The 2018-2019 Mindful Leader cohort launched their program experience with a weekend retreat at the DeSales Retreat Center in Brooklyn, Michigan.


Last year on November 9th, the Mindful Leader cohort and BLI volunteers arrived at the DeSales Retreat Center in Brooklyn, Michigan. For the next three days, we looked forward to cultivating a sustainable framework for journaling and meditation, setting group norms, finding a rejuvenated mindset, and writing a personal vision. Once we settled in, we had a friendly introduction to meditation by Ram and then moved into an activity called Table of Inspiration. For this, each person on the trip brought one object they found sacred to them, shared its significance, and then placed on the table. For me, this was the turning point of the retreat. As we put meaning to our item, each individual opened up about something personal to other people we were just starting to know. At that moment, I thought about how grateful I was to be sitting in that homey living room with an amazing group of people.

During Day 2, we explored reflective journaling, learned about mindfulness, and became active players in The American Dream Board Game created by Jennifer Yim. Yim, an alum and current faculty of the University of Michigan, facilitated discussion surrounding the game and its purpose, which was to inspire conversation about social identities, discrimination, stereotypes, and the interplay between them.

Our last day started with a yoga practice led by Raina LaGrand, a psychotherapist, health educator, and wellness coach. Here, we experienced the importance of finding our breath while our bodies moved through different poses. To wrap up the trip, we ended with ZingTrain Visioning presented by Katie Frank, one of the managing partners at Zingerman’s. Frank showed us the power of envisioning our future, and through writing, we crystallized our goals and dreams. The Mindful Leader Retreat, filled with reflection, a newfound love for mindfulness, and plenty of delicious food, was unforgettable.

-Olivia Chan


Our weekend at the Mindful Leadership Retreat was both introspective and collaborative. The venue, a retreat center on a small lake in rural Michigan, was the perfect place to create the mental space to focus on myself. We practiced meditation, yoga, and created visions for our goals. We learned about the role of privilege in life and leadership and how to build empathy into our leadership practices. We got to step out of our comfort zones and be challenged. Sharing this intimate and unique moment with a small group of students was a thrill, and I'm so thankful to the BLI team for taking the time and considerable effort to create this experience for us.

-Ethan Hopper


The Mindful Leader retreat was the perfect introduction to the Mindful Leader Program. When I applied to be a part of the cohort, I had a very general understanding of mindfulness. I figured mindfulness would become another to-do on my checklist after learning more about the subject and some of its more obvious practices, like meditation. However, our retreat completely shifted me away from this narrow thinking. We quickly learned that mindfulness can be practiced and cultivated in a variety of different ways. Through activities like yoga, written reflection, art-making, and more, it was impressed upon me that mindfulness is not a destination, but a process and a state of being. The applications to leadership were profound, and I quickly wondered why I hadn’t thought of leadership in this way before. Taking time to leave the constant flow and stress of Ann Arbor allowed us to set our intentions for the Mindful Leader Program, and this remains a highlight of mine from fall semester. I know I speak for the rest of my cohort as well when I say I could not have asked for a better retreat.

-Christiana Cromer