I don't know of any reading of the yoga sutras as wildly creative, as impassioned and as earnest as this. it engages Patanjali and the reader in an urgent, electrified conversation that weaves philosophy, symbolist poetry, psychoanalysis and cultural history. There's a kind of delight and freshness in this book that is very rare in writing on yoga, and especially rare in writing on the yoga sutras. This is a Patanjali for postmoderns, less a translation than a startlingly relevant report on our current condition, through the prism of this ancient text. Please help Matthew Remski raise the funds to produce this book. The world needs it.
-- Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body:The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
The short story.
I have retranslated the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for our present paradigm. I've used the lenses of contemporary philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to "remix" the original stillness and insight of the old book with the best that our age has to offer. I interweave the refashioned verses with critical commentary and personal reflections from a decade of practice.
After nearly three years of work and the collaborative input of dozens of colleagues, I am now ready to publish, and have decided on the print-on-demand route, for reasons of ecology, economy, and timing. My goal over the next 30 days is to raise enough money to pay for my typsetter/designer, my publicist, and the initial promotion drive. Contributing to this campaign is like pre-ordering the book.
A little background.
I've been writing novels and poetry from the age of 20. About five years ago, I turned my writing attention to ayurveda, and yoga philosophy. I've written extensively on my own blog, and on Elephant Journal. In 2008 I began collaborating with Scott Petrie on the Yoga 2.0 project, an experiment in open-source yoga philosophy. Over the past four years, we have developed innovative modules for yoga teacher training programmes in the Toronto area, focusing on community building, conscious communication, and navigating the paradoxes of teaching yoga in a consumerist culture. Our work culminated in co-authoring yoga 2.0: shamanic echoes, and producing the first draft of the translation that forms the core of the present book. My full resume is here. I'm especially honoured to be included in the recently-published 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice: A critical examination of yoga in North America, edited by Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey.
The longer story.
I've always loved the Yoga Sutras.
The ancient text presents a brilliant picture of our internal complexity, our psycho-somatic interweave, our capacity for self-reflection, and our potential for clarity. Its 196 aphorisms are stirring, sonorous, and they reverberate from a place of deep stillness. Rare amongst spiritual classics, it is completely non-denominational, and points to no other authority for the measurement of evolution than the radiance of personal experience.
But the old book also carries strong echoes of a time and culture almost inconceivably different from our own. Written by and for ascetics who longed to escape the psychic pressures of their brutal civilization, it features several themes that contemporary yoga culture no longer needs. It suggests that our flesh is an impure obstruction to happiness. It promises levitation and the ability to body-snatch. It offers a clearly transcendent path, with little interest in interpersonal relationship, and no mention at all of family, social justice, ecological intelligence, or love.
Here's the paradox. The Yoga Sutras is a core text of contemporary yoga culture. It is required reading in all yoga teacher training programmes worldwide. And, it contains heavy doses of a philosophy we neither hold nor can use, while failing to speak to some of our dearest concerns.
After a decade of yoga practice and contemplation of the sutras, I decided that the best way to re-invigorate this beautiful but flawed book was to literally "remix" it. I've retranslated the sutras to be able to carry contemporary advancements in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, and interspersed the aphorisms with my own commentary and reflections on practice. You can preview the finished work here.
My intention is to open a new stream of discourse in our community about how we interact with ancient traditions: what we keep, what we must leave behind, and what we change by merely encountering it. My hope is that this book will make it onto the reading lists of every teacher training programme in the English-speaking world, to hasten our general movement towards intersubjective, socially aware, ecologically sound, and scientifically astute practice.
The book will number between 240 and 280 pages, depending upon how my designer works her magic. I'm asking for contributions to pay her, and my publicist, and for promotional costs as I navigate the jungle of self-publishing.
"Having read the MS, I can wholeheartedly endorse this project as BADLY needed! Contemporary yoga practitioners are generally NOT aligned with the philosophical model and worldview proffered by Patanjali, and yet his text is 'revered' (at least at the level of lip-service) and taught as "fundamental" for practice and understanding. Remski offers a "remix" that offers a reading of Patanjali coherent with a more body/nature/ world positive worldview. I look forward to sharing it with my students!"
-- Frank Jude Boccio, author of Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind
What I need & what you get.
I want to crowdsource a temporary publishing house. I'll achieve that if 200 of you pre-order the book!
I've hired Toronto designer Ingrid Paulson to lay out the text and create the cover. I need to pay her approximately $2500. She's fantastic. She produced the cover mockup you see above and in the video. She's done brilliant work so far with the typesetting as well. Take a look at her other work.
I've also hired Toronto yogini Lindsay Gamester to do publicity. Currently, she's creating a database of reviewers, endorsers, and all English-speaking directors of yoga teacher training programmes. When the book is in print, we have planned a mass mailing to all with complementary copies, and an invitation for bulk purchasing for training programmes. I need to pay Lindsay approximately $1500 for her hard work. The remaining $1000 is my estimate for the purchase and shipping costs of about 150 promotional copies to seed this initial publicity wave.
Entry-level contributors to this campaign will recieve the book, which will be available online from about the middle of November. A larger contribution will pay for the book and a one-hour Ayurvedic consultation via Skype. A larger contribution will merit a bulk order of 10 copies at a wholesale rate, to sell on to students. Larger still and I'll come to your studio or conference to workshop the rich themes of this book.
If I don't raise the $5000, I'll be happy as can be with all the pre-publication help and advance orders, and will keep all of the perk commitments as promised.
The larger picture.
Throughout this long twilight of institutional religion, the global yoga movement is offering a clear way forward for human evolution: embodied, contemplative, relational, psychosomatic inquiry. It will be successful, in my opinion, to the extent that it sheds its Iron-Age vestiges, and embraces the full range of contemporary knowledge as fuel for its transformational fire. My project is an homage to yoga's past, and a hopeful look into its future.
If you can't contribute...
...but would like to help, please spread the news of this campaign throughout your social networks. You can use the handy share tools below!
This is a massively important work... finally a philosophical text rich in contemporary wisdom that can speak to the radical embodiment and deepening intimacy with ecology and relationship that modern yoga practice inspires. Matthew is not only the most stunning writer in prose working in the (underpaid) world of yoga discourse he's also one of its most fluent cultural critics. More importantly, what he does here is pave a new road forward for the future of Western spirituality: embodied, psychologically informed, with an aesthetic so potent it has the power to heal.
-- Shyam Dodge, author of Wet, Hot & Wild American Yogi
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