Practicing Intentional Living

I continue to bike to work … occasionally, and I am continuing to look for daily adjustments that I can make to improve myself and to help others around me.

These changes do not need to be radical adjustments!! Rather, as Dana O’Driscoll mentions in her book Sacred Actions, you should look for small changes that you can sustain for long periods. Ideally, you should adopt changes you can make permanent habits. In my household, we are starting to consider our use of plastics and how we can reduce at least some of the plastic packaging that seems endemic.

For an example of something small, we love to feed the local birds, but wild bird seed comes in plastic bags that are not recyclable. Holding the intention of replacing the plastic bags, although not knowing how, we have been keeping our eyes open for solutions, assuming we would need to go to a specialty store in a nearby, large city. Much to our surprise, we found that the local farm supplier has wild bird food in bulk and will let us blend the mixes we want to haul away in our – reusable! – buckets. If we hadn’t had the intention/goal, we probably would never have noticed something that has been in front of us all of the time. As Qui-Gon Jinn said … “your focus determines your reality …. “

This week, if you want to deepen your living with intentionality, take a look at this article originally published in 2006 in the Jedi Temple forum: Living with Intention. Make sure that you not only do the reading but engage in some of the exercises at the end as well.

July: Philosophy & Living with Intention

Welcome to July!!

This month, the study theme is Philosophy. The practice focus is Living with Intention.

For me, these two are the core of taking the inspiration of Star Wars to living a “good life” in the sense of living in a principle-centered manner. In other words, to living as a Jedi Knight, when all of the myth and fictional gloss is removed.

Philosophy

There is no end to the reading you can do on the intersection of philosophy and Star Wars, but I commend to you two starting points: our growing collection of articles on philosophical topics and a collection of essays by modern philosophers relating to Star Wars: Decker, K. S. (2010). Star wars and philosophy: more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Some of the essays are available as PDFs, and I will link them for you as the month rolls by.

Living with Intention

I was pleasantly surprised to find articles and musings in the archives of the temple as I was investigating this idea. And I will gradually add them to our accessible collection.

In the meantime, I have made a small adjustment to my daily life that reminded me of how unfocused daily life can be …. and how to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones.

Biking to Work

With gasoline prices rising and the continued rising of temperatures due to climate change, I recently decided to bicycle to work whenever I can.

Now, understand that this is not a long distance … merely 1.5 miles. I should walk or bike this route every day, but as with most Americans, I have become complacent and rely on my car too much. On the other hand, two friends have been clipped or hit by careless drivers while biking recently … we do not know how to share the road in most areas of the United States, and our roadways are not designed – or maintained – to make bicycle commuting safe or easy. But having realized that this was one small change I could make, I decided to go for it.

The first thing that I noticed is that …. I notice many details that were previously hidden. Areas that I considered fairly flat, I now realize have rolling hills. Sections of roadway in the poorer sections of town are significantly more broken, dirty, and treeless than higher cost neighborhoods (where I live, mea culpa). I pay much more attention too to the direction and strength of the wind, because it can actually push me into traffic if I am not (ahem) paying attention.

I am also much more careful at intersections and while passing parked or stopped cars. Whereas a low-speed collision while I’m driving and listening to music would be annoying and mildly disruptive, the same collision between a bicycle and a car could be catastrophic. A new sense of risk sharpens the focus considerably!!!

Finally, ending on a high note here, I notice my body and appreciate it in new ways. I did become reacquainted with muscle groups that running and CrossFit somehow ignored. But after the muscle aches subsided, I noticed the wonderful, heightened sensations of the breeze, bird song, and smells of summer. I was amazed at how powerful and free … childlike really …. I felt when not surrounded in my metal (ok, mostly plastic ….) cocoon. I feel like I have woken up to a new world that is the old world without a coating of dust and grime.

So, if you cannot bike to work, and most of us cannot, I suggest to you to find something from your daily routine that you can shake up and change. See what you can do to change, and possibly enhance, your focus.

