“Don’t think, Tim. Do not think! Do not give yourself commands not to think! Silence!”
In this short delicious extract from his book Teach us to Sit Still, Parks is a very funny and very honest guide to the world of meditation. In response to serious health issues including chronic pain, he decides to learn to meditate, in a relatively extreme way, by attending a silent Vipassana retreat for multiple days.
He struggles with many things that will be familiar to meditators. His legs feel like they are on fire from the unfamiliar poses. He is enraged by catering trollies outside the meditation room. He is suspicious of some of the ideas promulgated and often tries, unsuccessfully, to suspend critical judgement: “I remembered something I had translated once from a book on pre-Vedic philosophy: ‘so as not to be hurt, before coming near the fire, the wise man wraps himself in the meters’. The arcane instruction had impressed, I remembered it, and I had a vague idea it might now be appropriate in some way, but it also sounded like something from Indiana Jones”.
Alongside the funnies there is a serious endeavour to learn something new and take a different approach to suffering, which makes for engaging reading. If you fancy giving mindfulness and meditation a go yourself, you can always try London teacher Tessa Watt’s excellent Mindfulness book.
This is part of a brand new series of extracts called Vintage Minis, out now for only £3.99 a pop. Read Nigella Lawson on Eating, Joseph Heller on Work and Roger Deakin on Swimming. Full list here, or see how many you can spot in the attached photo of our lovely shop window!