Rhythm of Retreat


We all experience a rhythm of work and rest.  Our hearts illustrate a perfect symphony of sound and silence, effort and recovery.  So why not employee the same method into creating our own rhythm of work and rest?

Many cultures incorporate formal and informal observances of rest and retreat in some way.  To name a few, Sabbath is a weekly ritual with origins in the Jewish and Christian religious traditions.  A Sabbath day involves time to recharge, reconnect, and reflect and often involves the absence of work.  Spain’s siesta offers downtime during the workday for rest and recovery.  Several other cultures around the world also benefit from afternoon napping during the hottest part of the day.

I’m not a napper, but I have found, especially since the middle of the recent pandemic, taking time for myself regularly helps me show up more fully, patiently, and creatively.  I prioritize this daily through time to pause, eat lunch, take a walk, and get fresh air.  I pause, slow down, and take a reprieve from a task-driven focus of my day.  This works wonders for my mental health and overall well-being and it recharges me for the remainder of the day.  Although I haven’t been able to figure out integrate a day of the week devoted solely to rest and to withdraw from routine, work, and the like, I have been able to retreat for extended periods of time for renewal.   Over the last few years I’ve discovered places off the beaten path to detach from digital distractions and plug into quiet, stillness, and solitude.  Some of these places are closer than you might think if you’re in the Cary, NC area.

Growing up in Eastern NC, I was happy to find something close to my roots.  Located outside of historic Tarboro, NC, Oak Grove Retreat offers opportunity to get close to nature. My first visit was on my 41st birthday.  I indulged in my first 2-day digital detox.  No phone, no screens, no sounds, alarms, nothing!  It was miraculous.  It felt as if time stood still.  I read, listened to the birds, hiked on the trails, and just listened to silence.  I’ve been able to attend organized retreats and visit for other personal retreats over the last few years here, and I hope to continue.

Even closer to the triangle I found a creative opportunity with Art Wanders in Durham, NC.  Again, it was another birthday present to myself, and I enjoyed this time with my husband.  We created poetry journals, walked the labyrinth, read poetry, and relaxed on the screened in porch.  It was another chance to unplug from digital distractions and tune into the sound of my creative spirit.

More recently for my last birthday in March, I visited Well of Mercy in Hamptonville, NC.  This time I chose to attend an extended spirituality-focused retreat.  Well (as the regular visitors called it) is a treasure located down several dirt roads.  The one-way bridge put me a little on edge at first, but my fears were abated when I arrived.  Not only was the guesthouse comfy and cozy, I was greeted with chocolate on my nightstand and signs indicating cell phones were only allowed in the parking lot!  That was music to my ears.  I was able to enjoy meditative hiking on the trails, listening and really seeing people through conversation over meals, enjoy solitude through a labyrinth, and drink tea while taking in the beautiful landscape.  I must admit this time was actually more difficult to disconnect.  I was challenged by the nagging feeling that I had to be do-ing rather than be-ing.  The drive to be productive is strong and the practice of non-doing is priceless.  I realize when I am in the state of "go, go, go" my sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and that can wreak havoc if sustained for long periods of time.  Thus I aim to regularly employ the spirit of "slow, slow, slow".

You need travel only to SAS headquarters to create your own mini-retreat.  Step away from your to-do’s and give yourself time to enjoy some of the opportunities available through the Recreation and Fitness Center.  Attend a yoga or tai chi class, use the steam room, reserve the Wellness room, pamper yourself with nails, skin, and hair care, or visit the labyrinth in the meditation garden.  We’ve got options to help you retreat, recharge, and renew your energy.  If that doesn’t seem realistic, start small.  Close the door, or even better step outside, silence the alarms, take a breath, and use your senses to engage with the stillness.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.


About Author

Rebecca Allen

Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator Wellness

Rebecca E. Allen is passionate about helping others develop and nurture practices of well-being.   She earned her BS in Sociology and MA in Exercise and Sport Science and holds fitness certifications from ACE, AFAA,, IFTA, and Tai Chi for Health Institute.  She is a Medical Exercise Specialist and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 RYT. Rebecca enjoys long walks in the woods with her husband, Chip Davis.

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