In the perspective of the Christian monastic tradition, time is a precious gift of God in which there are places for both activity and pauses. I try to keep that in mind as I rise to greet the new day at 4 a.m. After a leisurely breakfast, I get to work, a schedule made easier by having my office in my home. At 11 am I shake off the stiffness in my shoulders and legs as I prepare lunch and rejoice in the books read and reviews completed. Then it's back to work with renewed energy.
But by 2 pm the doldrums have set in and a great sleepiness comes over me. My body is telling me that it needs a rest and a retreat from the work on my desk. The fog of fatigue does not subside and my mind feels like mush. If I were living in Spain or Panama or Brazil, the remedy for my sleepiness and loss of energy would be to take a siesta (a Latin term for the middle of the day). I read somewhere that Thomas Edson was unable to sleep at night and relied on frequent naps. Even more astonishing was Leonardo da Vinci who is rumored to have slept for 15 minutes every four hours giving him a grand total of an hour and a half of sleep a day.
Napping doesn't have a lot of support in our pragmatic culture which puts the emphasis on productivity. Isn't sleeping in the middle of the day for children or lazy people? But for me napping has become a spiritual exercise because it encourages me to trust. Here's how Edward Hays puts it in Pray All Ways : "The front door of sleep is bodily rest, but where does the back door lead? The back door leads to the Prayer of Napping as an external sacrament of the inner ability to 'let go' of managing every aspect of our lives. So give in to that urge to snooze."
I have found it to be true that a 15 - 20 minute nap can drive the doldrums away, relieve fatigue, and re-animate my sluggish body and mind. This regular spiritual practice feels right in every way since it responds to the needs of the flesh and trains me daily in the art of letting go.