July 29, 2011 5:05 pm

Teach Us to Sit Still

Tim Parks discovers a more holistic idea of self through meditation

When Verona-based novelist Tim Parks experiences intense abdominal pain coupled with a need to pee eight times a night, he seeks medical advice. Yet possible prostate problems, not unusual in a 50-year-old man, are only part of the story; pre-cancerous cells are discovered in his bladder.

Although Italian and British medics suggest diagnoses, they fail to reduce his pain. Then, in Delhi, Parks consults an ayurvedic doctor and achieves his first genuine, self-induced pain relief by following a self-help relaxation guide. So begins a steady thawing of his “intense distrust” towards non-scientific solutions.

Parks’s experiments with meditation move from an intimate confession of eye-watering diagnostic detail towards an exploration of physical discipline and a more holistic idea of self. Littered with literary and cultural allusions, this memoir is engrossing and surprising as Parks struggles against ingrained scepticism in his testimony to the positive impact of meditation.

Teach Us to Sit Still, by Tim Parks, Vintage, RRP£7.99, 352 pages


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