Rest Supports Grieving: Grief Rituals

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As we cope with a global pandemic and the uncertainty that it will bring, I am meditating on the following: Lament, Mourning, Grief, Rest, Thriving, Spiritual Tools, and the concept of Less Thinking/Doing and More Feeling/Stillness. 

We are grieving and may not even want to recognize it or hold space for it because of our socialization to “Keep Going!” This denial of the process of grieving creates more trauma and in the long run, disrupts our healing. One of our popular memes on our IG Page reads: “Grinding keeps us in a cycle of trauma. Rest can disrupt this cycle.”

“Grieving is a process that cannot be rushed to get to the happy thoughts and self-satisfaction that our culture promotes. As a nation, we do not like to dwell on defeat or pain, we take pride in our can-do attitude of overcoming adversity.  Lament helps up to tell our stories of suffering loss and pain.”Grounded in the Living Word: The Old Testament and Pastoral Care Practices, Denise Dombkowski Hopkins and Michael S. Koppel, p.137. 

On an IG Live last week for Wanderlust, I spoke about grief rituals that we could use right now to cultivate silence, softness, and mindfulness. I uplifted the ritual of creating a grief jar and using poetry as an opportunity to experience a new language that is comforting for our hearts and minds. 

GRIEF JAR: I believe grieving is an important and deeply healing spiritual practice. I believe that God is in the details and our everyday experiences can provide space to heal, connect and honor ourselves. Our micro-histories are an opportunity to problem solve and restore balance to unsettling and toxic daily experiences. We matter. Our stories matter. Our rest matters. 

An idea on creating a Grief Jar: Find a small/medium-sized jar or container around your home that can serve as your “Grief Jar.” Place in a prominent area of your living space so that it can become a symbol for the beauty of grief, lament, and mourning. I have a small mason jar on my desk in my home office. Next, cut up pieces of paper large enough to write text and small enough to fold up. Throughout your day and week, take a few moments to notice and allow for moments of grief. Yesterday, I wrote of my tenderness and sadness for my 12-year-old son who will not be able to celebrate his birthday this weekend with his annual sleepover with friends. He told me he is sad and we leaned into the grief together. 

Remember, “Grief comes when people miss one another…Grief is an emotional recognition that something is missing. To acknowledge rather than dismiss this missing is a sacred act of reverencing absence. We can miss what has been – a person, a thing, a relationship, or a commitment, that no longer exists. We can also miss what has never been.” -Grounded in the Living Word: The Old Testament and Pastoral Care Practices, Denise Dombkowski Hopkins and Michael S. Koppel, p.121. 

After making space to notice these feelings of missing, write them down on a slip of paper and add it to the jar. Do this as many times as you need to. Skip some days if that feels right. Let the grief jar serve as a container for the particulars for the now and remembrance of your grief journey. Take a nap or daydream for a few minutes each day that you add to the Grief Jar. Be still. 

POETRY WRITING: Poetry is another language that allows us to reach deep into the truth. I have been writing and teaching poetry for close to 20 years. We have read poetry to mark the beginning and end of our Collective Napping Experiences since our first one in 2017. During this slowdown and mourning period as a result of the Coronavirus, I have been writing and reading poetry daily as a way to slow down and listen. Poetry writing also deals with details, knowing and stillness. You must listen deeply to experience the beauty of a poem. I have been working with this poetry prompt, “Things to do when grief is concerned,” and hope it is a starting point for you to experiment with constructing your own.

Here is the first draft of mine: 

Things to Do When Grief is Concerned by Tricia Hersey

Call Walgreens Pharmacy and wait on hold for 20 minutes to place an order for a prescription. Be delighted when the pharmacy tech answers. She is so sweet and pleasant. We are both overwhelmed. Pray. Rest.

Smile when you hear the US Mail truck drive near your house. Rest.

Send nudes. Respond to every text you receive with a heart emoji. Even the one from Pizza Hut. Rest.

Deactivate your FB page, Twitter account and leave Instagram for awhile. Seek out Valley moments. Things are grounded there. Rest.

Build an altar with the bathtub as the base. Pour warm water, Epsom salt, eucalyptus, and lavender oil. Baptize yourself daily. Mourn in the water. Uplift your privilege in having clean water and oils. Rest.

Reminisce about the time when you were a child at church and you counted your Mother hug 40 people between Sunday School and the dismissal of the 11am service. Long for hugs. Rest.

