Mindfulness and Meditation
Develop greater awareness, discover the present
Mindfulness in various forms has been an intrinsic part of our courses in Practical Philosophy since they first started in the 1950s. From the first evening of the introductory course, we aim to support a more mindful way of living.
With the help of two simple practices, the Awareness Exercise and the Pause, our students gradually become more connected with the senses and the present moment, better able to turn the attention out to whatever or whoever is in front of them and a little less subject to mental agitation and circling thoughts.
How do Mindfulness and Philosophy support one another?
The answer to this lies in the difference between philosophy as normally taught in universities and practical philosophy. Rather than seeing philosophy as primarily an exercise in thinking that develops logical and intellectual reasoning, we prefer the approach taken by the ancient Greeks and Eastern philosophers, for whom philosophy was and is a very practical concern.
Practical philosophy employs observation, experimentation and practice and develops faculties such as attentive awareness, concentration and self-discipline.
As these develop, and in particular as the mind attains a deeper level of stillness, so one is better able to penetrate the big questions of life, such as "what am I?" and "what is my relationship with the universe?"
Living and Working Mindfully
We understand how difficult it can be at first to practise mindfulness at home or at work. It requires some perseverance and practice and also some specific guidance. But, as with any new skill, the more we practise, the easier it becomes.
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.
Meditation has the power to cultivate inner stillness and peace in any man or woman, and to help them discover unity behind and through diversity.
The School helped pioneer meditation in the west in the early 1960s, since when it has encouraged its students to take up the practice and provides them with ongoing support to incorporate it into their lives. Our philosophy students are normally invited to take up meditation after 3-4 terms of study in the School, but it can be earlier.
A simple method of mantra-based meditation is used, designed to be of practical value in everyday life. A single word or sound is repeated gently in the mind for two periods each day while sitting on a chair in some quiet place. This involves no physical contortions, chanting or complex mental procedures.
Those practising this form of meditation find it gradually brings about inner peace, harmony and clarity of mind. It also releases finer energy for practical use in daily life.