Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing

Tim Parks

Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing

This is the story of Tim Parks' quest to overcome ill health. Bedevilled by a crippling condition which nobody could explain or relieve, he confronts hard truths about the relationship between the mind and the body, the hectic modern world and his life as a writer. Following a fruitless journey through the conventional medical system he finds solace in an improbable prescription of breathing exercises that eventually leads him to take up meditation. This was the very last place Parks expected or wanted to find answers; anything New Age simply wasn't his scene. Meantime, he is drawn to consider the effects of illness on the work of other writers, the role of religions in shaping our sense of self, and the influence of sport and art in our attitudes to health and well-being. 4.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Health & Medical
Format Paperback
Pages 352
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication July 2010
ISBN 978-1846553998
Publisher Harvill Secker
 

This is the story of Tim Parks' quest to overcome ill health. Bedevilled by a crippling condition which nobody could explain or relieve, he confronts hard truths about the relationship between the mind and the body, the hectic modern world and his life as a writer. Following a fruitless journey through the conventional medical system he finds solace in an improbable prescription of breathing exercises that eventually leads him to take up meditation. This was the very last place Parks expected or wanted to find answers; anything New Age simply wasn't his scene. Meantime, he is drawn to consider the effects of illness on the work of other writers, the role of religions in shaping our sense of self, and the influence of sport and art in our attitudes to health and well-being.

Reviews

The Spectator

Marcus Berkmann

...only a writer so in love with words could tell a story like this so engagingly. Teach Us To Sit Still is a small triumph of narrative artistry, luxuriantly written and full of bone-dry humour. I’d recommend it to any man over 45 who frets incessantly about his health — which is to say, any man over 45.

10/07/2010

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The Times

Will Self

Do I have to say this? Yes, I suppose I ought: Tim Parks’s digressive memoir of his debilitating but ultimately life-affirming struggle with pelvic pain made me leak a few tears, guffaw a lot, and besides quietly instructing me in some fresh perspectives — on such matters as Samuel Beckett and Buddhism (and that’s only the Bs) — ultimately taught me an eminently practical lesson about coping with age and mortality. Must I utter the blurbish cliché? Why the hell not: Teach us to Sit Still made me laugh; it made me cry; and it made me seriously think about taking up Vipassana meditation.

26/06/2010

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The Guardian

Stuart Jeffries

The book's existence is improbable. Parks, a Booker-shortlisted novelist and iconoclastic translator (try his rendering of Roberto Calasso's book of pre-Vedic myth, Ka, to realise how iconoclastic), is as wobbly about the whole urinary tract confessional sub-genre as this reader. "I had no desire to tell anyone about my malady, let alone write about it," he reveals in the foreword... [A] wonderful, paradoxical book

03/07/2010

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The Observer

William Leith

...a lovely, well-told story, an investigation into the relationship between mind and body, and a joy to read for anyone with hypochondriac tendencies.

20/06/2010

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The Daily Telegraph

John Preston

...a good many readers may well have decided they would much rather boil their own heads in oil than read this book. Parks, however, is an excellent writer, capable of writing wittily and with great beauty about the near-indefinable… One of the virtues of Teach Us to Sit Still is that there is nothing glib about it.

11/07/2010

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

...this account of his mind and body in combat is as intense as anything in his novels... Parks’s puzzlement, anger and discomfort [at the Buddhist retreat] are sharply conveyed. But when he transcends these, and is reunited with his body, his images of ­himself catching fire, or of body parts singing, buzzing and dancing, look like stand-ins for the inexpressible. He is clearer when he uses thought and language to unzip his past, mercilessly exposing his own selfishness.

27/06/2010

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The Daily Express

Jane Housham

Parks writes wonderfully well about his body as he is reluctantly reconciled to its existence alongside his mind… Anyone plagued by chronic aches and pains will find much to cheer them in this most unusual and engaging book.

09/07/2010

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