Interview With Imani Joye Samuels, Huru Founder & CEO

Imani Joye Samuels is a spiritual thought leader. She dreams of a world that celebrates stillness as a means to discover peace. 

As a champion of the practice of rest, Imani founded Huru, a sacred space in the heart of Washington, DC, designed to foster rest. Huru infuses clinical, cultural, and spiritual touches to facilitate deep introspection and optimal shut eye in an all-inclusive weekend. Her efforts have helped individuals and organizations across North America, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Taiwan, UAE, and the UK. 

As Loyalty Director at AARP, Imani co-leads AARP Rewards, a digital gamified platform for the greater good that drives preparation and knowledge to help individuals navigate through life transitions (health, wealth, and self). 

Imani is a graduate of the Spirituality Mind Body program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds an MA in Public Communication from American University and a BA in Journalism from Howard University. Imani studied democratization and dance at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. 

Imani is married with two young feminists, both of whom have a great sense of curiosity, purpose, and imagination. 

Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us what inspired you to create a retreat center? 

Thank YOU for creating this beautiful space!

Huru is Swahili for “free.” There was a moment in my life where I was debilitated by stress and anxiety. The only thing that alleviated those feelings was sitting in stillness. I worked all hours of the night, but realized that I couldn't continue after I discovered that my oldest daughter had a rare medical condition that I’d overlooked for months. That very night, I stopped working so hard. I just listened to my breaths. My breaths were anxious, but I refused to give up this long-lost freedom. Finally, I felt home.  

For centuries, individuals - mostly women and especially women of color - have been renaissance women, fulfilling numerous obligations, sometimes simultaneously. And in this society, many of us have neglected our souls and sacrificed balance. But everyday deserves a special moment to pause, breathe, and reflect. That’s why we partnered with Selah and launched Huru…so that individuals can discover freedom through stillness and rest. The goal for our guests is to foster sustained peace and unapologetic joy.

Before starting your retreat center, did you experience periods of rest and renewal at other retreat centers, other weekend getaways, or create staycations in your own home? If yes, how did you feel at the end of your stay? 

Absolutely. That’s part of the process! I certainly spent time at home in extended moments of stillness which brought a tremendous amount of clarity for my life. But I also visited Getaway, a tiny cabin a few hours away. I’d learned about it through Rachel Cargle and the initiative called 100 Days of Rest. I felt invigorated by being in nature, by swimming in the mountain springs, and waking to the most glorious view. It was divine. I felt at peace.

Huru sounds so peaceful. Would you describe it for us?

Huru is designed to foster uninterrupted rest. Our all-inclusive rest experience creates space where guests can truly distill the present. Huru infuses clinical, cultural, and spiritual touches to offer deep introspection and optimal shut eye through personalized nutrition and spiritual wellness practices such as mindfulness and meditation. As the Nap Ministry proclaims, “rest is a reparation of sorts,” an antidote to self-love.

What are a few examples of curated experiences that you create for your guests? 

Sure, I’d love to share. First, it’s important to note that rest comes in a variety of modalities. We assess each guest in a pre-arrival session. We learn what inspires their palate, what season of life they’re in, and where they might be in their spiritual journey to identify every meal and every practice. 

Someone who has recently experienced loss of a loved one will have a curated weekend of rest that differs from one who has just been promoted professionally.

That said, a weekend could range from intense writing prompts, reading poetry, fluid movement, or all of the above. Each meal also reflects a meal of cleansing, an energy-boosting meal, a heartily balanced meal and a meal to savor (all accompanied with selective teas). 

There is always a moment to appreciate and reflect in nature - whether that’s in the gardens, capturing a sunrise, or using plants in the house to set the intention for the weekend with a nice long bath.  

We also are blessed to have a solid network of healers that allow us the ability to offer additional practices like Reiki, sound baths and personal chefs. 

Can you share the most interesting story that has happened at Huru since starting your company?

Every experience has been memorable for me. If I had to identify the most interesting, it’d likely be when Shantrelle Lewis, Director of the Netflix film “In Our Mothers Gardens” came to visit. She actually stayed for a week and explored many add on experiences as part of her rest residency. She’s already such a spiritual soul, but to be able to offer and hold the space for even her was amazing. She felt the energy in the walls and vibrations of the house. Her experience was sensory in all the ways. It was a gift to witness and a delight to host her.

Also, Christine Platt, the Afro minimalist was preparing for her book launch when she came to visit. We have quite a few creatives that come to find space to be still. Anyway, in the middle of her experience, she stopped to share her experience with three friends via email and surprised them with a weekend experience of their own. It’s incredible when in the midst of gaining clarity about your life, you also discover connections to enrich others by paying it forward. That just demonstrates how interconnected we are! 

How do you want your guests to feel at the end of their stay?  

Rested. Enlightened. At peace. Free.

What can your guests do when they return home to prioritize rest?  

My hope is that each guest finds the courage to be with themselves…and to prioritize that consistently. We help with this by sending each guest a document of their personalized exploration of rest. It outlines each meal and practice that was curated for them so that they may adopt it into their daily self-care regimen however they choose. This recap makes it easy for them to plug and play what resonated well during their weekend stay. 

It’s also strongly encouraged to document thoughts either in their journal (given when they arrive) or even via voice memo - so that they have an ever-evolving artifact of their growth. Everything should be pursued with purpose - whether it’s picking up the phone and checking social media or preparing a meal and eating it, one bite at a time, with loved ones. Approaching it with mindfulness will naturally foster rest.

Lastly, we reiterate that rest is a practice and not a “one and done” experience. Just like anything else, discipline is necessary. So, we follow up a few times those first few weeks and months to hold gentle accountability for them. Re-entry back home is such a special time.

How can we learn more about Huru?

To start your journey to stillness, follow us on Instagram @huru_space, visit www.huru.space, or email us at hello@huru.space and our host will get back with you shortly.

Thank you for this meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success.

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