Leadership

Why Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey practiced this 'extremely painful' ancient meditation technique for his birthday

Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Square Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. 
Bloombeg | Getty Images
Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Square Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. 

Some people celebrate their birthdays with partying, food and music. Recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took a different tack with a 10-day silent meditation trip to a center in Myanmar. There he practiced a technique that he said would "hack the deepest layer of the mind and reprogram it."

Here's a look at Dorsey's trip last month, one he shared on Twitter this past weekend.

Dorsey entered a no-music, no-talking, no-eye-contact zone

The ancient 2,500-year-old meditation technique Dorsey chose, vipassana, is not the calming, relaxing practice most people envision when they think of meditation.

"That's not vipassana," tweeted Dorsey last week. Vipassana, according to Dorsey, was designed to cut connections between craving pleasure or avoiding pain.

Sitting cross-legged on a concrete floor will become painful in 30 to 45 minutes, he said, but not moving or changing your posture can help you better understand your potential and capabilities. Tweeted Dorsey, "It's extremely painful and demanding physical and mental work."

Dorsey stayed at Dhamma Mahimã, a free vipassana center in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar. For the duration of his stay, Dorsey slept in a basic room with nothing but a bed with a pillow and no mattress.

While there, he couldn't read, write, exercise or listen to music. He didn't consume intoxicants or meat, and both talking and eye contact were also discouraged.

While challenging, it's a practice he considers essential. Dorsey spent 10 days through Christmas and New Year's last year practicing vipassana, as well. "The time I take away to do this gives so much back to me and my work," he said.

He practiced nearly 17 hours of meditation — every day

Dorsey woke up everyday at 4 a.m. and meditated until 9 p.m. Meditators were given breaks for breakfast, lunch and walking.

For 45 minutes out of each day, Dorsey took a break to walk.

One evening, Dorsey and his group mediated in a cave. There he said he reportedly suffered 117 mosquito bites. He and his group also traveled and mediated at different monasteries around the country.

He broke his own personal meditation record

Dorsey wore his Apple Watch and Oura ring, both in airplane mode, to measure his progress and track his heart rate.

Each day's meditation brought a different outcome for Dorsey. He logged the second day as his best, where he focused entirely on his breath, without thoughts, for more than an hour. Prior to that day, the longest he could focus just on his breath was five minutes.

He experienced the country's culture

After traveling throughout the country, Dorsey said "the people are full of joy and the food is amazing."

He also noted that the highlight of his trip was sharing these moments with other locals. He served monks and nuns food and donated sandals and umbrellas.

On his return, Dorsey faced criticism from some for encouraging his Twitter followers to visit Myanmar, given the country's human rights violations.

Dorsey responded to these criticisms on December 11. The CEO said he didn't consider "visiting, practicing, or talking with the people, as endorsement" of the violence occurring in Myanmar. Said Dorsey, "I didn't intend to diminish by not raising the issue but could have acknowledged that I don't know enough and I need to learn more."

He explained that he took the trip to work on himself, hoping to share his experience and encourage others to consider a similar practice.

After the silence

As he did last year, Dorsey turned to hip-hop and rap artist Kendrick Lamar once his 10-day silent meditation practice had ended. This year he played the artist's Pulitzer Prize-winning album, "Damn."

"The greatest effect coming out of silence is the clarity one has in listening," tweeted Dorsey. "Every note stands alone."

While Dorsey has spent the last two years focused on vipassana, he's been practicing meditation as one of his favorite ways to de-stress for 20 years.

"A healthier lifestyle ultimately makes me more creative and allows me to think more cohesively," said Dorsey.

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