From the very first evening, our courses in Practical Philosophy aim to support a more mindful way of living. With the help of practices such as the Awareness Exercise and Pause (taking a moment to become fully still between actions), 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 usually find that remaining present while going about our work in the world is not that easy – it requires some perseverance, practice and guidance. As with any new skill, the more we practise, the easier it becomes. Practice is what these sessions are all about.
Our 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.
‘Mindful Working’ practice sessions
For students in our follow-on courses, we use the serving of refreshments to our fellow students as an opportunity to practise mindfulness, and to give guidance in working from stillness, with attention.
Each week, one or two members of the Group volunteer to leave the group at 8.00 and spend the rest of the evening as part of a small work team, including experienced students from other groups.
After some initial briefing and instruction from a tutor, there’s the opportunity to practise mindfulness in the serving of refreshments and washing up, followed by a chance to share observations of what arose.
This provides an environment in which habitual ways of thinking and acting are deprived of their usual power, and in which we can establish the practices we have been given.
The idea is that once a term everyone in the group should have an opportunity to practise and to consolidate their learning in this way.
If the idea of ‘missing a week’ of group discussion at first seems unattractive, the actual experience usually dispels any misgivings. Our students find the practice sessions enjoyable in themselves as well as helpful in developing important practical skills and mindfulness.
In reviewing the course at the end of term, students often mention the practice session as one of their main highlights.