Posts filed under ‘My Glorious Publishing Career’

Spiritual Teachings of Yoga

 

After the success of The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Hodder and Stoughton¬† commissioned me to write 4 more books on philosophy and spirituality. After writing a book on Seneca, my then partner Jo Manuel suggested I write a book on Yoga philosophy. This was a subject that I had never found easy to penetrate, partly because of so many Sanskrit terms, and partly because of the alien (to the western mind) nature of the philosophy’s expression and ideas. . But Jo, a yoga therapist,¬† said she would work with me on the book. So we plowed ahead and the book was published in 2003.¬† It has been in constant publication since then, and is especially popular with yoga student teachers, who often need to study yoga philosophy but find it as difficult to understand as I did. The book is a readable, accessible and sometimes surprising account of yoga philosophy, touching on practice as well as some history. The book also includes the Yoga Sutras, some Upanishads and a section of the Bhagavad Gita.

Looking recently at the book’s listing on Amazon.com I was heartened by a number of reviews of the book. Here are a few:

First of all, I did not need to be practicing physical yoga in order to find this book enlightening. (I have had yoga classes but mainly focus on one position each day that relieves a cranky back.) The focus is on living the spiritual life. I am currently reading the selections from the Upanishads that are a part of this book. They touch my heart and my soul and teach me what living and loving are truly about, and the unimportance of material things. While reading and meditating on Yoga Masters, “earth’s vain shadows flee”, and I am reminded of the oneness of all things. Starting each morning with this book has truly added richness and meaning to my daily life.

This book ROCKS! I totally agree with the reviewer before me. This is a great book for someone who has done some yoga and loves it and is ready to move into the spiritual side of yoga. Truly amazing and has completely changed my life. The writers have written this book with perfect simplicity and grace. A very easy read, yet encompasses everything quickly and neatly.

My favorite yoga instructor loaned me this and one other (Heart of Yoga) when I expressed an interest in learning more about the “whole picture” vs. just asanas. Am purchasing my own copy after spending time letting the various texts sink in. If you are looking for a deeper, readable resource try this one.

I can’t believe no one else has reviewed this yet! Despite the cheesy title, this is a bona fide invaluable resource, especially for those who do postures, but are unfamiliar with Hindu philosophy. The first half of the book is a basic introduction to yoga philosophy. The second half, believe it or not, consists of ample selections from the Upanishads, as well as the entire texts of the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, all translated into contemporary English with no complicated sanskrit terms—all in this tight little compact paperback. For such a small price, don’t pass up this bargain!

 

It’s a lovely feeling to know that a book we created 15 years ago has touched and helped so many readers.

 

 

 

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June 1, 2018 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

My Glorious Publishing career- Pt 3- Finding Marcus’ Voice

Liv Blumer. my new agent, approached Hodder and Stoughton to see if they would publish a book as well as an audio of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. They agreed, so now it was up to me to write an introduction, something that terrified me. I started to do serious research on Marcus Aurelius’ life, the history, beliefs and practises of stoic philosophy, and Roman life, religions and customs. I met with Professor Richard Sorabji of King’s College, London, to discuss stoic philosophy and read voraciously in the Greek and Roman Library at the University Of London.

After about six months I felt that I could discern the forest from the trees. That is, I was not an expert in any of these areas, but I now knew enough to write knowledgably about the subjects. The aim was to impart the knowledge I had gained to a general readership. And so I started to write. After about 20 pages I gave the manuscript to my then wife Jo and asked her for a critique. She said you sound like a professor, and you’re not a professor. What is it that you personally like about this work? Why do you bother to read it? I admitted that the model I was using for the introduction was the Penguin Classics, which are usually written by scholars. Her point was that since I was not a scholar why imitate one, she thought I needed a new approach.

I took myself off to a coffee shop to ponder. And then it hit me. If I was going to write an intro which had any validity, it had to be one that reflected my life and my ideas, and which explained why Marcus Aurelius’ 2000 year old meditations had meaning for me today. So I began with a different approach. I started writing,

“I’m sitting in a cyber cafe in Soho, London, sipping on a cappuccino.
Inside, young business men and women with mobile phones keep in touch with their offices, friends and lovers across the country. Travellers sit at consoles surfing the Internet and collecting e-mail from around the world.
Outside, cars, taxis and buses criss-cross the polluted city ferrying people through the crowded streets. Below my feet, underground trains speed through the bowels of the earth. Nearby, high-speed trains depart for Brussels, Paris and Rome.
Overhead, planes with hundreds of people on board travel vast distances. Unseen, communication satellites circle the earth.
Although we live in a time of an incredible explosion of communications, knowledge, and wealth, we have begun to realise that it will not be possible to sustain the life we are currently leading for very much longer.
We are faced with a world that is suffering at our own hands. Science, technology and ‘progress’, the gods that we believed would provide all the answers, have shown themselves to hold false promises.
Science and technology have extended and increased the power of individuals and groups to an extent undreamt of by our ancestors. The ordinary person in the developed world lives a life of comfort and luxury that most emperors and kings in history could not attain. The rapid access to information and goods, instant communication and high speed travel have transformed our lives.
But there is a price to be paid; there is still no free lunch. This power has had an enormous impact on the environment, human rights and the human condition in general. The major concern we will have to address in the new millennium will not be how to increase technological power but how to control it.
Throughout history technological development has always moved itself forward, leaving the moral order trailing behind. In our time technological change and innovation have been so swift and transformative that the moral order has lagged well behind and is now struggling to catch up.
However, the dynamic nature of morality means that it does eventually catch up and confront the technological order. People are stimulated to rethink moral conventions, to create new values that demand the control and limitation of science and technology.
In this confrontation, ancient Greek philosophy, and in particular Stoicism, is well placed to help us manage the future.”

