Practical Philosophy

Saturday February 2, 2008

The folks at The School of Practical Philosophy are really quite keen on that Practical bit. They give you practices. In the first week, we got and did a thing called "The Exercise", and have done it again in the second and third classes. It's also on eight-and-a-half-by-eleven in our binders, and additionally printed on a special card. Here it is:

We were supposed to be doing it twice a day for the last two weeks. Today we did a new practice which is called The Pause. It's like The Exercise but shorter. You're supposed to be still for a moment and focus on one sense. It's a sort of micro-meditation, and well-named besides.

The main content of this class was "Levels of Awareness", although we spent a lot of time discussing attachment and sharing personal stories of trying to apply the question "What would a wise person do?" Some people shared things that I would probably have considered too private to bring out in that environment. Anyway, here are the levels of awareness from my notes:

It was claimed that most people spend most of their allegedly awake time at the "waking sleep" level.

I had to run part of the way through Central Park to get there on time, but I did, and this time I chose to go back to the room and teacher (Roland) from my first week. He's a private school administrator, seems a little like Mr. Rogers, and is a wonder just to watch for his teacherly demeanor. Today I was particularly impressed with how he handled a participant's wildly off-topic response to a question. Without ever losing a beat he addressed the response positively, affirming the speaker, and then gently returned to the question he had actually asked. My response as a teacher in that situation might easily have been wide-mouthed and probably insulting flabergastion.

One weirdness from the day: several times Roland spoke of something taking multiple lifetimes, in a way that could be purely colloquial or could indicate a literal belief in reincarnation. Is that a part of the school's curriculum, I wonder?

Subway Philosophy
Week One
Week Two
Week Three

This post was originally hosted elsewhere.