Breaking through with ONV’s Leadership Retreats | Niraamaya

Breaking through with ONV’s Leadership Retreats

The two-day retreats for mid-and-senior management are a medium to help them connect with themselves and their peers, rejuvenate, and experience breakthrough moments via a series of carefully curated activities, in the delightful surroundings of Our Native Village.

Executive and leadership retreats offer perks and benefits that go beyond the obvious — a chance to network. Retreats held off-the-beaten-track are a rare opportunity for executives — both mid-management and senior, and people in leadership positions to come together and bond in a non-corporate environment, fostering a more relaxed relationship. They are also opportunities to pause, reflect, and look at the ‘big-picture’ in an ambience that is close to nature and away from urban chaos.

Niraamaya Retreat’s recently-launched Leadership Retreats programme is hosted at Our Native Village (ONV) — an urban Eco-sanctuary on the edge of Bengaluru, located within a stunning countryside of untouched grasslands and incredible natural reserves.


The curated barefoot programme encourages corporate leaders and executives to eschew the trappings of daily life to escape into a world of conversations, interesting activities, experiential learning, and a few breakthrough moments. Moments such as Arrow Break, a unique experience where the participants are required to break an arrow with its sharp-end pressed against their throat, and Fireball, an experience (for young managers) where they are required to swallow a fire-ball.

“Arrow Break and Fireball are powerful metaphors to break limiting beliefs,” says MA Shahir, a mindfulness coach at Niraamaya Retreats. “They offer a powerful realization of how we get in our own way, preventing ourselves from achieving greater results. For instance, breaking an arrow with its sharp edge on the most vulnerable part of your body, the soft spot on your throat, is a choice participants will make — either going all out to break it, or allowing the noise in their mind to stop them from doing so. It is also about giving 100% commitment. When they step out to break an arrow with anything less than 100%, they will only bend it and fall short of breaking.”

The retreats will be hosted in an environment that affords blissfully simple experiences, traditional Indian village games that we once played in childhood or are still played in villages, and trails along lush farmlands. The sessions are coordinated and led by Shahir. A green belt in Six Sigma, he is a behavioural analyst, a neuro-linguistic practitioner who is certified by American Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hypnotherapist (certified by American Board of Hypnotherapy), Level II Reiki Healer, and a specialist in Enneagram Personality Profiler, a 2,500-years-old personality analysis tool.

Shahir emphasises that the idea is to promote “active non-doing to doing no-thing. It is about dropping your ‘story’. It is about stopping your urge to get somewhere. Forget the path and discover the journey. We are conditioned to believe that it is by constant ‘doing’ that we achieve success, and therefore we ignore the essence of just ‘being’. The workshop encourages to ‘let go’ the urge to get to the next thing (including the urge to check the mobile phones) and experience the simple joy of being with the moment – non-judgmentally, without striving.”

The exercises at the retreats invite participants to relax in the present.  “It enables the participants to apply a meaningful brake to their racing minds and realise the richness of life they are otherwise missing.” The retreats hope to help participants to stop living on auto-pilot mode and shift gear drastically — into more conscious awareness and connection with their own mind and body, the first step in the direction of Mindful Living.

“It will help participants to appreciate the inevitability of the moment and approach them mindfully, with clarity, awareness, balance and harmony, and by not getting weighed down by the judgments of what has been or what could be, not having to rip open the Chrysalis to make it a butterfly – because I am the CEO and I can fast-track the growth,” believes Shahir. “They will begin to experience things as they are, rather than through the filters of their expertise that often makes them think it knows more than what it does.”

The essence of the retreats, then, is to take a break to ‘Relax, Reconnect and Rebuild’.

All through the sessions, the participants will keep an introspection journal in which they will write down their ‘Aha! Moments’, or “the light-bulb moments that reveal things they want to change in their life as a result of attending this retreat. It could be as simple as drinking enough water or taking a one-minute break for mindful breathing, little things that can make a big difference in their life and relationships,” says Shahir.

