Allow me to introduce you to John Waddington Feather. Now deceased, we first met in during the summer of 1982 at the Anglican Jekyll Street bunkhouse in Whitehorse, Yukon. John was a former paratrooper who worked for a time with British Intelligence–He physically jumped into the Suez crisis and had no time for non-violent resistance. They were there to “keep the French in line.” He was a well published sixth-form (high school) English teacher who in his spare time visited inmates on death row at Shrewsbury gaol. When we met, he was in Canada looking for inspiration and experience for his subsequent book Quills Adventures in Grozzieland.
I remember him for so many reasons, no less so for his practice of afternoon napping. Anywhere and everywhere he went, he paused for justifiable cause daily after lunch for twenty minutes or so. Each day at the bunkhouse he would rise saying “I love sleepin’” To this day I join him in this accolade. My dear wife Kathie, who struggles with sleep on occasion tires when I repeat this slumbered anthem. I love sleeping, both in the night and in the early afternoon.
It was the late Rev. Dr John Stott (another mentor from a distance) who advocated a snooze and no booze for the busy preacher who needed to be on their game come eventide. Numerous times when commencing a spiritual retreat the director would advise us spirit-seekers to take a nap. Carl Jung would tell his patients that sleep and the dreams which accompany unconscious reflection “are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will.” So sleep well, and if it be your practice and pleasure, nap.
Naps open the reflective door to self-discovery and to this day I practice the ritual and the art of napping–for myself, for others, and for the benefit of all creation. Over many years in different locations, once lunch is finished I would either shut the door and curl up in my office, or if in danger of staff discovery would find the youth room somewhere down in the basement, which was furnished with tired and broken donated furniture. Even when uncomfortable, if the couch was long then all was well with my soul. Sometimes I would feel guilty, but that would not last long. ZZZZZ.
Most naps are intentional, though not all; sometimes, external circumstances intervene. Shortly after the birth of our daughter, while ministering in Sooke, BC I went to visit the Weightmans. Tired after a sleepless young-parent night I cycled to their Westcoast Road home following other visits that afternoon. The weather was warm, misty and moist. And yes, they tended to keep their house warm, very warm. Slowly regaining consciousness after who knows how long while cuddled in a comfy chair I heard Jack saying, “he’s fallen asleep Irene.” “Shush Jack, can’t you see he’s tired” she barked in reply. Whoops.
At this point I need to bring my Occupational Therapist daughter Hannah into this conversation. She suggests that my ritual rigour mortis will negatively impact my nighttime sleeping. I respond that I rise early, sometimes very early after 6-7 hrs. mostly uninterrupted sleep, feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy my day. I am blessed with the ability to enjoy a 60-90 minute nap after lunch with seemingly no adverse effects. Hannah’s Occupational Therapist mother suggests that I have developed over many years a practice that works well for me. Needing to reconcile this difference of understanding between the two–and always wanting to mediate peace in the family–I turned for assistance to the Mayo Clinic (my brother’s favourite source for health matters) who have produced what seems to me a balanced overview or both practice and understanding of napping.
According to Mayo (hold the ham please) “napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including: Relaxation; Reduced fatigue; Increased alertness; Improved mood; Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory. Napping however can lead to post-slumber grogginess. It can also lead to nighttime sleep problems.” So case closed? Maybe not.
Finally, some thoughts on falling asleep either after-noon or late-evening. I have three techniques I find helpful. The first two concern affixing the mask of my CPAP machine to my face. In a figurative manner, the mask transports me to one of two worlds:
- First, the world of submarines and deep sea diving. While I have done neither, when lying down I pretend that I am on a descending ocean voyage. I dip below the surface and join creatures I have only dreamed of. It’s not exactly Jules Verne, as I can dimly glimpse the bottom of the sea as I enjoy the gentle rocking of a sultry and slippery dive—All is calm, all is well. It helps that I love submarine movies, especially Das Boot, Run Silent Run Deep, Ice Station Zebra, and the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The only real submarine I have ever seen was in the West Edmonton Mall. I did however meet a real live, if somewhat traumatized Canadian submariner at a Victoria dog park recently. Interesting representative of a very special breed of mariner.
- A variation on the above has me look to the air and to the world of Top Gun aviators. As I hear the slipstream on as the fuselage of my nocturnal airship reaches cruising altitude, well ZZZZZ.
- Finally if the above strategies fail, I either watch or imagine my Labradoodle, Juno who also (see above) “loves sleepin’” Juno can sleep anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Given a high percentage of poodle in her ancestry she loves to roll over on her back, lying spread eagle, in a downward dog delightful slumber which can last sans movement for hours at a time. If I need visual encouragement, she never fails me.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief hommage au sommeil. So nap on . . . If music be your thing, then Priests may safely graze (JS Bosch) or A little nap music, W A MostArt to you all. ZZZZZ.
nap on Ken- I’m sure it makes you a better writer 🙂
Love too but I need to take a nap!