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The Interior Silence: 10 Lessons from Monastic Life

Sarah Sands

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Philosophy of mind

Suffering from information overload, unable to sleep, Sarah Sands, former editor of the BBC's Today Programme, has tried many different strategies to de-stress... only to reject them because, as she says, all too often they threaten to become an exercise in self-absorption.

Inspired by the ruins of an ancient Cistercian abbey at the bottom of her garden in Norfolk, she begins to research the monks' lives who once resided there, and realises how much we may have to learn from monasticism.

Renouncing the world, monks and nuns have acquired a hidden knowledge of how to live: they labour, they learn and they acquire 'the interior silence'. Monk's Medicine is a quest for that hidden knowledge - a pilgrimage to ten monasteries round the world, from a Coptic desert community in Egypt to a retreat in the Japanese mountains.

We follow Sands as she identifies the common characteristics of monastic life, the wisdoms to be learned from them and, behind the cloistered walls, discovers an unexpected capacity for solitude and a clarity of mind which enable her, after years of insomnia, to experience that elusive, dreamless sleep.

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