Tricia Hersey is an artist, poet, activist, theologian and founder of the Nap Ministry. Her new book Rest is Resistance is her passionate manifesto that calls on us to slow down, take time out, and free ourselves from the oppression of grind culture.
Trisha Hersey wants you to rest. And she does not mean rest as a wellness tool or a life hack to make you more productive. She’s asking you to slow down, resist overwork, free yourself from a toxic system that only values you for your output, to allow yourself time and space to dream.
For Hersey, rest is an act of rebellion, resistance and revolution. It is a way to liberate ourselves from a capitalist system that’s designed to squeeze everything out of us.
Whether rich or poor, we are still caught up in a culture that perpetuates and exalts overwork, exhaustion and lack of sleep. To thrive, we need to decolonise ourselves from a system that makes us feel we are not inherently ‘enough’.
Grind culture has made us all human machines, willing and ready to donate our lives to a capitalist system that thrives by placing profits over people. Tricia Hersey, Rest is Resistance
Hersey first discovered the power of rest for herself when she was a worn-out graduate student. Exhausted with 15-hour long days of studying, classes, work and mothering, she was also experiencing the background anxiety of money woes, family illness and the threat of racial violence.
Taking inspiration from her grandmother, who used to take time out of her long days to meditate on the couch, Hersey began to nap. She napped in the university library, around the campus, on the bus and at home.
Slowly, she found she was able to recharge, relax and heal her exhaustion. She dreamt of her ancestors and she began to envision a world where rest is our birthright, where we can feel whole in our being not in our doing.
Her idea to create the Nap Ministry began as a one-off Collective Napping Experience while she was still at university in Atlanta.
Hersey discovered napping was allowing her to not only have the mental space for creative ideas but to achieve higher grades. She wanted to share what she was experiencing. She was offered an event space for free, she sourced yoga mats, blankets, pillows and candles.
She expected about ten people to turn up but 40 came. She recalls the moment a sacred silence fell over the room. On waking some people cried from the realisation of how exhausted they were. She was asked to create more and more events and the Nap Ministry was born.
As well as the Collective Napping Experiences, Hersey gives lectures, facilitates immersive workshops, and set up the Resurrect Rest School, a gathering space dedicated to the deep study, teaching, and practice of The Nap Ministry’s work.
Rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy. Tricia Hersey
In Rest Is Resistance she traces modern-day capitalist grind culture back to its roots in the violence of slavery. Capitalism was created on plantations during chattel slavery and is the same system that is driving us to exhaustion and a deep disconnection with our bodies and minds today.
In her extensive research, she discovered slaves worked 20 hours a day, from 4 am to midnight in the blazing heat of the deep South.
Women worked through their pregnancies and some even gave birth in the fields. Plantation owners experimented with how far they could push men and women. They created a dehumanising system that treated workers as machines, and this perpetuates today.
Hersey’s ancestors were slaves and her grandmother fled Mississippi during the Jim Crow era. But she had a closer insight into how grind culture is killing us.
Her father was a railroad worker, preacher and community leader who worked very long shifts and dedicated many hours of his free time to his church and community, leaving him exhausted and sleep-deprived, with no days off.
He also endured years of racist microaggressions at work as the only black manager in his department. Over the years all this wore him down. He developed serious health issues including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, and died at 55.
Grind culture killed my father and is killing us physically and spiritually. Sleep deprivation is a public health issue and a race issue. Tricia Hersey
For Hersey, the Rest is Resistance movement is connected to Black Liberation. Research shows there is a sleep gap between Black and White Americans, with Black people getting less sleep than their White counterparts. And black women are working the hardest of all.
She argues that we do not know how to rest. We haven’t been taught this at home or in school. We have all been brainwashed by capitalism and internalised its core message that we are not inherently worthy and it will take years to let ourselves rest without guilt and fear.
She cites a time when she first took a month’s sabbatical. Despite telling people she would be unavailable and setting up autoreply on her emails, she was still constantly contacted by people during the entire month.
People just could not get their heads around the idea that she wasn’t working. Deprogramming ourselves from toxic overwork will take a lifetime.
We believe rest is a luxury, privilege, and an extra treat we can give to ourselves after suffering from exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Rest isn’t a luxury but an absolute necessity if we are going to survive and thrive. Tricia Hersey
This is not a classic Self Help or How To book, and it is about much more than napping. It is a tapestry of ideas and throughout she weaves in many ways to rest and reconnect with yourself. These include:
• Closing your eyes for ten minutes
• Taking a 20-minute timed nap
• Daydreaming by staring out of a window
• Taking regular breaks from social media
• Not immediately responding to texts and emails
• Listening to a music album in full
• Knitting, sewing or quilting
• Playing an instrument
• Writing handwritten letters
• Getting off your phone.
She does not directly answer the question of how we can thrive financially if we work less and rest more. She is not suggesting we all give up work and just chill out, though she supports the ‘quiet quitting’ movement.
She says that by being rested and only doing work she wants to do, she finds more creative solutions and experiences more luck and serendipity. Her faith in herself and God are strong and she has created a community to empower her. Hersey also feels the presence of her ancestors guiding and supporting her.
By choosing to rest and unplug from capitalism, Hersey is honouring her slave ancestors, who had no time to rest. White slavery took away African Americans’ DreamSpace, that time and space we all need to imagine and create a better life for ourselves and a fairer world for everyone.
Modern capitalism is stealing the DreamSpace from all of us. It’s time to claim it back. But to dream a better world into being, we must first rest.
Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey is published by Aster – £16.99
Purchase Your Copy HERE