Since naps have been essential to my survival, I was immediately attracted to this 2022 New York Times Best Sellers book in which the author, Tricia Hersey, calls herself the “Founder of The Nap Ministry,” and even the “Nap Bishop.” I learned about this book from Reverend Ruth Dantzer who’s the Anglican Spiritual Care Provider at the University of Victoria. Ruth is a facilitator for a new 2024 student program called Nap for Change, inspired by Hersey’s book. Students are invited to enjoy the collective calm of resting together as a community during this transformative program that challenges the culture of insatiable busyness, with all its attendant societal ills.
Naps have even saved my life and the lives of others — when I would stop by the roadside, for example, to catch a few winks before continuing the longer highway drives that often made me sleepy. And extreme as it may sound, I too have experienced naps as a form of resurrection — just as this author proclaims — awakening in a type of new life consciousness, in which old problems have faded or morphed into surprising opportunities. And just like Hersey, I especially discovered my strong need for naps during graduate studies. Since graduate students were entitled to small study carrels at my university, with three sides around the desktop for privacy, I periodically laid my head on my arms or jacket for a snooze, while my backpack-with-purse was securely tucked between my knees. So, with these similarities in mind, I happily plunged into Hersey’s book.
Hersey writes more specifically from a Black American context with close ancestors who’d been enslaved. Typically, enslaved people did not have much or any leisure time, and were instead forced to labour up to 20 hours a day. Hersey’s own father, though not enslaved, had inherited such a strong work ethic from his enslaved ancestors that he became ill and died in his 50s. This seemed to make Hersey even more determined to focus on resting as resistance — resistance especially to a “grind culture” or “workplace hustle” of long hours and excessive dedication to one’s job or vocation. The book has four parts entitled REST! DREAM! RESIST! IMAGINE! And as Hersey explained in a 2023 CBC Tapestry interview — although the book is partly written as a lullaby, including lots of repetition, it is not a self-care book: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/the-nap-bishop-explains-why-rest-is-a-form-of-radical-resistance-1.6797668. Rather than a soft focus like self-care, the book is more of a manifesto on how to seek justice against, and freedom from, capitalism and white supremacy.
Naps provide a portal to imagine, invent and heal, says Hersey. Many people feel unable to take naps because they have to work so hard to make ends meet. But even a small nap of 20 minutes can be restorative. Resting our bodies and minds is a form of reverence. We can bend time when we rest — we are made new in the portal of naps. Our healing can visit us while we nap, and naps can provide a dream and visioning space. Hersey also says that this work is about rage, and she cites Womanist ideas and authors, as well as Black Liberation thinkers. Rest is also a portal for healing and connecting with our ancestors. Rest is an ethos of slowing down, and as such, can take other forms besides sleeping — doing crafts like knitting, walking in nature, taking a long bath, listening to music, and playing an instrument are among 20 other ways of resting that the author cites. Active rest is also valuable — things like swimming and dance.
Let our rest be a resurrection, Hersey says. It is a beautiful interruption in a world without a pause button. The veil is thin, and rest is a veil-buster, in which we can speak to our souls. And again, she emphasizes that this is not self-help: “The time is up for any shallow wellness work that doesn’t speak about dismantling the systems that are making us unwell.” Hersey is unequivocal about this and claims that capitalism is a violent global force that steals our time and power — a demonic force that is not redeemable. Rest is especially for the weary, she says, given the reality of so many people working hard for low wages that do not cover basic living expenses. And again, she says that rest is resurrection – a literal raising from the dead — whereas grind culture is a spiritual death.
In other parts of the book, Hersey describes group napping in various settings and sees that as a powerful part of this ministry. This may be similar to the iRest movement based on Yoga Nidra, although that’s not mentioned in the book. And in the Christian tradition, we’re reminded of Jesus saying: “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” There are also many cultures that honour some form of the siesta tradition, especially in hotter countries when an afternoon resting time away from the heat is appreciated. But Hersey’s work goes far beyond a nice little afternoon snooze. As the dust jacket description says: “Disrupt and push back against capitalism and white supremacy by connecting to the liberating power of rest, daydreaming and naps as a foundation for healing and justice.” What a gift this message is for our weary world – to seek out more portals of restful renewal.
For more information about Rest is Resistance – A Manifesto and the Nap Ministry visit: https://thenapministry.com/