The Art and Science of Mindfulness & Meditation workshop

Meditation Workshop Birmingham

The Art and Science of Mindfulness & Meditation – The Blissful Brain

at Newland House, Edgbaston, Birmingham

On Sunday 8th July 2018, 9 30am to 4 00 pm

Cost £22 including vegetarian buffet lunch and all refreshments

This workshop will be an exploration of the Science and Practice of Mindfulness and Meditation.

At this workshop we shall:

  • Explore various types of mindfulness and meditation practices practised throughout the different cultures of the world
  • The Blissful Brain - Mindfulness and Meditation workshopLook at the differences in types of meditation related to levels of awareness
  • Look at how the brain seems to be pre-wired to enable and benefit from the practice of meditation as discovered from recent studies in neuroscience
  • Consider meditation in the context of the right and the left-hand sides of the brain
  • Look at the effect meditation has had on long term mantra based  meditators
  • Consider the effect meditation has on health in general
  • Explore the spiritual/psychological reasons to practice meditation
  • We will also practise a few different types of mindfulness and meditation practices throughout the day

The practices will include:

  • mindful awareness exercises
  • spoken guided meditations



This workshop is being delivered and led by David Nock who:

  • has been studying practical philosophy for 35 years
  • practicing mantra based meditation for 40 years
  • studied various other types of meditation practices
  • has a keen interest in the positive effect meditation has on humanity

David has run this workshop quite a few times now and it is always a peaceful, stilling and enjoyable experience.


Midlands School of Practical Philosophy, Newland House, 137-139 Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UA


9.00am For refreshments, tea, coffee and biscuits

9:30am-4.00pm Workshop start and finish times

Sunday July 8th, 2018.


The cost is £22 for the day and will include refreshments and a full beautiful vegetarian buffet lunch.

If you have any questions in advance please feel free to call 0121 454 2540.

Next Step Workshop – 25 Feb 2018

An audience with Sattwa (light) workshop – 15 Oct 2017

This term’s ‘Next Step’ workshop will take place on Sunday 15th October and is entitled…..

An Audience with… Sattwa (light)
workshop / study day

at Newland House, Edgbaston, Birmingham

For students from Part 4 (Presence of Mind) onwards, i.e. currently studying the modules: presence of mind, action, knowledge or are in the intermediate group

On Sunday 15th October 2017, 9 30am to 4 00 pm

Cost £22 including vegetarian buffet lunch and all refreshments

Although all 3 energies (Guna) are always present and available, the current play of creation is largely governed by Rajas (activity) and Tamas (regulation). Whilst we cannot change the dominating guna within the creation, we can observe what is governing ourselves at any one time and if appropriate take steps to lessen the effect of the dominating guna or even change it.

(Note: The English translations used here for Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas are very ‘loose’ and general. As they are qualities of energy their full meaning can only be properly understood in experience)

We shall spend the day discussing, reflecting and observing the play of the Guna within society and ourselves. This will be a very practical down to earth enquiry with a light (sattwic) touch.

The workshop is on Sunday 15th October 2017. The school will be open from 9am for coffee, tea and biscuits with the workshop starting at 9:30am and finishes at approximately 4pm. The tutor for the day will be Stephen Davy.

The cost for the day to include all refreshments including a beautiful vegetarian lunch is £22.

The effect of a day like this is always light, peaceful and uplifting and it is a marvellous opportunity to practice philosophy in the good company of like minded people.


To reserve your place on this workshop enrol below.

Please note this workshop is designed for present members of the school only, from part 4 (Presence of Mind) onwards.

Know thyself practical philosophy

Self knowledge (part 2)

[Read Part 1 by CLICKING HERE]

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates urged us to “Know Thyself.”

But what is this self that we need to know?

Know thyself practical philosophyThe self might be a heady mix of conscious and unconscious motives which guide our behaviour and intentions.

The development of the self is influenced primarily by our culture, which conditions the self – by parents, educators and society – and their beliefs and values. Our subconscious self can be influenced by early trauma and phobias.

Alternatively, growing up in a flourishing environment might lead to a much calmer and confident personality. Our experiences and conditioning will, therefore, determine our temperament: we might be rather introverted and contemplative – rather timid even; alternatively, we might be more extroverted and active; many of us are more devotional and religious.

