Starting on November 1, 2019, I started a month-long Sabbath. I announced for 3 months that I would be off all social media, no events, no email, no discussing Nap Ministry work details, no bookings, and no traveling. I essentially hoped for a totally off-grid experience that included sleeping in, silence, napping daily, lots of detox salt baths, reading books, not speaking about anything related to work/career/NapMinistry, writing a little, spending time with friends and family and total nesting at the house. Most of these things happened for me and there were so many moments of deep calm and connection. It was also a beautiful battle.
I learned so many things, but the most important was that people truly do not want you to rest, know what true rest looks like and even folks who claim to be followers of The Nap Ministry, invaded my Sabbath time and boundaries. I had to remind 90% of the people who I interacted with during my Sabbath, that I was indeed on an intentional break numerous times. Folks would hear me verbally say it and then continue speaking about work and requesting things from me. I gained so much insider knowledge that will be critical for my role as The Nap Bishop. I feel like a new person with extreme clarity and intuition from my Sabbath.
Things I confirmed on my 30 day Sabbath:
- Our entire culture is addicted to social media and technology. This is leading us down the path to exhaustion. If you are not very intentional about detoxing regularly from it, I believe deep and connected rest will be impossible.
- Truly practicing rest is a battle and liberation practice. No one wants you to deeply rest, because the majority of people have never had the opportunity to practice it consistently, so there is no model for how to embody it.
- There is a trend right now happening in speaking and writing about rest. Most of the culture is not actually resting. The trend of talking and writing about it is rooted in capitalism, toxic group think and opportunity – both connected to grind culture and the way media consumes things alive.
- Dreaming and the dreamspace that The Nap Ministry uplifts as key to deprogramming from toxic grind culture is the real space of healing and liberation. My dreams while detoxing technology were vivid and detailed every single night. I felt like I was in an alternate reality nightly. My intuition was heightened and my ideas flowed. During a 5 day period, I handwrote 17 pages of thoughts and ideas. I researched the science of scrolling on devices and the effects of hours of screen time and learned that our brains are changed by it over time. Early designers on social media platforms intentionally created scrolling pages as opposed to pages that have a stop at the end and gives an arrow that you must press to get more content. In essence, this design function is allowing us to scroll for hours daily in an almost zombie-like state. It’s so much to be written about this and I will be digging deeper into the science of sleep and sharing it in future The Nap Ministry programming. Here is a short article that I found interesting. Screen Time and the Brain
- Every day that I was resting and not rushing I felt another layer of intuition and connectedness pour over me.
- The everyday pace of our culture is not healthy, sustainable, nor liberative. We are living and participating in violence via a machine-level pace of functioning. This toxic space has been accepted as the norm.
- Anyone who goes against this pace is living as an outlier and a risk-taker. It is warrior style resistance to push back and disrupt this reality. I actually received more work-related emails, texts and requests on this Sabbath than when I’m available and working. I found this to be fascinating.
- This break was a restorative ritual that transformed my body and soul. I feel like it gave my cells a chance to do their work and transmit to a higher power.
- I did not miss being on social media the entire time I was away. It was beautiful to be in solitude and not attacked with the thoughts, ideas, and commentary of thousands of people that you read online daily. My own thoughts had a chance to spread out and develop. I felt better, spent so much time face to face with people, spoke on the phone for hours with people I love and people I hope to get to know better. I felt more human and like I was floating. I will be integrating 30 Day Sabbath moments throughout 2020 and will carry it over as a regular practice.
- I love interacting with people in the flesh. This work is special and powerful because of this. I will always center it and use it as a foundation for The Nap Ministry.
I hope many of you created opportunities to rest and nap during my Sabbath and that you will see the remainder of 2019 as an anointed time to get off social media for a few days, to nap and to have silence daily. I send all the power and energy it will take to resist.
In love and solidarity. Rest Now.
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.
JULY – AUGUST
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.
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.