Retreat

The Risks and Rewards of Stepping Back from the World

Retreat
Nat Segnit
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Retreat is a stunning journey through the many ways humans go on retreat - religious, spiritual and secular - both in today' s world and in our pastStepping back from the world is an ancient human impulse. Over the last year we have had to retreat. But throughout time, we have chosen to. We were doing it more and more, anyway. Mindfulness and meditation are all the rage. Wellness tourism, yoga breaks, meditation apps, and spiritual boot camps have been booming - religious and secular, entry-level to hardcore. Retreat investigates this human obsession, mining neuroscience, psychology and history to reveal why we seek solitude, what we get out of it, and what is going on in our brains and bodies when we achieve it. What has it meant to the world' s great thinkers, and what does it mean, in our age, as an activity we pay for? Is isolation a means of engaging more fully with reality, or evading it? And what has retreat meant at a time when humanity has - to an unprecedented extent - been forced to withdraw? Nat Segnit has felt the pull of solitude and the fear of it, as well as the warmth of company. To answer these questions, he has been on retreats around the world and met yogic scholars, cognitive and social scientists, religious leaders, philosophers and artists. Retreat is endlessly enlightening, sceptical and open-minded. It is about seeking happiness, fulfilment, a change of perspective, and relief from stress and anxiety. And it is surprisingly, joyously full of human encounter. Ultimately, it is about the discovery that retreat is a mental state that can be achieved anywhere, in a monastery or shopping centre, a cave or a crowd.
A rich and almost eerily timely book, Nat Segnit' s exploration of the history and meaning of retreat maps copious research onto a vivid personal quest that reads at times like Eat Pray Love as written by David Foster Wallace -- William Fiennes, author of The Snow Geese We typically live tangled in our busy routines. Segnit takes us on a delightful expedition into the ancient personal quest to decamp, relinquish, discover -- David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford University, author of Livewired To read this marvellous book is to be absorbed in Segnit' s personal search for retreat, illuminated by science, erudition and art, and reminded of the grand retreat of a book that speaks to one of the fundamentals of life -- Zia Haider Rahman, author of In the Light of What We Know
Nat Segnit' s investigations into the human impulse to withdraw took him to India, Greece, the US and the Arctic Circle, until unforeseen circumstances forced his own retreat, along with the rest of humanity. He has written for the New Yorker, Harper' s, 1843 magazine and the TLS, and regularly writes and broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. Retreat is his second book.