Life Skills Course Philosophy & List of Topics

This post might be characterized as something akin to “inside baseball.” If you’re participating in the Life Skills discussion, don’t feel compelled to read it. This is just FYI IYI (if you’re interested.) This is the context that shapes what we’re doing, and how, and why.

The overarching and suggested goal in our weeks together is that group members become aware of, informed about, and sympathetic to a list of traditional “spiritual practices” or disciplines–especially those practices that most of us have never been taught–or are learning only recently. Learning and doing a practice to the point where it becomes a skill is the penultimate goal. The ultimate goal of learning such skills is growth in living a life of compassion and justice (“loving well”). (Mt. 22:38-40)

The mastery of these practices (disciplines, habits, routines, rhythms) will create certain corresponding life “skills.” Developing even one of the skills will be liberating and transformative. Each group member is encouraged, over the course of our weeks together, to chose one new practice (a potential new life skill) to be employed long after the class is completed. (Really developing one skill will be much better than dabbling in 5-10 different practices.)

These life skills (disciplines, practices, habits, routines), when ultimately adopted and integrated into a person’s life will lead to a life characterized (1) by more often “being with God”–not just “doing for God” or “doing it without God”–(2) by personal flourishing, (3) by growing in love for God and others (compassion and justice), and ultimately, (4) by making God’s loving, redemptive presence known on the earth.

To these ends, each group member is encouraged (1) to attend and participate in the weekly meetings whenever possible, and (2) in any case, to make a habit of reading one reading from Wisdom from the Margins on a daily basis. (This could involve the corresponding calendar day’s reading, or one of the readings that will be provided from the book for background to the weekly lesson. Doing this will become a sort of healthy daily practice in itself, and will greatly supplement everything that is explored in our discussion times. My suggestion is that you pick a time and place, and begin to make this a habit. Another suggested practice is (3) to do what’s called an “Examen” at the very end of the day. A simple version simply involves looking back over your day, and asking yourself what brought you life, and what drained you of life. These few moments of mindful listening to your emotions, when practiced regularly, create an opening for God to guide you. It’s very simple. Very revealing. Very brief. Even so, it can become another anchor in your day when you purposely, if briefly, create space for being with God.

An individual who adopts the daily reading habit, the Examen habit, and just one other skill during our 16 weeks together, will be on the way to measurable life-change, and will have achieved my dream for those who join in these discussions!

Bill

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Life Skills Discussion Weekly Plan

Here is the most recent (reordered and tweaked) weekly plan for our Life Skills discussions, which began February 1, 2022. (If you’re not involved and would perhaps like to be, please contact me at wm_britton@mac.com.)

Practices (Overview)
Solitude
Silence
Slowing Down
Waiting
Sabbath
Stability
Contemplative Prayer
Fixed-time prayers
Spiritual Reading
Embracing limits
Releasing Control
Abstinence
Transformational suffering
Appropriate Smallness
Loving well (private & public)

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Here are examples of what the classes are like:

Week one: https://richerbyfar.com/2022/01/30/life-skills-week-one/

Week two: https://richerbyfar.com/2022/02/02/solitude-class-notes-week-2/

Solitude (class notes, week 2)

Readings for Exploration

“Retirement is the laboratory of the spirit; interior solitude and silence are its two wings. All great works were prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night.” A. Gilbert Sertillanges

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Pablo Picasso

“We seldom read of God’s appearing by Himself or His angels or to any of His prophets or saints in a throng but frequently when they are alone.” Richard Baxter

Susan Cane’s book Quiet “ . . . focuses on introverts, making the case that they have a kind of intellectual advantage. And their edge stems largely from greater amounts of solitude, from the degree to which they’ve swapped motion for stillness, chatter for calm. They’ve carved out space for reflection that’s sustained and deep. This isn’t necessarily a matter of being unplugged, of ditching the hyper-connectedness of our digital lives. It’s a matter of ditching and silencing the crowd.”

“Fellowship with Christ is a table only for two–set in the wilderness. Inwardness is not a gaudy party, but the meeting of lovers in the lonely desert of the human heart. There, where all life and fellowship can hold no more than two, we sit together and he speaks as much as we, and even when both of us say nothing there is our welded oneness. And suddenly we see we cannot be complete until his perfect presence joins with ours.” Calvin Miller (writing about Psalm 23)

Questions to Explore

*Are you comfortable with solitude? Share from you life to illustrate your answer.

*Are you interested in increasing the solitude in your life? What could be some benefits of doing that?

*What hindrances hinder you from finding time alone?

*What might practicing solitude look life for you if you chose this discipline?

For Further Consideration

Maybe you’re a mom, and you can’t even get time to yourself in the bathroom. Maybe you’re surrounded by people fifty or more hours a week. Maybe solitude isn’t the best practice for you to choose during this phase of your life. If that’s the case, what can you learn from tonight’s conversation?

Maybe you can’t bear to be alone. What might that say about you? What small step(s) could you begin to take to change that?

Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings (background for this conversation)
January 8, 11, 17, 31; February 13; March 27

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If you’re interested in participating in this discussion, which as of now is on Tuesday at 7:30pm EST, please contact me @ wm_britton@mac.com.