Whichever is the case, though, personalities tend to be either optimists or pessimists.

Why do we appear to be ignorant of that self, as Boethius seems to be suggesting?

The cognitive scientist and philosopher, Thomas Metzinger, argues that the self, created by self-consciousness and sub-consciousness – provides for us, a window on the world.

This is the ego; but the ego develops over time, so we actually view the world through an ego-tunnel. But we cannot see the walls of the tunnel or the window at one end of it; consequently, if the ego-tunnel obscures or distorts our view for some reason, we won’t necessarily be aware of it – so our experience of the world becomes limited by a sort of tunnel-vision.

Our conscious experience is significantly influenced by our fears and phobias, prejudices, and personal desires stored – and hidden from the conscious self – in the subconscious self.

Thus our conscious experience is not so much an image of reality as a tunnel through reality.


In other words, we do not see the ego – rather, we see with it.

Why do we need to know ourselves?

The self is at the centre of its point of view of the world. The self effectively determines the scope of that view – if that view is extremely self-centred, as in depressed people, for example, then, it will be confined to one’s immediate environment; but if that view is much wider in scope, one’s view can become “cosmic” or “oceanic” that takes in the whole universe – Reality as it is.

Our conditioning, therefore, will invariably distort our view; and yet as philosophers, we need to perceive reality, fully and clearly.

Knowing oneself is therefore the basis for right thought.

The next blog will look at the methods used by the School to enquire into the nature of the created self.

Self Knowledge and Practical Philosophy

Self Knowledge (part 1)

In other creatures ignorance of self is nature; in man it is vice.”



What is the “self”?

My son was born during my service in the Royal Navy; and shortly after his arrival I went to sea for quite some time. When I eventually returned home, my son was toddling, and on hearing the door bell, he ran to greet the visitor at the front door. On seeing me he screamed and ran through the house, heading for escape through the back door. (He’s in his thirties now, and he still does it!)  This event caused me to leave the service, so I could experience my son growing up.


Self Knowledge and Practical PhilosophyEntering the world of work (in 1979) came as quite a shock; a world of the rise of the cult of the individual, a world where any sense of community was starting to decline, a world which never seems to be satisfied with what you’ve just achieved, a world of managers, not leaders. There was no time for awe and wonder anymore; I just didn’t have the patience to spend all night discussing religion and philosophy with my father as I used to. (I only recovered that earlier position a week before he died, when we talked about “faith.”)


Becoming somewhat impatient and intolerant, I had no time for people either, so I took this stress and frustration home, which then infected my family. In fact I started to resent my upbringing – because it didn’t – as I thought – prepare me for engaging with the world. Work had totally taken possession of my being. My early life and my time in the forces were relatively stable; any skills learned lasted throughout my career. But in work, what you’ve achieved this year is never going to be enough the following year – the constant search for growth means that your self has to grow too – but not necessarily for the better. You grow a tough, security layer.


So, “I” had changed; but was it permanent? Was I permanently affected by my experiences?

But, as you will see, this change wasn’t permanent – the world of work had created, not another self, but a covering over of the self I had created in my youth. So how do I get back to that younger self? And indeed, is it possible to go further back again to find the uncreated self? Yes, it is possible; but, first, you have to know that “created” self.


Who am I - Practical Philosophy Stourbridge

Create the world, create the self

My World

I was blessed with a happy childhood. In many respects my parents were very late Victorians who were totally committed to our upbringing – but, expressed as duty, rather than affectionate love; but I don’t remember a feeling of being unloved as such.


My early life was not troubled by the fact that we were considered poor – I didn’t starve, and was never left naked. Never ambitious, I was not really a swot, and yet I do not recall being pressed to achieve. I was a member of a community, the community of the church, a close family, and a community of friends. All summers seemed long and sunny. I was just me; but I was happy, so I wasn’t consumed by me.


From the age of five, my father made sure that I received a Christian religious upbringing. I was a willing soul until I reach fifteen years of age, when I rebelled – not against my parents – but against their theological beliefs; although I still considered myself to be spiritual – a feeling I couldn’t explain or articulate at the time; and not until quite recently. My religious experience did, though, take me out of myself (which the Ancient Greeks called ekstasis or self-transcendence); this left me with a sense of awe and wonder of the world and the universe.


The Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, reckoned that philosophy begins with wonder, which is probably why, in my early 20s, I became interested in philosophy – but again, I didn’t understand why I was so compelled to study it. When at home on leave from the Royal Navy, I would frequently stay up all night talking to my father about religion and philosophy – I liked the Socratic dialogues so, naturally, I took on the role of Socrates!


After leaving the Royal Navy, however, and entering the world of work, I created and cloaked myself with another, more troubled self – a self created by pressures of work and civilian life, which I had not previously encountered. This begs the question, then, is there a core self – or Being that is unaffected by outer conditions and circumstances? Before we can answer that question, we have to consider how the mind creates the world – and the self.


Creating the world?

When we look out on the world, it seems to us to be so concrete. Our senses give us the world and everything in it to us directly doesn’t it? Or does it? Philosophers have argued over this problem for hundreds of years; but most would now agree that we do not perceive the world directly – we recreate it in our minds by reconstructing that world using the phenomenal data given to us by our senses. This process is called sense-perception. (Empirically-minded philosophers allege that this is the only way that we can acquire knowledge, while other more rationally-minded philosophers would argue that our knowledge is innate. Others contend that it is a bit of both.)


Consider this: our eyes do not perceive – they are equivalent to a pair of 40mm camera lens; if the mind didn’t process sense data, our field of view of the world would appear upside down! This is because our eyes invert the world, just as a camera lens does; and like a reflex camera our mind needs to invert the data from the eyes again to bring the world right-side up.

So, how does the mind reconstruct the world we see? It does this by aggregating all the perspectives we have of an object. Consider this table, on which I am writing this piece: If I stand still and view the table I see one perspective of it only; If I view it from above, for example – the table appears as a two dimensional square – just as a “flatlander” would see it; but, as I move around the table I see many different perspectives. My mind aggregates all these many perspectives to present to me the table as a whole. This is so well done by the brain, that the table appears concrete.


So, the world we perceive isn’t given to us directly – it is a model of the world; it isn’t objective either: it’s very subjective – I might be colour-blind, for instance.


The 18th century German Idealist philosopher, Emmanuel Kant – following on from some of the world’s Empiricist philosophers, such as Locke, Berkeley and Hume, stated that while we can more or less perceive the world quite accurately in good light, we can never view that world “as-it-is-in-itself.” In other words, such knowledge of the world is never direct – it is second-hand, as we have seen.


Creating the self?

Dame Shirley Bassey used to sing: “I am what I am; I am my own creation.”

Nice song, but what is the “I” that creates the self? The self isn’t consciously created: it is created by our conditioning and our past experiences, certainly; but nevertheless, the self-model is created and buried in our subconscious, without our asking and remains hidden until revealed by circumstances which triggers its awakening. Buried are: fears and phobias, experienced abuse and neglect (especially lack of love), and other sources of negative emotions especially if experienced when very young.


who am I stourbridge practical philosophySimilarly, when we ask that self-directed question: “Who am I?” can we give a concrete answer? Well, as you should eventually see, most of us cannot; what we consider to be our “self” is also reconstructed in the mind from “sense” data – like the table in my study. But it is this “self” that interprets the world; so can we rely on that interpretation if we cannot really rely on the self we’ve reconstructed? Well, we can if we seek to “Know Thyself” in the full light of “inner illumination.”


In the 19th century, another German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer – who was greatly influenced by Kant, (and, interestingly, came to the same conclusions as the ancient Indian Hindu philosophers) – took Kant’s philosophy a step further. He reckoned that while we cannot perceive objects in the world “as-they-are-in-themselves,” we, too, are objects in the world. Schopenhauer’s great insight was that, since we possess reflective minds – we do have access to the (psychological) self “as-it-is-in-itself.” Doesn’t this give us an excellent opportunity to know ourselves – as we really are?


So when we look out on the world, we perceive it indirectly; but when we look at our inner world – I mean really look – we have the potential to “perceive” it directly – provided our self-created ego gets out of the way of this perceiving. So, eventually, we should be able to answer that question: “Who am I?”


We have considered how the self is created. How does the School, then, help us to know this self and, subsequently, know our true Being? The next blog will consider this.


Jim Curtis