The Case for Rest

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Tricia Hersey, the Nap Bishop, founder of the Nap Ministry on Instagram and author of Rest is Resistance aims to open our eyes to the debilitating notion that productivity is a cornerstone to success. She implores us to understand that our value is not tied to how much we produce. When you live and work in a system that regularly exploits and dehumanizes workers for the monetary benefit of a select few, it can feel foreign to choose rest. Rest in its most basic form, is an act of resistance and reclamation of one’s own power. Rest disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy. As a culture we have been deeply entrenched in capitalism, and because of this brainwashing we often subject our minds and bodies to a painfully unrealistic and detrimental pace of work. The work begets more work and as cogs in the machine we feel an obligation to keep turning instead of stopping to assess our own well-being.

Rest is Resistance is a call to arms, a guidebook and a road map for a movement made-up of weary and hopeful soldiers. The basis of Hersey’s work is grounded in spirituality and centers black liberation, womanism, somatics and afrofuturism. She uses storytelling to disseminate practical advice and information to the reader, informed by her heart-centered experience in theology, activism as well as performance art. This book is a manifesto for those who are longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of grind culture.

Her story begins in many places, but it truly takes off when she was in divinity school. She endured multiple losses and traumas is a short time frame, and found herself in an emotional freeze. Her desire for productivity was zero. And against the recommendation of many, she leaned into her desire for rest, and started resting everywhere, literally napping all over campus. What she found was that when she allowed herself to rest, she began to heal, her grades improved, she was in an emotionally and physically better state. As a theologian, community organizer and performance artist, she felt she needed to share this with others. She began organizing collective napping experiences and sharing her philosophy of rest on Instagram, @thenapministry. To her surprise, not only were people showing up to these community organized events, but they were also finding as much value and healing as she did. She began experimenting with the connection between her personal story of race and rest, and how the body and mind while in rest could lead to racial healing. These findings led to sharing her ideas and proclamations about rest as a form of reparations. Through her journey with rest, she finally developed the four tenants of the nap ministry:

#1, rest is a form of resistance because it pushes back and disrupts white supremacy and capitalism.

#2, our bodies are a site of liberation and that brings into the semantics the idea that wherever our bodies are, we can find rest.

#3, naps provide a portal to imagine, invent and heal.

#4 our dream space has been stolen and we want it back. We will reclaim it via rest.

Each of these four tenants deserve an article in themselves, but the main take away is that it is more than just about napping. This is about a paradigm shift, just as SKR states. It’s about shifting the way we view productivity, culture, and dismissing what this system has always taught us about rest, our bodies, and our personal worth. Capitalism doesn’t view its workers as human beings, but diminishes us to simply pieces of a machine. In a capitalistic system, that sees people as profit, slowing down production, quiet quitting, even small disruptions that encourage rest, are resistance.

Hersey honors the fact that this journey is slow and difficult. You are literally reprogramming deep neural pathways in your brain. By resting through the discomfort, offering grace and appreciation for yourself and your body, and acknowledging the guilt and the shame, you can release it. We all felt this grind was normal, and our entire society has been moving at incredible speed. So once you decide to take it slow, you can experience feelings of whiplash and self-doubt. Allowing this shift to a new normal, offers opportunities to go deeper into your own thoughts. It is in these deep conversations with yourself that you can help heal the wounds endured by working in our modern economy.

Hersey suggests working on connecting with your body and listening to your own thoughts. Some strategies to do so include meditation, breathing, baths, walking, and then observing your response to these activities. “I think all these ideas of what resting could be for us and how we can reimagine ourselves to be more human is really the key to this work, to, like, begin to disrupt the idea that you are a machine and that your worth is connected to your accomplishment. It’s going to be a slow go. This isn’t easy work period like, this is some serious, real deep, dark sh**. Like, this is dark.”

Hersey also delves into the science of sleep. Drawing on her undergraduate degree in public and community health, she allows the science to speak to the benefit of rest. The US Center for Disease Control has named sleep deprivation as a public health crisis. High blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes can all be linked to our detrimental sleep habits. When we aren’t resting our brains don’t have time to regenerate. During sleep the brain is able to process trauma, it helps your memory, your creativity and heal your physical body. She appeals to people on a mind and body level, it’s not just a spiritual journey, but a biological and neurological one as well. Exhaustion is preventing us from living at our fullest potential.

Rest does not mean stagnation either, rest can be active. She considers anything that slows your body down enough that you can connect your body and mind together to be restful. Dance class, hobbies, walking, all of these allow for a meditative and restful state.

Hersey also cautions against the desire to rest and recharge in order to grind more. Rest isn’t resistance if you are using it as a means to give more output to capitalism. Rest that becomes intwined with capitalist desires is no longer offering the same restorative possibilities.

“We are not resting to get ourselves more riled up to be on capitalism’s clock. We’re resting simply because it’s our divine and human right to do so.” Hersey reminds us that we have been taught since childhood a societal curriculum based in white supremacy and capitalism. However, we get to decide who our teachers are now. And we are not required to allow white supremacy and capitalism to teach us any longer. We do not have to be productive to be deemed worthy. Each of us is enough now.

For each of us as members of The Creative Revolution, rest is vital. The work of organizers, activists, educators, anyone who aims to disrupt the status quo can only be furthered by allowing our bodies rest. Rest creates space to create, and with more creativity we can find more innovative solutions to society’s ills. In these lines of work, burnout is far too common. If we aim to take control away from capitalism, and back into the hands of individuals, we can sustain this important work for much longer. 

Why rest is an act of resistance, NPR

Rest is Resistance: A MANIFESTO by Tricia Hersey


How do you rest?

How can you remind yourself on a regular basis that your output is not a measure of your worth? And how can we find a way to disseminate this information further to potentially create a healthier, more creative future generation?


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