More from the book Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks (A Sceptic’s Search For Health And Healing). Parks has begun to experiment with sitting still and sees that he is always moving:
The pain surged to the fore. It was strong. You deal with the pain by keeping in constant motion, I realised now. That was the truth. Even when I was still, I moved. My knee jerking. Scratching. My fist clenching and clenching. That kept the pain at bay. And when my body was still my mind moved. My mind was in constant motion. All day every day. The thoughts jerked back and forward like the knee that twitched. The difficulty when I was writing was not to come up with thoughts, but to give them direction and economy. Like a climbing plant that must be pruned and tamed, pruned and tamed. Above all pruned.
You are supposed not to be thinking.
Or not supposed to be thinking.
Or supposed to be not thinking.
I moved the ‘not’. Language is always on the move.
Even when I slept I moved. To sleep I needed to be on one side with one knee pushed forward. Then I switched to the other side. And I switched my earplugs from one ear to the other. I can’t bear having an earplug pressing the pillow. I pulled the earplug out, turned over, put the plug-in. Six times a night.
In the silence, eyes closed, I remembered a documentary had seen years before about some kind of desert lizard that stopped its feet from burning on the hot Sahara sand by constantly and rapidly lifting and dropping the right front foot and back left foot, then the left front and back right. Alternately. They lifted and fell in the blink of an eyelid, almost too quick for the camera to see. A sort of Purgatory, I had thought, when I saw the images.