I am trained as a poet. Poetry is my first love and what has grounded all my work as a social justice servant, teacher and performance artist. It holds me when there is no net. I have taught poetry for 20 years to young people and adults. Its sacred work to be the guide for poetry to be created. As the Nap Bishop, I am also a guide. At our Collective Napping Experiences community members come together to nap in a safe, shared space as they harness the creative power that happens when you nap. I feel humbled and honored to be trusted with curating a nap space for others. I have seen people sleep for 3 hours or just 30 minutes, and as they awaken they are so grateful for the experience. They look different and an energy of imagination and calmness fills the room. It is spirit work to rest. It is spirit work to nap together. The Nap Ministry was created to examine the vision space that is available to us and to resist a society that tells us to grind more. Thank you for exploring this work with me. More poetry coming. More Collective Napping Experiences, retreats and of more daily napping.
I have seen witches working
Poured holy oil on doorknobs
To keep the wanderers
Witches know what’s best
Brown long fingers quietly stirring prayers
Bodies propelled forward
Walk around the entire house 7 times
While speaking in tongues
A gold framed photo shook off wall
From the cries
Spiritual warfare under these feet
Shiny knees no longer a prison
My mouth the battleground
I lay before the altar
Not afraid of my own voice
- The Nap Bishop sleeping. Dreaming with her ancestors. Photo by: Charlie Watts Photography
I believe that naps provide a space for us to invent, imagine and heal. There have been numerous times in my life when a nap allowed me to work things out in my spirit that I was unable to process while awake. We are able to lay down our weary souls and offer our bodies and minds over to a sleep state. During this state, when the veil between the Earthly world and the spiritual world is thin, real healing can happen. I am grateful for this gift.
I am overwhelmed and struck by how much our bodies desperately want us to heal. Our bodies are totally focused on living and thriving. The outside influences of society and our own selves fight this healing with a vengeance. Naps can help us. So many times in my life I have decided to lay down for a quick nap because of a stress that occurred in my daily activities. I resigned myself to this quick cat nap so I could wake up refreshed and with new insight into a problem.
As an artist, I have awakened from a nap with poetry and ideas spilling from my mind. I would keep a notepad next to my bed for moments like this. I never want to forget that naps are spiritual practice that we must practice regularly for its benefits. This is one of the reasons I started The Nap Ministry – to create physical space for us to nap and heal together.
I received the beginning inspiration for this project while reading slave narratives during archival research. I was obsessed with finding out the smallest details of plantation life. What time did they wake up? Where did they sleep? How far were the fields from the sleeping quarters? Did they have lunch breaks? What time would they begin work? When would the work end? (I discovered that most enslaved Africans on cotton plantations worked 20 hours a day) Did they stay in the fields once the sun went down? If so, how did they see the cotton in front of them? How many pounds of cotton did they have to pick each day? Did pregnant women work until their due date? Did the pregnant women give birth in the fields? (I found reports of women giving birth and while the midwife cared for infant, they went back into fields on the same day) How hot would the temperature rise during the summer months? How many died from heat stroke? Did they ever nap?
I discovered my obsession for details was a way for me to connect with my ancestors. I would go to bed dreaming of them. One night while sleeping, I felt like my body was sinking into the bed. I felt like I was floating. I imagined that if I could connect with them in the spiritual realm, I could rest for all the centuries they couldn’t. I was desperate to provide a form of reparations for them. I will never forgot the DREAM SPACE that was stolen. The Nap Ministry is for remembrance.
Rest via napping is vital for every human being, and as I have developed this project I am learning how sleep deprived our entire nation truly is. We are depressed, sick, anxious and disconnected, yet we continue to freely give our bodies and minds over to the grind of capitalism. We have tied our entire worth as human beings into how much we can produce financially. We are killing ourselves by openly being bamboozled by a society that tells us napping is lazy and unproductive. I want you to RESIST. I want you to free yourself. I want you to nap. I want you to dream. There is healing waiting for you. There is a vision space waiting for you to enter into via rest. This is holy work. Join me there.
How will you resist? Share your stories of how resting has helped you heal.