Jasper has been unusually successful. He plays international tennis in the over 65s category. In 2019 he represented GB in the World Championships in Croatia, and finished the year ranked No 1 in the UK and No 15 in the world. He’s one of the fastest and fittest in his age group. But he doesn’t only play tennis. A few years ago he wrote down the fantasy stories he told his children when they were young. These developed into books he illustrated and self-published. They made No1 on the Amazon bestseller list. Where does his conscious creativity come from?
Jasper Cooper, Kent, UK
I didn’t really stand a chance! I was born into a family of tennis enthusiasts. My grandfather was an inventor who played at Wimbledon. He was a professional coach and made wooden tennis racquets in his homemade factory in his garage. My father started and ran a small tennis club as a volunteer groundsman, treasurer and match secretary. He self-published three yearly books starting when he was 53 – ‘Cooper’s Annual of Lawn Tennis’. My mother played tennis for the county. At a tender age I fell in love with tennis.
I’ve always been a hard worker with things I love, or maybe it was tennis that engendered that approach. For tennis to be played at a high standard it needs years of dedicated practice. From just a few years old, I played as much as I could and worked hard in every way. I spent hours hitting against a wall. With very little coaching, I learned from watching the top professionals and then copying them.
When I was a young boy, I worked well at school, but as the all-important exams approached, I really lost interest; I just wanted to play professional tennis. People told me it would be too difficult and that I should study to have a career as backup. This was not my way; my natural inclination is to throw my heart into what I love and not look back. So I ignored the well-wishers and fully applied my efforts to one thing – tennis.
Now, as a veteran I work as hard as ever and treat it as professionally as possible. I am still constantly endeavouring to improve. I play about 13 tournaments a year on the ITF Seniors world circuit, including five or so abroad. Each tournament lasts a week, so that’s a quarter of the year.
From 18, I played UK tournaments through the summer. I had little financial help, so while my rivals were playing abroad in the winter, I had to work and save for the summer. During the summer tournaments, I’d sleep in a van and string racquets for other players to help my finances.
Playing tennis on a shoestring was extremely difficult, but nothing would deter me. If there were no practice courts during a tournament, I would find public courts in a park. Courts were locked? I’d climb the fence. If it was raining, I’d play anyway. Anything to play and improve. By the time I was 23, I’d picked up some good results, beating over half a dozen British Davis Cup players and I was ranked 20 in GB.
Then, just as the tennis was really shaping up, I experienced a complete change of heart because a major revelation struck me; I discovered my ego. Quite simply, tennis opened my eyes to something very important – I was happy and thrilled when I won and miserable, frustrated and angry when I lost. My vitalizing drive evaporated and I stopped playing full time.
I started coaching and taking coaching qualifications. But, most importantly, I recognised the possibility of a deeper dimension to life beyond the personal ego. Accompanying this discovery, I saw the world and all the terrible troubles happening around the globe and I wondered what I could do about it.
During the next 4 years I was in the doldrums without real direction. However, during this time I launched into reading lots of books about philosophical and spiritual matters. I read the Gita, the Upanishads, Hermann Hesse, Lao Tzu, The Cloud of Unknowing, Christian Mystics, and many others. From this emerged the concept of a spiritual path that a person could choose to tread, a path to wisdom, freedom, fulfilment and bliss.
Finding the School
I began looking for help and found the School. I remember seeing the advert in the London underground and feeling that it expressed exactly what I was searching for. From the first evening until today, 40 years later, it has provided me with the means to navigate an inner spiritual journey. Meditation was offered and I took to it like a duck to water. Joining the School was a turning point which divided my life in two; life up to age 27 and life after 27.
I qualified as a professional coach in tennis and squash and got married. Two wonderful children arrived, Rebecca and Joseph, and I got a job as the professional coach at a large tennis club. A couple of years later I changed direction again, scraping into a degree course for Art and Religious Studies.
As a complete novice to art, I had only a couple of small quirky notebooks with ink sketches to show; somehow, remarkably, the college gave me a chance. Once on the course I worked harder than anyone else. I was a beginner in the new and exciting world of art. This degree also led to another change of career when I began teaching religious studies at secondary school.
When the children were young, I often made up bedtime stories for them. Now in my forties, I decided to write one of them down; this grew into a book. A few years later my mother died and I inherited enough money to take 10 months off teaching with the idea of developing my writing or painting – it turned into both.
My book grew into a trilogy, and when I was 53 I self-published my first book – the same age as my father when he published his first book. I did everything myself with the help of family, apart from the printing. My family acted as editors, my son designed the cover and I did the art work. They were all fully supportive and still have roles in the creation of my books. We are all regular meditators which brings a special strength in all this creativity.
One source of conscious creativity
Practical philosophy underpins everything I do. It has strengthened my ability to focus and be present. This has enriched life, relationships and activities. After a year or two following the philosophy course, I realised that the beauty and creativity expressed in writing, painting, tennis and music was the same, and came from the same source. Imagination is the child of that creative fountain. The stiller I am within, then the more the creativity is free to bubble up into the action.
Here’s a tennis example. After beating a good friend in the final of the over 65 British Championships, he mentioned a particular winning shot I hit which I used only once and at a crucial stage of the match. It caught him out completely. He asked me, “Where did that come from?” I answered, “I don’t know!” I was just the witness in every way – witnessing the mind and body work.
It was not the usual me, the ego, but the shot appeared from stillness. On court you are making choices all the time; many factors meet in one shot. There is spin, pace, tactics, placement, fitness, timing, balance and more. The better the player the more options there are. Also, the more still you are, the more choices you have – creativity springs up. The best things happen when you have least going on inside.
Philosophy leading to fulfilment
The world is the place where we can practice philosophy, and tennis is the perfect arena. The philosophy has crafted me into a calm and very tough tennis competitor. It has enabled me to return to competitive tennis and play at a higher level and with more enjoyment. I have found a deeper happiness beyond the ups and downs of winning and losing.
It is the same when writing or painting. Writer’s block is not an issue for me because I have learnt, through the School, how to fall still, wait, be patient. The needed idea always arises. But that’s only half the story. Through meditation and the other practices, I can, from time to time, access the underlying depth of being – the true Self. This is the most fulfilling and refreshing thing I know.
I am 67 now and feel thoroughly thankful that the gift of the philosophy is bearing creative fruit in my worldly life and also guiding me along the spiritual journey.
Read Jasper’s first book of the trilogy, free on Kindle: Candara’s Gift
Enjoyed reading this article? Read another like this: A Matter of Words