"You probably think you're mentally on top of your game," says Jack Kornfield, a 68-year-old former Buddhist monk who now advises the U.S. Marines on mental training. "But email, cellphones, TV, your job, your family – all these things are messing with your neural circuitry and hindering your potential." Members of the Marine Corps aren't the only acolytes lining up behind gurus like Kornfield. Meditation retreats have become mainstream destinations as devoted to cleansing the mind as they are to perfecting the body, all amid high-end spa settings. In addition to unplugging and de-cluttering your brain, these seven retreats – from Big Sur's cliffside hot springs to a Hawaiian silent sanctuary to boardroom-boosting mental exercises in the Berkshires – round out their spiritual curricula with adventure activities like hiking, skiing, and kayaking. "To be a really strong person, you have to make time for inner development," Kornfield says. "You have to work out the mind as hard as you work out the body. That doesn't happen on its own."
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
Hot springs set on cliffs above the Pacific are what sets Esalen apart from all other retreats. Used for healing rituals dating back 6,000 years to the Esselen Native Americans, the springs are a singular adventure, combining Big Sur's stunning views with an awe-inspiring, 119-degree soak (night bathing, from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., is $25 and includes silent tubs for meditation). Inhale the salty mist and immerse yourself in the retreat's breathtaking beauty – 120 acres of paradise on a remote coastline. Founded in 1962, Esalen has hosted rebels like Hunter S. Thompson, Timothy Leary, and Jack Kerouac – although these days, you're more likely to spot celebrities like Penélope Cruz or Orlando Bloom blissing out before its panoramic sunsets or taking in daily yoga, meditation, and tai chi classes. Weekend workshop rates include room and board and run the gamut from sleeping-bag accommodations all the way to high-end luxury: the three private cliffside Point Houses. Unlike most of the center, which has no cell coverage, these rooms have Internet access and a landline – as well as private decks with outdoor claw-foot tubs for soaking in the moonlight – for $1,750 a weekend. [From $405 for weekend workshops; esalen.org]
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