Get drunk off uncertainty and remember your Ancestors built a spaceship from uncertainty. Stand in the traces of this resistance. Embrace the power there. Rest.

Cry for no particular reason. Realize mid-cry there are so many particular reasons. Rest. 

Write 15 handwritten letters, mail them by getting dressed up after a week in sweat pants. Walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Walk slow. Pose. Look up at the sky. Rest.

Stare out of every window at trees. Examine the sky. Give thanks for deep daydreaming. Rest.

Embrace the feeling of being out of control for 15 minutes, Feel your body free-fall into a cloud of care. Diagram this moment. Archive it for the future. Rest.

Rest. Deep rest. Slower movements. Slower moments. Focus on things with intense study. The way my hands move while washing the dishes, the smell of cocoa butter, how my cat’s stomach moves up and down while he naps for 10  hours a day. Become a vessel for stillness. A miracle walking. 

Nap. Rest. 

-Your Faithful Nap Bishop

 

 

As grind culture slows down, will you?

I don’t have any profound new wisdom that hasn’t already been in our culture. There is always ancient knowledge that we have forgotten. So much digital programming is being created right now. The crisis of this peculiar virus is sending us into a dizzying tailspin of grinding in the digital realm. It has been almost a full week that America has realized it is not immune to what happens globally. We are indeed interconnected and intertwined.

During this week, we have buckled in and created enough digital content to last us another decade. I have noticed this tendency in our culture to skip steps during trauma. We jump right to getting over it immediately, leaving no space for the precious ritual of grief, rest and lament.  In our minds, there is no time for stopping to process, even in a global pandemic that has killed thousands. I have heard very little about the lives of the people who are now gone and instead been overwhelmed with 10,000 streaming videos to work out, sing, build a treehouse, bake bread, teach math to kids, play an instrument, go to church and everything else under the sun.  We want to remain in the way it always was – super productive and focused on doing, even while the systems around us are failing and slowing down.

The truth is we will never go back to “normal” or “regular” after this crisis is contained, and for that, I am grateful and inspired. Our normal and regular pace was never meant for humans, but instead, a machine-level pace fueled by capitalism’s call to create wealth by any means necessary. I am curious now and always by what can be imagined during a true pause. Now that we are being forced to slow down, will we answer the call to collectively stop to dream, daydream, cultivate silence and rest? I believe we have a magical opportunity to stop. There is power in our rest and in our ability to slow down for the sake of collective healing and mourning. It’s time to rest.

In Rest and Power – Your Faithful Nap Bishop, Tricia Hersey

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Resources for the Rest Resistance. This is about more than naps.

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Text for Resurrect Rest School on Sunday, January 19, 2020: Love as the Practice of Freedom   by bell hooks

We will be reading, analyzing and discussing this article together. Around a table with highlighters and pens. We will have copies available for all but wanted to share a PDF for you to start now. Download and use it as a reference as you follow our IG page. This movement is grounded in ideas and theories that are meant to allow you to deprogram from the toxic brainwashing of grind culture. In order to shift culture and truly transform, it will take study and consistent effort. Its a process of learning.

Our vision is grounded in the following: womanism, Black liberation theology, cultural trauma, somatics and community organizing. We are not just talking about “wellness” for the sake of self-care. We are hoping to tear down toxic systems and create new ways of thriving. This is about more than naps.

Here are a few resources to dig into that have inspired this work:

Womanism: Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader, Edited by Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims. Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

Black liberation:

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,? Martin Luther King, Jr. Beacon Press, 2010.

I will add text on Cultural Trauma and Somatics, in a future post.

Photo above: Women taking a nap in church nursery during Freedom Summer Voters Right Movement in 1961. by: Paul Schutzer

 

Interconnectedness and Liberation

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The concept of interconnectedness, collective, communal and community is central to the rest theories that support this work. I pose the question: can we find liberation by collectively napping, resting and disrupting grind culture? I believe we can and I have witnessed it in the quiet moments during our Collective Napping Experiences and immersive workshops. I am pondering all the ways in which our collective liberation and accountability are tied to truly shifting the culture around rest.   I wrote a large integrative paper while in graduate school for a class called Care of Souls in 2016. In it, I examine the work of Howard Thurman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James A. Vela-McConnell. I uplift my personal experiences of radical community during my father’s sudden death in 2006, while defining the ways in which these authors illuminate the potential of producing global change through a radical understanding of interconnectedness. This is an excerpt from the paper. I am meditating on the idea of Interconnectedness and Liberation as I prepare for our Resurrect Rest School programming.

