Every year I use my birthday as a chance to reflect. The past few years have been warped by the pandemic: On my 30th birthday the world shut down, and three years on, I needed a moment to process how much has changed. Things have been going on dog time. My life, likely just like yours, has shifted in ways we wouldn’t have been able to predict. So as the past winter transitioned to spring and my personal calendar turned, it felt like the perfect time to take a pause. Claire Thomson-Jonville, the editorial director of iD France, reached out about this silent retreat she was planning outside of Paris—she wanted me to come and give my feedback. I jumped at the chance for a reset…and it also wasn’t bad that we would be staying at a castle in the French countryside. I love Paris—I would not be who I am without that city. The boy who sat front row in sweats at Paris fashion shows, slightly oblivious to it all. Nike projects that had me up early while my youth had me out later. Visiting Virgl in his office followed by late night DJ sets. So to France we went, where I decided to shut up for 4 days and just be receptive to what came to me, and learn to embrace the power of doing nothing.
Of course, the act of doing “nothing”—not talking, not working, not using your phone—is actually very much doing something. I call this strategic laziness: It’s the power of stopping, purposefully.
I wish everyone—including you—would have a chance to embrace this—the power that comes from deliberately pulling back and refraining. You’ll be amazed how this will galvanize your development. And while a spectacular location didn’t hurt, anyone could benefit from doing this when and wherever they have the chance. A silent retreat might just be what you’re looking for to channel your energy into a clear path forward.
This isn’t something I just came up with, of course: Structured silence has emerged as a spiritual practice over thousands of years. From the ancient Indian mediation practices known as vipassana or in many Christian traditions, such as the cistercians monks—to take just two examples—many religions have touched upon the concept of going deeper into silence for long periods of time. This practice was valued as a means of contemplation—to fully know oneself (“vipassana” loosely translates as “insight”), or even to bring oneself closer to God or achieve enlightenment.
But the resurgence of these retreats in a more secular way is not (just) the continued commodification of ancient wellness practices. It is the simple fact that, especially if you live in bustling cities, things are too loud. Our “primitive” selves are yearning for quiet even as we bask in the benefits that modern living provides. Noise is not just an annoyance but an actual health hazard. Many of us, at least subconsciously, realize this—but might not consciously understand how bad of a problem the din is. So a silent retreat of course is an ascetic practice I used to grow closer with myself…but also I just wanted a respite from one of the drawbacks to living in New
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