The Art Of Stillness Book Summary By Pico Iyer

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The Art of Stillness is a book that shows how taking time to slow down and welcome moments of quiet can add value to our lives.

Written by Pico Iyer, a renowned travel writer, it reflects on his journey as well as the journeys of many writers who've sought stillness.

The book not only explores their experiences, but also encourages readers to find stillness in the midst of chaos and gain perspective from it.

Throughout the pages, Iyer shares highlights from some of his most profound trips as well as stories from inspirational figures like Gandhi and Thoreau - all tied together with wisdom about finding stillness in life.

It's an insightful read for anyone looking for more balance and inner peace through simple yet powerful meditations.

The Art Of Stillness Book

Book Name: The Art of Stillness (Adventures in Going Nowhere)

Author(s): Pico Iyer

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Categories: Mindfulness & Happiness

Author Bio

Pico Iyer is an acclaimed essayist and novelist, renowned for his travel writing.

He's written widely for Time magazine and is a frequent TED speaker.

He has also contributed to the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, Harper's, Granta, and more than 200 other newspapers and magazines around the world.

His latest work is The Art of Stillness: How to be a Pilgrim in a World of Speed which looks into living more intentionally in our hyper-paced digital age.

Why Taking Time Out To Find Stillness Is More Important Now Than Ever

Find Stillness

In her book, The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer helps readers understand the importance of moments of stillness in this modern age of a constant go-go-go lifestyle.

Pico explains that if we don’t stop and reflect once in a while, it can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up with our own lives.

That’s why taking a moment for stillness can be so important – not only does it encourage reflection but it also helps us gain perspective on our lives.

Pico examines how famous figures such as Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson, and Matthieu Ricard have each found their own ways to embrace stillness.

For example, Cohen was an energetic pop singer turned Zen monk who believed that all life is interconnected – which gives greater value to every single moment experienced through conscious awareness and gentleness towards self and others.

By exploring these stories, Pico encourages us to use times of stillness to cultivate the present moment – helping us recall memories and derive valuable insights from them.

As such, she suggests dedicating each week to experimenting with different habits such as a Secular Sabbath or starting a daily meditation practice to help you find balance and inner peace.

Leonard Cohen’S Trade Of Wanderlust For Monastic Life And Pico Iyer’S Search For Happiness: A Tale Of Two Journeys

Sitting still can help us gain perspective on our lives and how we’re living them.

This is something that Pico Iyer experienced when he visited his boyhood hero, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, in 1998.

At the time, Cohen had left his fame behind to don monastic robes and stay at a Zen monastery in the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles.

His name was now Jikan – meaning silence between two thoughts – and he was dedicating himself to meditation and silence.

Through this stillness, Cohen was confronting the terror and doubt that plagued him throughout life.

He pondered what activities he could indulge in instead: adopting a new partner; taking drugs or drinking expensive wine?

But he ultimately realized that stillness provided him with an “luxurious and sumptuous response” to the uncertainty of existence.

It gave him space to explore his own inner depths, which inspired new songs like “I needed so much to have nothing to touch / I’ve always been greedy that way”.

This resonated profoundly with Iyer as well.

After years of writing for Time magazine and traveling around the world, he decided it wasn’t enough for real fulfillment and chose to take some time away from it all by moving to Kyoto, Japan for a year.

That helped him realize what really mattered.

Stillness helps us strip away society‘s expectations of what we should be doing with our lives, so we can focus on what really matters: who do we want to become? What relationships are important? How can create meaning during our lifetime? Sitting still helps us regain perspective on these questions – allowing ourselves the opportunity for personal growth and true fulfillment.

The Little Things In Life Matter Most When You Learn To Go ‘Nowhere’

When we turn away from worldly distractions, for even a brief moment, our capacity to both find and appreciate life is rediscovered.

Just ask Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness.

When he suddenly needed to step away from the busyness of his life, he sought refuge in Kyoto as a “pseudo retiree.” Little did he know that through this experience of “going Nowhere,” he would come alive with new purpose and passion for life.

One way to explain why going Nowhere is an effective practice is by turning within.

When you choose to sit still long enough to appreciate the inner workings of your mind, the big picture starts to become clearer.

Henry David Thoreau puts it best: “It matters not where or how far you travel- the farther commonly the worse- but how alive you are.”

And as it turns out, Going Nowhere doesn’t necessarily entail physical relocation either- vacationing can be just another way to add mental chaos if it isn’t done with thoughtfully.

It was during his ascetic period at a Benedictine retreat house that Iyer gained fresh insight into his own passions and a newfound appreciation for simplicity in living.

By going Nowhere – away from distraction – Iyer was able to connect deeply with himself and rediscover his passion for life and the world around him.

How Stillness Empowers Our Writing And Transforms Our Lives

Transforms Our Lives

Marcel Proust and Matthieu Ricard both embarked on one of the greatest journeys of their lives when they turned inward.

For Proust, stillness enabled him to shape the main idea in his seven-volume novel Remembrance of Things Past – that a fleeting moment can become something much larger and more permanent in our minds through self-analysis.

Ricard’s journey of exploration was also rooted in stillness.

