Sitting and Stillness

I wrote an Amazon review quite a while ago and chanced upon it recently. The review is about a book called ‘Teach Us To Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search For Health and Healing’. It was a book I greatly enjoyed, though I also know it is not for everyone. There are, for example, many mentions of the word ‘prostate’.

In part of the book the author, Tim Parks, explores our need for words and the places that words do not reach. I liked that. There are indeed many wordless and beautiful places in this life…places of great wholeness that are beyond our judgments and analysis…ways of being that bring us to a deeper home.

Though I value some aspects of social media I am very glad that I was brought up before smart phones. The arrival of the morning’s post at our country rectory was exciting…a small occasion. If I’d had the Internet back then would I have spent as much time out in nature,rambling the fields? How beautiful the tiny waterfall in a nearby river looked. I gazed at its flowing, its twinkles in the light. Those were sweetly wordless times. Times of being and beauty.

Years later I did a month’s working retreat as an organic gardener in a silent Buddhist retreat centre. For a while it felt strange, this not talking. In the garden I sometimes chatted with squirrels, the occasional duck. At mealtimes there were many people in a big room. Who were they? Some of them looked very interesting, pretty or handsome, rather mystical. Had some of them intriguing careers? I wasn’t in a position to ask them. And, after a while, it began to feel very restful. There was no parading of personalities.

This not talking also meant that there were no teasing comments about the odd attire I’d found in the ‘Community Clothing Cupboard’, clothing seemingly left behind by others and sometimes for understandable reasons. Organic gardening can be a pretty mucky business and it was good to have alternative work-wear. Occasionally, when I sat down to eat, I discovered I’d forgotten that I’d put some slugs in a pocket. This was because slugs and snails were supposed to be humanely relocated some distance from the tasty vegetables.

At night I often listened to Ram Dass tapes borrowed from the centre’s library. How I chuckled to myself at his playfulness and jokes, but I was very grateful for his wisdom…

This is one of my favourite quotes:

‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.’ Rumi

This is the review I wrote about Tim Park’s book:

‘This book is written with rigorous honesty and sometimes a beautiful bewilderment. And to anyone who is tired of trite simplistic answers it is a kind of balm. It is partly a book about words and what we seek from them. And the places where we can leave words behind. There are also many sentences about pain and the prostate. This doesn’t sound particularly appealing. But the transformative journey Parks embarks upon is fascinating. The words by Will Self on the back of the jacket ring true. He writes: ‘In a world dominated by cheap self-revelation and quack self-help I suspect that ‘Teach Us To Sit Still’ may be the real thing. A work of genuine consolation that shows the way out of the dark wood in which everyone, at some time or another, will inevitably find themselves lost.’ The book is also darkly funny is many places. Thank you Tim Parks. It is a brave book. Gritty and often both stark and tender.’

Warm wishes and sparkles,

Grace x

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