A brief, spiritually minded book that offers practical wisdom on reducing stress through stillness.
The latest from Iyer (The Man Within My Head, 2012, etc.) can fit in a pocket and be read in one sitting. As a prolific journalist for Time magazine and a travel writer, the author experienced frequent exhilaration but also discovered that he “was racing around so much that I never had the chance to see where I was going, or to check whether I was truly happy. Indeed, hurrying around in search of contentment seemed a perfect way of ensuring I’d never be settled or content.” This book isn’t a meditation guide or a New-Age tract but rather a celebration of the age-old practice of sitting with no goal in mind and no destination in sight. He frames this collection of interrelated essays with the example of songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen, “my hero since boyhood,” who retreated into a monk’s remove and has returned to peak popularity and extensive, exhaustive touring, through his 70s, in three-hour concerts that “felt as if the whole spellbound crowd was witnessing something of the monastery, the art that stillness deepens.” Iyer offers plenty of suggestions for those inspired to go deeper into the practice, but the book and the act of reading it offer a prescriptive that is tough to deny: “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”
Rather than reading it quickly and filing it, readers will likely slow down to meet its pace and might continue carrying it around as a reminder.