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The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  5,568 ratings  ·  692 reviews
A follow up to Pico Iyer’s essay “The Joy of Quiet,” The Art of Stillness considers the unexpected adventure of staying put and reveals a counterintuitive truth: The more ways we have to connect, the more we seem desperate to unplug.

Why might a lifelong traveler like Pico Iyer, who has journeyed from Easter Island to Ethiopia, Cuba to Kathmandu, think that sitting quietly
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Simon Schuster/ TED
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J. Todd I've travelled through 20 countries, but still I find stillness the greatest adventure, and most rewarding, enriching journey of all. Going to the mou…moreI've travelled through 20 countries, but still I find stillness the greatest adventure, and most rewarding, enriching journey of all. Going to the mountain top is exceedingly worthwhile, but going deep within is what makes it worthwhile. Reading thousands of books and travelling the world has been extraordinarily enriching and illuminating; but simply being still, and simply being, with gratitude, simplicity, wakefulness and attention, opens doors that cannot even be found, in any other way. As a dear friend said, "Be still, and seek the light." I heartily agree!
- J. Todd Ring,
Author of Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium, and The People Vs The Elite(less)
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Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wisdom, giveaways
This book wasn't what I expected. Rather than a book about the art and science of meditation or mindfulness, it was a book about how the author or famous people the author knew or had read about REACT to these things. It's partly autobiographical, partly biographical, partly a koan to be meditated on, and yet it managed to flit from one of these to the other so quickly that there was no sense of grip, no feeling that anything meaningful had been discussed in any detail. The book, at heart, just ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found an Arabic Proverb that I loved. It is "Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence." Then a week later I found The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer. I love this whole idea. The subtitle is adventures in going nowhere. I've always loved sitting in the backyard looking at what looks like nothing. But in actuality, tons of things are happening - birds are singing, clouds are moving, squirrels are frolicking etc. Maybe this books just gives permission for i ...more
Heidi The Reader
Iyer approaches stillness from a Buddhist perspective. "And it's only by going nowhere- by sitting still or letting my mind relax- that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out." pg 62.

It's not a world that most people are accustomed to experiencing, a space of being rather than an active doing. But, as Iyer so succinctly illustrates, it's a realm that our fast-paced and technology addicted world desperately needs
Guess what? TED Talks now makes TED books. Unbeknownst to me, this was one of them. I knew when I picked it up at the library. It was tiny. It was only 66 pages. It could be read, like a short story, in one sitting (or, in my case, one lying on the floor).

As far as meditation-stillness-quiet books go, this one's a lightweight. In that sense, the literal matches the figurative. Still, it's an easy and smooth read, and no fan of contemplative reads is going to leave it unfinished. Plus, it gave a
David Schaafsma
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Notes toward my own art of stillness:

A word is worth one coin; silence, two—Chinese Proverb

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”—Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz.

Recently I read Paradise Lost, an almost wordless version drawn by Pablo Auladell. In an interview he is asked
What has most influenced and inspired your vision?

The masters of silence and invisibility.

My friend Jenn,
Feb 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Pico Iyer hung out with Leonard Cohen in a monastery! Pico Iyer is here to tell you that meditation and quiet are important, especially in today's wacky, busy world. Pico Iyer has traveled almost everywhere in the world. Pico Iyer has checked out from society and chosen a quiet life--except for when he is traveling the world, giving TED talks, talking to Google HQ about his writings, and hanging out with Leonard Cohen. Pico Iyer shares some aphorisms. Pico Iyer says he doesn't claim to have any ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: meditation
Quite a superficial book, only 70 pages long, with many seemingly irrelevant photographs and not enough evidence that the author had really experienced stillness, silence, solitude. I did find a number of quotes from others to ponder:

---William James - "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
---Matthieu Ricard - "For me a flight is just a brief retreat in the sky."
---Blaise Pascal - "All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they
Robin Morgan
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-own-books
When I began to read Pico Iyer’s “The Art of Stillness” I read it like any other book; sitting in a chair in front of my computer. However, the book didn’t seem to do anything for me as it felt like I just read a string of words, sentences and paragraphs which have been put together.

But this couldn’t be the case as the book had promised to take me somewhere or increase my knowledge. From what I’ve read about the author, I’d anticipated getting much more. If the book isn’t the problem, then the p
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Many years ago I read Pico Iyer's "Video Night in Kathmandu" which is full of verve and nerve, beauty and filth. That is why I read this book even though it resembles Alain de Botton popular philosophy series. It can be read in one sitting, taxing very little of one's mental faculties, as it flew through smoothly with stories and autobiographical details. If this gives a reader some incentive to pause for a moment to reflect, it may have merited its existence. However, it is in the same genre of ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
The concept of TED books is a great idea because many a times a TED talk does not seem deep enough, mostly due to the brevity of time. Did not like this book much because Iyer's writing style is quite obscure. There were many instances where I just did not get the point he was trying to put across.

In essence, I took two things from the book:

1. Being happy in the present moment is not about being aware, but about being selective. The idea is to focus on aspects that would increase one's happines
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: meditation, essays
In an age of speed, nothing can be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feelmore luxorious than paying attention. In an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

Iyer composes a thoughtful essay-turned-book, ranging from his time with Leonard Cohen to Mathieu Ricard. The book doesn't delve deep and contained some really beautiful quotes, like the one above. This is a subject that I am very interested in, so in many ways, I wanted
Jo Ann
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved this little book about meditation and being quiet to renew oneself! One line from the author sums it up for me: "Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would emphasize to me, isn't about turning your back on the world; it's about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly, and love it more deeply."
Just after I read this book, I took a few days alone at an old CCC cabin at Devil's Den State Park about an hour away from my home to "be still and go nowhere." It was lovely!
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cerebral
I hadn't found many piece of wisdom in this book. One particular one that stood out to me was the fact that just because there are clouds, doesn't mean the blue sky is gone. One has to be patient and wait for the clouds to dissipate. I think the best quote is from the back cover.

