Pico Iyer and the Art of Stillness

A few weeks ago we saw a fantastic event at the Banff Center. It was the opening night of the Art of Stillness Weekend. The weekend blossomed from travel writer Pico Iyer’s annual soujourns to the Banff Center. I assume he comes for his own time to write. To experience the silence and solitude of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Which I’m not sure how one can do while staying and teaching at the Banff Center.


Anyway, he keeps coming back, and decided to share his ideas with the rest of us.


Peter and I went for his discussion with CBC radio host Laurie Brown. It was an hour or so of enlightenment. Much of Pico’s reflections come from his recent ‘little big book’ on his Ted Talk called The Art of Stillness. If you’ve never seen the talk or read the book, please discover them both.


He is also a fantastic travel writer. Twenty years ago, while in the soul-sucking constraints of the insulated world of bike racing, he took me all over the world when I read ‘Video Night in Kathmandu’.


I’ve always read travel literature to take me away to a different place and time. Away from the stifling constraints of the here and now when they become too much. Even as an athlete, my world would often narrow. Books and stories and the great storytellers work magic to make it all more tolerable. To inspire. To think about personal adventures, even if they are just in the space of imagination.


The points I gleaned from this wonderful conversation are as follows. I hope they make you think critically about the here, the now, of technology and how we all it into our lives. About the power of silence and stillness. How the ‘nothings’ in life are so crucial to the hyper-stimulated pace we are trying to keep up to.


1) Put down the phone. It only interferes with the experience. The moment you are living and the shared human experience with who you are with.


2) Stillness, silence, meditation are all valuable to the human psyche.


3) Practice ten minutes of ‘listening’ each day. Try it for a week. Write down what you hear. You may be surprised.


4) Humans are wound up to the speed of technology. We are trying to become machines. Which we are not. It is impossible for a human to become a machine and keep up with this pace.


5) Impose cyber sabbaths. Make it a night. A day. A weekend. Allow yourself to disconnect completely. In turn, you will reconnect with nature, with creativity, with yourself. It is a powerful thing to know your space and place on earth and feel the stimulated creative juices flowing. Colours will be brighter, sounds sharper, people more stimulating than you ever imagined.


6) When one follows the forward trajectory of ‘achieving’ or ‘succeeding’ and only continues this path to win more earn more be more, it can become a very linear path. You can easily become a closed system. Fulfilling expectations outside of yourself while not feeding creativity and knowing/connecting with yourself can become a life of routine.


Which leads to time flying by faster than you can take it in and appreciate. Before you know it you are old and where has life gone. Do not be afraid to change things even when from the outside they appear so good.


Thank you, Pico.

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