At the end of the session, they will write a self-addressed letter that will be delivered to them three months later, capturing their decisions and measuring their commitment to live more in the moment.

The Retreats

Mindful Living Retreat for Senior Executives

The two-day long ‘Mindful Living Retreat for Senior Executives’ is designed to help them pause and reflect through active ‘non-doing’ engagements. A series of simple activities, right from the traditional welcome, help busy corporate executives reinvent themselves and discover their potential.

The sessions weave, within their ambit, a series of games and exercises that drive home the point of mindful living. The Executive Retreat is an effective channel for organisations to bring their busy executives on an informal platform to unwind and re-charge their bond with peers and often, with their own self. The objective is to promote improved peer relationships, help executives and corporate leaders re-engineer their life so that they live in the moment, and create a stress-free work and life experience.

Executives check-in at about 11 am and are introduced to the two-day programme. Then, over the next two days, several sessions and workshops are held — morning games and walking meditation (a spot of traditional games and a walking meditation through the surrounding grasslands — an exercise in being mindful), Mindfulness with Crayons (an exercise with chart-papers and crayons that will help them get on to their knees, dirty their fingers, and roll up their sleeves), Village Experience (perhaps a ride on the retreat’s bullock-cart, or making a flower-vase or a diya at the Pottery Corner), Mindfulness with Chocolates, Storytime (stories from our past and our village folktales repository), Loving Kindness Meditation (an introspective exercise reflecting on real-life relationships, to repair the dents and reinforce the positives), and Learn to Dance Again (an attempt to let go of long-held notions and attitudes).

An important part of the Leadership Retreat is ‘The Breakthrough Moment’ or the ‘Arrow Break’, in which participants will be encouraged to do what is seemingly impossible, to break the barriers of limiting beliefs. They are required to break an arrow with its sharp-end pressed against their throat. The group activity includes Yoga Nidra or Yogic-Sleep — a deep relaxation technique that affords a physical and emotional power-boost.

The sessions are punctuated by traditional meals and a break at the Indian Chai Corner for a delicious cup of tea. At the end of the day, participants will meet and discuss the takeaways and discoveries of the day. The day end with a spot of village games, a walk through ONV’s organic garden or a swim, and a bonfire.


The Energy Camp for Young Masters


The dynamic programme for young managers helps to develop attributes such as result orientation, customer focus, adaptability, problem resolution, integrity and ethics.

The Energy Camp is designed to bring together the middle managers of an organisation in an informal setting, channeling their positive energy through various indoor and outdoor games carefully curated by Niraamaya. The goal is to engender team-efficiency and camaraderie, offer crucial leadership lessons, a deeper bonding through simulations of unusual scenarios, opening of undiluted communication channels, and a genuine time-out in a tranquil environment.

The programme includes an orientation session and an ice-breaker, which could be a barefoot walk in the surroundings or a digital detox, or both. Among the activities planned are indoor group competitions such as building the tallest tower as an individual and a group that put personalities to test. The Outdoor Group Competition or ONV Heptathlon spans multi-sport events, where the team competes in multiple village games. The sessions are punctuated by delicious traditional meals, village games and traditional sports, besides breaks for tea.

The Surroundings

ONV and its serene and tranquil surroundings are perfect for escaping everyday living. “There are no shopping malls, street vendors or buzzling traffic to distract, and all you are left with is nature and each other for company,” says Shahir. “The newly inducted swimming pool, the truly authentic village games that participants will look at with a mix of curiosity and nostalgia, the casual chit-chat and Anthakshari around a bonfire on a starry night will open them up for conversations that the corporate corridors inevitably fails to develop, or a business-district five-star hotel cannot offer.”

Since the experience is a barefoot one, executives will be encouraged to ration the usage of mobile phones to just basic needs. “Every time the executive has to ask for his phone, the team will lose certain points from their overall score. This tax system will make them rethink if needing the phone is a result of an obsessive-compulsive disorder or stemming from true necessity,” adds Shahir. “Are we mindful, or are we mindlessly addicted – phone being just a metaphor!”