In Praise of Retreat

Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World

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Pub Date Mar 30 2021 | Archive Date Apr 01 2021

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For readers of Walden, Wild, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, A Book of Silence, A Gift from the Sea and other celebrations of the inner adventure.

An utterly engaging dive into our modern ways of retreat — where we go, why we’re drawn, and how it’s urgent

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. Kirsteen MacLeod draws 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.

For readers of Walden, Wild, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, A Book of Silence, A Gift from the Sea and other celebrations of the inner adventure.

An utterly engaging dive into our modern ways of...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781770414730

Average rating from 16 members

Featured Reviews

“Going nowhere ... isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”
— Leonard Cohen

Drawing on her own experiences, and the wisdom of hermits, monks, pilgrims, naturalists, writers and artists, solitary thinkers and other independent spirits, Kirsteen MacLeod explores the art of retreat and how it can reconnect us to our essence — and why this is a matter of urgency in modern times.

‘In Praise of Retreat’ resonates strongly with me. Long before I read about extroverts, introverts and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I have always required regular spaces of silence and solitude. This is time which fosters independent thinking, creativity, and connection with self, others and the planet. This is how I return to myself.

I’ve read a number of interesting books relating to retreats: Jane Hirschfield’s ‘Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry’; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s ‘Gift from the Sea’, Sara Maitland’s ‘A Book of Silence’; May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’; Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust: A History of Walking’; Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’; Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas’. ‘In Praise of Retreat’ will fit neatly among these well-loved books.

This is not a memoir although MacLeod includes her own beautifully written personal experiences. She has done a great deal of research into the history of retreats and this is equally interesting.

‘In Praise of Retreat’ is engaging and will be a balm to anyone who has been called ‘anti-social’ by family and friends or been made to feel guilty because of their need for silence and time on their own. “Resist much, obey little” (Walt Whitman) when it comes to claiming time apart.

A huge thank you to @NetGalley and @ECWPress for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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