The tribe surrounded me and my families every move. My mama, the new widow after 40 years of loving this man, was tended to like a newborn baby. Her eight brothers and sisters flew in from all over the country to be her witness and to lament with her. To cook her grits in the morning, to lay in the bed with her, to camp out in the basement on couches and floors. If she needed anything, it was there in one second. This is sacred community. This is the interconnectedness that is key to our liberation. When we stand in the gaps for each other and decide to be relentless in our support and witness, we can shift oppression. The beauty of this reality is that it repeats itself in many forms on our journey in life: childbirth, graduations, in protest marches, at weddings, in classrooms, with strangers on public transportation, in elevators, in courtrooms, in church pews, on war fields, on streets in gang territory, and in death. We are intimately tied to each other. We find God through each other.

     Given this experience of seeing the work of interconnectedness in action, how is our interconnectedness related to our liberation as black people in an oppressive society? How can those living in the margins activate the power of mutuality for our collective healing against racism and oppression? Can an encounter with community lead us to liberation? 

How could an interconnected and radical embrace of community serve as a form of liberation? How can we build a fortress of care and live into our role as neighbor? “It really boils down to this: That all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. This is the way our universe is structured. That is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality(King, 254).”  This is key for our understanding today as we navigate the system of racism and white supremacy in America. I believe that our very survival spiritually rests in community. We are nothing without each other.

If you are interested in digging deeper into these themes, I have added a small bibliography. As we build our Resurrect Rest School, we will have an opportunity to study the work together.

In Rest and Power – Your Faithful Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey

Bibliography

King, Martin Luther, Why We Can’t Wait (London: Penguin Books, 1964).

King, Martin Luther, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by James Melvin Washington.

Thurman, Howard, “The Inwardness of Religion.” In The Creative Encounter, 19-55.

Vela-McConnell, Who is my Neighbor: Social Affinity in a Modern World. (New York: State University of New York Press, 1999), 1-14

 

One woman shows: Transfiguration and Reparations LIVE!

 

Transfiguration was staged in Atlanta, GA, May 2017 at Colony Square.

Infused with black liberation theology, poetry, spirituals, archival photos, direct action intervention and performance art, “Transfiguration” is an artistic and historical examination of the legacy of slavery, plantation labor and the commodification of black bodies in American history. It seeks to honor, reimagine and recapture the dream space that was stolen for centuries. Naps are a holy place, spiritual practice and a form of resistance for those living in the margins, navigating racism, poverty, violence and discrimination. What could have happened if we were allowed the space to rest? What dreams and innovations could have been produced? How can we capture what was lost? “Transfiguration” is an experimentation and conversation between the artist and her ancestors via sleep.

Reparations LIVE! is an examination of rest as a form of resistance. In this durational performance and art meditation, performance artist and liberation theologian, Tricia Hersey will use her public napping ritual as a subversive act, Her goal in using sleep as resistance is to work with her ancestors to recapture the DREAM SPACE that was stolen centuries ago. Hersey invites the public into this living altar to rest as reconciliation via the radical notion of watching a black woman sleep and perform rituals of spiritual care.

Participants can view or actively engage as co-sleepers, bringing mats and blankets as desired.

Naps provide a visionary space that allows us to heal, create and imagine, so the audience is invited to bring pillows, yoga mats and blankets to rest and resist together. Reparations LIVE! is an experimentation and conversation between the artist and her ancestors via sleep. This is reparations.

REST – A immersive performance and installation with Free Street Theater

JULY – AUGUST

2018

Outdoor tent revivals meet lost Dream Space meet Chicago protest energy in REST, a new immersive performance created by the Free Street Youth Ensemble in collaboration with acclaimed performance artist Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry. Both joyful and welcoming, REST uses movement, text, and yes, actual naps, to explore the history of forced labor in the United States, and to invite the audience to reclaim rest as a tool of liberation. Free Street toured REST to five parks across the city as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative.

Hersey collaborated with the Free Street Youth ensemble to co-design REST, and will perform with the company for the opening event.

Naps are Spirit Work

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.

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Spirit Work

I have seen witches working

Poured holy oil on doorknobs

Into shoes

To keep the wanderers

From wandering

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

Anymore

-Tricia Hersey

Naps as a VISION Space for Healing

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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.