Teach Us to Sit Still: A Skeptic's Search for Health and Healing

Tim Parks. Rodale, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60961-158-3
One of the least exalted physical conditions imaginable prompts a profound journey of self-discovery in this astringent medical memoir. In middle age, novelist Parks (Destiny) came down with excruciating chronic pelvic cramps and urinary difficulties that forced him to relieve himself six times a night. Instead of the prostate surgery his doctors recommended, he embarked on a self-help regimen of breathing exercises and Buddhist meditation, which, despite his contempt for all religious dogmas—especially the New Age variety—mysteriously eased his ailments. Even more startling was the psychological effect, as he started to question his ambition and busyness, his writing vocation, and the whole language-driven divide between mind and body. Like a latter-day Montaigne, Parks writes in an expansive, essayistic style that uses the pangs and humiliations of physical reality as a starting point for excursions into philosophy and literary criticism; his prose is mordantly funny, self-conscious but never self-pitying, worldly but introspective, attuned to the needs of a soul that he considers thoroughly material and mortal. The result is an absorbing, at times inspiring, narrative of spiritual growth. Photos. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
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