"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. In an age of speed, I beg
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Pico Iyer is well known as a world traveler and I listened to him often on NPR discussing some of his adventures. I was delighted to learn that he actually wrote a book on “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.’’
It is a book about how to “take care of his loved ones, do his job, and hold on to some direction in a madly accelerating world.”

While the book is short (almost purposely done so) it packs a powerful message that going nowhere can be a most excellent adventure and generate
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Given the book's brevity, this is an interesting read. It contains some useful thoughts on the importance of quiet and space in one's life, in the midst of our tendency towards frenetic busyness and noise. With the dramatic increase of the availability of information in our age, in light of the technological revolution, what we need is quiet and the clarity of mind to properly sift that information. The photos in this book are beautiful as well, nicely complementing the ideas of the text. Still, ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Thoughtful look at being still and meditating, with unexpected Leonard Cohen.
Mar 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Succinct and pleasant read.

Leonard Cohen: "What else would I be doing? Finding new drugs, buying more expensive wine? I don't know. This seems to me the most luxurious and sumptuous response to the emptiness of my own existence."

William James, American psychologist: The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." It's the perspective we choose - not the places we visit -- that ultimately tells us where we stand. Every time I take a trip, the experience acqu
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
My criticism of the book is more about my expectations than the book itself. I expected a treatise on the importance of stillness/meditation. Instead, Iyer's The Art of Stillness felt too much like a name dropping memoir. It's a memoir, it's a bit of travel writing, and too little real discussion of stillness. I didn't enjoy this book, though I imagine those who are new to meditation might find this an easily digestible start.

I resonated with the parts of the, very short, work that were about h
Michele Harrod
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a perfect little book to precede another trip to my newly acquired caravan. My very own monastic retreat, or the place the author refers to as 'Nowhere'. I found last time I was there, I took too many bad habits from home, so I had been thinking about doing this differently this time. Leaving the phone in the car, and choosing a time to check it every second day. Same for the computer. What's the point of going somewhere else and doing the exact same things I would have done at home?

This b
Feb 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Basically a lecture on the value of stillness, or perhaps better known as quiet time (Go to your corner!), clearing out the mind and going Nowhere. It also fits in with his other work, somewhat a public relations piece for Leonard Cohen and Buddhism (though he says he is not one himself). I keep thinking to myself "If it quacks like a duck. . ." But the advise in good, and most likely correct; in this fast-paced, technology burdened, communication complex world, people should turn off everything ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
The Art of Stillness is a book that met me at the right place at the right time. During my backpack tour to Delhi , on a day where I was clueless about life, having quit a job that I coveted a couple of years back, wondering where I was going in life, I saw this book at Cafe Turtle. I bought it , ordered an iced cappuccino and blueberry cheesecake. I did not get up till I had finished this book.

This needs a longer and deeper review or an article. If you are living the hectic, fast and probably
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Going nowhere" is one of my favorite things to do, and maybe that's why this book hit home for me. Sometimes (often, actually) I realize there's just nowhere that I want to be, so that's where my Jeep takes me. Yesterday, my Jeep and I put on 160 miles of nowhere and it was absolute bliss. How many places do we really need to be and how much stuff do we just create for ourselves to do? Break the mold and walk away more often. This book was a great reminder to prioritize better and more effectiv ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspiration
Iyer points out the positive impact of sitting still and “going nowhere,” not just on our piece of mind but also on our work, our creativity, and our ability to solve problems. I found it particularly poignant after the recent passing of Leonard Cohen, who he looks to for inspiration throughout this essay.

Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and l
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got this one as a first read. I liked this one. It is a very short book that can be read in one sitting. However , the number of words does not harm the impact on the reader. It is a lovely book that makes you think of things in way that you haven't before. All in all a great book.
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Going nowhere (...) isn't about turning your back on the world; it's about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply."
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer is a small book which is weighty in meaning. Our world which is obsessed with speed and rife with distractions, there are a few things that feel better than sitting still, slowing down, paying attention and going nowhere. A still life leads to more meaning and contentment. Stillness doesn’t necessary mean you have to be physically 'still.' It refers to the idea of limiting your thoughts and movements so that you can calm your mind. “Going nowhere, isn’t about tu ...more
Read for my yoga book club and am eager to talk about it!
David Hailey
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This short little book resonated with me.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Clever twist on the travelogue. Nice little discourse on meditation and taking time out. This is also where I get to rep family - Pico is my second cousin!
Rehan Abd Jamil
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is good..I don't think I can sit still for even 10 minutes..
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The MindBodyBrew ...: Favorite Passages 1 8 Dec 21, 2016 05:00AM  
The MindBodyBrew ...: Practical Applications 1 4 Dec 21, 2016 04:58AM  
The MindBodyBrew ...: Winter Book Selection: "The Art of Stillness" by Pico Iyer 1 3 Dec 21, 2016 04:54AM  

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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more

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“it’s not our experiences that form us but the ways in which we respond to them;” 35 likes
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” 32 likes
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