Awareness Exercise and Meditation Practice
Exercises in expanding our awareness have underpinned our Practical Philosophy Course since it first started in the 1950s. From the first evening of the introductory course, we aim to support a more conscious way of living.
With the help of two simple practices, the Awareness Exercise and Pausing, 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.
This podcast gives you an idea of what the Awareness Exercise is like:
The Awareness Exercise We recommend this is practised two or three times a day.
Pausing is similar to the Awareness Exercise however it can readily be used throughout the day between activities. It simply means mentally falling deeply still, before or after an activity and allowing the mind to become completely quiet, and simply connecting directly with the senses and resting there for a minute or two.
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?"
Our experience over many years has shown the real value of practice sessions, in which we work together in small groups, under the guidance of an experienced student or tutor, and practise working consciously and with full attention.
Opportunities for such practice are an integral feature of our courses after the introductory course.
From the very first evening, our course aims to support a way of living in awareness, in the here and now. With the help of the awareness exercise, 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 able to observe and be free of unnecessary mental activity or circling thoughts.
You may find that practising awareness at home or at work is far from easy. It requires some perseverance and practice and often some specific guidance. As with any new skill, it needs practice for it to develop.
Awareness practice sessions
The School’s experience over many years has shown the real value of practice sessions, in which students work together in small groups with the guidance of a tutor or experienced student. These practice sessions are an integral feature of our course from the Foundation Group onwards. The practice is to work with awareness and with full attention.
Simple acts of service, like preparing, serving and clearing away refreshments, can provide an opportunity to experience this way of working. Alternatively groups may undertake a variety other practical tasks or exercises as a group in order to provide an opportunity for such practice. Each session is followed by a chance to share observations on the experience.
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. Many discover the transforming effect of being fully in the present during these sessions. They are enjoyable in themselves and we find that these opportunities to practice help develop the ability to rest in the present moment.
In reviewing the course at the end of term, students often mention the practice session as their main highlight.
Meditation has the power to cultivate inner stillness, peace and unity within. A simple mantra-based method is used whereby a single word or sound is repeated gently in the mind for two periods each day while sitting in a comfortable, balanced position in a quiet place. This form of meditation gradually brings about inner peace, harmony and clarity of mind. It also releases finer energy for practical use in daily life.
The School helped to pioneer meditation in the west in the early 1960s and has since encouraged students to take up the practice and incorporate it into their lives. Meditation does not replace philosophical study; it enhances the student’s capacity to explore more deeply, in direct experience, the principles of practical philosophy that we espouse.
Meditation is passed on individually, one to one from a qualified teacher. The individual is given the technique in a single session in a simple traditional ceremony. Then, to establish the practice properly, students meet with a meditation tutor for short tutorial sessions in the weeks that immediately follow. Thereafter students are usually offered a short tutorial once a term.
Students are introduced to the practice by the School of Meditation in London, with which our School has a close relationship. The School of Meditation is a registered charity funded by donations. Its purpose is to make meditation readily available to anyone who wants it. Students taking up the practice are asked to make a generous, one-off donation to the School of Meditation so that they may continue to promote and offer the practice to others in the future.
Some Quotes from students about meditation:-
"Meditation puts you in touch with yourself. All the surface things, all the trivialities of life, tend to take you away from yourself. But in meditation you leave these things alone as best you can and come back to yourself. It is like a thread which is always constant although everything else changes." Civil Engineer.
"Meditation brings us to the bedrock of our being, a place of lightness, confidence and peace." Drama Therapist.
Quotes from a master teacher of meditation:-
“Through the ages a number of systems have been given. Some are hard compared with others, some are long in relation to time. The system of meditation which has been given to us is the culmination of all simplicity by which the evolution of mankind is most easy.”
Maharaja Sri Shantananda Saraswati
“By going into meditation, one recharges oneself with finer energy and comes out with extra energy imbued with consciousness and bliss.” Maharaja Sri Shantananda Saraswati