- Jack Dorsey, CEO of both Twitter and Square, said in a tweet on January 1 that he completed a 10-day silent meditation over the holidays.
- He used the hashtag: #Vipassana. This type of meditation comes from an ancient technique used to calm the mind and find a way out of suffering.
- An increasing number of tech moguls from Tim Ferriss to Marc Benioff swear by meditation as the key to their success.
Over the holidays, dual-CEO Jack Dorsey took a break from running Twitter and Square to try a silent meditation known as Vipassana for 10 days.
Vipassana – an ancient Buddhist meditation technique that frequently involves 10 days of silence – is gathering fans in Silicon Valley. The practice aims to calm and focus the mind through a strict code of silence and promises increased awareness, self-control, and peace. In a tweet, Dorsey revealed that he carried out the practice over Christmas and New Year’s.
“Just finished a 10 day silent meditation. Wow, what a reset! Fortunate & grateful I was able to take the time,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter.
An increasing number of tech workers, from author-podcaster Tim Ferriss to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, swear by meditation as the secret to their success. Companies are embracing the idea that employees’ mental health is directly tied to their performance, with Facebook and LinkedIn shelling out for on-the-clock “life coaching” for mid-level managers. At Benioff’s behest, Salesforce will add a meditation room on every floor of its new tower in San Francisco.
Dorsey’s decision to try Vipassana meditation shows the lengths that some tech moguls will go to find peace in and out of the workplace.
Vipassana is an extreme type of meditation
Vipassana, which means to see things as they are, dates back thousands of years to the teachings of the Buddha. After his enlightment, the spiritual leader was said to rediscover the ancient practice and share it with millions of people across northern India.
The practice fell out of popularity until Burmese-Indian meditation guru S.N. Goenka began teaching classes on Vipassana in India in the 1970s. By the time he died in 2013, Goenka’s students had established 200 retreat centers around the world for meditation.
In Goenka’s tradition, beginners are required to learn the art of Vipassana over a 10-day silent retreat. Participants abide by a set of rules: no sex, drugs, lying, stealing, religious worship, reading, writing, or physical contact. Communication is strictly prohibited, whether by speech, gestures, or notes.
Supporters say that such a disciplined approach allows the mind to turn inward and reflect. The result is a purging of negative thought patterns and habits and an understanding of how one creates suffering and how to be free from it, according to online resource Dhamma.org.
Silicon Valley goes all in
The Bay Area Vipassana Trust organizes the largest annual retreat in the US with over 240 participants, and is working to establish a center in Silicon Valley. Karen Donovan and her husband, Tim, have been teaching classes in Goenka’s tradition for more than 20 years and oversee the non-profit group.
“Most people come to our courses because they’re seeking some kind of peace of mind, some perspective on the things that are making them unhappy in their lives,” Donovan told Business Insider. She added, “people who just want to learn to meditate” can find instruction elsewhere.
A schedule for a typical day of one of their retreats shows how intense it can be.
All retreats are paid for by the donations of grateful past participants.
Donovan was unsurprised to learn that Dorsey has dipped his toes in Vipassana. Many of the volunteers who support the Bay Area Vipassana Trust, through teaching or serving on a committee, come from the tech industry. Donovan and her husband hold their massive annual retreat in Occidental, California, around the holidays to accommodate their schedules.
“We love the idea of serving so many students at that time of year when so many companies have forced shut downs, like in the tech world,” Donovan said.
She suggested that Vipassana may appeal to high-profile tech bosses like Dorsey because it requires critical-thinking and logic.
“Anyone who thinks about how the mind works and realizes how they suffer starts to look around for some relief. Our practice of Vipassana means’insight,'” she said.
Dorsey uses meditation to run both Twitter and Square
On December 21, Dorsey fired off his last tweet before a 10-day meditation: an emoji showing hands clasped in prayer. He returned to Twitter on New Year’s Day – hashtag “#Vipassana.”
Since 2015, Dorsey has served as the CEO of both Twitter and Square. Dorsey finds balance by following a uniformed schedule. He spends mornings at Twitter and afternoons at Square. And in 2015, he said he begins his day at 5 a.m. with a brief meditation.
Tech workers took to Twitter to praise Dorsey for his Vipassana practice.
The Twitter CEO didn’t reveal much else about his meditation, other than saying that the “only music I wanted to listen to after 10 days of silence” was Kendrick Lamar’s “Damn” album.