[A condensed version was originally published in Unity Magazine Jan/Feb 2023 issue]
March 13th is National Napping Day. As someone who regularly preaches that naps are a spiritual practice, it goes without saying that this is one of my favorite days of the year. Frankly, every day should be a napping day. Naps are good for the mind, body, and soul. I try to get in a 30-45 minute nap most days, joining other luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Lady Gaga, Ariana Huffington, and Tricia Hersey aka The Nap Bishop
Naps are also a powerful tool for dismantling white supremacy. Yes, you too can fight racism with a good snooze! Of course, that's a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s not far from the truth. Naps, plus other forms of intentional rest and restorative experiences, are an antidote to one of white supremacy’s most violent, exploitative, and relentless manifestations: Capitalism.
Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which property, business, and industry are controlled by private owners rather than by the state, with the purpose of making a profit.” [Cambridge Dictionary] Characteristics include accumulating capital (money and goods) to make more capital, owning private property, and wage labor. For capitalists (i.e. business owners) to turn a profit, expenses cannot outpace income, and the lower expenses the better. Labor is one of those expenses. We sometimes forget that labor means people – actual human lives. The less people are compensated for their labor (paycheck, health insurance, paid time-off, etc.), the greater profit can be made.
Capitalism was at the root of the mid-Atlantic slave trade and the Trail of Tears – free stolen labor to work free stolen land. It fuels our national gas-lighting, better known as The American Dream: financial success and upward mobility is possible for everyone regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work. We know now that it’s a delusion because of systemic discriminatory attitudes and practices stemming from racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more.
Capitalism, along with greed based in scarcity consciousness, is the cause of widening income disparity, with CEOs making, on average, 670 times more than the average worker, up from 20 times more in 1965. It’s why we have a climate crisis, as multinational corporations continue to plunder the planet of its natural resources, while replacing them with destructive pollution, all in the name of profit.
To be fair, we’re not a purely capitalist society, otherwise government social programs wouldn’t exist. However, the capitalist mindset is deeply rooted in us. We work full-time jobs plus various side-hustles just to make ends meet, or to get ahead. Our worthiness becomes intrinsically tied to what we do and how much we have, not who we are. More is better, and we are better people when we do more. Something inside tells us that we should always be doing something. Some of us are perplexed to paralysis when we’re unexpectedly gifted with a free hour, so it’s on to the next item on our to-do list, which is our metric for a successful day. Capitalism shames us for having regular unscheduled fun. Why else would we call them guilty pleasures?
We bring the same sense of urgency to our spiritual and wellness practices. We determine how spiritual we are by the number of classes, workshops, or retreats taken, or how many books we read, rushing from one to the next without pausing to integrate. We obsess over the brands of yoga clothing and accessories, ignoring how far removed from the original practice our Western white-washed beer/rave/goat yoga classes actually are, all in the name of entertainment and profit.
Napping, and resting in general, upends all that capitalism stands for. By intentionally removing ourselves from the grind, we cease toiling for the benefit of others, and free ourselves from a system that commodifies us. By giving ourselves the gift of doing absolutely nothing, or by engaging in purely pleasure-without-a-point activities, we place value on ourselves, no longer seeing ourselves as a product with our worth determined by our output. By reclining to stare at the clouds lost in thought, we truly begin to find ourselves.
REST. RESTORE. REPAIR. RESIST. Let this be our mantra for self-love, activism, justice, liberation, and the dismantling of a system of exploitation.