A hotel for the soul: the future of retreats
"It’s a measure of the role that anxiety plays in our lives that we think so intensely about relaxation. But have we built the right sort of places in which we can really relax?
It’s religion that has taken our need for inner calm and well-being most seriously. … What is ultimately impressive about religious retreats is their appreciation of the perversity of our minds. It’s when we compare religious retreats with their secular equivalents, with country hotels and spas, that we get a sense of how shallow society can be. To answer to our longing for calm, Buddhism developed the technique of meditation. Western consumer society has over half a century arrived at the concept of sunbathing.
The most ambitious country hotels declare intentions to offer solutions to life’s most important tensions. Brochures speak of opportunities to rediscover what is essential — yet they offer us no one to call when the incompatibilities in our relationships reach a zenith or when we wake up in terror paralysed by the thought of how short a span of life remains to us. Concierges have nothing formal to say about guilt, regret and self-loathing. While pampering our bodies, the typical hotel comes up with a no more sophisticated response to the needs of the soul than golf and a DVD library.
So I propose a solution: a new kind of establishment, a secular hotel for the soul, devoted to satisfying, with intelligence and artistry, the psychological as well as physical needs of its clientele.”
Alain de Botton