Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wonderings on Wanderings: Going to Back School

the introductory course, Philosophy Works
There are only eight places in the US where instructors of the School of Practical Philosophy are located: New York City (where the American school started in 1964), Hudson Valley NY, Rochester NY, New Jersey, Boston Massachusetts, San Francisco California, Albany Georgia, and Scottsdale Arizona. The American school is affiliated with schools in the rest of the world, in fifty-five places in eighteen countries. The highest number in a country  is in the UK where the school was started in 1937 by Leon MacLaren.

If we had not chosen to snowbird in the Phoenix metropolitan area, I might not have been introduced to this School. The School ran a series of FB ads on a free introductory course entitled ‘Philosophy Works’ that reached me as a resident of the area. From the inquiries they generated, three classes were born, one in Scottsdale, another in Glendale, and the one I joined, in Mesa. I hoped that my propensity for  stress could be finally remedied, especially now that my book project is getting to be in full swing.

borrowed from the website
of the School of Practical Philosophy
This introductory course centered on finding the ability and desire to dig deep into the limitless source of ‘nourishment, well-being, and understanding’ that is within each of us. Each week a new principle is introduced and the secret to cumulative wisdom is the acceptance and practical application of each weekly principle.  Each class dwelt first on the experiences of the students in trying to apply the principle of the previous week and then next the explanation of the new one for the week.

It began with an exercise of tuning into one’s five senses, receding from the world outside, tapping into our own ‘within’ and gradually welcoming each new stimulus again. We did the exercise twice in class in the beginning weeks until we could do it several times throughout the class, whenever it seemed like we needed to. With this foundation, we tackled each of the following principles for the rest of the course.

1.       What would a wise man or woman do?
2.       My word is my bond.
3.       Whoever or whatever is in front of me is my teacher.
4.       What you give your attention to grows.
5.       In any conversation, there is only one profitable activity, listening.
6.       Look for Beauty. If you don’t see it, look again, and again.
7.       The fruit of negative feelings is endless ignorance and suffering
8.       I am not this body, mind, heart. They are instruments for my use.
9.       Look for unity, the wholeness beyond the surface agitation.

Bill took me to class every Wednesday at 6 pm and when he picked me up at 7:30 pm, he would be interested to find out what the new principle is! Invariably I would tell him that the class thoroughly enjoyed again the example I shared of our life together. Like for #3, it was so obvious that he was the one who was always in front of me! I absolutely loved the first four and then I had some difficulty with #5! #6 was easy but then the rest became not only harder to embrace but more so to practice.

When the class was bigger and more diverse in the beginning, the discussions were richer. It is too bad that the class dwindled in size and ended with only two men and six women.  Nevertheless it was inspiring to hear their stories. There was a young couple, Chris and Stephanie, whose knowledge of himself and herself improved as much as their bond as a couple. They said at the end that they were lucky to have gotten lessons early in life. I say, ‘Better late than never and how.’ How I wish Bill went to class with me!  

After this introductory course are four foundation courses: Philosophy and 1) Happiness, 2) Love, 3) Presence of Mind, and 4) Freedom. Each class invites the student to become more fully aware and connect more deeply within with more exercises that bring him closer to the truth behind the question, ‘Who am I?’ I wanted to continue to the next level course but Bill and I had planned on our 2-3 month European vacation. Thus I will only be able to continue only when I am back in September.

Undoubtedly, the course helped me to be less anxious. I have felt more at peace, seemed more relaxed, and slept better. Looking back at my stress-laden career, I think I could have accomplished more (maybe more appropriately, better) had I been more at peace with myself, as the course is teaching me.  More importantly, it might have helped me relax and enjoy my success more. 

Actually, after the Foundation Courses are the advanced courses on meditation, service, and special studies, a special program on Economics and Justice, and other special events. But I doubt I will go as far as the advanced courses but I intend to complete the four foundation courses. That means I probably will be with the school for the next two years (they offer only three terms a year), whenever we are in America.
 
Thus the Phoenix metropolitan area will definitely be home to us for a while. This dovetails well with Bill’s CASA project.  I also hope that someday, a Philippine school will be opened, if not by me, by another Filipino who finds the program practical even if it is philosophical!