Rest Is Resistance

How to dream your way toward a radically decolonized future.

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Getty
Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Getty
Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Getty

A daydreaming moment I experience while grieving:

As my eyes closed, I began to imagine my braids rising to become propellers that would allow me to levitate and fly away to another planet. This planet has never experienced racism, sexism, classism, or any type of hate. People sleep up to 18 hours a day like cats. During the sleep time, their dreams produce all the labor they need to survive and thrive. The food is grown via dreams. The planet is a sanctuary for Black bodies that have been destroyed on earth via violence and oppression. Those people are now on the council that serves as the spiritual advisers to the entire planet. Trayvon Martin is there, Rekia Boyd is there, Sandra Bland is there, George Floyd is there, and Breonna Taylor is there. They are all together, wearing white while smiling and resting.

This vision came to me in a 30-minute daydreaming session. It soothed me and allowed a quiet space to grieve and rest. It allowed me to feel in my body and mind an alternative to what has been done. I call my daydreaming brain love. This Ministry uplifts daydreaming as one of the many forms of rest. A form of rest that can be accessed at any time. A mini-nap. As a child, many of us were punished for daydreaming while in classrooms. The teachers, trained under grind culture, assumed daydreaming was a student not paying attention. We slowly learn our time to imagine and download new information is wrong and not a part of learning. We begin the lifelong process of disconnecting from our bodies and learn to ignore the subtle and bold ways that our bodies and spirits are communicating with us constantly.

I can daydream for hours a day and vividly remember this as a daily practice since I was a child. In those daydreaming moments, I was processing my own history and imagining worlds that felt real. I was creating history as I paused and let my mind and body connect. I have always been living in between time as an artist and creative. I remember being 7 years old and sitting on the cement porch of my two-bedroom childhood home in Harvey, Illinois. I will never forget this porch: smooth cement, with four steps that expanded into a stage area, big enough for a chair and surrounded by an intricate iron design. I would spend entire summers sitting on the stairs and staring at the sky, singing to myself, creating stories, bird-watching, and holding space for my mind to wander.

As I got older, these moments happened less and less. I was rushed off by my parents, teachers, classmates, colleagues, managers, and friends. All of culture is in collaboration for us not to rest. There is no system in our culture that supports and makes space for us to rest. This culture does not want you rested unless it is attached to your increased labor and productivity. No one will give you rest. This is an outlier investigation. A counternarrative. It is trust work. It is healing work. It is decolonizing work. It is a subculture holding space for the blossoming of a resistance.

A metaphysical space. A key component of this rest movement. This is the preparation, the request, the alternative, the counternarrative, the free fall.

An alternative community of those curious about rest must be uplifted and seen as a possibility. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the young main character serves as inspiration for our dreaming: “I’m learning to fly, to levitate myself. No one is teaching me. I’m just learning on my own, little by little, dream lesson by dream lesson.” This idea of a dream lesson resonates so eloquently as motivation for beginning the unraveling and healing process. The truth that we may be afraid or unsure of how and when we will rest is valid. We can move through our guilt, shame, and fear that will emerge from reclaiming our bodies and time as our own. This is a vulnerable truth that we should not run from or hide. It can be overwhelming to go against the dominant culture’s desires and plans. We have been taught to hustle, fake it till we make it, ignore our bodies’ cues for rest, all because our systems have been created to ignore and push the laborers and the workers as hard as possible to increase profit.

The “dream” aspect of our rest work is deeply tied to the metaphysical and spiritual. It is a time to be free from the confines of linear and grounded reality. The idea of being trapped in the box of “the practical” must be suspended during your deprogramming. Grind culture thrives on us remaining in our heads, unable to allow the technology of our divine bodies to soar and develop. There is massive knowledge and wisdom lying dormant in our exhausted and weary bodies and hearts. I believe the dreaming part of our unraveling will be the most challenging because it goes against all we have been socialized to maintain, the pace and disconnection of grind culture. White supremacy thinking has taught us there is only a binary, and the rigidity of this type of thinking keeps us available to the toxic systems but unable to inhabit the divinity of our true selves. This is a time to simply stop and feel. A time to not force or attempt to make sense of what can and will happen when we allow our bodies to heal from the massive load we have been carrying consciously and unconsciously. Can you remember a moment in your life when you have been told that the machine pace of your days is not normal? Sit with this for a moment. Breathe this in for a moment now. There has been no space for any of us to dream of anything outside of what we have been born into. To hear the simple and bold proclamation, “You are doing too much. You can rest. You can just be. You can be,” is revolutionary. To believe it and continue to dream up ways to feel and find rest, care, and healing is liberation.

