Book Bits

Pico Iyer – Coming Back Home

Pico Iyer is a writer concerned with travel and the expansion of spiritual horizons. His book, ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’, is an exploration of stillness and movement, and an account of his relationships with his friends Leonard Cohen and the Dalai Lama. In this excerpt, he starts to talk about the nature of stillness and its ability to expose the unexpected.


With every return to Nowhere, one can begin to discern its features, and with them its possibilities, a little more clearly. The place has moods and seasons as rich as the pulsing red-dirt spaces of Australia’s outback, as varied as the clouds you can see in a James Turrell Skyspace. Very often, I’ll sit for weeks composing a work such as this one, making an outline, a linear A-B-C guide. The longer I sit still, however, the more those logical structures get turned inside out, till something beyond me is propelling me out of Nowhere down an entirely unexpected sequence of Q-C-A. I think of the time when I was on a boat in the Pacific and a biologist set up a device that allowed us to hear what was going on beneath us. Under the still blue waters, it turned out, was an uproar as scratchily cacophonous as Grand Central Station at rush hour. Stillness has nothing to do with settledness or stasis.

 Pico Iyer
From ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’