The son of famous French intellectual Jean Francois Revel, he left a promising scientific career to move to Nepal when he was 26 where he embraced Buddhism and became an attendant of spiritual master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

His dialogue with his scientist father about this life-changing decision resulted in the successful book The Monk and the Philosopher.

Romanticizing these inner voyages, Iyer sought out both Proust and Ricard – his two constant companions from Japan who had once shared with him how sitting still not only enables writers to capture impressions of the world but also offers a way “to delve into ourselves more deeply and achieve insight”.

Both discovered that seeking solitude affords one opportunities to reflect upon their experiences within and without until eventually, as Buddhists say, the blue sky appears again.

The Paradox Of Intense Freedom: How Stillness Can Unlock Passion And Pain

Stillness is hard work, even for those like Emily Dickinson and Trappist monk Thomas Merton who devoted their lives to it.

Despite her renowned passion and talent when it comes to writing poetry, Dickinson wrote about death beckoning to her as well as being haunted by her own mind.

Similarly, Merton realized that stillness isn’t a sure path to happiness – even after dedicating his life to it.

Iyer learned this firsthand when he visited the monastery where Merton had lived for more than two decades.

He was given a tour of the hermitage where Merton spent his last two years, which included randomly picking one of Merton’s journals.

To Iyer’s surprise, the passage was about an encounter with a 20-year-old student nurse which resulted in him unexpectedly falling in love with her – despite having taken a vow of chastity and solitude 25 years before.

This experience serves as evidence that stillness is hard work for even those who choose to devote their lives to it – feelings of beauty and terror abound, along with temptations both external and internal.

It’s proof that no matter how much we may want ourselves behind ourselves concealed, we can never fully avoid facing our inner selves – or “still volcanoes,” as Dickinson put it.

The Healing Power Of Going Nowhere: How Slowing Down Helps Us Find Clarity And Strength

In an increasingly complicated and technology-infused world, it’s essential to practice stillness in order to maintain clarity and focus.

After all, if our minds are constantly spinning and racing with the constant inputs of the modern world, how can we possibly make meaningful decisions?

This is a topic that wise people have considered for centuries — Blaise Pascal remarked on its importance when he said “All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot stay quietly in their chamber.”

At Natures Nutrition it’s clear that taking some time out of your day is generally a good idea.

Many tech workers in Silicon Valley take Sundays off from regular internet usage – setting aside this time allows them to step back and consider the bigger picture.

Emma, a Stanford researcher friend of the author, also studied ways that stillness could help treat PTSD.

For one program she put together a group of masculine Midwestern vets who weren’t keen on learning about something they labeled “hippie dipshit” — but after participating in the weeklong yoga-based breathing program their stress, anxiety and respiration rate had all decreased, while those who didn’t experience any improvement.

Andrew, Emma’s husband and a marine observed that after practicing sitting still during his own 40 day program he felt happier and better able to enjoy his daily life while selecting potential threats better at work.

It’s clear then – no matter how much things advance or evolve around us – The more complicated our world becomes; the more important it is to practice stillness.

This way we can be free from distraction so we can focus on what truly matters.

How Slowing Down Can Bring Us Clarity And Connection

Clarity And Connection

The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer has a lot to say about integrating stillness into our lives.

He believes that everyone can benefit from taking some time in their day for rest and reflection, no matter how busy their life may be.

Iyer notes that it takes courage to introduce stillness into your life, and it is not easy.

It’s easier to give up meat, wine, or sex than to step away from our phones and the never-ending demand for productivity from others around us.

Yet when we finally manage to carve out space for ourselves, the results are better productivity and happiness.

Abraham Joshua Heschel referred to the Sabbath as “a cathedral in time rather than in space” and Iyer calls this concept of embracing periods of rest “Secular Sabbath”.

Letting our mind roam without pressure or expectation can lead us to unexpected creativity – an insight or idea could come right at that moment when we least expect it – moments when we put down the clock and take the break anyway even though it might feel selfish or like something only priviliged people do.

Doing so gives us a certain clarity that brings us closer to people around us and enables us to cope with challenges better.

To prove his point, Iyer looks back at Leonard Cohen’s success with his slow, solemn songs album Old Ideas in 2012.

Despite being 77-years-old then and living far from his monastery days, people were still drawn towards the spiritual tenderness present in his music – drawn towards something real beyond distraction.

Overall, everyone can integrate some stillness into their lives regardless of how crowded their schedule might be – all we need is just a few minutes out of the day set aside for ourselves as moments where all you have to do is pay attention and sit still.

Wrap Up

The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer offers a powerful message: that the power of stillness is an essential part of finding our own inner wisdom.

Through reading the stories of famous individuals who have gone on quests for stillness, we can see how spending time in solitude and contemplation brings valuable insights, direction, and energy to our lives.

The takeaway from this book is that even just a few minutes of quiet contemplation every day can make a big difference.

Through stillness, we can better understand ourselves and get back in touch with what matters most.

By clearing away the noise inside our heads and taking time to tune into ourselves, we can access inner wisdom and gain clarity about our decisions and what will truly bring us joy.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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