I don't post my Sunday reflections very often, but last Sunday's seemed like an important one to share. -L
Occasionally when I preach for a larger gathering someone falls asleep (it doesn’t happen very often at WildWood though.) It used to throw me off, I’d panic thinking that I was so boring I was putting people to sleep. It would seep into my head and ignite all my insecurities. One time in particular I was planning to mention a specific person in my reflection and when I got to the place where I was going to say their name I looked over and they were inconspicuously asleep. I felt bad for waking them up, or at least waking them up with everyone looking at them. They hid it reasonably well, but it made me chuckle.
As a seminary student with a young kid, Tricia Hersey would often fall asleep reading. She was exhausted, her grades and health were suffering, not to mention her life with her kid. She knew she couldn’t keep it up, she was pushing herself beyond her human capacity.
So, she started to nap. She said in a NY Times interview,
“I was exhausted physically, mentally, spiritually, and I just didn’t see any other way except to take a radical leap and say: ‘I don’t care, let the chips fall where they may, If I fail out of school, that’s fine if I don’t finish that grade — because I’m going to bed.’”
I also went to seminary with a very young kid and would also fall asleep while reading, but my instant response to Hersey's radical leap was,“It sounds nice, but, but but….”
But I have no ground to stand on because after seminary she became The Nap Bishop. She took her personal experience, backed by extensive research and began inviting people to nap collectively while she offered sermons about the importance and power of sleep and dreaming. Unlike my gut response of internal panic when someone fell asleep listing to me, she wanted her sermons to put people to sleep! Beginning in Atlanta, in a dimly lit sanctuary filled with pillows, cushions, blankets she invited people to rest, to nap, in front of a rest alter and after everyone woke up they would drink healing tea while listening to her Nap Talk.
Since then, The Nap Ministry has facilitated hundreds of rest installations in person and online. All centered in community care, with the notion that “rest is resistance.”
In 2022 she wrote Rest is Resistance: A manifesto. Divided into four sections, the book follows the main tenets of the Rest is Resistance Movement,
Rest! Dream! Resist! Imagine!
At the end of the “Dream!” section She writes,
“This is not a book offering a step-by-step rigid list for you to find rest in a capitalist system. As a culture, we have already given ourselves over to that rigid binary that is neither expansive nor imaginative. We've done that and been tricked and manipulated by grind culture to falsely engage with living on a timeline that is geared to production always. We don't need more of the same boxed-in and limited thinking. It's time to tap into our imagination. It's time to go deep into the cracks of who we are as humans to be able to make sense of our world. Capitalism is new and our bodies are ancient. Grind culture has created a bunch of exhausted, dis-connected, and traumatized people moving through life, unable to tap into their true power. We need rest to connect back to ourselves and dream.”
Rest is written within our sacred stories too. As she says, “Capitalism is new, our bodies are ancient.” Remember that time Jesus and his friends were stuck in a boat in the middle of a raging storm and Jesus just slept through it? In the creation narrative, on the seventh day God had finished all the work of creation, and so, on that seventh day, God rested. God blessed the seventh day and called it sacred, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. God rested, you humans have to rest too.
It is reflected within the Ten Commandments.
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy! For six days you will labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHWH. Do no work on that day, neither you nor your [children], nor your workers…nor your animals, nor the foreigner who lives among you.
So, rest cannot be at the expense of someone else either.
Later on in Exodus, after detailing how they should create sacred space, build an alter, ritual practices and ordain leadership, God doubles down on the importance of rest.
“No matter what, you must keep my Sabbaths. They will stand as a sign between you and me through all the generations to come, so you will know that I, YHWH, make you holy.”
It goes on,
“Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.”
While it sounds harsh, in our culture of exhaustion know the true cost of overworking and chronic fatigue. A research article published by Oxford found that fatigue can cause reduced cognition and occupational accidents, metabolic and reproductive health consequences, some forms of cancer along with, yes, death. Additional evidence links the impact of fatigue on mental, gastrointestinal, neurological and chronic pain.
I don’t say this to cause anxiety and panic! Though I realize that’s a reasonable response,
even if it will further exasperate our emotional and mental exhaustion. I remind us of this research because it’s easy to feel like God’s admonition of the consequences of skipping the sabbath, skipping rest, are hyperbolic but in actuality they aren’t. Lot’s of the biblical writing is contextual and must be extrapolated for our context, but some of it holds up and has withstood the test of time.
Creating space, demanding space, for rest is an act of resisting the empire of oppression. To pause, wether it’s taking a nap, moving your body, reading (for pleasure!), connecting with a friends, mediating, coloring, creating art, anything anything that allows you to step outside of the systems of capitalism is an act of refusing to acquiesce to the domination of grind culture.
Now, parents with young kiddos deserve a caveat and here I can speak from experience. Resting as a parent is complicated because the “system of denomination” that demands we overwork, sucks every drop of our energy and literally keeps us from sleeping, are our kids. (At another point we'll address the systemic isolation of parents.) It can not only feel impossible but can actually be logistically impossible to truly rest. Sleep with they sleep is BS. I have nothing helpful to offer, expect perhaps and an affirmation, or permission, that when they do sleep or you get some kid-free time, it is actually okay to put off doing the dishes or laundry (no one is judging you, promise.) It's okay to close your eyes if even for 15 minutes, every little bit helps. If they only sleep attached to you body maybe set the phone aside and close your eyes for a minute or find a good not parenting book to read on your device of choice. When they are old enough putting on a movie/audiobook/ipad to allow you a bit of time to breathe, close your eyes, or zone out is entirely okay. They will not suffer long-term emotional damage and maybe, just maybe, it will allow us to model that rest is important. Maybe it can be opportunity to begin to dismantle the generations-long chronic fatigue.
As Tricia says, rest as resistance is a spiritual practice. Key word being practice.
She offers 6 starting points to jump start our nap curiosity and experimentation.
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity.
We must believe we are worthy of rest.
Or bodies are the site of liberation; therefore, wherever our bodies are, we can embody rest.
Productivity should not look like exhaustion.
Deprogramming our minds and hearts from our toxic brainwashing around nap and rest will increase our ability to craft a rest practice.
Grind culture is violence. Resist participating in it. This must be flexible so please also resist the desire to become rigid. I have gone months consistently experimenting with a rest practice daily or weekly. The next week I am caught up in an all-nighter to finish a deadline. We are moving in and out of worlds all the time so give beautiful grace to yourself. Start again on rest. Keep going back to rest.
May it be so.
If you are on Instagram you should follow The Nap Ministry account.