The simple act of living in a world of expectations is hard. It requires mental energy in every waking moment. Even as we attempt to recover through sleep, there they are, those expectations stalking our dreams just as they slink along, silent but incessantly demanding, with every wakeful breath we take. Those expectations are not just our own, but the expectations others have of us. We crave the stimuli they give us, yet those same stimuli wear us down every day, never allowing us to rest—really rest—and heal from the wounds the world inflicts on our bodies and our brains.
I used to be skeptical of the claims made by organizers of “restorative retreats” that sitting in silent reflection over the course of several days can be regenerative. Though I’ve never attended such a retreat, I’m no longer such a skeptic. I can feel in my wrists and knees and tight muscles and fears and tears that there is wisdom in those claims.
There are reasons we take vacations. We need them. We need time away from routine, time away from obligations, time away from expectations. But vacations, alone, are insufficient. I believe we need time with no activity, with no expectations placed on us and placing no expectations on others. We need time during which we are not judged and during which we do not judge others. Simply time to be, to sit, to appreciate being.