TED Book: The Art of Stillness
This book isn't a meditation guide or a New-Age tract but rather a celebration of the age-old practice of sitting with no goal in mind... Readers will likely slow down to meet its pace and might continue carrying it around as a reminder.— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
by Pico Iyer
An unexpected truth from a celebrated travel writer: Stillness just might be the ultimate adventure. Pico Iyer reveals how stillness can act as a creative catalyst, and advocates for a way of living that counters the frenetic design of our modern lives.
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About the book
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?
In The Art of Stillness, Iyer investigate the lives of people who have made a life seeking stillness: from Matthieu Ricard, a Frenchman with a Ph.D. 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 who chooses to spend most of his time in rural Japan — 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" every week — 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 Ghandi 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.
At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
Press and reviews
"[A] beautiful little book."
— Los Angeles Review of Books
“Plunging effortlessly beneath platitudes, this wafer-thin volume reminds us of what might just be the greatest paradox of travel — after all our road running, after all our flights of fancy to the farthest corners of the globe, after all our touring, our seeking and questing, perhaps, just perhaps, fellow travelers, there really is no place like home.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“A bustling paean to the stationary life…Iyer’s argument is an engaging amalgam of memoir, reportage, and literary essay…Iyer uses a fluid blend of argument and anecdote to make a persuasive and eloquent case that contemplating internal landscapes can be just as rich an experience as traveling through external ones. The fact that he has traveled to some of the world’s most obscure corners only strengthens his credibility as a defender of stillness.”
— The Boston Globe
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Listen to Pico Iyer On Being
About the author
Pico Iyer, a British born essayist and novelist, has an entirely singular sensibility. His various books are linked by his interest in cultural crossroads and the values that transcend boundaries. He has established himself as major presence in culture life of Japan, where he is based, and in the United States, (where he lives during part of the year) Britain (where he was educated), and India where his family traces its roots. An Oxford graduate, he taught at Harvard and is one of few writers whose work, like his interests, transcend cultures.