December 23, 2021

The radical act of rest

As we crawl over the finish line of 2021, Omicron is raging, Roe v. Wade is on the line, and one guy in West Virginia controls whether the country will have paid leave. America is not living its best life yet.

But we can’t stop thinking about an episode of UNDISTRACTED from last winter, when Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry. It was shortly after the inauguration, and there was the same sense of, as Packnett Cunningham put it, “so much to get done.”

Hersey—who is also a poet, performance artist, activist, and ordained minister (she’s known as the “Nap Bishop”)—argues that rest can be a form of radical resistance and healing, and it’s essential if we want to dream the big dreams that can lead to a better future.

The holidays feel like the perfect time to revisit Hersey’s smart advice which, as she told us, has nothing to do with “wellness,” and everything with creating a more just world.


Highlights of their conversation:

Hersey on the ways in which rest is radical: “All of culture is in collaboration for us not to rest. Every single part of our culture—from academia, to public schools, to the churches—everything is in collaboration for us to continue to use our bodies as a tool for their production. And so to understand how truly bamboozled you have been, it’s going to take some grieving around that. It’s going to take some understanding that grind culture is violence. And how do you want to align with that? Do you want to align with white supremacy and capitalism—and be exhausting your body? Or do you want to disrupt and dismantle it? And rest can be that way for us to be able to push back against it.”

Hersey on why it’s so important to find time for rest—even now: “It really is a time to rest. It always has been, but I think rest needs to become centered, become seen as a social justice and racial justice issue. It’s a public health issue. And so to think that we can continue on from an exhausted disconnected state, because really when we aren’t resting, it’s bigger than just doing an all-nighter and not feeling well the next day. We really are disconnecting from our body. The more that we do that, the more we’re able to not have empathy and the more we’re able to not be able to give care, and without care in the world, none of us would be free.”

Hersey on how to build space for rest: “My grandmother Ora, who was the muse for this work, she was a Jim Crow survivor…She worked two jobs, sometimes three jobs, raising nine children…She sat every single day on her couch with her eyes closed and she rested her eyes. And [when we asked about it], she was like, ‘I’m not asleep. You know, every shut-eye ain’t sleep. I’m resting my eyes so I can get a word—so I can hear what the universe wants to tell me.’…I think creating a space and re-imagining rest for yourself is really the work…I will tell people it may look like closing your eyes for five minutes in your car while you’re in a parking lot. It may be before you get out of the shower in the morning…taking two minutes for yourself.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


Still got shopping to do? Check out our last-minute guide supporting causes including abortion access (because 2021 has been a devastating year for reproductive rights), paid leave (because America lags behind the rest of the world on that one), voting rights (because the 2022 midterms are going to be crucial), climate justice (because we need it now), and more. See the full list on Instagram. (Not following us? Please come check us out!)