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Why We All Need Breathing Space

This is an excerpt from Kirsteen MacLeod's new book, In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World

I’m sitting on the old footbridge that leads to my cabin in the woods. Beaver Creek passes silently below. Ducks fly overhead. Ferns, cardinal flowers and moss grow amid grey rocks at the water’s edge. Spiders wander over my notebooks, which are spread out on the bridge’s rough planks, pages held open by stones.

This is the place that inspired In Praise of Retreat. By the creek and in the forest, I discovered a rich inner dimension I didn’t know existed. Far from my city life and work-obsessed routines, I began to see what gives my life meaning. I recognized the value of protecting a divine spark, though I’m not religious, and of amplifying the extraordinary—nature, spirit, art, creative thinking—in impoverished times. A retreat means removing yourself from society, to a quiet place where moments are strung like pearls, and after long days apart spent in inspiring surroundings, you return home refreshed and with a new sense of what you want to do with your life.

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Far from my city life and work-obsessed routines, I began to see what gives my life meaning.

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In the fraught modern era, you’d think our timeless human desire to retreat would fee …

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