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Redefining Rest through Intentional Practice

September 27, 2023


“Nature’s rhythm is medium to slow.
Many of us live out of nature’s rhythm.
There are two things we can never do in the fast lane;
we can neither deepen our experience nor integrate it.”
– Angeles Arrien, cultural anthropologist and educator


With September’s end, the summer buzz has begun to lessen. A sharp morning chill heralds the arrival of fall; the twisting apple and pear trees are heavily laden with fruit, and deciduous branches are blushing with warm colors. The lotuses, late bloomers this year, have risen and blossomed, their milky white petals fluttering like wings above the lake. The traffic of mosquitoes and dragonflies in the sky has dwindled, and in dusk, the shadows have grown longer, casting new hues of plum and violet.

The speed and rigor of life, on and off the mountain, may prevent some of us from genuinely decelerating and noticing the subtle, seasonal changes in our surroundings. Perhaps we engage in thoughts of all that has passed or we are considering what’s coming up in our future, rarely connecting with the present moment. Reflecting the natural cycle of all living things, which undergo a period of dormancy before transformation, we can, instead, bring the concept of restoration and reflection into our own lives as we transition to colder days.

We may find moments of peace when we remain fully present with what emerges when we join the awareness of the corporeal self with the mind. Tricia Hersey, poet, artist, activist, author of Rest is Resistance, and founder of The Nap Ministry, seeks to radically transform, redefine, and decolonize rest as a liberatory practice that detaches us from systems perpetuating social and racial harm. Hershey offers that rest is “anything which joins the body and the mind.” This definition asks us to use rest as an actionable tool to slow down and return to a sustainable, joyful, and rewarding life.

The beauty of Hershey’s proposal comes from the myriad ways in which we can experience rest; there is no one interpretation. Throughout our days, we can aim to maintain a balance of work and rest, continually dancing between commitment to responsibilities and free time. We can find deep empowerment in simply permitting ourselves to relax – divorcing the concept of rest from negative associations of laziness or negligence. Further, intentionally cultivating time to rest in ways that bring us joy and nourishment helps enrich and lighten our daily experience.

This year’s Re-Union Retreat at Mount Madonna will explore the benefits of intentional rest, reflecting nature’s rhythm. We will engage in cultivating practices of rest through three successive themes: to Embody, to Imagine, and to Emerge. Embodying rest will allow us to explore the type of rest we need; then, we will be given the opportunity to imagine and enact that rest through structured and unstructured activities, including restorative asana (yoga postures), community sadhana (meditation practice), yoga nidra (guided deep relaxation practice), art and creative play, and lounging opportunities for relaxation and connection.

The retreat offers an engaging opportunity for our extended community to explore rest as a dedicated, intentional practice for the well-being of the body and mind. We will be offered the special opportunity to explore our needs, and find our own answers for what “rest” entails. As we experience the guided practices around “rest” during the retreat, perhaps we may come to find that the slow flux of the seasons will remind us to remain present and integrate our insights and intentions for the coming months.

At this year’s Re-Union Retreat, we will invite you to arrive, to embody your own definition of rest, to imagine and cultivate those intentions in action, and emerge, returning to the pace of nature and redefining what it means to find rest and peace within yourself.

The Author

  • Allie Wells

    Allie is a writer, artist, and former resident of Mount Madonna Center. She lives in San Francisco and spends her time reading, walking in Fort Mason, and drinking lots of coffee.

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