Practice

The key to studying philosophy is that it is not theoretical. In fact it is intensely practical and experiential. Although considerable help and insight can be drawn from the works of countless philosophers, writers, artists, musicians and others who have illuminated this study, it is only useful when it becomes a matter of personal experience.

From the very first group meeting, our courses in Practical Philosophy aim to support a more mindful way of living and the discovery of who we really are. With the help of the Awareness Exercise and pause, we gradually become more connected with our senses and the present moment, better able to turn the attention out to whatever or whoever is in front of us and a little less subject to mental agitation and circling thoughts.

At the same time, we may find that practising mindfulness at home or at work is far from easy. It requires some perseverance and practice and also some specific guidance. And as with any new skill, the more we practise, the easier it becomes.

The School’s experience over many years has shown the real value of practice sessions, in which we work together in a small group, under the guidance of an experienced student or tutor, and practise working mindfully and with full attention.

Opportunities for such practice are an integral feature of our courses.

Khalil Gibran

 

Work is love made visible.

 

Tea-bnw2

The spiritual aspects of this practice are most significant and transformative. Service provides the vital link between action, knowledge and devotion. When service is carried out with devoted mind, heart and speech, then the physical and subtle aspects of the being begin to be purified. This leads towards a practical experience of Advaita and this experience can be found in all facets of one’s life.

To encourage the deepening of our understanding of Practical Philosophy we provide opportunities to work with and for others in the School. This has two important roles:

  • Mentally and spiritually, it provides an opportunity to practise and develop a more present and mindful way of working. This brings several important benefits: by working with and for others in the School under knowledge, the mind is gradually freed from dullness and agitation, confusion and doubt, and the heart warms and opens and thereby we may connect with a deeper level of understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
  • Practically, it enables the School to function and to provide a service to its students and thereby to the wider community. An important principle in the School is that no one is paid for their teaching of Philosophy; virtually all roles and functions in the School are performed freely as service.

Typically, in Part 4, this starts with practising fine attention through serving refreshments to your fellow students one evening in the term. This is developed further in Part 6 and, in time, may lead to other opportunities, such as working as a helper with another group, organising the bookshop or tutoring.

Leon MacLaren

The secret of service is its fullness, its completeness; there is a kind of totality about it. And you see this very obviously with the great men who devote their lives to say music, or literature … the totality of service of a Shakespeare or Mozart; it is full, it is total, it never stops … it is not a matter of right, it is a matter of grace.

… In the process pervading faults get uprooted, and one can lead one's whole life returning to God what is God's … Now a man who serves like this, inevitably, inexorably, his heart opens, and he loves what he serves, and if he is serving the God, that love is universal; … and with the growth of this love he expands, he is that much greater, great-hearted.

What students had to say ...

Anne-lize

This course has changed my life in every way. I arrived here as an unhappy and anxious person without a sense of purpose. Through this course, the study material, weekly classes and the guidance of our mentors, I am now experiencing true happiness, a sense of purpose and calmness. I am truly grateful for this experience and look forward to my next course.