During a particularly stressful and exhausting time in her life, when she couldn’t handle one more thing and was considering quitting her Master of Divinity program, Tricia Hersey had an epiphany. She started napping, in the library, in the student union, on an upholstered pew of a chapel, wherever she had a few moments. She’d wake up refreshed and viewing her life and the tasks-at-hand with clear eyes. It was transformative and led her to research the idea of rest as a healing mechanism and form of resistance against societal oppression. She learned of the legacy of exhaustion of her black forbearers, through the slave bodies that were commodified as expendable machines for work and profit. Rest became a tool for her own liberation and healing.
Sleep is such a vulnerable place, and I believe that when you rest, it’s a healing portal…You have space to talk and vent, to hope, to dream. You can work things out you can’t work out when you’re awake.”
In 2016, she founded The Nap Ministry, hosting collective napping and daydreaming events in serene spaces with yoga mats, pillows, blankets, music, and her mix of guided meditation and gentle sermon.
I really feel like we’re deprogramming people. We’re pushing back against these systems telling us we should feel guilty for laying down and taking a nap…that our worth is connected to how much we’ve done.
She calls herself The Nap Bishop. Through Instagram and Twitter, she sends out her message inviting people to resist “grind culture” through napping. Her ministry has become a force, featured in Vogue, the New York Times, TIME and USA Today.
Little Brown published Hersey’s first book Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto. It begins, ” I want this book to be a prayer. A field guide for the rest resistance.” The Nap Ministry has recently found a home in a Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.
Part of the power of Hersey’s message is that she lives it herself:
Besides napping, I rest by… having really set boundaries and being able to say “no.” If you open up my calendar, you’ll see I don’t play. I’m in there with a knife. I only say “yes” to things I’m really passionate about.
I don’t schedule back-to-back meetings. I don’t rush to return emails. I push back against the fast, fast, fast mentality. It’s really hard because people want you to work at their pace. I’m trying to retrain people and let them know if they want to work with me, this is the pace we’re going at.
She takes frequent digital and social media sabbaths, alerting followers on her various feeds that she’ll be gone for a while. Her view: “Working a 60 hour week for free. Go lay down. You don’t have to make yet another reel. You can skip a day and you will still be a divine, free human. You can rest”
We love The Nap Bishop’s defiance of “Grind culture” with its show-up-at-all-costs-mentality that has normalized ignoring the body’s need for rest, care and repair, despite injury or sickness or exhaustion. Hers is a gospel of rest.
Rest is a way to antidote the conditioning of that fearsome culture. Rest is Resistance.
Read more about The Nap Ministry in the New York Times’ The Nap Bishop Is Spreading the Good Word: Rest.