The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Pico Iyer
New York, TED Books, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2014, pp. 74 (hbk) ISBN 978-1-4767-8472-4

This little gem of a book is perfect for a wide range of people on your holiday gift list.  The world traveller, the yogi, the busy/stressed parent, the overwhelmed executive – and Leonard Cohen fans everywhere – will appreciate The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.

Pico Iyer was born in Britain and currently splits his time between California and Japan. A renowned travel writer, Iyer’s work has been published in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times, among others. He has written a number of books including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and The Global Soul.

Although Iyer has spent his life, and indeed made his living, travelling the world, The Art of Stillness is not a recounting of these global adventures. Instead, it is a deeply thoughtful exploration of “going nowhere” – or sitting in stillness:

“At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness.”

A short 74 pages in length, Iyer intended for The Art of Stillness to be read in a single sitting but it is a book that you will return to again and again. It is beautifully written and lovely to read. Through sharing his own experiences, as well as those of others (Leonard Cohen, Mahatma Gandhi, Marcel Proust, and Emily Dickinson) Iyer speaks to the importance of the age-old practice of sitting in stillness:

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

I couldn’t agree more.