The Art of Stillness
Adventures in Going NowhereBook - 2014 | First TED Books hardcover edition.
Why might a lifelong traveler like Pico Iyer, who has journeyed from Easter Island to Ethiopia, Cuba to Kathmandu, think that sitting quietly in a room might be the ultimate adventure? Because in our madly accelerating world, our lives are crowded, chaotic and noisy. There's never been a greater need to slow down, tune out and give ourselves permission to be still.
In The Art of Stillness --a TED Books release--Iyer investigate the lives of people who have made a life seeking stillness: from Matthieu Ricard, a Frenchman with a PhD in molecular biology who left a promising scientific career to become a Tibetan monk, to revered singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who traded the pleasures of the senses for several years of living the near-silent life of meditation as a Zen monk. Iyer also draws on his own experiences as a travel writer to explore why advances in technology are making us more likely to retreat. He reflects that this is perhaps the reason why many people--even those with no religious commitment--seem to be turning to yoga, or meditation, or seeking silent retreats. These aren't New Age fads so much as ways to rediscover the wisdom of an earlier age. Growing trends like observing an "Internet Sabbath"--turning off online connections from Friday night to Monday morning--highlight how increasingly desperate many of us are to unplug and bring stillness into our lives.
The Art of Stillness paints a picture of why so many--from Marcel Proust to Mahatma Gandhi to Emily Dickinson--have found richness in stillness. Ultimately, Iyer shows that, in this age of constant movement and connectedness, perhaps staying in one place is a more exciting prospect, and a greater necessity than ever before.
In 2013, Pico Iyer gave a blockbuster TED Talk. This lyrical and inspiring book expands on a new idea, offering a way forward for all those feeling affected by the frenetic pace of our modern world.
From the critics
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You can go on vacation to Paris or Hawaii or New Orleans three months from now, and you'll have a tremendous time, I'm sure. But if you want to come back feeling new-alive and full of fresh hope and in love with the world-i think the place to visit may be Nowhere.
In an age of speed. I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
The point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.
But as soon as you do sit still, you find that it actually brings you closer to others, in both understanding and sympathy. It's the man who steps away from the world whose sleeve is wet with tears for it.
"I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.
"One of the strange laws of the contemplative life, is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until they somehow solve themselves. Or until life solves them for you."
"Some keep the sabbath by going to church Emily Dickson wrote...but I keep it by staying home.:"
..."to ignore many of the things that I would normally pay attention to and enjoy more of daily life instead."
"All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber."
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