Three years after opening its doors in Hacienda, the School of Practical Philosophy is comfortably settled in a convenient, permanent home. Like most learning institutions, it has a defined curriculum, but instead of focusing on the external world, Practical Philosophers embark on a journey of self-discovery.
"Our courses are not academic, they do not require any advance knowledge, and there is no studying time after class," remarks Practical Philosophy tutor Floria Nafei Hakimi. "The intention is to open the mind to a greater circle of possibilities, and see things from a different perspective.
"The premise of our teaching," she continues, "is that everything you hear, you already know. You may have forgotten, or have not had the time to reflect on it, but it is not new. Our courses simply open the eyes to innate knowledge, and then provide the tools to access that when needed."
Using the Platonic method, tutors make a presentation and then lead students in conversations about their own experiences. Hakimi emphasizes that "there are no right or wrong answers. Everything comes as a suggestion." In essence, it is all about learning how to deal with life's vicissitudes without feeling like a victim.
"The world is a turbulent place on the surface. Life is very unpredictable, and you never know when a surprise will show up," she explains. "This knowledge provides you with the confidence that, no matter what happens, you have the tools to deal with challenges intelligently and creatively." The result is a more robust inner core and, ultimately, a more peaceful life.
Hakimi worked hand in hand with Mariam Safinia, founder of the local branch of the London-based school, to get the northern California center up and running in 2004. After a few years of holding classes in various locations from San Francisco to Tiburon to Palo Alto, they decided it was time to settle closer to home. "We felt like traveling salesmen, with all the course materials stuffed in the back of our cars." In 2009 the spot at 5960 Stoneridge Drive became available, and the school started its first term there that September.
The new quarters work really well, Hakimi says. "It's been a labor of love to make sure our students are in good hands, warm in winter, cool in summer, fed during breaks." Three classrooms present the opportunity to expand the roster of offerings. Last term Hakimi took a painting class. "It was wonderful to do a focused, non-distracted activity for a few hours in the company of fellow Practical Philosophers, listening to good music and thinking."
Next month sees the start of another fall term, with classes in Wisdom, Happiness, Love, and Presence of Mind. By popular demand, courses are also being offered in San Jose.
The school holds periodic themed conversations to introduce the public to its teaching. The next, "Stories That Can Change Your Life," will be led by Safinia on Sunday morning, August 26, and is open to the public at no charge. "Attending a talk before the term starts allows people to come hear the tone and quality of our conversation," Hakimi notes. "Our goal is for all attending to take home a 'gift,' something of value, whether they return for classes or not." For more information, visit www.practicalphilosopher.org .
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