There is a course blog to which all are invited to contribute:
Week One — 31st October
Getting ready to lead the Galenic Life
with Professor John Wilkins (Exeter University)
A general introduction to Galen, his world and thought, and also to the Galen Project underway both here in Cambridge and elsewhere. During the evening there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions about Galen and the project in general.
The seven days following this introductory session are intended to give participants time to prepare for the next three weeks during which we’ll attempt to practice the Galenic life ourselves.
Week Two — 7th November
A introduction to & conversation about the “Galen Handbook”
and the “Six Principles”
Galen’s approach to preventative medicine is holistic, and focusses on six essential factors for promoting wellbeing, which will provide our framework for the trial period. These factors are:
1) the food & drink you consume
2) getting the right amount of exercise
3) living and working in an environment conducive to wellbeing
4) getting the right amount of sleep
5) actively caring for your mental wellbeing.
6) maintaining balance in all of the other five factors.
During this session participants will also be introduced both to “mindfulness meditation” and to a Stoic “Bedtime Reflection”.
A Stoic Bedtime Reflection by Seneca:
‘Every day, we must give an account of ourselves. This is what Sextius did. When the day was over and he had withdrawn to his room for his nightly rest, he questioned his mind: “What un-useful habits have you cured yourself of today? In what sense are you a better person?” Is there anything better than to examine a whole day’s conduct? What a good sleep follows the examination of one’s self! How tranquil, deep, and free it is, when the mind has been praised or warned, and has become the observer and secret judge of its own actions! I make use of this power every day. When the torch has been taken away and my wife has fallen asleep, I examine my entire day and measure what I have done and said. I hide nothing from myself, nor am I indulgent with myself.’
Try to practise this reflection for around 10 minutes every night before sleep, or, if you would rather, before going to bed but late in the evening. Indeed, if you find that this stimulates your mind, practise it after dinner instead. Take the following two steps:
1) Simply review the preceding day mentally, twice or three times if necessary.
2) Now ask yourself which actions did you perform well, and which actions did you perform less well? Which thoughts do you find helpful and which not so helpful? How did you act towards other people today? Do not blame or castigate yourself. If you did something you were unhappy with, simply mentally prepare yourself to handle the situation better next time.
You will, in addition, find your own questions to ask yourself. Experiment and find ways in which this exercise åworks best for you. Indeed, you might also experiment with creating your own exercise for first thing in the morning, preparing yourself for the day ahead. Again be creative, and see what works for you.
An exercise in Deep Breathing:
Find a quiet spot, somewhere you won’t be disturbed for five minutes, or however long you feel is appropriate for you. This could be a break from work, in the library or your office, or in bed at night just before sleep. For this short period of time, bring your awareness to your body as a whole, lightly focussing on your respiration. Simply enjoy focussing on your breathing in and out, slowly, gently yet deeply. If you lose concentration, just gently bring it back to your breathing. If practising this exercise during the day, practise in such a way that you feel refreshed by the end of the exercise. If in bed at night, practise in a way that brings relaxation. Don’t worry if you fall asleep!
A recommended “Introduction to mindfulness meditation”:
This program by Judith Day presents a comprehensive beginner or refresher training. It includes instruction for sitting and walking meditation as well as how to deal with common difficulties. Fifty minutes of guided meditation and forty-five minutes of discussion. It is available both on amazon.co.uk and iTunes. We will be using tracks 2 and 3:
Week Three — 14th November
On the importance of “balance” in the ancient world and its relevance today
with Dr David Leith (Exeter University)
This session will begin with an opportunity for participants to ask any questions that have arisen during the previous week.
There will follow a short, fifteen minute, mindful meditation and a break for “Galenic” refreshments. David will then speak on “balance”. As before during the evening there will be plenty of time to ask questions and share thoughts and reflections.
Week Four — 21st November
How are you feeling? A summing up and assessment of the previous two weeks
We’ll begin with a short, fifteen minute mindfulness meditation and some “Galenic” refreshments.
The final session will then be used to explore and share with each other how we felt Galen’s six principles impacted upon our own health and well-being. It will also be the opportunity for us critically to address four questions Professor John Wilkins and Dr David Leith have asked us to consider:
1) Do you think that Galen’s “Six Principles” transfer straightforwardly and easily into our own age and culture?
2) What is your opinion about having the six principles all together as a focus of attention?
3) What is your opinion on the relative importance of each individual principle?
4) Can you think of possible omissions in Galen’s programme?