Reflections from 2019 Garrison & Mindful Leader Un-Retreat

BL00 - Reflections from 2019 Garrison & Mindful Leader Un-Retreat (1)

By Michael Doyle 

Our careers provide us the opportunity to contribute to society, help us support ourselves and our families, and give us a sense of purpose of fulfillment. But for a great many people, the gap between this ideal scenario and their day-to-day seems to only get wider, as their working lives become more and more stressful and frustrating.

The benefits of bringing mindfulness into the workplace are well-documented, and yet it can be challenging to win over reluctant colleagues and employees, let alone convince senior leadership of its value. To find solutions to these and other challenges, Mindful Leader partnered with the Garrison Institute to host Creating a Culture of Mindfulness at Work: Coaches, Consultants, and Internal Champions Un-Retreat.

The program, held at the Garrison Institute from August 14th – 16th 2019, convened a diverse array of experts and practitioners from around the country. The participants came from a variety of fields, including business, law, education, nursing, academia, and the military--many of whom are certified in a variety of mindfulness practices, ranging from yoga to Qigong, to mindful breathing and embodiment practices. We were joined by Andy Lee, a pre-eminent expert and the first-ever Chief Mindfulness Officer in America, and Mindful Leader President Mo Edjlali who guided the discussions.

Rather than a typical conference or summit, this program was an un-retreat, in which the discussion topics were selected by the participants. The ethos of this framework is rooted in a recognition that all of the participants offer a great deal of lived experience to draw from, and a deep shared respect for the wisdom they could offer one another. The un-retreat created a safe space for participants to ask questions, discuss best practices, and seek solutions to the variety of challenges they face when building and growing mindfulness programs.

Breakout sessions were organized according to interest and experience, followed by a re-convening of the group during which participants shared questions, insights and best practices that had emerged during breakout discussions. Participants took a deep dive into subjects that included:

  • How to get buy-in for mindfulness programs
    - What are the best ways to make a case for the potential of a mindfulness program to encourage personal well-being and resilience, build effective collaborative teams, and create more impactful organizations?
  • Increasing engagement and sustainability
    - What strategies are most effective in encouraging employees to try different mindfulness practices? How do you talk to skeptics?
  • Tailoring mindfulness programs to the needs of participants
    - How can you connect with various levels and teams within an organization? Can you speak their language, and empower them to use a practice as a bridge to their goals and overall well-being?
  • Evaluating Effectiveness and Metrics
    - How do you demonstrate that the time and funds allocated to a mindfulness program are being well spent? How do you gather evidence of the benefits of your program? Can you achieve a balance between quantitative and qualitative metrics?

The discussions that followed were rigorous and fruitful, fostering a deep sense of belonging and camaraderie among the participants. 

Below is a video from the Un-Retreat, created spontaneously (in the spirit of the event) by attendee Rena DeLevi (thanks Rena!) and will give you a sense of the experience.

What do you think of this idea of an Un-Retreat?   Please share your comments below. 



Michael Doyle is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Garrison Institute.

This article was produced in partnership with the Garrison Institute. If you’d like to sign up to receive Mindful Leader’s newsletters as well, please sign up here. To receive more resources such as this article, please sign up for the Garrison Transformational Leadership Update by clicking here.


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