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I’ve been going back over final draft of the five week course, Philosophy As a Way of Life. Half way through I stopped to ask myself why I was spending so much time and trouble over it. It gave me a chance to be clear in my own mind as to what I hoped it might achieve. Apart from the obvious thing of preparing something that addressed people’s concerns, and was of genuine benefit, there was the desire to make good use of the new lease of life I had been granted.
I’ve spent much time of late looking at the way the classical philosophers addressed what they thought was of fundamental importance - what it means to live a life that is truly humane.
The Stoics were sure that this was to be achieved by living life ruled by Reason. Reason and Nature were for them one and the same thing. Therefore to live under the rule of the sovereign power of reason was to live in accord with our true nature. In making that discovery it was then possible to be aware of what universal Nature was asking of us. This was both in the grand scheme of things and the minutiae of everyday life.
To put it the most simple terms it’s about what this very moment is asking. It’s not about what I get rather what I can give. If that were the case I thought that maybe I could give something in preparing this course.
The Meditation movement which started fifty years ago drew its inspiration from the East. The question in my mind concerned what there was in the Western tradition that served that same purpose. There is of course a lot. In the five weeks that Philosophy As a Way of Life will be running we will be discovering something of that rich tradition. Have a look at the poster above to find out more about the course.
Best regards, William
WHAT IS THE MOMENT ASKING?
Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power. Marcus Aurelius
What is the moment asking?
This is an interesting question to pose. Without doubt the moment is asking something of us. It may be a gentle enquiry or an outright demand, but regardless of how it manifests we are being asked to interact with life. For that we must be grateful. Without that continual request, there's every danger that we would retire completely into our private world with the same old set of thoughts rotating round our heads. This is never new. It's never free. It is energy wasting, and the more the same old patterns rotate, the deeper is ground the groove.
Met in the right way however, the demands of life can be life enhancing, for they come with their own energy. If we are prepared to connect with that energy, all kinds of possibilities open up. Even though these demands may appear unpromising at the time, after committing ourselves to meeting them, the outcome is often a source of genuine pleasure.
Those people that embrace life to the full have a light heartedness about them. They are looking for opportunity, not trying to escape the demands of life, separated out and self regarding. Every time you find yourself adopting such attitudes to life, shake off such restrictive patterns of heart and mind, and ask yourself what the moment is asking of you.
This is an obervation given in one of my groups that illustrates the point:
I suspect that in common with a lot of daughters I have a relationship with my mother that's littered with 'habitual responses', 'well worn triggers' and 'emotional baggage.' Each time I meet her I see these emotional responses arising. In the past I would leave feeling guilty about how unsympathetic and irritable I had been.
I have of late, however, been better able to observe my reactions, and, rather than judge my mother or react in a way that's based on habit and history, I have been able to simply listen and act out of reason in the moment. I'm beginning to find pleasure in her company rather than being filled with dissatisfaction and guilt.
This is a wonderful example of freedom in action. Out of it arises something to replace the negative emotion that characterised their previous relationship, and the possibility that, before death intervenes, of a true relationship being re established.
When the understanding of which we have been speaking arises, the difference disappear, and the unity which underlies 'history and habit' has a chance of expressing itself in the potent present.
In the final analysis the present is only asking one thing. It is asking you to join it fully in the very moment when you and the moment exist, and it's in that moment that unity is experienced, and it's out of unity that happiness arises and true satisfaction.
Rather than getting stuck with the same old set of thoughts
that go round and round your mind,
connect with what the moment is asking of you.
Take pleasure in responding to that.