Robert Abbott is author of the new book Transformation: The 60-second Mind-body Practice Integrating Tai chi and Yoga to Manage Stress and Unlock Your Potential
Where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps?
I was assigned to serve in Nigeria as a member of Nigeria-19. I did the training in the Virgin Islands in the fall of 1965 and arrived in Nigeria in January 1966. I was assigned to Federal Government College in Warri, in the Mid-West State
What was your Peace Corps Assignment?
My assignment was to be a teacher in the new Higher School College. I was the first teacher to arrive at the college, so I initially taught biology and chemistry, and was the school nurse and P.E. Instructor.
Tell us about where you lived and worked?
I lived in the oil town of Warri. The campus was about two miles from the center of town. I lived on campus in a white cinder block two-bedroom house at the edge of a river and mangrove trees. I had a man-servant, James, who cooked, cleaned house, shopped and did odd jobs. James was from Calabar, in the Eastern State. He was a tremendous help.
What kind of work did you do?
My work was as a high school/junior college teacher. Classes were five days a week. I taught biology and chemistry according to the British Higher Education Syllabus. All the students planned to take the British test at the end of two years. I was the school nurse for about a year. In my second year I moved off campus to a local village and worked to restore shrimp and fish culture operations that the British had abandoned. I came close to experiencing the essence of tribal life and death.
What is your educational background?
My educational background at that time was a B.S. from a small institution in San Diego, Cal Western University, plus a year of graduate school at St. Louis University, MO. While attending St. Louis University I marched in Selma, Alabama with MLK. After Peace Corps I went to the University of Washington in Seattle and earned a M.S. and Ph.D.
Did your college education help you as a PCV?
My college education was essential for the courses I taught. The Peace Corps trainers provided me with some really practical tools for organizing projects and teaching classes that I still use today: SAMMS — subject, aim, methods, materials and summary.
What have you done since the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps launched me into a career in international scientific research and planning projects, where I served as a consulting Marine Biologist in Chile, Myanmar, Egypt, Morocco, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Oman, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Later I chose to be a family man and left the international and third world development assistance community and established a professional base as a marine biologist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
What are you doing now?
Today at 79-80, I am a writer. My first book, TRANSFORMATION Tai Chi is based on a 40-year practice of tai chi that I did and taught all over the world. I am also a certified yoga teacher. I learned many tai chi forms in different countries. This is a blended form with both the principles and benefits of the asanas of yoga and power of tai chi, appropriate to our western time critical culture.
How would you describe your book in one sentence?
TRANSFORMATION is a 60-second practice using movements based on tai chi and yoga linked to affirmations common to all major religions such as share, feel joy, speak your truth etc. that will improve your sense of well-being and enhance the probability of success in interpersonal relationships and your career.
What prompted you to write your book?
After doing different types of tai chi and most recently a form named Mu-i, I realized that the linkage between affirmations and movements was affecting my thoughts and behavior in a very positive way. After about 10 years of including this set of movements and affirmations in my teachings I realized that it was important enough to write about.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took me almost a full year between writing and rewriting, lots of editing back and forth, development of illustrations, book design, obtaining reviews, publication details, arranging publicity and blurbs, registering the trade name, and recruiting a team of trainers. It is wonderful to have started a new career and business in my late 70s.
Tell me about your writing process?
I typically work on aspects of the books in my pj’s in the mornings, mostly writing on my iPad. Typically, I work eight to noon with a 20-minute nap somewhere during that time. I do this at least four days a week. Golf, music, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and walking all get into my time allocation throughout the week. Mondays I resolve to get back to work. I seem to drop out on Fridays and the weekends. But Sunday evenings I start making a to-do list” for the book, and I hit the keyboard Monday mornings. I treasure my advisors and co-author, Zochi Young. When two or three get to me about something I get off my high horse and listen.
For me this book was going to be a “learn how to be a writer” type of project. Reviewers were amazingly supportive, and some even consider it “giving the world a big gift.” The “essence of spiritual truths” and things like that. Maybe, but I stand behind what I wrote. It is good stuff, and I am proud to be an expounder of important truths.
During the process did you belong to a writer’s group?
I joined a writer group a year earlier, “Left Margin.” It was a place to go and not talk or be distracted, but just to write, sitting in the same room with other people who were not talking and just pounding the keyboard. Some got their books published. Very inspirational. I had lots of reviewers. I spent a lot of time with editors and had to learn how to write outside the professional scientist form of writing in the third person passive voice. I still do it.
How big is your book?
The book is only a bit over 100 pages, with many illustrations. It is intentionally an easy, quick read. At the same time, it is a workbook on how to train your mind and underlying reflex patterns that will lead to success in the gig economy.
How can an interested reader purchase your book?
It will be printed and available on Amazon and available in the following formats: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, eBook, and audio book.
How are you registering your book?
The ISBN number and library of Congress Number (LCCN) will be through the Peace Corps Writers Imprint. I am doing this project through A3ES Press. A3ES is the name of my sole proprietorship for the last 12 years.
Do you have any other book projects in the works?
My next book, Appetite For Risk, will have several chapters on my Peace Corps experiences, including my escape from river pirates, an exodus in the middle of a gun fight on the Niger River, and how a street fight saved my life.
What does your cover page tell about the book?
The cover page of TRANSFORMATION has an overall image impression of going from dark below to golden light at the top. In the middle is the silhouetted image of a person raising out of the darkness with arms spread, implying taking flight. The head of the person is imposed on the image of a lotus flower, a living example of beauty that arises from the dark sediment and detritus of life that the flowering and indeed whole plant itself feeds on to grow. Credit Jeremy Gaulke for gracing my book with his creative understanding of the text transformed to a unique artistic expression.
Transformation: The 60-second Mind-body Practice Integrating Tai chi and Yoga to Manage Stress and Unlock Your Potential
Robert R. Abbott, Ph.D. (Nigeria 1965-67) and Zochi Young
Peace Corps Writers
$22.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)