Stephen Cope Changed My Life. He Might Change Yours, Too.

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Need inspiration today?  You got it.

Put away your yellow highlighter when you read a Stephen Cope book. 
You’ll find yourself marking almost every sentence.
The whole book will be yellow. 

Seven years ago I was happily retired, largely unacquainted with yoga, when I happened upon a book by Stephen Cope called Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.  I knew right away that my life would never be the same.

The book instantly and utterly transformed me. The philosophy was that powerful and the writing that personal and engaging.  I started reading every book on yoga philosophy I could get my hands on.  I stepped up my meditation practice, as described in “Effortless Wellbeing”: Meditation as Everyday Life.

I started trying to describe what was happening inside of me, just for myself at first, in what would later become Yoga Demystified: The Six Big Ideas.  I started blogging and writing poems & articles.

Then I ran into elephant journal and started a series of discussions about the Bhagavad Gita that would culminate in Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell.  I became the Yoga Editor for elephant.

I’m quite sure that none of this would have happened except for Stephen Cope and powerful personal influence of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.

You might think this kind of epiphany would be a one time event.  I did.

Late last year, I had the good fortune to be invited by Kripalu to interview Stephen Cope about his new book, just released this month from Random House, called The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling.

Guess what?  It’s all about the Bhagavad Gita and how it is reflected in the lives of eleven famous people in history.  (You can see the resulting in-depth interview here: How To Live an Extraordinary Life. ~ Kripalu’s Stephen Cope.)

Stephen said he would have Random House send me an advance copy of the book when it was ready.

And then it happened again.  This book has transformed my life just like Yoga and the Quest for the True Self did seven years ago.

I’ll leave the details of that story for another day, but for now let me just say that, if you have any interest in Yoga philosophy or the Bhagavad Gita…heck, even if you have absolutely no interest in either, but are just looking for some soaring inspiration for your daily life, you’re going to want read this book.

Photo link: Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living

What makes Stephen’s books so very special is the way he mixes great spiritual truths, insights for everyday life and his own personal story—how this all affected his own life and that of his friends.

When you read Stephen Cope, you feel like you’ve spent all those hours hanging out with the author himself, rather than reading a book.

I had vivid conversations in my head with Stephen for seven years before I actually met him.  When I finally sat with him in his office at Kripalu for a couple of hours, well, it was pretty much the same as it was in my head all those years.  That’s how engaging, personal, and exquisitely crafted his writing is.

Some of the eleven famous people in this book are obvious (at least to those already familiar with the story of the yoga philosophy’s influence on American spiritual history–see True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.)

Walt Whitman is here, whose Song of Myself  is often referred to as the “American Bhagavad Gita.”

So is Mohandas Ghandi, for whom the Gita was his motivational and practical bible.

And Henry David Thoreau, who famously chose the Bhagavad Gita as one of the five books he took with him to Walden Pond.

But Ludwig van Beethoven?  Who knew that Beethoven had quotes from the ancient yoga texts for daily inspiration underneath the glass on his desk?  Who knew that his struggle to endure and eventually triumph over the unbearable tragedies in his life, like being abused by his father, suicidal depression, and going deaf, exemplify the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita?

Or Robert Frost?  Or Susan B. Anthony?  Or Camille Corot (the impressionist painter most admired by other impressionist painters)?

Or Harriet Tubman?  Or John Keats?  Or Marion Woodman?  Or Jane Goodall?

When I talked to Stephen at Kripalu, where he is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (the largest yoga research institute in the Western world), he told me he had many more stories to tell like these.  His research turned up many more people than these eleven who lives have either been heavily influenced by the Bhagavad Gita, or whose lives exemplify its principles.  He said he actually had trouble choosing which ones to include.

Sounds like a sequel to me.  What could be better for a Gita lover like myself, already gaga over Cope’s writing, and whose life has already been twice transformed by his books.

Put this one on your “must read” list.


See also:
Yoga Can Change the World. Get Yourself Out of the Way!
~ Kripalu’s Stephen Cope, Part 2.


~Please follow “best of elephant journal” on Pinterest
and elephant yoga on facebook.~

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Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: “Live at Don Quijote” & “American Gypsy” (Free CD’s) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.

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anonymous Jun 6, 2015 3:02am

This is really great information you shared with us. Your research and collection of information really appreciable. I hope that you will come with the latest and useful information in future. Good and keep it up with your work.

anonymous Mar 22, 2015 8:18am

It also lets you know about the game’s violence level.

