I've come across with the sentence below:

We’re also doing counter clockwise retreats around the world... using research-proven techniques to help people live boldly.

There ara some meanings for the word retreat as a noun in Longman dictionary:

  • A.a movement away
  • B.a movement away from someone or something
  • C.beat a retreat
  • D.when you change your mind about something because your idea was unpopular or too difficult
  • E.a place you can go to that is quiet or safe
  • F.a period of time that you spend praying or studying religion in a quiet place
  • G.a situation in which the value of shares etc falls to a lower level

I think that the best choice is F, but I'm not sure.

So, could you tell me please what it means here?

The fuller text is:

Over nearly four decades, Ellen Langer’s research on mindfulness has greatly influenced thinking across a range of fields, from behavioral economics to positive psychology. It reveals that by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance. Her “counterclockwise” experiments, for example, demonstrated that elderly men could improve their health by simply acting as if it were 20 years earlier. In this interview with senior editor Alison Beard, Langer applies her thinking to leadership and management in an age of increasing chaos. [...]

The Langer Mindfulness Institute works in three arenas: health, aging, and the workplace. In health we want to see just how far we can push the mindbody notion. Years ago we did studies on chambermaids (who lost weight after being told their work was exercise) and vision (where people did better on eye tests that had them work up from large letters at the bottom to small ones at the top, creating the expectation that they would be able to read them). Now we’re trying a mindfulness cure on many diseases that people think are uncontrollable to see if we can at least ameliorate the symptoms. We’re also doing counter clockwise retreats around the world, starting in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, using research-proven techniques to help people live boldly.

Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity An interview with Ellen Langer by Alison Beard


  • Cite the source, please.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 12:23
  • @ Tᴚoɯɐuo I added it. So, could you tell me please what "counter clockwise" means here? it's mentioned twice in the interview.
    – Peace
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:03
  • See => Her “counterclockwise” experiments, for example, demonstrated that elderly men could improve their health by simply acting as if it were 20 years earlier. It is a label applied idiosyncratically to that kind of pretending you are younger.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 14:03
  • @ Tᴚoɯɐuo You mean it means "uncommon", don't you?
    – Peace
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:30
  • 1
    Uncommon in the sense that the word "counter-clockwise" doesn't refer to going backwards in time but to the direction of movement of an analog clock's hands, and to use the word as if it did refer to time is a highly individualistic use. It is intended to be "catchy" and "clever".
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:53

3 Answers 3


"Retreat" is a common term in the personal / professional development industry. It is an event, attended by some number of (usually paying) participants, frequently at some comfortable location (like a resort) that is secluded in some way from regular life, and normally involves some kind of focused training. At any given time there are perhaps hundreds or thousands of retreats happening throughout the world.

The term "retreat" therefore plays off of the meaning of "a movement away from" in that it's held in a place where you withdraw from your usual daily stresses, and can concentrate on whatever is the focus of the event.

A search on Google for "retreats near me" turns up this website which links to various categories: Yoga Retreats, Spiritual/Religious Retreats, Health/Wellness Retreats, and Nature/Adventure Retreats.

Specific examples:

Rejuvenate Detox Cleansing Fast Retreat (an event which you do not eat and are not provided food, but take supplements that "cleanse" your body)

Wine Country Yoga and Wellness Retreat (an event which includes yoga, healthy food, and wine tasting)

Women's Spirit and Nature Quest ("A spiritual journey to find the clarity of Your Soul Calling")

and so on.

"Counter-clockwise retreat" is just a marketing phrase. It's nothing more than a clever title for these specific retreats that purport to "turn back the clock", i.e., "help you look and/or feel younger."

  • And what about the "counter-clockwise retreats"? Do you agree with Daniel and J.R.?
    – Peace
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 6:48
  • @Peace: You have not provided any context that would explain "counter-clockwise". We'd just be guessing.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 12:23
  • +1 to Andrew's "a common term in the personal / professional development industry".
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 12:26
  • 1
    @Peace The term "counter-clockwise" is related to the type of retreat, but otherwise doesn't change what a "retreat" is. Please see my edit for an explanation.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 23:46

This sounds to me like a health retreat (or wellness retreat), which would align with the gray areas between meanings E (a place you can go to that is quiet or safe) and F (a period of time that you spend in a quiet place) in Longman.

One health and fitness website asks this question in its title:

What is the Difference Between a Health Retreat Versus a Wellness Hotel?

and then answers that question by saying:

Generally, a wellness hotel is a luxury hotel that offers wellness facilities, such as a spa or fitness centre. A health retreat, however, offers a purposefully designed programme of therapies and activities, guided by leading health and fitness experts.

The website goes on to say that:

  • On a health retreat, the focus is your personal healing and renewal
  • On a health retreat, a personalised diet will be tailored to your personal goals and body’s needs, following professional consultations
  • a wellness retreat offers the continued presence and guidance of wellness experts through a focused programme

This is not a definitive definition; these are simply one organization's take on what a health retreat should encompass.

Generally speaking, a retreat is:

  • a brief time away from somewhere you usually spend a lot of time (e.g., away from home, or away from the office)
  • a chance to focus your mind and your energies
  • a chance to grow personally or as a team

I think those are the kinds of activities most people associate with a retreat, as opposed to a getaway or a vacation (which would in general be much less structured).

A similar website says:

A wellness retreat is a getaway where you have access to resources that better your physical, mental or spiritual state. Most wellness retreats happen in stunning natural surroundings [that] help you relax and unwind. Instead of a vacation where you come back even more exhausted by all you did, a health retreat aims for you to leave the experience feeling recharged and energized.


That's a very confusing sentence and I (a native speaker) am not 100% certain what is intended. I think you're right about choosing selection F (although in my experience, the word isn't limited to religious experiences). Google's definition #3 for the noun "retreat" is:

  1. a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax.

The thing that makes this sentence confusing is the "counter-clockwise" part. I don't know in what way a retreat can be "counter-clockwise" but my guess is that "counter-clockwise retreats around the world" means that they are holding retreats around the world, sequentially in a counter-clockwise order. So now you might ask, "what does counter-clockwise mean on the spherical Earth?" My best guess is that it means west-to-east (counter-clockwise when looking down at Earth from above the north pole).

So they'll be starting in Mexico and proceeding eastward around the world holding retreats. Or at least that's what it seems like to me.

  • 1
    +1 because I wondered about counter-clockwise (much like you did), and concluded the same assumptions about its intended meaning.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 22:00

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