Continuing Formation as a Jedi Knight

I am finally coming back around to an idea that was shared by an anonymous Jedi during the 2022 Virtual Life Reflection Day on January 1st: of having a regular cycle of focused study, reflection, and renewal of practice. As he noted in the presentation, this idea exists as part of continuing spiritual development in mainstream religions, such as the common Protestant Christian liturgical calendar that is used to define a three-year cycle of readings and an annual cycle of celebrations and rituals.

While this site is a Jedi Realism (vs. Jediism) site, the idea of continuing spiritual formation is appealing … especially since we have not, as a loose community, figured out what life after elevation to knighthood should entail.

I am also putting out this idea … I can’t even call it a draft … for those of us who have returned to the Jedi community recently. As a loose community, we could pick a topic per month on which to focus, picking up what we remember, polishing off skills, growing a bit, and sharing what we know with the next generation.

This list is a loose collection, conveniently 12 in number. I do propose that we think about behavior change theory and practice in January, since that is the traditional time for “New Years Resolutions” in many cultures. But for the rest, I am wide open as to what month could be their focus period. Or if there are others that we might propose instead.

  • January – Behavior Change Theory and Practice
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Capability
  • Meditation
  • Conflict Management
  • Service
  • Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Spiritual Formation
  • First Aid and Emergency Management
  • Teaching and Learning Theory and Practice
  • Collective Action and Forming Community

Place ideas in the comments or find me at one of the many Jedi sites …..

Bibliography

“Building a Real Jedi” by Outback Jedi, presented as part of the 2022 Virtual Life Reflection Day available at the Jedi’s Lighthouse YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/WGHqr_a5dtw

Be Prepared

This morning, we woke up to no water.   I went down and got a reserve jug of drinking water from my emergency supplies.  

Shortly thereafter, we were informed that our local water treatment plant had failed, and, although flow had been restored, we would have to boil our drinking water for several days.  

You never know when you’ll need your disaster preparation materials. In this case, it’s not a bad situation.  For us, it is mostly an inconvenience for a few days. I won’t need to use my water purification tablets or purifying drinking straw … but do have them if the situation gets worse.    

Be prepared.  Even in the middle of of city in one of the the wealthiest countries in the world, infrastructure can fail unexpectedly.  

Welcome, New Seekers

If you are new to the online Jedi community, I want to greet you as well and offer best wishes for your growth as a person and possibly as a Jedi.

While I recognize that you are here, at a Jedi website, I am not assuming that you are ready to commit to becoming a Jedi. In fact, I think you should look around the various organizations, join in some of the discussions, and consider if this is the right path for you. It can be difficult. It is often lonely. And, in the end, it is what you make it.

As you begin your exploration, there are a few things that I would like to mention. I will note that some of these may not be popular with leaders and teachers of current sites.

Online Jedi are a Motley Crew

While there is some attempt at collaboration and even establishment of standards of training and conduct across sites, the Jedi organizations are all independent and sometimes have little in common with one another other than the interest in the Star Wars mythos and in drawing inspiration from it.

I highly recommend that you explore as many as you can before settling down and picking one as home base. Talk to the teachers and leaders if you can, but don’t be surprised if you do not receive answers. Pay attention to the rank and file community members and see how they treat each other, especially when they don’t understand or disagree with someone.

Religion or Philosophy?

Jediism sites consider Jedi a religion. Some even have published dogma and engage in some practices normally associated with religions, although many governments do not grant them the legal status of religion.

Jedi Realist sites mostly view Jedi as a philosophy that may influence a particular lifestyle. While they hold some writings as common ground, such as the Jedi Code and the Jedi Compass, these are not sacred writings.

I am currently writing down a sort of census of the organizations I can locate and explore and will publish drafts as I go. Again, I encourage you to visit different types of sites, and also remember that many Jedi hang out in discussion forums that may not fully represent their views on the subject.

Training to Be a Jedi

Training programs vary greatly in length and depth. Some can easily be completed in a couple of months. Some may take years. Ultimately, none of them will teach you everything. To begin studying to be a Jedi is to embark on a different type of learning than you experienced in formal schooling in the past. You will need to be an adult, self-directed learner. The fact that you are here is indication that you are ready for this responsibility.

