I give thanks to God that I get to have a yearly break from my usual activities to be able to have a good amount of rest that entails a change of place, pace, environment and concerns.
It’s a 3-week affair, and this year I had it in Mountain Pines Place, deep in an elevated fastness of Bukidnon, where city life is turned off for a while as one embraces the revitalizing air of the rural rhythm.
The commanding height of the place gives one a commanding view of elements that include mountain ranges, rolling valleys, the distant sea in the horizon. Thoughts and realizations seem to match the panoramic view as they tend to go to distances seldom traveled before.
Giant trees, wild flowers, murmuring brooks, dainty butterflies, birds big and small and in different colors, cattle and sheep, whirring insects comprise the immediate flora and fauna. They tend to detach you from your usual world and reshape your mindset.
At least for me, the effect is instant transformation, a loosening of tension, a mysterious sensation of relief. The mind and the senses seem to perceive a different level of reality often lost in the urban setting.
They seem to soar high and plumb deep into the recesses of the heart’s universe unvisited in ordinary times. It’s amazing to discover the many hidden things buried in the heart that just spring up to the surface on occasions like this.
Gestating and evolving quietly and unnoticeably through the months, these previously invisible items now make a kind of public appearance, giving signs and even instructions of what one ought to do or reform or suppress.
The whole place is cool, literally and figuratively speaking. One wakes up not to the sound of the alarm clock but to the chirping of birds. Sunsets are breathtaking, with varying patterns of clouds in varying hues of red, blue and gray dancing in the skyline, extracting memories and creating fantasies.
The wind alternates between a whisper and a roar and seems to carry different messages. Even in one day, parts can be sunny, clear and crisp, egging the heart to wander far and wide, and other parts can be gloomy and foggy, leading the heart to look deeper inside.
If only for these effects, the rest that also exacted a high price in terms of funds and other opportunity costs was all worthwhile. At the very least, poetic and literary magic dressed up what otherwise were mere naked facts and realizations.
I am convinced that keeping distance for a while from my usual daily round actually brings me closer to everything involved there. The opposite is also true. Even while immersed in my usual activities, I always notice a certain distance. It looks like a mysterious law that all of us just have to follow.
But a lot more good things came with my rest. I had a chance to do sports, to sing and walk and get lost in the woods, and do horseback riding, and to simply waste time thinking and brooding, activities that are very elusive in the city. Playing soduku, otherwise sinful in a busy day, came like a blessing.
I had time to study and review important materials. This year, I had to teach Latin 2 to young professionals where we explored the nosebleed-causing forms of the subjunctive mood of verbs in their different voices and tenses including the slippery pluperfect tense.
It was a good mental exercise that also helped me to reconnect with the time of the classics where our civilization seems to have its roots. I also spent time reading on metaphysics, principles of liturgy, Greek, etc., that surely would give depth and substance to my work.
Most of all, I had time to pray and meditate with less distractions. I could feel the soul behaving more at ease and more confident that it is engaged with its proper object and source of rest. Of course, this is something very personal and private. But I cannot deny that the time of rest afforded me that smile of fortune.
Resting, I am convinced, has effects that go beyond the material and corporeal dimension of our life. Prudently resorted to, it can have tremendous effects on the spirit. For this reason, we should encourage everyone to have the proper kind of rest.
We need to give more attention to this need for some personal rebooting, defining its proper motives and goals and providing the necessary means for everyone to avail himself of it.
(Fr. Cimagala is the Chaplain of Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)