You don’t see Catholic monks pop up on TV much – and that’s the point. Because they live hermit-like lives away from the mass media, and therefore if you’re feeling stressed out, there’s a lot to learn from them. The Interior Silence is a highly-acclaimed book from former BBC Today editor Sarah Sands, who was unable to sleep, due to information overload. She had tried many methods to relax, only to reject them because all too often, they threaten to become an exercise in self-absorption.
So inspired by the ruins of an ancient Cistercian abbey at the bottom of her Norfolk garden, she begins to research the lives of the monks who once lived there. And realises how much we may have to learn from the monastic life. Renouncing the world, monks and nuns have acquired a hidden knowledge of how to live: they work, they learn and they acquire ‘the interior silence’.
This book is a quest for that hidden knowledge – a pilgrimage to 10 monasteries around the world. From a Coptic desert community in Egypt to a retreat in the Japanese mountains, we follow Sarah as she identifies the common threads of monastic life and the wisdom we can learn. And as she discovered (behind the cloistered walls), a clarify of mind and unexpected capacity for solitude, which enable her (after years of insomnia) to experience that elusive, dreamless sleep.
This wonderful book charts a journey to some of the most beautiful and tranquil places on earth. And introduces us to people, whose inner peace is a balm for our troubled times. I loved every page of it. Nicholas Hytner
about the author
Sarah Sands is a writer and former editor of London Evening Standard and BBC Radio 4 Today. An honorary fellow of Lucy Cavendish College (Cambridge), she lives by the ruins of a medieval Cistercian abbey in Norfolk. Read her other book on what we can learn from hedgehogs.