If you have children, always look at the ESRB rating before purchasing a game.
Here he can start on the missions that will earn him enough points to gain favor with the Federation.

anonymous Aug 22, 2013 9:20pm

I have revered Stephen's brilliant temporizing of classic yogic texts (Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita) as illustrated by contemporary and historical figures. Yet after attending Stephen's Kripalu seminar about the Gita and leading two book discussion groups at my UU church about his latest book, the question must be asked: how can contemporary householders (with spouses, kids and conventional jobs) relate to aspirational dharma histories about primarily single, childless historical figures who were free to devote their energies singlemindedly to artistic and political reform? Or as my wife said when she put down the book halfway through, "Do I have to quit my life to find my dharma?" Stephen would answer no, but the overemphasis on extraordinary figures renders his latest book intimidating to many ordinary people.

anonymous Jan 3, 2013 10:13am

Hi Bob,

I'm starting to teach yoga again next week, after more than a year not teaching, and I'm approaching it as a newbie. Just ordered the book. Thanks for the review!

    Bob Weisenberg Jan 3, 2013 12:31pm

    You're welcome, Jodi. Enjoy it.


anonymous Dec 29, 2012 1:23pm

Ohh! So excited, this is going to be my reading list for the new year. Thanks Bob!

    Bob Weisenberg Dec 29, 2012 2:03pm

    You're welcome. Thanks for joining us here.


Bob Weisenberg Oct 23, 2012 11:37pm

Please "like" Stephen's new facebook page and invite your friends:


Bob W.

anonymous Oct 10, 2012 3:50am

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anonymous Oct 9, 2012 9:52am

I agree; this book is beautiful and extraordinary in so many ways. Thanks for the article!

anonymous Oct 3, 2012 11:50pm

[…] Stephen Cope Changed My Life. He Might Change Yours, Too. […]

anonymous Oct 2, 2012 8:50pm

[…] Stephen Cope Changed My Life. He Might Change Yours, Too. […]

anonymous Oct 1, 2012 10:27pm

Thank you Bob! Fantastically written. I'm going to read this book!

    Bob Weisenberg Oct 1, 2012 10:51pm

    "At last, the true story of how Bob got into yoga can be told…"

    Thanks for your appreciation, Tanya.


anonymous Sep 29, 2012 7:39pm

Agree, agree, agree. My favorite yoga books are Cope's – and I can't wait to read this one. Your enthusiasm is contagious – thank you for that. With a litany of yoga books out there, Stephen's are accessible and meaningful, no matter your beliefs – after all, he uses real people, real situations and every day circumstances to make his points, typing them beautifully to the yoga teachings. One can't help but think as she is reading, 'hey, that's me', or 'yep, been there', or 'wow, I never thought of it that way.' To me, THIS is teaching at it's best. Cope has a gift. And so do you, Bob. I don't get a chance to read and comment much, but each time I do, you never cease to inspire. Thank you for sharing in all the ways that you do. Lisa Flynn

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 29, 2012 8:30pm

    Thank you, Lisa. Great to have you here.


anonymous Sep 28, 2012 2:08pm

Deep into the book and your post echoed my feelings about Stephen's words. Thank you Bob for spreading awareness of his amazing work in your great article.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 29, 2012 8:30pm

    Hi, Anne. Thanks for joining us here.


Bob Weisenberg Sep 28, 2012 8:49am

From facebook:

Ken Malloy: I happened to be at Kriplau the evening that Stephen Cope gave a talk about what was then, his first book, which had just been published. I had never done Yoga, knew little about it and was there on the suggestion a friend – one of those friends who tells you to " Just go!" and so you go. My first Yoga class was not until the next morning and so Stephen's talk was a perfect doorway into the new path that my practice would be for me. I was SO moved by his words that I made sure that I was the last to speak to him at the end of the evening. We were that last two in the room when we spoke and before I could get out a word, he said, apparently thinking that he recognized me: " I know you." I heard: "I know who you are!" and burst into tears! I visit Kripalu several times a year and always manage to cross paths with and have a few precious moments to talk to Stephen. Thought you'd appreciate the story, Bob.

anonymous Sep 28, 2012 2:58am

If you suggest reading it Bob, I'm going to read it. Simple as. Stephen Mitchell's Gita translation is one of my faves now!

