Monday 23 May 2011

Exploring mindfulness at The School of Life

I’m intrigued by The School of Life enterprise in London ~ so wish I could experience it.

The School offers a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well,

addressing such questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so challenging,

why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to try to change the world for the better.

The School offers psychotherapy and bibliotherapy services

and runs a small shop which has been described as

‘an apothecary for the mind’

The School of Life is an organisation offering higher education,

a bookshop, psychotherapy and a holiday bureau.

It is housed in a bijou shop front building on leafy Marchmont Street, central London and the lecture room downstairs is covered in stunning illustration by London artist Charlotte Mann and has a cosy, secret library atmosphere….  It may sound quite daunting, but you won’t be asked to find the answer to life’s big questions, just to take part in class discussion and practical exercises within a small group. Cherie City

A social enterprise founded in 2008, it’s a place ‘free from dogma’, where participants are ‘directed towards a variety of ideas ~ from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts ~ that tickle, exercise and expand your mind’ and where participants can ‘meet other curious, sociable and open-minded people in an atmosphere of exploration and enjoyment’.

The School of Life offers courses on “the five central themes of our lives-work, play, family, politics and love.

The school’s courses treat the classics (like Shakespeare’s sonnets or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina)

as works with practical, not just academic, value.

It also offers conversation meals, stigma-free psychotherapy, and “bibliotherapy.”

In the summer of 2008, Alain de Botton and some colleagues set up The School of Life.

Founded by Sophie Howarth, a former curator of Tate Modern,

it was a collaboration with writers, artists and educators.

The School of Life has a division dedicated to running architectural ‘holidays’ or field trips to unusual locations.

The School offers communal meals, holidays and a beautiful shop with fascinating gift vouchers and other items. It also has a division offering psychotherapy for individuals, couples or families – and it does so in a completely stigma-free way. The School attempts to put learning and ideas back to where they should always have been – right in the middle of our lives.

The interior is designed by Susanna Edwards and Joseph Harries and features real silver birch trees. The shop sells a small number of books and gifts and displays information about all The School of Life’s programmes and services. Beneath the shop is the School’s classroom muraled throughout by the British fashion illustrator Charlotte Mann.

Meals :: The School regularly hosts evening meals in Central London restaurants along with a Breakfast Club at its Marchmont Street store. Those attending are usually strangers who get to know one another by discussing topics on the ‘conversation menu’. According to Time Out London ‘there are tasks to accomplish, aphorisms to discuss with the aperitif, questions to bat across the table with a stranger through dinner, postcards to ponder over dessert.

Bibliotherapy :: The School of Life offers a literary consultation service it calls bibliotherapy.[12] For a fee, people are able to meet with a bibliotherapist who will talk to them about their reading habits and ‘prescribe’ books which relate to their interests or concerns. The School of Life’s bibliotherapists include the novelist Susan Elderkin.

Sermons :: On Sunday mornings The School of Life hosts secular sermons in which cultural figures are invited to give their opinion about ‘what values we should live by today’. These theatrical events are usually held at Conway Hall in London. Past preachers have included Tom Hodgkinson on Loving Your Neighbour, Geoff Dyer on Punctuality, Sam Roddick on Seduction and Alain de Botton on Pessimism.

Weekends :: The School offers weekends led by writers, artists, economists and scientists to create extraordinary experiences designed to inspire personal journeys, during which participants can learn a new skill or address a particular issue in more depth while providing an opportunity for stimulating reflection and sociable exploration.

    Practitioners’ Parlour

    is the current series of talks which brings together makers, bakers, experimenters, creators and craftspeople, in an active exploration of human hinterland of everyday craft.

    This is such a cool idea that I will post more! If you can’t wait the links will aid your curiosity. The school’s founder was interviewed on NPR AND check out the School of Life blog.

    {Images via dezeen}


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