“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.”
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.
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Verdict: An unexpected, delightful, lyrical book from a celebrated travel writer that powerfully advocates for a way of living that counters the frenetic design of our modern lives.