A couple of books for my winter reading list methinks 🙂

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 28, 2012 8:10am

    You won't be disappointed, Tobye.


anonymous Sep 27, 2012 7:42pm

[…] Stephen Cope Changed My Life. He Might Change Yours, Too. ( […]

anonymous Sep 27, 2012 1:42pm

The Wisdom of Yoga touched me quite deeply. I remember walking by him once in an empty hallway at Kripalu and just feeling waves of kindness emanating from him. I'm excited to download this book.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 29, 2012 8:31pm

    Yes, that's another good book. Thanks for commenting.


anonymous Sep 27, 2012 6:13am

Bob, your enthusiasm is inspiring. No doubt this book is a delicious read for yoga and history enthusiasts alike. How lovely to discover that all manner of beloved genius in the form of various artists was fueled over ages past. I imagine it's a glimpse into our essential nature as we can all relate to this one story, famous or not. I will read anything about Beethoven myself and had not known he had yoga in his life. And I'm glad he did. I'll put this on the list.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 27, 2012 6:37am

    Hi, Hilary. Ah, Beethoven. I'm just completing listening to all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas. I listened to each one three or four times until it became totally familiar before moving on to the next one. And I did it in reverse order, kind of reliving his musical develop backwards. (Also just read the Solomon biography, too, which is excellent.)


anonymous Sep 26, 2012 11:01pm

Sounds pretty inspiring!!! Thanks

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 26, 2012 11:47pm

    You're welcome, Deb.


anonymous Sep 26, 2012 8:41pm

Thank you for posting this Bob. You know my history with Kripalu and my love of his first book. I look forward to reading his new one. It's next on my list. Life is always interesting–and yours has unfolded in such a beautiful way.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 26, 2012 8:53pm

    Thanks, Patricia. Perhaps you will be moved to write your own review, or an article about Kripalu, or anything else. Perhaps excerpts from your new book to help build awareness. We would love to see you back on elephant.


anonymous Sep 26, 2012 4:33pm

Early last month I had the good fortune to attend a weekend Yoga and Meditation class taught by Stephen at Kripalu. It was a marvelous experience and caused me to become even more focused on my yoga practice. This month I purchased Yoga and the Quest for the True Self and you are correct when you say, don't bring a highlighter for Stephen's writing. What started out as white pages quickly turned orange then yellow then I decided to just finish reading the book and savor during the second read. There are many gems of wisdom on those pages. Can't wait to read The Great Work of Your Life.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 26, 2012 7:46pm

    Thanks for writing, Mark.


anonymous Sep 26, 2012 12:19pm

I will read both now – thank you for the rec!

anonymous Sep 26, 2012 10:54am

I wish you had said more about how he actually changed your life. I'm curious, besides starting a regular yoga practice, what happened?

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 26, 2012 11:54am

    Hi, kumari. Thanks for your question. I hope you'll find the answer in my three links above, "Effortless Wellbeing", "Yoga Demystified", and "Gita in a Nushell". These are actually pretty good representations of what I was experiencing in terms of personal inner transformation. Please take a look at these and then ask me questions from there.

    Thanks for writing.


anonymous Sep 26, 2012 1:07am

This is my favourite kind of review! I will have to read this one. It’ s good to know that books still can change lives. I’m a romantic when it comes to love of books.
It is so great to read you too!

anonymous Sep 25, 2012 7:36pm

I ordered the book today prior to reading this and now am especially happy that I did!! Can't wait!

anonymous Sep 25, 2012 3:40pm

Bob: so nice to hear some of your story. And will have to reread quest for self and get this.
Always appreciate your help and support….
And I must say this is a really great article.
So think am going to tweet finally this link…imagine it's been done but what the heck…gotta start somewhere, somehow.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 25, 2012 3:59pm

    Thank you, Edie. What is your Twitter name?


anonymous Sep 25, 2012 3:08pm

Wow. Now I have to read BOTH books. Great review!

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 25, 2012 3:58pm

    Thanks, Miri. Glad you enjoyed it.


anonymous Sep 25, 2012 2:19pm

Thanks Bob! I haven't read his new book yet, but I wrote a review of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self on my personal blog awhile ago and it is super similar to your article! I love Stephen Cope, and his teachings are so accessible… I was cracking up at your comment about putting away the highlighter, thats me to a T. Both of my SC books look like yellow messes…this was an enjoyable read, and dead-on in my book 🙂

anonymous Sep 25, 2012 1:26pm

Hey, Bob,
Since you put yours up before mine, you know that places me in the Dan Aykroyd role in the Stephen Cope review Point/Counter point, right? I'm working on mine right now; first line: "Bob, you ignorant…"
(not so) Sincerely,

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 25, 2012 2:01pm

    I'll look forward to that, Jay.

    Come to think of it, I'm having trouble remembering what Jane Curtin's comeback was. I'll have to look it up.