Common Lies that Sabotage Downtime

Author David Kundtz exposes ‘un-truths’ that jeopardise incorporating more downtime, including napping, into our lives

Often, when we attempt to incorporate a new practice into our lives, we fail. Old habits take over and unexamined assumptions work against us.

Let’s examine some commonly believed lies that can sabotage making sufficient time in our lives for rest and reflection, including the habit of napping . (Well, maybe not really lies in the sense of a deliberate concealing the truth, but un-truths nevertheless.)

Leisure is a luxury I can’t afford.
Really? For “leisure” you might use terms like “time off,” “free time,” “time for myself.” It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel some sense of guilt about taking this kind of time. It is part of our culture, often taught to us very effectively by school, church, and family. However, even a cursory examination of any spiritual system reveals an insistence upon times of rest, relaxation, and renewal. It’s human nature to need quiet time and to deny it is not only not very smart, it risks serious harm to human beings if denied for an extended period of time.

To get ahead, I must work more.
Time and again it has been demonstrated that more time does not necessarily equal better work. This is not to deny that at times one does have to work longer than usual. Things come up and you have to work late. The problem comes when working becomes “workaholism.” Just how often does “working late” happen? Take a moment to examine your own life in regard to the amount of time you work. Do you need to make adjustments?

Doing nothing is lazy.
This perhaps the most powerful lie.. I have written and taught extensively on this topic and invariably I encounter resistance. It is deeply rooted in the ethos of the industrial world, on many levels. It seems to militate against the pervasive values of hard work and getting ahead.

In fact, “doing-nothing-time” is profoundly essential to any successful life. Think of it as the space between the notes in a song; without these rests, the song becomes a screech or a wail. The rests give the song of life its meaning. This kind of time used to happen more naturally when human life was much more rural, simpler, and slower: the walk to work or school, waiting for the pot to boil or the radio to warm-up; filling your pen with ink. Those many “times between” have been eliminated from our fast-paced and mostly urban lives.

If we don’t intentionally put those times back into our lives, we loose our way, forget who we are, and end up wondering why our lives are not more satisfactory. A nap is a great way to replace our culturally stolen times of rest.

Growth is always good.
More is better than less. Fast is better than slow. You will recognize these statements as essential assumptions of the capitalistic system under which we live – and they’re not about to loose their power; nor am I expecting or even advocating their eradication. I do however, believe we must examine them critically and make whatever adjustments to them that will bring us health, peace, and wisdom. To follow them mindlessly is to invest in a culture that tends to be a stranger to the finer joys of human existence and bereft of peace. The vast majority of corporations do not encourage napping. Their error. Their loss.

Naps are only for children.
When does a human being stop needing a nap? Never. ‘Nuff said.

The challenge of our 21st century culture is to be awake enough, self-aware enough to recognize lies when we see them; strong enough to choose what is best for human thriving – no matter what any organization or establishment tells us – and generous enough to encourage others to do the same.

The Power of Reverie

Here’s another idea to keep in mind as you incorporate the healthy practice of napping into your life: Reverie. It will undoubtedly and perhaps deeply increase your creative powers. This is based on the fact that solutions, innovations, and inventiveness often come to us in reverie. (The same can be said of dreams.)

Reverie: The dictionary defines it as a daydream. It can be thought of as that state of pre-sleep; the half-awake, half-asleep state that is a part of the nap, when your “thoughts” or “images” come on their own, out of your conscious control. So often what comes up during those moments of reverie will be of very practical use for you. Here’s a real-life example:

Elias Howe is credited with the invention of the sewing machine. As he was working on his invention, he could not figure out how to get the needle to do what he wanted it to do. The family story records that he gave up and took a break – maybe a nap or staring out the window of his workshop – and as he did so, he imagined or dreamt that he was charged with creating a sewing machine for a savage king in a far country. He was unsuccessful and so found himself surrounded by the king’s warriors armed with spears. As he watched one of them come at him, he noticed that his spear had a hole in its tip. As he awoke, instantly he realized the solution to his problem. The sewing machine needle is pierced in the leading tip, not in the trailing end as a regular needle. His reverie had allowed him to take steps that his conscious mind could not.

Reverie is a rich country. Try it.

David Kundtz is an author based in Berkeley, California. Two of his best-selling books are Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going and Quiet Mind: One-Minute Retreats from a Busy World. His Web site is