Isaac Lane Koval/Corbis
Last month, we talked about the growing desire within modern society to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life – an idea that’s culminating in a cultural shift to deliberately unplug and retreat from our tech-centric world from time to time. As external pressures continue to mount and the pace of life accelerates, many people – religious or not – are also seeking a greater sense of spirituality as a way to introduce calm, comfort, and meaning into their everyday lives. As a result, travel to remote and isolated destinations is increasing as more people seek a certain solitude, beauty, or general lack of distraction as a way to reconnect with oneself and soothe the soul.
While nature offers an obvious and effective backdrop for spiritual solitude and mindfulness, a new crop of physical spaces for individual reflection are emerging around the globe – from backyard retreats to quiet rooms in offices and public spaces dedicated to peaceful contemplation. Such spaces are providing a much-needed escape from our hyper-connected lives while promoting a form of secular spirituality that offers a sense of comfort and community.
Employers, in particular, are reaping the benefits of offering workers serene and calm spaces as mounting pressures and work-related stress are cited as the greatest causes for long-term sick leave and other workplace absences. Offices that embody a seemingly spiritual aesthetic, on the other hand, promote a more balanced – if not soothing – work environment. This idea is carrying over into the public realm and within urban landscapes where city planners and designers are beginning to implement modern spaces designed to evoke a sense of awe and meaning that can provide a momentary refuge from societal pressures.