mindfulness.
Now that you're becoming more comfortable in silence--and with yourself--common surface level day-to-day thoughts begin floating away. Instead of obsessing over an exciting deal closing or why you're losing a valued team member, more profound thoughts often start arising.
Let them rise without judgment.
Maybe these thoughts are purely positive, creative or enlightening. Perhaps they're downright scary. Whatever they may be, let them arrive and float away. This process isn't about resolution. It's about awareness.
By arriving at this state of mind, a certain level of quiet peace emerges. You're now aware of what really matters:
Presence. This moment. Right now.
Presence is an integral skill you'll bring back home and into the workplace. You'll realize that those frivolous arguments or stressful moments you were so wrapped up in yesterday aren't all that important.
In the morning, the silence continues. Maybe you'll take a walking meditation to the top of a nearby peak and enjoy a panoramic view. With each step, appreciate how great it feels to breathe fresh air, hear birds chirp and acknowledge this incredible opportunity.
In late morning, the silence slowly ends. Quiet conversations gradually rise to normal tones. The group will discuss what the last few days meant to them and how they plan on integrating mindfulness with their everyday lives.
After the retreat officially closes, you can power on smartphones or laptops. More often than not, participants wait longer than necessary to reconnect with the world.
With a rejuvenated, well-rested mind, you'll return to daily life with a tool to help you lower stress, make better decisions and connect more deeply within yourself.