An utterly engaging dive into our modern ways of retreat — where we go, why we’re drawn, and how it’s urgent.
“I’m sitting on the bridge over Beaver Creek, the threshold from here to there. The waters flow swiftly below me as I reread what I’d written about retreat and its role in our modern lives—before the world changed so quickly. In a strange synchronicity, I submitted the book’s first draft on December 31, 2019, the same day reports of a strange illness trickled out of China. Now as I make the finishing touches, in Canada we’re in roughly the third month of an unprecedented experiment in collective, involuntary retreat. When I was writing this book there was no crisis. I was courting possibility, exploring how our retreats—to make space for nature, spirit, imagination and embodiment—give our lives amplitude and meaning. Our current emergency is not a retreat, because it’s unsought. Yet as I revisit this book, I’m struck to find ideas from our chosen retreats apply in times of crisis—including this raw moment, when many have been forced to step back from active and social lives amid fear, instability and tragedy.”
From pilgrim paths to forest cabins, and from rented hermitages to arts temples and quiet havens for yoga and meditation, In Praise of Retreat explores the pleasures and powers of this ancient practice for modern people, drawing on the history of retreat and personal experiences to reveal the many ways readers can step back from society to reconnect with their deepest selves — and to their loftiest aspirations in life.
In the 21st century, disengaging, even briefly, is seen by many as self-indulgent, unproductive, and antisocial. Yet to retreat is as basic a human need as being social, and everyone can benefit, whether it’s for a weekend, a month, or a lifetime. Retreat is an uncertain adventure with as many peaks and valleys as any mountain expedition, except we head inward, to recharge and find fresh energy and brave new ideas to bring back into our everyday lives.
Kirsteen MacLeod is a writer and yoga teacher. Her debut collection of short stories, The Animal Game, was published in 2016. Her fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction have appeared in prominent literary journals, including The New Quarterly and The Malahat Review; scores of her articles have been featured in leading Canadian magazines; and her work has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in creative non-fiction, among other awards. She divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and a riverside cabin in the woods near Bancroft.
In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World by Kirsteen MacLeod
ISBN: 9781770414730/5.5 x 8.5 in./320pgs./Paperback//$24.95