I had found my voice, and The Spiritual Teachings Of Marcus Aurelius was born.

September 4, 2014 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

My Glorious Publishing Career- Pt 2- Mark meets Marcus Aurelius

Following the success of the Tao te Ching audio, Rupert Lancaster – my editor at Hodder and Stoughton – commissioned me to produce an audio version of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. These short ‘meditations’ were spiritual exercises that Marcus wrote for himself while attending to his day job – Emperor of Rome. He would have preferred to be a stoic philosopher, but Hadrian picked him as his successor and this forced him to keep his philosophy as a private self-help guide. The meditations were a way of reminding himself how to respond to people and events.

Marcus was a Roman but he wrote in Greek, the ancient language of philosophy. Since I don’t know classical Greek (being mono English), I needed to find a translation to work from. I started to read the various translations then in print but didn’t find one that really spoke to me. Some were a bit dated in language, while others were seeped in Christianity, not suitable for a pagan Roman. I saw a reference to a Victorian translation by George Long that was said to be completely literal, and since it was out of copyright, I set about re-writing this archaic language into the kind of contemporary language that I thought reflected Marcus’ vision of life. At the same time I did not want to lose the sense of his second-century mind, so I tried to evolve a style that gave meaning to the text, in a way that would read to a contemporary audience, but which still sounded like the words of a Roman Emperor.

Once I began, I could see that Marcus had a holistic, cosmic view of life resembling the ancient Indian and Chinese philosophers. His ability to look objectively at the world and to penetrate deeply into his own mind seemed similar to Buddhist psychology. I was also impressed that Marcus’ perspective of the world was an ecological one, very close to our own view of the link between humanity and the environment.

Once I had re-written some 10 of the meditations, I realised I was creating a new copyright, and thought perhaps these could serve as a book as well as an audio. I wrote to a handful of New York literary agents to see if there was any interest. One large agency immediately turned me down, but a smaller agent- Liv Blumer-responded almost immediately. When we spoke, I was surprised to hear that Liv had never heard of Marcus Aurelius or his Meditations. The next day she went to a branch of Barnes and Noble and asked the salesperson if they had a copy. The saleswoman responded by telling Liv that it was the best book ever written, that she kept it by her bedside and read a meditation before going to sleep. Serendipity.

Once she understood what I was working on, Liv said she thought a book could get published, but I would have to write the introduction. What! I had never written anything longer than two pages since leaving university, and the thought of writing an introduction to a philosopher filled me with dread.

August 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

My Glorious Publishing Career Part 1

I have now made all of my books into ebooks, so it’s a good time to look back and reflect on my illustrious publishing career. It’s been an interesting ride so far, and I hope it continues. Book six is about to come out, and I think it’s going to be a bit of a breakthrough.

For the record, my first 5 books are: The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, The Spiritual Teachings of Seneca, The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao, The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga and The Living Wisdom of Socrates. The new one is called I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp and is coming out in September.

I started writing by accident. In 1997 I thought it would be a great thing to make an audio of The Tao Te Ching, the 2300 year old Chinese Taoist classic. And one day it just happened. I visited Martin Palmer in Manchester and told him this was a book I would love to record. He told me that he made religious programmes for the BBC and maybe he could arrange a recording studio. But who would read it? I hadn’t thought that far ahead, so I needed to think about good actors who could handle the text. Ideally I hoped to find someone who knew the book, but failing that, I needed someone sensitive to ideas and feelings. I settled on the late Nigel Hawthorne, who didn’t know the work but threw himself into the project with great enthusiasm. He did a remarkable job, responding very well to Martin’s directions regarding the meaning of the sometimes inscrutable text. Once we added music to Nigel’s voice, we had a very fine recording of the classic.

I now needed distribution to get the audio (it was a cassette at that time) into shops. Someone introduced me to Rupert Lancaster at Hodder and Stoughton and after he listened to the tape he offered me a deal. A year later, he rang to ask if I had any other audio ideas. It just so happened I did (or at least I did once he put the idea into my mind). I gave Rupert four ideas and he responded best to the notion of recording The Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius.

To be continued (possibly).

August 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment


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