Teach Us To Sit Still

A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing


“A searingly honest, viscerally vivid, darkly comic self-examination of the connections between writing, personality and health. Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to stop.”


“In a world dominated by cheap self-revelation and quack self-help, I suspect that Teach us to Sit Still may be the real thing: a work of genuine consolation that shows the way out of the dark wood of middle age in which everyone, at some time or another, will inevitably find themselves lost.”

Will Self, The Times

“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. I sat still. I breathed. It seemed a tedious exercise at first, rather painful, not immediately effective. Eventually it proved so exciting, so transforming, physically and mentally, that I began to think my illness had been a stroke of luck.”

This is a book about the last four or five difficult but exciting years, the onset of an unpleasant and chronic health condition, a medical odyssey, a growing sense of how deeply what was happening was integrated with every aspect of my life and psyche. And then, rather wonderfully, the key that turned the lock to get me out of gaol.


Here are a few endorsements:

Tim Parks has written an intensely personal response to a confrontation with that most dreaded of terrors: the indications of a potentially fatal medical condition. Parks gives a clear-sighted, thoughtful and strangely moving account of his own experiences, and brings to them an uncommon blend of wit, lightly-worn scholarship, and heartbreaking candour. A remarkable book.


A mystery story written with extraordinary nerve and eloquence, Teach us To Sit Still traces the contradictions in the author’s character and his attempt to bring body and mind together and escape from a seriously debilitating condition. The result is harrowing, mordant, and unforgettable.


This is a startlingly brave book – embarrassing health problems don’t usually make comfortable friendships with philosophy, art and history, seasoned with a dash of Buddhist meditation. But since Tim Parks writes so wonderfully well and is so genuinely clever it works. It works very well indeed. Sensible, lyrical, wide ranging, generous hearted and in places very touching.


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