Okay, technically, Simple Truth: Meditation for the Modern World is not Jeff Cannon’s first book. But after surviving some very serious health issues, Jeff changed his life and wrote this book, which, in many ways, represents a new beginning for the author who has eschewed the advertising world in an effort to teach meditation and mindfulness and to help others find the balance in their lives.
What is your day job? I used to run advertising agencies. But that has changed since my book and my experience. Now I am in corporate training, specifically teaching meditation to executives and corporate teams. I also work as a guest instructor at various yoga studios as well as host my own workshops at the New York Open Center.
What is your book about? My book combines the latest findings from Western science with the time-honored practices of Meditation and Mindfulness. It provides readers with a simple way to incorporate meditation into their everyday lives so that they can gain control over their lives, minimize the stress in their lives and find the balance we are all seeking without having to give up everything they have worked so hard to attain.
Why did you want to write this book? At the end of 2009, my life was a wreck. The economy had gutted my business. My father had passed away from a long fight with cancer, and I found out that I had seven brain tumors. I had 30 days to decide what to do. After closing my business and writing a line through my life, I underwent a 10-plus hour brain surgery that removed six of the seven tumors. During my recovery I wanted to research why these tumors occurred and how I could stop them. I started to research how the brain functioned, especially with the new insights into neuroelasticity and the physical effects that meditation had on the brain. I learned that it was possible to rewire the brain in a way, and the answer lay in meditation. I still have a seventh tumor in my head, but it stopped growing once I changed my life around.
I wanted to take meditation away from the religious connotations that has long been associated with it, to provide people with an easy to understand, well documented and easy to implement approach to meditation that truly was for the modern world. From the responses I have been getting, I think I have succeeded.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? The most challenging element to writing The Simple Truth was my own self discovery along the way. Throughout the book, I had revelations as to why I was the way I was, why I had overlooked some opportunities in favor of others. You could say I discovered my own Simple Truth along the way. And that is not always an easy thing to do. But in the end it has been the most freeing thing I have ever done.
Tell me about the research you conducted in order to write this book? I have long been a follower of the martial arts, yoga and meditation. I have also been an amateur scientist my entire life. In writing The Simple Truth, the real research was not in finding out what meditation was, but in catching up to the new findings that have come out of hospitals and universities like MIT, Stamford, Harvard and UCLA, to name a few. These places of learning have made great strides in finding out how the brain works, and how it is possible to rewire the brain so that you can truly take greater control over your life. This is what the majority of my book is about – recognizing that much of what we do is based on our original programming that was locked into place 40,000 years ago. We are basically living in a 21st Century world with a Neolithic body. And that is what is causing most of our issues, our stress and our anxiety.
What motivates you to write? For me, writing is a way to explore ideas, to work through concepts. It is an exercise in discovery. The book I start to write is rarely the book I end up with. But I am always happy with the finished product, because it is very much a part of me.
Did you experience writer’s block? I do experience writer’s block. Coincidentally, I often take a meditation break to clear my head, to recharge my brain, and to start the writing process anew.
How long did it take you to write this book? It took me one year to write the book – much of it during the later part of my recovery. Then it took another year to edit it to its final place. Some of that time was reediting my findings to keep up with the pace of neuroscience. But what is there is a very concise roadmap to finding and living by one’s own Simple Truth.
How did you go about finding a publisher? Why did you decide on Walton Press? I had published previously with McGraw-Hill – most notably with Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALs . However, they only do business books now. So I pitched to a number of publishers. Walton seemed to understand the material the best and was willing to walk the line between spiritual and scientific – something not a lot of publishers were willing to do.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? I think most people think that writing a book is a static process of following one train of thought. But it morphs. The story changes, the facts change, the characters change, the world changes as you are writing. The book is a reflection of the world around you, so it has to change as you do if it is to be relevant.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I am an amateur scientist. I also have a side of me that is very spiritual. This book allowed me to delve into both aspects of the human condition. I was able to speak with anthropologists, monks, health professionals, brain surgeons and yogis to bring together their different thoughts on a wide range of issues from meditation to evolutionary biology.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? I have done a lot of outreach with social media tools. I have also reached out to yoga studios, blogs and yoga-related media. I have also started teaching meditation in several studios as well as workshops in NYC – all of which have helped to spread the word to my key audience.
What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? Immerse yourself in the world you are writing about. Use digital media by writing articles, talking to people who are concerned with your subject matter. Start with those who you think will be interested in the subject of your writing and expand from there. Most importantly, don’t panic. Don’t let time dictate what you do. Instead stay consistent to your topic and keep your focus.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? It has put me in a very unique position. The book has been the stepping stone to changing my entire life. I have since left the corporate world and now teach meditation to others. I have started workshops and have been a guest teacher at places like OM Yoga. It really has giving me the opportunity to change my life and start living by my own Simple Truth.
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? Oh yes. Maybe not obsessively, but I want to see which of my efforts is having an effect. I’m curious to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s all a great experiment, and things like sales stats are the findings.
Is there a second book in the works? I am actually starting on a second book that deals with the Simple Truth for the business world – basically a guide to create companies based on cooperation rather than competition, geared for a Triple Bottom Line [people, planet, profits] and not just for profits.
My favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I would agree. There is a bit of luck in everything we do. However, if you are unprepared when luck comes around, well, then it’s as if it never happened. Actors get their “lucky break” only after working at it for ten, fifteen years. So, yes, it is about preparation, about being aware enough to recognize the opportunity, and most important about being experienced enough to realize when to jump on an opportunity, or when to let it go by.