Caleb Kenna for The New York Times
Karme Choling meditation center in Vermont.
ON a Friday morning in October — Oct. 21, to be exact — Mark Trippetti, an advertising consultant from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, surrendered his laptop and iPhone to storage at a remote mountainside center in southern Colorado and prepared to drop out of human contact for a month.
The previous week he had begun the withdrawal process, leaving word with clients, cutting back his use of technology and giving up caffeine. Before checking out completely, he made one final call to his girlfriend, Jee Chang.
By careful design, Mr. Trippetti would not see or communicate with anyone until Nov. 20. At his spartan cabin he would rise each day at 3 a.m., sip from a thermos of tea that he had made the night before and move straight from his mattress to a cushion for three and a half hours of meditation and mantra recitation.
His days would be built around that, plus chores, repeated reading of some 200 pages of sadhana text and his own thoughts. Worldly necessities like food would be dropped periodically by the retreat center’s staff at the end of a path, 75 yards away, to avoid his glimpsing another human being. Bedtime was 10 p.m.
The silent, solo retreat, known as a lerung, is part of the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, a path that Mr. Trippetti, 54, a former advertising executive at J. Walter Thompson and Young & Rubicam, has been following for six years. He says that the effect on him has been profound.
“Going into a retreat is really about breaking down the constructs of ‘you,’ ” he said. “The whole idea is for you to take a very close look at the you you have become in your mind. The you you are in your real mind isn’t necessarily the real you.”
The idea of going for more than an hour or two without checking some sort of device for a text or e-mail, never mind face-to-face interaction, is unfathomable to many people in the professional world Mr. Trippetti inhabits. But there are overworked, overcommitted professionals in big cities like New York who periodically do just that.
Meditation and retreat centers around the country offer isolated cabins for solitary retreats, often for $ 25 to $ 35 a night. At the Karme Choling Shambhala Meditation Center in Barnet, Vt., “we have lots of people from New York, busy professionals,” said Dorothy Shostak, the retreat master, as well as people from many other walks of life.
Tai Pimputkar, a 33-year-old with a BlackBerry (for work), an iPhone, a consuming job at an investment bank in Stamford, Conn., and work in her off-hours as a psychologist at a community counseling center, went on an eight-day solo retreat at Karme Choling last June. Her 65-hour work weeks gave way to “spacious” days of meditating, walking and cooking, she said. She found it so worthwhile that she is going back for another eight days starting Dec. 30.
“You learn what’s healthy for you and what you want to accept into your life and learn what you want to leave behind,” she said. “I very strongly identified who I wanted in my life and who I didn’t want. I came back and took some action.”
Extreme retreats, in which participants must cut themselves off from their entire professional and personal worlds for weeks or months (or longer), can cause some friction in marriages and other relationships. One may become a calmer, more sensitive person, but what about the spouse left behind with bickering children and domestic to-do lists?
And there are financial considerations. You either have to be well-off enough to be able to bow out of work for an extended period or be willing to devote vacation time to the pursuit.
But those who have gone on solitary retreats say they feel a draw similar to that felt by a marathoner who has to run, or a writer who has to write: they have to return.
“They have to go back when that time of year comes,” said Thupten Phuntsok, an ordained Buddhist monk from Staten Island. “I call it the calling back.”
Still, earthly obligations do intrude. Michael Gordon, the former owner of the Bumble and bumble hair salons, says it was his dream to go on a long retreat, ideally a year, but he has never been able to manage more than a week at a time. “I have family and life obligations,” he said.
Some retreats are even more extreme. In the mountains of Arizona, 39 people are in the early stages of a three-year silent retreat at a center called Diamond Mountain. Participants (who, for obvious reasons, cannot be interviewed) include a college professor from New York and a former American Airlines pilot.
This was Mr. Trippetti’s third monthlong retreat, and he said he planned to do seven over all, in accordance with a plan drawn up for him by his Buddhist teacher. The first, in February 2010, was life changing, he said.
“It was so powerful that I came out of that retreat knowing it was time to shut down the brick-and-mortar aspect of my business,” he said. He was referring to Turf, the advertising agency he founded in 2000. Emerging from the retreat, he closed it and started a less-intensive “virtual” company, MT Inc., working from home or visiting clients onsite. He also moved out of Manhattan to Williamsburg, and started teaching yoga and meditation.
ॐ OM Meditation ॐ
”OM is Brahman. OM is all. He who meditates on OM attains to Brahman.” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad The full version of this meditation is an hour in length. You can download it at the following: www.mp3prohypnosis.com
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