Break-Up Retreats: A Mindful Response to Heartbreak

From surf therapy to luxury mindfulness resorts, here’s how mindfulness is making the news this month.


When breaking up is hard to do

A tub of ice cream has long been regarded as the best way to mend a broken heart, but those looking for a more holistic approach can now attend a break-up retreat. These events, which are popping up from Nevada to New York to British Columbia, aim to help participants find closure by participating in digital detoxes, relationship coaching, and meditation sessions in order to reconnect with the body and quiet negative thoughts.   

Wave better

Surf therapy has emerged as a recent alternative to traditional therapies for a number of groups, including children with autism, survivors of cancer, and veterans and emergency workers with PTSD. Hosted by organizations around the world, including in the United States, Australia, and the UK, surf therapy aims to foster resilience, confidence, and a sense of community. At Salt Water Therapy in California, each surf lesson is followed by a guided meditation to help participants strengthen both body and mind. Although it’s not a substitute for medical care, some early studies have found surfing can boost your mood after just one session.

Emotional labor

If you’re caring and emotionally tuned in, you may adapt better to the evolving demands of the job market, a study finds. Researchers from the University of Maryland and National Taiwan University found that between 2006 and 2016, day-to-day tasks for US workers trended from “analytical and thinking”—increasingly handled by artificial intelligence—towards “interpersonal and empathetic”: Think a financial analyst who’s reassuring clients through stock-market dips, says lead author Roland Rust. In the shift to a “feeling economy,” says Rust, emotional intelligence will gain respect. 

Helping teens love themselves

In summer 2020, iBme (Inward Bound Mindfulness Education) will host two Teens of Color Retreats. jylani ma’at brown, a meditation teacher and activist, wanted to give youth facing marginalization a chance to be in nature, cultivate friendship, and absorb mindful skills in a safe environment. The inaugural retreat was in Big Bear City, CA, in August 2019; it allowed the teens “to go somewhere where they can be themselves…a time to feel into inner freedom,” brown says. iBme is holding two Teens of Color retreats in 2020: July 1-6 in Badger, CA, and August 4-9 in Madison, VA. 

Kind school 

Researchers at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed a 12-week Kindness Curriculum for pre-kindergarten children. Initial studies suggest it benefits the kids’ learning and social skills—plus, as study authors Lisa Flook and Laura Pinger write, teaching kindness encourages “widespread transformation” that “doesn’t require big policy changes.” The curriculum is free for educators to use. In related news: A $20 million grant from the Bedari Foundation to the University of California–Los Angeles will establish a Kindness Institute at UCLA, for interdisciplinary research on “actions, thoughts, feelings, and social institutions” that promote being kind. 

Picture this?

Too many of us know that sinking feeling when we realize an Instagram photo we thought was awesome gets only a handful of likes. With a twinge of disappointment, even embarrassment, we might wonder, Was that even Instagram worthy? There’s growing public concern about how social media can damage our mental health and self-esteem through constant cravings for likes. In an effort to “depressurize” the platform, Instagram added a new feature that makes a user’s number of likes invisible to other users (and to the user themselves, unless they click to see it). It was first trialed in several other countries before this latest expansion to US-based Instagrammers. Sharing and communication are meant to be the point of the app, say execs, not competing to win likes. Via Twitter, another Like-based platform, many approve: “Instagram will be content focused, rather than fostering what addicts us.” 

Mindful FAQ

by Patricia Rockman

Q: I’ve been going through a hard time after my divorce, and I thought that meditation would help. But when I try, the quiet and stillness just makes me feel so alone and sad that I have to stop. What am I doing wrong?

A: You’re not doing anything wrong. When we turn inward as we do when meditating, it is not uncommon for many states to arise, both challenging and joyful. This is in part dependent upon what is going on for us in any given moment. When we experience any loss, such as divorce, we grieve. Grief has its own trajectory and often comes in waves. It also comes with attendant emotions, such as sadness and loneliness. Meditation can help us turn toward this and can assist us in moving through it as we experience these normal but difficult emotions. We can build self-efficacy and learn to safely endure distress while at the same time treating ourselves kindly and compassionately. It is also important to note that it can be helpful to turn slowly and in small ways toward our challenges. For example, you might begin by meditating for just five minutes and gradually build up to longer practices. Also, remember when we decrease external stimulation (as we do with meditation), this can make clearer what is present for us in any given moment and it’s not always pleasant.

However, sometimes meditating is not the right thing to do. Sometimes the more skillful act of self-care is to get support from others, socialize, do something nice for yourself, and intentionally move away from these emotions when they get to be too much. And then, move toward them a little bit, getting acquainted with them, perhaps even hosting them for a little while, like a guest, before turning on Netflix. 

If you want to use meditation to get to know your experience, do it bit by bit, first sticking a toe in for a few minutes and, if you are able, get curious and hold gently what comes up. But don’t add thoughts of “What am I doing wrong?” when sadness comes up. Sadness is part of being human, and our tendency to berate ourselves for it only makes things worse.

Craze or crazy?

Here at Mindful, we believe practicing mindfulness can be as simple and unadorned as bringing attention to the breath, and returning to the breath when attention wanders. You don’t need much more than the intention to practice—and maybe a good teacher. 

That said, there is an ever-growing range of offerings on the market that incorporate mindfulness in some way, from apps, to focus-objects, to experiences. Will they make you any more mindful, at the end of the day? 

Nailed it?

To allow you to relax more deeply during your visit, some salons offer guided meditations you can zone out to, complete with earbuds, while getting your mani-pedi done. 

Worry Stone 2.0   

Meet The Thinking Egg: basically a man-made pebble, either stone, metal, or wood. Available online for $16, its mere presence is supposed to remind you to be mindful. Less extravagant than the rest, but then again, it doesn’t do anything.

Wine not

Wine lovers, get grounded in your senses—it elevates the tasting experience. So says the new, Champagne Henriot-trademarked practice of “medi-tasting,” which weds sommelier savvy with mindful sipping. 


At the Miraval resorts in Austin, TX, and Tucson, AZ, guests try extravagant diversions to evade their phone cravings. You can, for example, paint a live horse (…yes), or do “floating meditation” in a silk hammock, while being serenaded with crystal bowls.

There’s an app for that

Here are three apps that caught our attention:

Keep a journal 

Those who struggle to keep a journal can now use the Jour app to start writing daily. Users choose a check-in time to set a reminder for each day, and are then led through a number of prompts asking how they feel in the moment, what their goals are for tomorrow, and what they’ve done to take care of themselves. The app also offers a number of custom journals, including one for travel and one for dreams.

Save the day 

The GoodSAM app is the new way of asking, “Is there a doctor in the room?” Medical professionals and those trained in CPR and First-Aid can register as emergency responders on the app. By partnering with local ambulance services, GoodSAM is able to send an alert to those registered when a medical emergency occurs in their neighborhood, so that they can attend to a patient in the crucial moments before the ambulance arrives.  

Meditate like a lawyer 

Stressed-out lawyers can now check out Legally Mindful for guided meditations tailored specifically to their needs. Created by an attorney, the practices are designed to be an introduction to mindfulness that can be used in day-to-day situations, such as when preparing for a presentation. As Elle Woods would say, “What, like it’s hard?” 

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