"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."
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
A 150-acre former Jesuit sanctuary in the Berkshire Mountains, Kripalu excels at meditative exercises meant to ensure success – in the boardroom. "From aerospace engineers to overworked Wall Streeters, these workshops have helped hundreds improve their capacity for leadership roles," says Kripalu's coordinator, Carol Bosco Baumann, about the center's emphasis on "positive psychology" and punishing workouts. On the shore of Lake Mahkeenac, Kripalu offers classes in meditation through exercise – techniques to improve balance, weight transfer during sports, and better flexibility for mental focus – taught by leading Buddhist instructors like Jack Kornfield and board-certified staff neurologists, psychologists, and dietitians. The retreat rounds out its meditative curriculum with hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. "The landscape is inspiring," says Baumann, "owing to the lake, the wooded trails, and the fact that Native Americans once walked here." While there are 800 different workshops to choose from, try the weekend-long Men's Yoga for the Soul program – a combination of relaxation techniques with classes on healthy living and meditation – before hitting one of the whirlpools at night. [From $196 for the weekend; kripalu.org]
Credit: Courtesy Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health