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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781407063997
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Teach Us to Sit Still

A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing

An inspiring and entertaining true story of a sceptic's journey into the world of meditation and alternative health.

'Just when the medical profession had given up on me and I on it, just when I seemed to be walled up in a life sentence of chronic pain, someone proposed a bizarre way out: sit still, they said, and breathe...'

TEACH US TO SIT STILL is the visceral, thought-provoking and improbably entertaining story of Tim Parks' quest to overcome ill health. Bedevilled by a crippling condition which nobody could explain or relieve, he confronts hard truths about the relationship between the mind and the body, the hectic modern world and his life as a writer.

Following a fruitless journey through the conventional medical system he finds solace in an improbable prescription of breathing exercises that eventually leads him to take up meditation. This was the very last place Parks expected or wanted to find answers; anything New Age simply wasn't his scene. Meantime, he is drawn to consider the effects of illness on the work of other writers, the role of religions in shaping our sense of self, and the influence of sport and art in our attitudes to health and well-being.

Most of us will fall ill at some point; few will describe that journey with the same verve, insight and radiant intelligence as Tim Parks.

Captivating and inspiring, TEACH US TO SIT STILL is an intensely personal - and brutally honest - story for our times.

  • Pub date: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781407063997
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the Author

Tim Parks

Born in Manchester, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. He lives in Milan.

He is the acclaimed author of novels, non-fiction and essays, including Europa, In Extremis, A Season with Verona, Teach Us to Sit Still and Italian Ways. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the John Florio Prize and the Italo Calvino Prize.

Also by Tim Parks

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Praise for Teach Us to Sit Still

“A movingly honest book that is about a great deal more than breathing and meditation”

Susan Hill, The Lady

“A lovely, well-told story... Parks is a conscientious and expert companion whom it is hard not to like”

William Leith, Observer

“Tim Park's account of curing his ill health through meditation is intensely engaging.”

John Carey, The Sunday Times

“Tim Park's digressive memoir of his debilitating but ultimately life-affirming struggle with pelvic pain made me leak a few tears, guffaw a lot, and besides quietly instructing me in some fresh perspectives... (it) ultimately taught me an eminently practical lesson about coping with age and mortality. Must I utter the blurbish cliché? Why the hell not: Teach us to Sit Still made me laugh; it made me cry; and it made me seriously think about taking up Vispassana meditation.”

Will Self, The Times

“[Parks} writes with forensic precision about all he experiences, physically and mentally... Even those free of illness will find Parks's journey gives us much to ponder about the effects of modern living.”

Ben Felsenburg, Metro

“Parks writes wonderfully well about his body as he is reluctantly reconciled to its existence alongside his mind.' '...All the more moving for avoiding new age fakery. Anyone plagued by chronic aches and pains will find much to cheer them in this most unusual and engaging book.”

Jane Housham, Express

“Parks is an excellent writer, capable of writing wittily and with great beauty about the near indefinable”

Seven, Sunday Telegraph

“Funny, painful and quietly profound book”

Doug Johnstone, Scotsman

“Beautifully written and painfully honest...a fascinating, perceptive and rewarding read”

The Big Issue

“Teach Us to Sit Still is a small triumph of narrative artistry, luxuriantly written and full of bone-dry humour. I'd recommend it to any man over 45 who frets incessantly about his health - which is to say, any man over 45.”

Marcus Berkmann, The Spectator

“This is a book about a redemptive conquest of the disbelieving self. There surely hasn't been a more attractive portrait of male obsession since Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch.”

Jasper Rees, Mail on Sunday

“This is a crazy, wince-inducing, uplifting book ... Parks has done a service to the many people who would never look at a cheesy self-help book or try anything with a whiff of spirituality about it”

Financial Times

“A maverick book”

Richard Mabey, Guardian Summer Reading

“A sophisticated, literary and colourful book”

Daily Telegraph

“A wonderful, paradoxical book - one that wouldn't exist if Parks's spiritual journey were complete. In that sense, his loss is our gain”

The Guardian

“Often moving and occasionally hilarious...it articulates inner processes that are notoriously resistant to word. Parks really lets his readers feel what it is to let go”

Dan Gunn, Times Literary Supplement

“It is a lovely, well told story of a coming together of a mind and a body”

Valeria Lawlor, Irish Catholic

“a lucid, literary and funny exploration of the language of illness”

The Times

“The story of Tim Parks' journey back to health is well told and frequently very funny”

William Palmer, Literary Review

“Funny and inspiring”

Esther Freud, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

“A writer of high intelligence, when writing about the personal, cannot help touching the universal.”

Kate Saunders, The Times, Christmas round up

“His journey is inward as well as outward, and involves a brutally honest, darkly comic self-examination of his life and character, written with Parks' usual stylistic verve.”

David Lodge, Guardian, Christmas round up

“An internal, rather than geographical shift with his gripping account of how he reinvented his lifestyle in order to combat a debilitating and unexplained illness”

Mariella Frostrup, Psychologies

“You can just see it - the tests, the diagnosis, the poignant memories. But it turns out the problem is not as serious as Parks thought. He's been sitting at a desk, typing, for decases. He's kisy as tense and anxious, physically and mentally. The thing is: how do you find a cure for that?”

Evening Standard

“This is one of the most interesting and revealing testaments you will ever get from a writer. From one of Parks's calibre, it is remarkable, and I sometimes found myself wondering if he had given too much of himself away. But if he has, then we should just be grateful for his generosity. Peace be unto him'”

Saturday Guardian

“You do not need to sign up to a monotheistic dogma or believe in dream - catchers to have ['spiritual' experiences], he argues. Parks's book is a fascinating testimony to that assertion'”

The Times

“It's a brilliant, brilliant book, funny, sharply intelligent, at times pleasingly grumpy, at others comfortably erudite, often all four at once'”

Daily Mail

“Reading this book is like being privy to the case files of a patient undergoing psychoanalysis. The material is exploratory, an extended period of musing. It invites us to make our own individual reflections. More food for thought than a manual on better living. It's also more engaging than it sounds, thanks to a good dose of detached humour”


“Sharing his humbling and elevating story he thoughtfully explains how he found solace in the alternative, through breathing and meditation. A personal and spiritual journey.”

Charlotte Vowden, Daily Express

“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”

James Urquhart, Financial Times

“Parks's discoveries will fascinate not only writers but all citizens of an information age steeped in and propelled by language.”

New Yorker

“A sophisticated, literary and colourful memoir of Parks's battle with chronic illness, and how he moved beyond conventional medicine to find relief in vipassana, a form of Buddhist meditation.”

Daily Telegraph

“Surprising, frequently funny”


“Teach Us To Sit Still is mind-blowingly good”

Viv Groskop, Red Magazine

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