Practicing the Inner Life: A Five Part Exploration of What Spiritual Practice Can Mean for You

With Pádraig Ó Tuama

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Author : Alana Calhoun

Join Pádraig Ó Tuama for a five-week course exploring the Inner Life. Taking the Celtic year as a template, this course will consider what practices can nurture a vibrant inner life: in order to be present to yourself, present to others, and present to the world. Participants will be supported in reflection exercises and writing exercises, as well as learning from poets and writers from diverse spiritual traditions.

Celtic spirituality is remarkably grounded: it is about surviving the elements, about paying attention to the weather, about knowing the seasons, and about the stark reality of both life and death. Ireland has a lot of mist, but there’s nothing misty about the spirituality from there.

This course, while not only about Celtic spirituality, certainly will lean heavily into the concrete nature of spiritual practices: we will think about breathing, about rituals, about daily, weekly and monthly practices, about capacities to hold your days together, and about accompanying each other — and, most importantly, yourself. The Inner life is a practice — i.e., it is something that you do. There won’t be prescribed homework, but there will be the expectation that people will try out different practices over the course of these sessions and have reflections on what works, and why, or what isn’t working, and why.

The course will make use of practices and texts from different spiritual traditions, but fully understands that people may come with multiple, or no affiliation to a formal religion. All religions bear witness to practices, and those practices have been used fruitfully, or fruitlessly, for centuries. Many practices will be suggested, and individuals will be welcome to try what they wish, knowing that some will work, and others won’t. Every week will have some dialogue about poetry, as well as space for personal narrative reflection.


Session 1

Religionless Spirituality?
In this class, we will consider the overlaps and distinctions between the formal terms Religion and Spirituality. Primarily here, we will consider how death is a constant presence in questions of both Religion and Spirituality and discuss — and learn — together about how death is always a conversation among the living.

Session 2

Practicing Practice. What practices work?
Many people will be familiar with — and practitioners of — journaling, yoga, breath work, self-care, prayer, meditation or daily reading. How can we consider the purposes of these practices? What works? How do you know what is “working”? What are the measures of such categories? Mary Oliver suggests that the outward flowing of an inner life is dependent on the inner swimming: the regular routines that you maintain, in times of flourishing and in times of mundanity.

Session 3

Stationing the Story of your life.
To station a story is to look at chapter-breaks, line-breaks, caesura and silences. In this class, we will consider how it is that the story of your life may be a repository for spiritual wisdom.

Session 4

Postcards from the Edge:
What are the experiences of being at the edge that you have had? How can edge-places — a place of risk, a place of vista, a place of threat, a place of summit — be our teachers? Why are we sometimes drawn to spend time there? What primal urges move us there, and keep us there, or keep us from there?

Session 5

Desire is a complicated beast. “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it” as the old song goes. What is the role of desire — personal, sexual, professional, societal — in shaping the inner life, and in shaping how the inner life expresses itself? In this final session, we will explore some learning from the first sessions, but accompany it with some practices about desire and its energy in your life.

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Pádraig Ó Tuama is an Irish poet, theologian and conflict mediator whose work centers around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. He presents ‘Poetry Unbound’ from On Being Studios and is the author of ‘Poetry Unbound; 50 Poems to Open Your World’ from Canongate/WW Norton (2022). His work has been featured on national broadcasters in the US, Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. From 2014-2019, he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. His poetry has been featured in Poetry Ireland, Poem-A-Day, New England Review, Gutter and more. ‘Feed the Beast’, a short collection of new poems, is forthcoming from Broken Sleep Books in late 2022.

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