Posts tagged ‘Tao’

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

What is Cultivation?

On October 22nd I posted In Praise of Hardship which was about a British Taoist Association retreat led by Meng Zhiling, a Taoist priest from China. He impressed me very much. In the latest edition of The Dragon’s Mouth, the journal of the BTA, is an interview with him, and he says some interesting and unusual points about cultivation.

Meng had been working as a teacher at the White Cloud Temple in Beijing, but he felt the need to find some of the old Taoists and to seek a quiet spot to cultivate himself. He ended up at a cold region called Dongbei and he carved out a cave to live in. He accepted no donations, but earned money to survive. He said “It was difficult, but it was the life I had chosen. If there was anything that could make my life easier, I would reject it.” This is the true spirit of the Tao.

After a while local villagers came to ask him about the Tao. He told them he didn’t know anything, but they didn’t believe him and kept coming, which disturbed his tranquillity. So he decided to find somewhere even more remote. He found an abandoned hut at the foot of a mountain and started living there. “It was in a bad state but I managed to fix it up enough to live there. My clothes quickly turned to rags, the palms of my hands were thick with callouses and my fingertips were often bleeding. Some of the tasks I set myself were really unnecessary, but I would just do them to make my life more difficult. I would spend my days working and meditating, just those two things.”

Incredibly, he kept on looking for ways to make things more difficult! “I began to see that difficulties in life have no end, but we just need to put them aside and forget about them. Then eventually you will reach a state where nothing is difficult, nothing is impossible. Once you’ve reached such a state, no matter where you go or what you do you will not find it difficult. Nothing can affect your heart/mind any more. So this is when your heart/mind becomes more clear and your original nature is radiant again.”

Meng says this about original nature: “Our original nature is like a glowing pearl but through our day to day lives, with all our thoughts and desires, we accumulate dust which covers its original condition. But if we remove this dust then the pearl will be able to shine again. The term for this method of cultivation is to stabilize our heart and transform our nature (xiangxin huaxing). To stabilize our heart means that we stay tranquil. When we stay tranquil we stop accumulating more dust. And by removing the old dust that we have already accumulated we transform our nature. So once we’ve removed all the dust from our heart/mind then our true nature is revealed. And our true nature is Tao.”

His advice to us sounds basic, but is profound: “Keep your heart simple and clear. Don’t get caught up in too many theories of cultivation, that just creates more ideas. Just keep your heart simple and clear.”

This sounds easy, almost too easy, but you can’t find one person in a million who can do it.

December 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

Living Philosophy – from my journal October 2006

Whatever happens is going to happen. Things will play out as they are going to, and nothing you can do will alter that. The more you try to fight or alter the way it is going, the more frustrated you will be, and the more energy you will lose trying to fight against the flow of things. And the flow of things is the Tao. Relax, lay back, play the cards you are dealt in the best way you can, but don’t get too worked up. Try to enjoy the situation and the circumstances rather than getting angry and worked up, which only hurts you, makes you sour and bitter.  Better to laugh at it all, smile, take it easy and enjoy the ride.

This is real philosophy, if only you could live it like this, rather than just writing about, that’s the test, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

December 18, 2013 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.