When we recognize this, we can, little by little, begin to honor our bodies and trust our ability to learn new ways of being. We don’t have to be burned out, sleep-deprived, painfully exhausted, or disconnected from ourselves and each other. Even when we don’t have all the answers for the best ways to deprogram from our brainwashing regarding rest, we can still go forth. We can always be open to dreaming into the process of rest. For many, rest is not a familiar proposition. It can be unsettling to experience the unknown ways rest can save you. We must continue to learn, trust, and experiment. If we lose hope, we must take to our beds and dream ways to find motivation again.

To rest in a DreamSpace is a red brick through the glass window of capitalism. I want our intentional rest to scream at oppression on a bullhorn then emerge soft and full. Slowly whispering in a pace that feels unnecessarily slow and awkward until it becomes your heartbeat. Let the space that dreaming asks for channel you back to your true self. The tender human being bound up by a violent duty to overwork to justify your worth. The dreaming is our work. The resting is our goal.

There has been a DreamSpace theft. Our ability to dream, pause, and daydream has been replaced with the robbing of time, self-worth, self-esteem, hope, and connection to ourselves and each other. By putting people to sleep we are waking them up. How do we dream about a future we want to see? How do we simply tap into our dreaming flow? Who taught you the capacity to dream? Who are the sharpeners of your vision? When did your desire to daydream fade away? When did you begin to confuse the idea of daydreaming as frivolous and a waste of time? How can you begin to welcome yourself into a DreamSpace that is waiting for you to tap into? How can you begin to disconnect from the lies of grind culture enough to fall into a moment of dreaming? It will take courage to deprogram yourself from the brainwashing of capitalism. It will take hours and hours of daydreaming and silence to maintain an energetic flow that will be a guide for your liberation.

Womanist theologian Emilie Townes beautifully shares the fullness of liberation as a process. In her article “Ethics As an Art of Doing the Work Our Souls Must Have,” which appears in the anthology Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader, she speaks about how distinct liberation and freedom are: “An important distinction must be made: liberation and freedom are not the same. Liberation is a process. Freedom is a temporary state of being. Liberation is dynamic. It never ends.”

Reading her work was the first time I began to rest in the beauty of liberation being a lifelong practice. This ultimately gave me the permission and vision to take up to dreaming.

There was time now to just be. Before experiencing this revelation, I believed that I had to figure out everything in my internal and external life that was causing me harm and correct it immediately with the information I had in front of me. Things were always urgent and rushed. A feeling of anxiety of what needed to be done was always hovering over me. I was never taught that I had a wealth of healing information and guidance waiting for me in a slowed-down state of a DreamSpace. I was told the opposite: that you had to always be doing labor to fix. I didn’t see my body as a place of infinite wisdom but instead saw it as a tool to be used to push, create, figure out, and do. Most of us surviving the demands of grind culture are here. I know this by how so many react when they first hear of our work and they begin to sink into the idea that it’s about way more than actual naps.

Daydreaming is a form of rest and feels like the opening of your heart doing what it’s supposed to do. It feels like my granny’s soft arms while she rubs my head. A blanket of care swaddling you tightly. A comforting now. We are socialized into systems that cause us to conform and believe our worth is connected to how much we can produce. Our constant labor becomes a prison that allows us to be disembodied. We become easy for the systems to manipulate, disconnected from our power as divine beings and hopeless. We forget how to dream. This is how grind culture continues. We internalize the lies and in turn become agents of an unsustainable way of living. Remember, grind culture is not some pie-in-the-sky monster away from us. It is in our everyday behaviors, our lack of boundaries for ourselves and each other, the choices we make, and how we engage with ourselves and our community. We are grind culture. We must rest and dream.

Audre Lorde is the inspiration for our dreams and our dreaming. I tell everyone that follows this Ministry to read all of her work. Immerse yourself in it. Rest with it. Let her radical ways of thinking hold you like your lover’s hands. Take time with reading, processing, and healing. It is not a race. Urgency is a myth that preys upon your fears about the future. Like Audre Lorde, I am totally enamored and lay my body on the altar of poetry. I am a dreamer because I am a poet. In her essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” she poetically shares her attachment and belief in poetry as a necessity for hope. I sometimes lay down and read her poetry with the hope that I will fall asleep while reading it, so I can drift off to sleep floating on her words. Each stanza taking me deeper into a dream state. “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

I don’t believe I would have arrived on this journey of dreaming if I was not a lover of poetry and a poet. I sometimes wonder if I would have been able to hold space for the possibility of shifting culture via naps. Maybe I could have made it to this point without the collaboration of art but it would have been a harder climb. For me, poetry, like rest, comes from the silent place of our listening. Poetry, like rest, opens up corners of the unknown while guiding effortlessly. Poetry makes sense of meaning and allows us to put things back together that have been torn apart. Poetry, like rest, can be scary to engage with because of the mystery it allows for, but this is exactly why we must face our fear and dream and let rest guide our healing and curiosity.

From the book REST IS RESISTANCE: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey. Copyright © 2022 by Tricia Hersey. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Dreaming to Decolonize: An Excerpt From Rest Is Resistance