While you may take direction and learn some content from online or (if you are really lucky) offline programs, most of what you will learn is through your own exploration and experimentation. At many sites, you will receive little to no feedback from teachers even if you attain the coveted status of apprentice.

Online learning also is done in a variety of formats and using various online tools. For many lessons and assessments, online education not the best way to learn. You will need to supplement with local, in-person classes and practice sessions.

At the end of a course, you may be awarded the accolade of Jedi Knight, but if you are serious about living a life worthy of the title and in the inspiration, you will always be learning and practicing. You will decide what you need to learn and when you have reached a milestone. If you are lucky, you may find a group of like-minded people who will continue to serve as fellow explorers and an accountability/support group.

Jedi Teachers are Volunteers

We also have to remember that Jedi teachers are all volunteers who have limited time and attention. From formal schooling, we assume that teachers will be attentive to a small number of people that are their students for the duration of their study. It is a particular relationship that is established and reinforced by daily interactions. This is often not the case with online Jedi education. Mea culpa.

The ideal type of student/apprentice relationship may take a long time for you to find. It is possible that you will never find it. I am not writing this to dissuade you from making the attempt, but you should know that it is not unusual to see perplexing choices made while you, feeling like an ideal candidate, are not chosen. If or when this happens, take comfort in the fact that you are not lacking in some essential quality!!! This educational system is strained and severely lacking. Go back to being an adult learner and find something that you can learn from someone, even if they don’t call themselves a Jedi.

There are many books, some are listed on my recommended books page. Frequently, there are also local workshops on everything from meditation to first aid, mediation, and emergency response. Take advantage of what you have where you are.

Finally, remember that most Jedi teachers are not trained as teachers. They are creating curriculum and teaching environments based on what worked for them when they were in school or went through Jedi training themselves. Most of their approaches are more suited for children or college students (who are considered “transitional adult” learners) than for you. The discomfort of the poor fit can be significant … don’t blame yourself that you don’t fit into their schema. You may have to decide what you can endure on the way to your goals.

Finally, Consider Your Goals

What is it that draws you to the Jedi? It’s OK in the privacy of your mind and your computer to brainstorm. Go ahead and do so. Write down the list without self-censorship. Just write for maybe 15 minutes.

Then, once that is written down, look it over for feasibility.

You won’t be using telekinesis or Jedi mind tricks. But maybe you want to discuss philosophy with like-minded people. Maybe you want to develop skills to be of service in your community. Maybe some of both. Whatever it is, keep in in mind as you start looking around at organizations. Ask questions. See how people are treated. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable there …. if you want to keep coming back and holding conversations. Find that place where you fit, where you feel both challenged and supported.

May the Force be with you in your endeavors.

Welcome Back

With the new TV series just released, many Jedi groups are gearing up for new students and returning Jedi. If you are a new student, this post is not for you, but I hope to have something to say for you in a day or two.

For those who are returning after an absence, long or short, I want to welcome you back to the community. I hope you find a niche somewhere among the many sites and schools. While you are getting re-oriented, I have a couple of observations that I hope will be helpful.

Jediism vs. Jedi Realists

The division still exists between those groups that primarily think of Jedi as a religion and those who regard it as a philosophy, path, or vocation. The Temple of the Jedi Order, for instance is a Jediism site, while the Force Academy seems to put itself under the Jedi Realist umbrella. Some, I admit, are a little harder to categorize.

Starting Over

Unless you have some connections, you will be expected to start over as a novice (or whatever the lowest rank may be) with most organizations. At some sites, this is not a major source of irritation, but others have become even more enamored of titles and color coding than those of us who were hounded and harassed because we used the titles from the movies in the early 2000’s.

To the best of my knowledge, no one is offering any sort of re-certification, orientation, or refresher course. I will continue to look while I also start to craft my own over the summer.

Drama

I am sorry to say that most groups have members who are just as quick as ever to take the worst interpretation of a comment and run with it. Now that we have not only discussion forums, Facebook messenger, Discord, Zoom, and Force only knows what else ….. the problem is of greater magnitude.

