“Have you had moments of observing the pace of your life and it didn’t feel true to your soul?”
This book came to me at the perfect time (recommended by a coworker at FORGE). After reading the first 20 pages, I immediately texted another friend who has frequently been a support person and listener as we both try to find a balance between work and rest post-college. A common theme in my recent therapy sessions and conversations with friends has been this pervasive feeling of being “in a rush,” always focused on the next thing that needs doing, and feeling like there just wasn’t enough time in the day.
Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey is a call to “in-action” for everyone caught in the cycle of grind culture that teaches us our worth is measured by our productivity. It’s a call to nap, to get in touch with what our bodies are asking from us, to daydream, to resist systems of oppression, and to imagine a well-rested and liberated future. This book is a powerful reminder that it is possible, and necessary, to slow down.
The “Rest is Resistance” movement is deeply rooted in Black liberation and resisting the systems of white supremacy and capitalism that use bodies as “human machines.” These systems harm all people, but particularly prevent people with marginalized identities from accessing rest and imagination.
“Black liberation is a balm for all humanity and this message is for all those suffering from the ways of white supremacy and capitalism.”
Hersey writes that it is essential that self-care practices be rooted in understandings of oppression: “We are living in a system founded on our labor to prove our worth as human beings.” Imagining a well-rested and liberated future also means holding space for the realities we live in.
There is no shortage of barriers to experiencing liberation in our bodies as trans and nonbinary people and survivors of violence, living in a world where access to healthcare (gender-affirming, reproductive, and everything else), the ability to use a public bathroom, access services like housing or support groups, and the comfort to share our experiences with others are threatened by legislation intended to erase us. However, Hersey writes: “Rest is not a privilege because our bodies are still our own, no matter what the current systems teach us.”
We need reminders like this to counter the prevalent messages that politicize our bodies and create distrust about our own self-knowledge and autonomy.
“It’s my body, my cells, my skin, my heart, my breath; therefore, I will lovingly center it as the site of my deepest freedom and care.”
Hersey describes grind culture as a cycle of trauma: “The trauma response is to keep going and to never stop. Grinding keeps us in a cycle of trauma; rest disturbs and disrupts this cycle. Rest is an ethos of claiming your body as your own.”
Grind culture is something we participate in and create when we push ourselves beyond our limits and expect the same from others in our social lives, communities, and workspaces. I think this message is especially needed for advocates involved in social justice and anti-violence work. The sense of urgency to be constantly doing, figuring out, and fixing, is very real. It is also a pattern we can change to care for ourselves and our collective future, in order to stop perpetuating the harm of grind culture.
“As we prepare ourselves to deal with the harshness of everyday living, rest becomes a space of spiritual and physical softness.”
So what does rest actually look like? Hersey says that it isn’t just naps. It’s “anything that slows you down enough to connect with your body and mind.” She shares a list of tangible ways that moments of rest can fit into our busy schedules. Rest can look like:
- Closing your eyes for ten minutes.
- A longer shower in silence.
- Meditating on the couch for twenty minutes.
- Daydreaming by staring out of a window.
- Sipping warm tea before bed in the dark.
- Slow dancing with yourself to slow music.
- Experiencing a Sound Bath or other sound healing.
- A Sun Salutation.
- A twenty-minute timed nap.
- Crafting a small altar.
- A long, warm bath.
- Taking regular breaks from social media.
- Not immediately responding to texts and emails.
- Deep listening to a full music album.
(Rest is Resistance, page 85)
The Nap Ministry, founded by Tricia Hersey, also has a “Rest Deck” of cards including 50 practices to resist grind culture, for people who prefer to take in information in smaller pieces or want regular reminders throughout the day.
While these are helpful places to start, the book does not provide a “step-by-step list” toward rest or deconstructing grind culture. Hersey writes that “quick, convenience-style processing” is a myth of our culture. Instead, she suggests tapping into our imagination, and the wisdom our bodies already contain about how to rest.
This may feel daunting and scary. Hersey says this is part of the process.
“It will be a slow unraveling, so do not try to take this information in too quickly, and do not attempt to try and ignore your fear.”
We are all deserving of rest, not so we can be more productive, but because we are human beings. Rest is Resistance challenges the systems many of us have unconsciously accepted into our lives, and reminds us of our humanity, autonomy, and worth, regardless of what we accomplished today.