Benedictine Wisdom Here and Now
An Online Course
by Jim Green
This course is for anyone interested in the living tradition of Benedictine wisdom. As well as appealing to those who have some knowledge of the Rule of St Benedict and its central place in the development of Western spirituality and culture, it will also serve as an excellent introduction for anyone new to the Benedictine way. Throughout, the emphasis is on how this timeless practical wisdom can help each of us now as we seek to live an authentic, other-centred life. Making the link between Benedict’s teaching and the contemporary practice of meditation in a “monastery without walls” is one of the major strands of what follows.
The course consists of an introduction plus six lessons. Each lesson is in turn made up of six sections: an introduction to a main theme of Benedictine wisdom which is then followed by a closer consideration of three key aspects of that central theme.
The six lessons are entitled:
Each lesson closes with the same two sections: a consideration of the implications for our “practice and our life”, including a number of questions designed to invite further personal reflection, followed by an encouragement to sit in meditation as a way of letting go of all thought and opening to the loving teaching of Wisdom itself.
It is possible, of course, to practise meditation on your own; it can also be enormously supportive to be part of a meditation group. The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) has an extensive network of meditation groups in over 100 countries throughout the world. There is also an international Oblate Community formed of people who have made an explicit commitment to the practice of meditation and to living a life informed by the wisdom of Benedict.
“Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
– The Rule of St Benedict. Prologue.
What you will discover in this course:
Introduction. Extreme Moderation-The Way of Life
We are introduced to the ‘middle way’ of Benedict – a practical wisdom teaching that invites a radical transformation of our daily lives. We also meet St Benedict himself through a brief biographical summary and a look at the roots of Christian monasticism. Further urgent questions are posed: what does Benedict have to teach us as twenty-first-century seekers? And what is the relationship between Benedictine wisdom and our own practice of meditation?
– Lesson 1
The “good zeal” that Benedict speaks about is central to this lesson. What his Rule (and all great wisdom teaching) asks us to do is to wake up. We respond to the repeated encouragement to “make haste”; we discover how presence and remembrance can be active in our lives as we practise the “Work of God”, sit in meditation and prepare to learn from every detail of each day that is gifted to us.
– Lesson 2
We explore the meaning of stability, which is one of the three central Benedictine vows. Is it something that can help us to live with more steadiness and purpose in a world where making any kind of commitment seems ever more problematic? Does the Rule help us to understand training, discipline and perseverance not as limitations but as an essential part of the path towards liberation?
– Lesson 3
Obedience is another of the central vows. In this lesson we see how this quality can lead us towards an infinitely richer level of self-knowledge. Benedict is encouraging us to cultivate a “silent mind” – not a blankness, nor a mere absence of sound, but a readiness to listen deeply and attentively to something other than our own internal chatter. Such listening can lead us to live from a place of authentic, other-centred authority.
– Lesson 4
We explore how the often misunderstood concept of humility is much more to do with identity than simply ‘humble behaviour’. Through the Benedictine readiness to go lower, we begin to understand that the ground of our being is a fundamental shared identity and not anything that we possess. Knowing true poverty means that we know our true needs; which in turn leads us to radical acceptance and a profound, respectful openness to each other.
– Lesson 5
This lesson takes us to the very heart of Benedict’s middle way: the avoidance of extremes and inflexibility. The Rule is shown to be a master-class in the respecting of individual needs; its wise guidance is always practical, realistic and attentive to the specific, the local, the particular. A profound sense of equality – we are all children of God – leads us to live with infinite compassion to all our sisters and brothers.
– Lesson 6
In exploring the third vow, conversatio morum, we are able to recapitulate the whole of Benedictine wisdom. This vow refers to an ongoing, constantly renewed intention to live a life rooted in the practice of humility, obedience and love for others. Benedict shows us the best way to create true community, with a radical hospitality at its very heart. We are invited to change into what we already are, to realise our identity, to get real.
“Inspirational and contemporary. I found this course to be a refreshing and enjoyable exploration of this ancient wisdom that remains ever new.”
“Just thank you. WCCM making courses/reflections available online has made a difference regarding welcome and inclusion.”
What’s Included with the Course:
PEER DISCUSSION GROUPS
Expand your perspective by engaging in peer discussions around learning objectives, or start your own topic.
SEARCHABLE GLOBAL NETWORK
Search our global network of meditators and find local groups to support you in your spiritual journey.
Get access to our vast and ever-growing resource library to supplement your practice at every stage.
About Jim Green
Jim Green has worked for many years in the field of mental health with local and national organisations, the Open University and the BBC. He has practised meditation since the 1980’s in both Buddhist and Christian settings. Jim has been an oblate of The World Community for Christian Meditation since 2009. He is the author of several books on meditation and mental health, the most recent being ‘Giving Up Without Giving Up: Meditation & Depressions’. Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019.