Insularity

Which brings me to an old problem. Most groups are still operating in isolation with little sharing between them. There is some attempt on Discord to form coalitions, and I hear rumors of cross-organizational meetings of leaders. There is a newsletter that was recently published. But finding a way to learn about groups and get to know anyone has been frustratingly difficult.

A Curriculum for Returning Knights?

In the end, those of us who have been knighted but are now homeless may have to find our own way to refresh our skills and get re-oriented. I’m working on this for myself, and if you want to join me, stop by this discussion forum or drop me a line.

Personal Mantra Chanting: Day 4

Today, I decided to try a different approach to being comfortable with chanting aloud: chanting to the frequencies of recorded Tibetan singing bowls.

I first tried finding a Tibetan Bowls channel on Spotify, which worked well until the ads interrupted the music. For about a minute each, at different pitches, I was able to harmonize and chant along with the bowl, forgetting to be embarrassed by the sound of my own voice. Of course, once the ads started, it was game over.

So, I started looking at YouTube, although many of the top tracks included other music or guided meditations as well. So, a more general search landed me at Shanti Bowl and their list of 11 best recordings, along with the reminder that the best way to really hear the bowls is in person.

However, with a good headset — and the house to myself for a while — I enjoyed chanting along with the pitch of various bowls quite a lot more than just chanting (whispering, really) to myself in a quiet room.

Personal Mantra Chanting: Day 3

Today, I gave a mid-term exam in two of my class sections. The classes are an hour and a half long … so that is three hours of the day spent mostly watching students write.

I used to resent proctoring exams as a waste of my time in a busy life. I can’t do any another work because of the potential interruption of a question. I need to be present and (to some extent) paying attention to what students are doing (yes, I have caught students cheating, unfortunately).

So, I decided to experiment with using it as a time for meditation via mantra chanting.

It was not a complete experiment with chanting because I could only subvocalize as I walked sedately through the room, counting the repetitions on my mala. Other than the buzz of electrical devices and the sound of pencils on paper, the room was utterly quiet. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the difference it made in my attitude!!

Instead of resenting the time “waste”, I felt that being present, aware, and caring for my students in that moment was important. I was doing something that was valued and valuable – not a useless black hole in my calendar.

In the second period of the day, I switched up the content of my chant and focused on the traditional metta prayer. I almost stopped this prayer because as I walked around the room, when I prayed for all beings to be safe, I couldn’t help thinking about Ukraine. But since I do have international students from that region, I pulled it together and blinked away the threatening tears.

I am not sure if I will keep chanting in my daily practice, but it certainly has earned a place in my life.

Personal Mantra Chanting: Day 2

So, I’m experimenting with using a personal mantra in various contexts. The aim is to disrupt the rather snippy person I’ve become lately and be more relaxed, open, confident, and compassionate.

Day 2 found me busily grading one exam while writing a second one. Answering questions as usual . Figuring out how to manage students who missing classes, assignments, and tests because they are ill with the usual variety of viruses plus those who are isolation because of the big one. Oh … and don’t forget Spring sports. A bigger batch of special cases that need to be handled consistently but kindly.

Truth is that none of this is all that hard, although it does mean that I need to make a lot of unexpected decisions and record them while trying to adjudicate fairly and speak compassionately. We’re all stressed for various reasons right now, however, and my temper flares more quickly than I would like. Which is what lead me to try something new in the realm of meditation.

And today, I used the personal mantra when I started to find myself frazzled and snappish, using it as a way to interrupt negative thoughts and self talk. I decided to try this based on work by Jack Canfield (2022) and his practice of stopping negative thoughts with a phrase. In his seminars, he advises people to stop and tell themselves “Cancel, cancel” when they find themselves engaging in negative self talk or thoughts. I decided to try my mantra (“Head up, heart open”) instead.

