Mon, 15 Sep 2014
Learning to Sit Still

I read a very good short article by the author Tim Parks online in The Guardian the other day. It takes about 5 minutes to read, and is well worth the time. Have a look, it's funny as well :

This is more than medicine.

Parks is an atheist and a sceptic and as an author he lives with words, "in his head" (as he says). He also believes in the rational fruits of science and the scientific method, thinks too much perhaps, maybe the classic over-thinking. He also has a serious problem with chronic pain in his "pelvic floor", something that had been plaguing him for years. In the end, medical science seemed to be doing nothing for him, however much he tried and the diagnosis for his chronic pain seemingly the null result: they can't find anything wrong.

Approaching despair, a serendipitous discovery led him to try healing himself with a relaxation technique (showing some surprising promise), which in turn led him to massage (shiatzu), finally leading him to try meditation. Parks doesn't believe in any "new age", or spirituality, in fact he's dismissive of it all. But by the end of his journey, he's quite a changed person.

His book is called Teach Us To Sit Still and I bought it on the strength of the article.

It really is one of the best and (in the end) most profound books I've read, entertaining as well as philosophical. People will wince (especially men) at some of the medical descriptions (with pictures unfortunately), but it's so well written, and funny, that you keep turning the pages. As becomes fairly plain in the book, Park's seems to "tussle" with himself, a far from relaxed man. The book is his argument with himself as he discovers what it is to relax and "let go".

I've been sitting, trying to do a daily meditation since the start of the year. I've read about the benefits of doing mindfulness meditation but a book like this is fantastic in showing the journey someone might take when doing the practice. As Tim Parks shows, it can be life-changing.

The book is highly rated on Amazon, with a lot of people describing how good a read it is. I completely agree.