In the Yoga world, going on retreat is one of the ultimate experiences of yogic indulgence. 4 hours or so of daily yoga, meditation, healthy, delicious food and some free time in between. So much so that yoga retreats are now big business, with dedicated search engines, like bookyogareats.com, emerging to provide a one-stop shop to plan your timely yoga holiday.
However, if we step back for one moment from the yoga world, we see that corporations also regularly go on “retreats”, or perhaps in more corporate lingo “off-sites” or something similar. In these times, employees get together at a place away from their usual desks and discuss ideas, brainstorm or even engage in some team-building activity.
A senior leader in the bank recently took his top executive team to his private place in Kitzbühl, Austria, not only to save costs but also to get away from the bank and really focus on setting strategy and providing solutions to the many issues the bank faces.
What happens whilst we are on retreat? Something certainly happens. I realised this myself when I went away for the Easter weekend, to a coastal town where I spent the good part of two days writing down what I wanted to do with my project. It was a matter of jotting things down on paper, turning ideas into reality and putting thinking into action. Quite frankly, I was astonished at the clarity with what I produced. Could I have done this in my usual surroundings? Perhaps, but I felt a distinct difference being in a foreign location – by the seaside with the space and fresh air to operate in.
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, experienced something similar. In calling a general election last Tuesday, she openly admitted that she took the decision to call a general election whilst walking through the mountains of Snowdonia, in North Wales, overturning her promise not to do so until the next scheduled election in 2020. According to the Guardian on April 22nd, a local guide, Michael Burnett, described the effect of the mountains in this way:
“the combination of physical exertion and this landscape, it focuses you”.
It is little surprise then that the Prime Minster took some time out to be in nature in order to resolve this significant issue. The conviction with which she has made that decision, no matter what you think of it, shows that it was obviously the right one in her opinion. She has trusted in her inner self – all revealed to her whilst on ‘retreat’.
In particular, what is interesting for me is to learn the effect which being in or by water has upon the mind. It has been demonstrated that the proximity to water can improve overall levels of focus and creativity and contribute to general professional success. This has been described by marine biologist and surfer, Wallace J. Nichols, as ‘Blue Mind‘. The effect of this results in the release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, all resulting in feelings of pleasure, peace and euphoria. They do say that ‘life’s a beach’, I think there’s a lot of truth to that, in that state of being.
Nature generally is well-known as a means of reducing anxiety, providing clarity in our thinking and improving our overall wellbeing. It’s where we came from. That walk in the local park is more than just killing time – it’s where we really get a chance to oxygenate ourselves and BREATHE. In the context of the corporate world, the opportunity to get away and be out there in nature can really make the difference.
So there you have it folks. There are a lot of merits to going on retreat – whether you are in the yoga world or the corporate world – or perhaps cutting your teeth in both, like me. You just never know what decision you may make, issue you may resolve or person you may meet.