Here’s the routine: 5am wakeup bell, zazen, kinhin, zazen, service, cleanup, breakfast, NAP! The nap can be up to twenty minutes, or as few as seven or ten if I’m in a rush. But that’s all—no longer, or else I feel groggy and am back to square one. When the alarm goes off I bounce out of bed and grab a shower and a coffee. I feel fresh and clear, and the burst of energy can motor me through the rest my day.
I think the trick is to totally commit to the nap. No feeble half-measures. I take off my clothes, arrange my bed, take a sip of water, set the alarm. I make sure my feet are warm. The moment when I climb in and hug my pillow is pure luxury. My skin gently tingles and my limbs relax. There is none of that agitated wakefulness I sometimes suffer when I go to bed at night. Naptime feels delicious, and, after a 5am start, well-deserved.
Knowing that I only have a few minutes to nap, there is no time for me to fool around. If I begin to fantasize or ruminate or plan, I yank my mind back to the task at hand—sleep. I am gentle but firm: down, mind, down— now! And down I go. I almost always plummet straight into deep sleep. I believe it is that drop—the sensation of complete release—that really matters. I might only sleep for thirty seconds before my alarm or a car horn wakes me up, but that’s enough. It doesn’t matter how long I sleep. What matters is that I have that one moment of surrender, when body and mind fall away and I swing like a baby in a cradle. That’s the juice.
The power-nap is conducive to pleasant little micro-dreams. The other day I fell into dreaming that I was petting a shaggy dog. But because the duration is so short, dreams don’t develop into narrative. They exist as pure sensation and I am not jarred or left hanging by their abrupt end.
I must confess that I used to be kind of a snob about napping. I thought naps were just for toddlers and old people. Well, I’ve totally come around now—or maybe i’m just getting to be an old person. Not sure. In any case, I have become a nap evangelist. Napping is my new most favorite thing.