I realised I hadn’t fully understood the core objectives- the ones underpinning the self-scribed methodology of my invented Wellness Camp- when I wanted to vomit.
I felt sick because after finishing a Pilates class I dashed to the store to pick up a new pencil case- hey! I like pretty things!- arrived at the café two and half hours later than the optimum, and then downed a cappuccino, orange juice and croissant so fast that I ended up with the first sentence of this post because I dribbled down my front and knew I needed to tell the Internet about it.
My ‘wellness’ checklist for the morning went something like this:
- Exercise. Check.
- Purchase fancy pencil case for fancy writing pen. Check.
- Breakfast of caffeine, vitamin C, and unadulterated Nutella pleasure. Check.
- Mind-enhancing literature. Check.
But did I enjoy any of those things? Nope. Because I forgot, in undertaking my checklist of Good Things For My Soul, to take the subscribed pleasure in any of them, so intent was I to tell myself I had done them- like the doing was more pertinent than the feeling of experiencing them, appreciating them.
Isn’t that fucked up?
I caught myself, mid-bite of the pastry. I was struggling to chew and swallow and hold my pencil to make notes of all the important bits in my book; I couldn’t quite manage Doing All The Things. I wasn’t enjoying and feeling and being.
I’d mentally concocted an itemised plan that covered all the well being bases for the morning, but HELLO REVELATION. That wasn’t the point. I wasn’t supposed to wizz my way through them to be able to say I had done exactly that. I was supposed to relish them. And I’m forever doing that: Always thinking, but never paying attention.
Naughty, naughty Laura.
Enter Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks, a man with exactly the same problem.
Blurbed as A Skeptic’s Search for Health and Healing it’s a book that a friend bullied me into buying when he visited Rome, and has been on my bookshelf for many months. I don’t know why I picked it up off of the shelf that evening- I had committed myself to ignore its presence at the foot of my bed, and had resigned to silently slip it into the books to give away pile when I leave next month.
As I held it in my hand and remembered the farce of that morning, I knew I was supposed to read it. And it’s funny- Parks says at one point, ‘Any discoveries would present themselves when they wanted, when I was ripe for them.’ SNAP, TIM PARKS.
Teach Us To Sit Still is about a seemingly incurable urinary problem that Parks self-cures through meditation. He learns some Very Important Things:
1. DOING cancels out BEING like noise swamps silence. See also: Doing All The Things and Experiencing None Of Them.
2. The best experiences are not when you find what you were looking for but when something quite different finds you, takes you by surprise, and shifts your view to new territory. See also: Passing A Year In A City You Hate.
To say this book Changed Everything is a minor understatement.
Suddenly, I can see major things in my life that need to be corrected. I walk with my head down, lost in thought, watching my feet as a sort of meditation as I go places. I don’t look around and see the journey.
I behave as though my body is only a vessel for my mind- an inconvenience, a chore to maintain. I don’t recognise that body is mind is soul and that I am the whole of these parts. I must take care of all of these things- not out of necessity for one over the other, but for the good of them all. It’s no good having a perfect engine in your car if the tyres have no tread.
I treat life as a task, first and foremost, like Parks describes. I only take pleasure in it when I am striving for something. We have do as the title suggests and learn simply how to sit still. And not to do it in order to relax, but just to do it.
It’s pretty intense stuff, really. But OHMYDEAR GOD IF I HAVE TO SAY THIS TO MYSELF ONE MORE TIME! I’m supposed to be expanding my mind this year, aren’t I? The dreaded ‘p’ word. And so, I’ve tried to let him teach me.
Which means, I’m afraid, more of this hippy bullshit.