My teaching in a Nutshell
According to Aristotle (De Philosoph, fr. 8), wisdom (Sophia) covers any ingenious invention and conception (all of which ultimately are gifts, sent down by the gods); therefore to do any thing well, skillfully, according to the divine paradigms and models, is to follow the way of “wisdom” which finally leads to the highest metaphysical goals, to the noetic realms where Wisdom itself, the graceful goddess, dwells. No wonder that every nation loves wisdom and has certain “lovers of wisdom”, be they goldsmiths, artists, healers, singers, priests, or magicians.
Updated April 15, 2019
I have called my teaching Meditation as an Art of Life. Philosophy means “love of wisdom” and a philosopher, in the original sense, is a person who is in love with wisdom, and has invested his or her life totally to this. It is an ancient view of philosophy as a spiritual practice with a spiritual purpose.
In a nutshell it consists of five spiritual exercises:
1) Learning to Live
3) Critical thinking
4) Investigation of the Shadow
5) Learning to Die
1) Learning to Live
Learning to live is something entirely different than you hear about in coaching. It requires that you fall in love with wisdom. This is philosophy in the ancient sense. The Stoics, for instance, declared explicitly that philosophy, for them, was an “exercise.” In their view, philosophy did not consist in teaching an abstract theory – much less in the exegesis of texts – but rather in the art of living. It is a concrete attitude and determinate life-style, which engages the whole of existence. The philosophical act is not situated merely on the cognitive level, but on that of the self and of being. It is a progress which causes us to be more fully, and makes us better. It is a person who goes through it. It raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he attains self-consciousness, an exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom.
Meditation is trained through the Relaxationmeditation (incubation) and the Harameditation (omphalos psychism). Together they aim at stillness (hesychia). In this stillness you begin to ask philosophical questions in a meditative-existential way: How does man preserve peace of mind and balance in all the relationships of life? How do we learn to appreciate the true goods and flout all transient and vain goals? Is the destiny of Man part in a larger plan?
3) Critical Thinking
Critical thinking (kritikos) has to do with three virtues: A) refutation of sophisms (elenchos), B) discrimination (the ability to discriminate between reality and illusion, good and evil, true and false - emphilotekhnein), and C) flexible thinking (learning to see, or rather, think about, things "from above", or from alternative viewpoints).
I have called sophisms thought distortions. I introduced the concept of thought distortions in my supporting exercise the philosophical diary, where I described a Socratic inquire technique. Here they especially deal with psychological and personal matters. I have developed them further in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions.
Critical thinking is mainly about yourself. You should not go out and attack others with this technique, though it of course can be necessary when someone is trying to force you into their own thought distortions. Remember that it is a spiritual exercise. You can use the philosophical diary, but what´s most important, it is meant as a way of having a dialogue with yourself.
4) Investigation of the Shadow.
This is philosophy as a therapeutic of the passions. Feelings can be a reflection of a whole thought-pattern. A thought-pattern can create an enlarged and energy-charged reflection of itself in the form of a feeling. This means, that the whole of the thought´s past also can create a reflection of itself in the body. And if this past is filled with pain, then it can show itself as a negative energy-field in the body. This is the emotional painbody. It contains all the pain you have accumulated in the past. It is the sum of the negative feelings which you have ”saved together” through life and which you carry. And it can nearly be seen as an invisible, independent creature. Therefore we also could, as H.C. Andersen does in his fairy tale, call it the Shadow.
The whole complex constitutes an ancient inertia, which resists any kind of change. Besides the two other meditation exercises (aiming at stillness) the most important meditation exercise you can use, when dealing with the ancient inertia, is the Heartmeditation. The ancient inertia can only be resolved through compassion and love.
5) Learning to Die
Plato said that those who go about philosophizing correctly are in training for death. Paradoxically, learning to live is the same as learning to die. Most of us connect life with the thinking´s past and future. The thinking´s past and future is the same as the Ego (the painbody), and therefore our identity. It is an identity in an absence. If you begin to live in the now, all this falls away. Going into the now, into presence, into being, is a kind of death.
All the ancient schools of philosophy engaged their disciples upon a new way of life. The practice of spiritual exercises implied a complete reversal of received ideas: one was to renounce the false values of wealth, honors, and pleasures, and turn towards the true values of virtue, contemplation, a simple life-style, and the simple happiness of existing. This radical opposition explains the reaction of non-philosophers (people not in love with wisdom), which ranged from the mockery we find expressed in the comic poets, to the outright hostility which went so far as to cause the death of Socrates.
The individual was to be torn away from his habits and social prejudices, his way of life totally changed, and his way of looking at the world radically metamorphosed into a cosmic- “physical” perspective.
Five basic exercises in philosophy as a spiritual practice
My three main books on the art of living:
Meditation as an Art of Life - a Basic Reader (free Ebook. Here you can find the exercises)
A Portrait of a Lifeartist (free Ebook)
Sûnyatâ Sutras (free Ebook)