First session in a new course entitled "Going On Beyond: Meditation and Mysticism in the World Faiths" at Christchurch, Clarendon Park. This nine-week course is presented as part of Christians Aware's Faith Awareness programme. It was originally intended as a ten-week course that should have started last Monday, but sub-zero temperature and slippery pavements led to a week's postponement.
The course has been devised - and is facilitated - by Ian Grayling and Kevin Commons (photo above) of the Leicester Serene Reflection Meditation Group, although a few of us met one afternoon last summer to set the course's outline and general aims. It's the latest course in a series that has so far covered "Mindfulness Through the Senses" (2010), "Mindfulness and Morality" (2011) and "Mindfulness and Wisdom" (2012) - all of which are covered in this blog.
There are 15 people attending this evening (including our facilitators). This programme has been designed as a means of helping those attending to explore the process of looking within as a means of deepening their understanding of their own faith as well as looking at mysticism within a range of different traditions. More specifically, the programme seeks to enable people to:
- Recognise ways of knowing through personal experience that goes beyond rational understanding;
- Deepen (or initiate) their won meditation or contemplative practice;
- Be mindful of similarity and difference in contemplative practice from different faith perspectives;
- Consider the practice of "meditation" as a means of underpinning daily living.
This opening session provides a "faith-neutral" introduction to the whole programme. The remaining sessions look at meditation or contemplative prayer and mysticism through the life of a well known practitioner from a sample of different faiths. Each of these sessions will comprise an introduction from a named speaker and explanation of the particular practice of the chosen practitioner. The presenters will then lead a short period of meditation or contemplative prayer and the session will conclude with questions from the audience.
The programme, which employs a range of delivery techniques, including practical experience of a contemplative technique, aims to promote active and reflective learning in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
This evening, Ian and Kevin renew our acquaintance with authorities and commentators whose names and insights we've come to know through these courses: James W. Fowler and his definitions of stages of faith; Alister Hardy and his research on religious experience; Zohar and Marshall and their work on spiritual intelligence. We do some pairs work discussing how Hardy's findings relate to our own lives - an exercise in active listening.