Teach Us to Sit Still: A Skeptic's Search for Health and Healing
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Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Parks
"Riveting . . . Parks' discoveries will fascinate not only writers but all citizens of an information age steeped in and propelled by language."
―The New Yorker
"[Tim Parks'] prose is mordantly funny, self-conscious but never self-pitying, worldly but introspective, attuned to the needs of a soul that he considers thoroughly material and mortal. The result is an absorbing, at times inspiring, narrative of spiritual growth."
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
myself: ‘Or are you telling me it’s entirely psychosomatic?’ A slow smile spread across the doctor’s face. ‘That’s not a word we have much use for, Mr Parks.’ I looked at him. ‘You only say psychosomatic,’ his wife explained, ‘if you think that body and mind are ever separate.’ It was a fair point. ‘Diet then,’ I said. ‘Could it have to do with diet?’ The doctor laughed openly now. But when I told him what I was eating he grew more reflective. ‘It is difficult without getting to know you
chia-ve!’ Find the key. Or an indistinct ‘Maw maw maw.’ The neighbours claim they know nothing about it. Occasionally I had heard this voice in the middle of the night. It starts very abruptly, like those robotic instructions that surprise you in elevators or Japanese cars, repeats its six or seven muffled words, and stops. Now I began to hear it more often. Sleepless, I tried to make out what the voice said. The kids had got it wrong. They were imagining what they heard. We all make up things
breath, this closing oneself in one’s body, not to sleep or snooze, but to pay attention. Attention to what? Eyes closed, I felt disoriented. There was an itch at the corner of my mouth and I scratched it. You’re not supposed to move, I remembered. Your hands must be still. But where? Wise had spoken of them being spread out, palms up, but this felt weird. Anyway, I was on my side of the bed, so one arm hung over the edge. I put them side by side on my abdomen. Now there was an itch at the
couldn’t wait. My body did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, as the days passed, it seemed happier and happier with the chamomile. Irritated, I took encouragement from the thought that if the whiskey hadn’t agreed with my body as much as I had supposed, there might soon be some improvement in the pain. Not so. The pains stayed exactly where they were, or rather moved around exactly as they had previously, and when, after a month or so, I terminated the experiment and poured myself a very
or your attention, as it were beside these pains, if you just sat together with them and let them be, not reacting or wishing them away, they did in the end subside. Likewise the thoughts: if you let them bubble up without judging them, or engaging them in any way, they gradually fizzled out. What’s more, you felt that a certain serenity had been acquired in this process, an understanding that much of the pain we feel comes from our reaction to pain, much of our agitation from our excitement with