And I was pleased that, no surprise, it works quite well. Not only does it stop the downward spiral, but it reminds me of my aspirations and goals as a knight. I didn’t get a long meditation session in, but the brief reminders seem to have helped overall. And a good workout at CrossFit worked out the rest of the day’s tensions. I am not sure that I’ll keep the long form of chanting as a daily practice, but the short positive interruption is a new tool in the collection for sure.

References and Resources

Canfield, Jack. (2022) Negative Self-Talk: 5 Ways to Stop Negative Self-Talk Once and For All. Retrieved from: https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/negative-self-talk/

Personal Mantra Chanting

I became interested in meditation and yoga in my early teens, but I generally stayed clear of mantra chanting and transcendental meditation at the time, preferring to stick with the “following the breath” meditation practices. Personal mantra chanting was a practice that was esoteric enough in the 1970’s that some caution was advised in entering the practice without a teacher.  Stories such as this one Gayathri Mantra Greatness – Lost voice is back inspired some trepidation about trying to learn and practice on your own or with only a book or tape as a guide.  

Also, we were told at the time that one should not pick one’s own mantra – it should be given by a teacher to the student.  Possibly, this was because transcendental meditation was popular and the “best” mantras were passed from teacher to student after training (Luenendonk, 2019).  

Additionally, it was “common knowledge” that each person’s mantra should not be shared with anyone.  I suppose that was part of maintaining the mystery and sense of sacredness of meditation.  But it also would circumvent the vexing question of “what should my mantra be?” and the temptation to keep switching it rather than picking something to stick with for long enough to have some impact on one’s spiritual development.  

Previous History with the Practice

I have, despite the early warnings and a sense of awkwardness, occasionally tried meditation with a mantra.  During my studies at the Temple of the Jedi, I used “peace” as my mantra.  It is positive, but a single syllable word does not suit itself well to synchronize with the flow of the breath.  

While studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I’ve been encouraged to use “Awen” as my meditation focus.  It has the benefit of being multisyllabic as well as meaningful.  Most often, it is translated as “poetic inspiration” ….. which is appropriate for Bard training.  Arguably, it is something that I need as a professor, but it does not resonate with patience and compassion for me.  

So, when a gentle nudge to try it resurfaced, I realized that I would need to find a mantra that I’d be willing to stick with for at least a week, if not longer.

How to Pick a Mantra

One of the things that tends to turn me away from this practice is the question of “what mantra should I choose?”.   I always felt awkward and worried that I would not pick the right one.  This is where a teacher would certainly come in handy.

A problem is that finding a teacher can be a real challenge.  You might try an internet search for meditation centers, religious centers, yoga studios, or even unaffiliated teachers.  When I search, I find a few opportunities about an hour away in one of two large cities, although it is hard to determine if they are offering instruction and practice in mantra chanting.

So, that leaves me (and you, Dear Reader) with the task of learning the method and picking a mantra on my own.  The internet is a wonderful place to find general guidance and a wealth of potential mantras.  Reading through quite a few, I relaxed regarding picking the “right” mantra and just started looking for something that invoked a feeling of both confidence and compassion …. two qualities I am in great need of cultivating right now.  That was a bit of a deep dive that took about two hours of internet surfing while we watched television.  

Ultimately, I spent some time browsing at the Zox website: https://zox.la/. It is full of short, mostly positive, phrases intended to be used as personal motivations and reminders of intentions.  I hit upon “Head up heart open” which inspires self-confidence, compassion, and openness when I repeat it to myself.  I even bought a wrist band in gratitude for their excellent copywriters and designers.  

Experimentation

So, I decided to give the new method a try starting this afternoon.  After a walk, while I finally had the house to myself, I thought I could try repeating my new mantra aloud.  

With a sandalwood mala in hand, I started.

Oddly, I found myself sitting up straighter than usual.  I credit this to the mental image of “head up” to lift me up … and “heart open” which opens up the chest.  A surprising and healthy result immediately.

But secondly, I found that my voice seemed shockingly loud.  So, quickly I adjusted volume to just barely over a whisper.  I wonder if I will gradually get louder with practice and time to acclimate to something new??

Resources

Luenendonk, Martin (2019) These are the 10 Most Exciting Mantras for Meditation. