Lupita Nyong’o Celebrated Her Birthday With a 10-Day Silent Retreat

For 10 straight days.

2019 Sundance Film Festival - "Little Monsters" Premiere
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Lupita Nyong’o had a busy start to 2018: She spent January and February promoting the release of Black Panther, celebrated her 35th birthday on March 1, then presented an award at the Oscars a few days later. How’s an Oscar winner with a packed schedule full of press tours and film shoots to unwind after all that excitement? Why, by turning off her phone and going completely silent for a full 10 days, of course!

As Nyong’o shared in her new March 2019 Marie Claire cover story, after awards season had wrapped and Black Panther was reaching peak hype, she gifted herself a silent retreat in Texas for her birthday. “Meditation is something I’ve always been interested in. It always has felt a little mysterious and out of my reach,” she said. “It was the best gift because, the thing is, my job has two main parts. There’s the acting, and there’s the celebrity. And the celebrity involves a lot of giving. After talking so much, and just expend, expending, expending, to sit with myself and just listen. Our lives are so full of distractions; you go from one distraction to another.”

Nyong’o admitted that it was a bit of a struggle to make it through the entire retreat. “I was constantly wanting to leave and then daring myself to take one more hour and another hour. And oh my God, it was crazy and beautiful, because after the 10 days, it wasn’t talking that I missed,” she said. “The heart of the program is about un-clutching from attachments to pleasure and aversion, the idea that we attach to things that we love and to things we dislike. And our identities are built on assembling these things to basically write the stories of our lives, but learning to u-clutch from that control makes it easier to live, to exist.”

On the recommendation of the friend who suggested the retreat, Nyong’o spent the whole trip home from Texas basking in music she loves. “I listened to Kendrick Lamar, his album Damn. Usually, I listen to music and it’s backdrop. But after that retreat, I was able to focus solely on that and for it to fill my existence in that moment. I listened to him on the flight back to New York. I loved the music, but rap sometimes comes at me too fast and I’m not really able to hear it fully. But this time, I heard every word Kendrick Lamar said. I heard the musicality. I heard instruments I’d never heard before,” she said. “It was like clarity. And I was just, like, wow. I imagine that people sometimes get that from drugs. But it was really nice to get that just from spending time with myself.”

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