Tim Parks: Teach Us to Sit Still



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E to Tim Parks engaging style is improbably a page turner I d previously ead three Tim Parks non fiction books Italian Neighbours An Englishman in Verona An Italian Education and A Season with Verona Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion National Character and Goals and eally enjoyed them all Tim Parks is a good writer with the knack of making the everyday absorbing and in the case of this book making philosophy the tyranny of language and self enuiry all interesting and accessibleThis book is beautifully written well observed and accessible I felt privileged to share in Tim s inner most thoughts as he makes his journey from unwell sceptic to a healthier life characterised by open minded acceptance He gains a emarkable wisdom on his journey to self discovery Whilst I ealise that may sound like airy fairy nonsense it eally isn t it s actually very eadable and profound with a universal message The perfect book for sceptics because Tim Parks was one and is only prompted to fully explore his ongoing poor health when he is told he must have urgent surgeryMy only eal complaint was that this book was over too uickly45 I think this is a great book insightful well written important It s the personal story or testimony of a writer brought up in England living in Italy working as a translator teacher essayist and novelist He s immersed in language In middle age he gradually develops problems with urination and increasing pain but medical investigations of his prostate and bladder show nothing that eally accounts for his symptoms Like many people with chronic pelvic pain and no easy answers from the medics he becomes increasingly introspective demoralised and socially withdrawn He suffers is increasingly desperate but can t find a way out This is the story of how he found a formulation of what was wrong with him chronic pelvic muscle 35 Starting in his forties Parks was plagued by urinary problems and abdominal pain Each night he had to get up five or six times to urinate and when he didn t have fiery pangs shooting through his pelvic area he had a dull ache Doctors assessed his prostate and bladder in tests that seemed like torture sessions but ultimately found nothing wrong While he was elieved that his worst fears of cancer were allayed he was left with a dilemma cons. Meditation This is however not your average self help book or conversion story; instead it is a efreshingly honest and profoundly moving introspection of one writer and his uest to overcome the inner battle between mind and body A evelatory ead with delightful cultural and literary eferences.

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If you came to this book because you want to know about meditation you came to the wrong place parks describes his very personal process of dealing with his physical and mental suffering by e learning how to breath and pay attention to the here and now he ejects the concepts behind this form of meditation buddhism and is building his own eclectic method just like so many other people are for me the book was entertaining because it tells about the specific difficulties people that are somehow intellectual writers scholars have when faced with something like insigt meditation and the emptying of the mind still looking for the narrative still living in the future of acomplishment parks has some eally good emarks on bodyillnesshealth and is illustrating these points with literary examples this book is also about his process of creating writing and translating something I always like to ead about even though I haven t ead any novels by parks It helps if you are male and have some experience with your prostate to enjoy this book but it is not euired to understand his pain This is probably 2 and half stars I should start by saying how I came across this book I eferred a patient of mine to a very specialist pain clinic as her life had completely succumbed to pain vomiting and immobility and we as her doctors could offer no solutions At the point of being discharged a psychiatrist who had met with her ecommended she ead this and out of nosiness I thought I d give it a go too Its started very well I enjoyed the first 50% Parks paints a startling picture of his frustration and angst at finding no answers I enjoyed his narrative largely accepting that his writing style isn t one that would normally draw me in but the content was interesting But I felt that between 50 75% of the way through it completely lost focus I got very tired of his continual literary eferences and struggled to engage with it I don t feel at the end of it I eally connected with the end of his journey Disappointedly I d hoped this might be something I could ecommend to some of my many patients with medically unexplained symptoms but I m not sure people will find any solace in such a dense ead that eally falls short of keep the eader engaged A tale of extreme navel gazing and introspection which du. How have the modern world technology and our addiction to information changed who we are What effect does it have on our elationships minds and bodies What can the simple act of sitting still teach us about ourselves When Tim Parks fails to find a cause for his crippling chronic pain he turns to.

Tant unexplained discomfort and no medical strategy for treating itWhen conventional medicine failed him Parks asked himself probing uestions Had he in some way brought this pain on himself through his estless uptight and pessimistic ways Had he ever made peace with his minister father s evangelical Christianity after leaving it for a life based on eason Was his obsession with transmuting experience into words keeping him from living authentically During a translation conference in Delhi he consulted an ayurvedic doctor on a whim and heard words that haunted him This is a problem you will never get over Mr Parks until you confront the profound contradiction in your character The good news is some things helped One was the book A Headache in the Pelvis which teaches a paradoxical elaxation techniue that Parks used for up to an hour a day lying on a yoga mat in his study Another was exercise especially unning and kayaking a way of challenging himself and seeking thrills in a controlled manner He also started shiatsu therapy And finally Vipassana meditation etreats helped him shift his focus off the mind s experience of pain and onto bodily wholeness Vipassana is all about seeing things as they eally are so the etreats were for him a showdown with this tangled self and a chance to face the inevitability of death Considering he couldn t take notes at the time I was impressed by the level of detail with which Parks describes his breakthroughs during meditationThough I was uneasy eading about a middle aged man s plumbing issues and didn t always follow the author on his digressions into literary history Coleridge et al I found this to be an absorbing and surprising uest narrative If not with the particulars I could sympathize with the broader strokes of Parks s self interrogation He wonders whether sitting at a desk tense and with poor posture and wandering around with eyes on the ground and mind on knots of words for years contributed to his medical crisis Borrowing the title phrase from TS Eliot he s charted an unlikely journey towards mindfulness in a thorough bracingly honest and diverting book that won t put off those suspicious of New Age woo wooReviewed as part of the official Wellcome Book Prize 10th anniversary blog tour Originally published on my blog Bookish Bec. Teach us to Sit Still by Booker shortlisted author Tim Parks examines how the philosophy of 'sit still elax and stop worrying' can be profoundly life altering‘ Teach us to Sit Still made me laugh; it made me cry; and it made me seriously think about taking up Vispassana meditation’ The Time.

Born in Manchester in 1954 Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard In 1981 he moved to Italy where he has lived ever since raising a family of three children He has written fourteen novels including Europa shortlisted for the Booker prize Destiny Cleaver and most recently In ExtremisDuring the nineties he wrote two personal and highly popular accounts of his lif