My First Practical Philosophy Class

Will I Be Going Back?

Thinking about coming to a Practical Philosophy class? Or maybe you are just curious about what it is like...

I attended my first Part 1 Introductory class recently.

This post is about my experience, how I felt afterwards and whether or not I’ll be going back.

Making the decision to go to class

The School of Practical Philosophy have three locations across Dublin and 22 locations across the rest of Ireland. The school in Ballsbridge is just a 30 minute walk from my house.

I suffer from anxiety from time to time. A friend of mine suggested the class to me. She had been going for many years and it seemed I was at a weird point in my life, in my early twenties and not really knowing much about anything. It felt right that I try something different. I felt as though I needed to wake up.

The Part 1 introductory course is split into 10 weeks. It draws on the great teachers of the world, and in turn, (hopefully) bringing you peace of mind, enjoyment, and proven ways to reduce stress. Classes happen every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. It's pretty flexible, so if you miss a class, or would like to repeat a class, you can join a class on any of these days.

On the website it mentioned that no prior knowledge of philosophy was needed. I was relieved to read this, I had no idea about academic philosophy and I wasn’t all too keen on the idea of studying something and then being tested on it.

Of course, it was getting the motivation to go to the first class that was the hardest. It’s easy to tell yourself or others you can’t make it because you’re busy, or you’re too tired after work. But I knew at the end of the day I was doing this for me and me only. Finally I stopped making excuses and arrived at Northumberland Road on a Tuesday evening for my class.

Feeling Nervous

I was afraid everyone would notice I was a newbie and I’d stick out. 

“I’ll definitely sit at the back” I thought to myself “And I’m not saying anything” 

I entered the classroom, I was the second one to arrive and I sat next to a smiley lady who introduced herself to me and went on chatting about last week's class. She was nice, friendly and I was so relieved there was no awkward small talk.

The room began to slowly fill, everyone coming in and smiling at one another, laughing, joking and talking about about how excited they were for this week's class.

I was in a room full of people old and young. It was comforting to see that everyone was at completely different points in their lives, but we all longed for the same thing, to learn more about ourselves.

Once our class began, I immediately noticed the level of respect everyone had for each other, everyone’s opinions were listened to intently by the class and the tutor. No opinion was wrong. I suppose that’s what the beauty of philosophy is, you can look at it from any angle.

I was worried that I would be bored in a class-like setting. Like a true millennial, I am addicted to my phone and have a very short attention span. I knew that learning philosophy meant learning concentration. However, to my surprise I was fully engaged and listening the whole time. I think that’s because of the ongoing open discussion in the class. It was just like sitting down with friends and having an amazing and - as cheesy as it sounds - enlightening conversation.

I felt totally relaxed and was even comfortable enough to share my thoughts with the class and speak out loud. 

We spoke about the injustices that rule our mind, like fear and desire. And how we can sometimes let fear take over our lives and stop us from living.

Our tutor mentioned Plato, who was a student of greek philosopher Socrates. I was baffled that a philosopher who was around thousands of years ago could still be so relevant today in the modern world. That really resonated with me and it was almost like a grounding experience.

We were given a small exercise to practice in our week: 

“When you are overcome with a desire, be that fear, anger, frustration. Ask yourself, is it a reasonable desire?”

It was making such a complicated situation or emotion into something so simple and clear. 

It felt like I was breaking the tough stuff in life down into small pieces that I could deal with one at a time. I liked that a lot.

How I Felt After My Class

I left class feeling a little bit lighter, happier and feeling a little bit wiser. Of course, I’m not perfect. I’ve just been to one class! I’m still a bad procrastinator and my phone was the first thing I checked this morning, but I’m looking forward to going to my next class, and I’m telling anyone who’ll listen about it too.

My generation and even younger are constantly seeking approval on social media, we are anxious, stressed out and 1 in 7 of us suffer from mental health issues. We may have every piece of information we could dream of at our fingertips, but that comes with a price.

I came to practical philosophy class probably expecting to experience a great enlightenment and figure out the meaning of happiness (all in under just two hours, very optimistic!),  but I left with something much better - the ability to look for fulfillment and joy in everyday life. Enjoying the small things as well as the big things.

I don’t think I’m a wise person just yet, but I am enjoying asking myself the question “what would a wise person do?” when I find myself in tricky situations.

If I’m being totally honest, I had no clue what the deal was with philosophy. I just though that when it came to philosophy, the more you learned the less you knew...

I thought it was for these super intelligent, academic, worldly free thinkers who know everything about everything. I was intimidated.

The beauty of this class is it’s all practical philosophy. Something you can use in your everyday life. Whether you’re in traffic, or in a long queue for your morning coffee. It teaches you how to be present, reflective, calm and content.

Will I be going back?

I was surprised to discover that this was exactly what I had been looking for, and I had had no idea I was even looking for anything! I won’t say that I have complete peace of mind or my stress is gone, but I’m interested and excited to learn and explore more. I know that as the course continues on, the more enjoyment I will get from it. It has brought me back to the present moment.

I didn't expect peace of mind to happen after one class, I know that in order for it to work then I must work. So now, in between classes, I’m practicing mindfulness and I’m trying not to overthink so much.... Easier said than done. But that’s something I can complain about in next week's class.

Our world is so busy, it’s constantly buzzing full to the brim with news, culture, politics, activism, celebrities, the list goes on…

For me coming to class is about being able switch off all of that, and have a conversation with my inner self, and the other students in my group.

I can’t wait for my next class!

Want To Learn More About Practical Philosophy?

You can read more here from students who have been attending classes for many years.

If you think you'd like to try part 1, my advice to you is just do it! You might love it or hate it, but I think you'll definitely learn a thing or two. Enrol now for Part 1.

Do you have a poem or a story you'd like to share about practical philosophy? Email your submissions to digitalteam@practicalphilosophy.ie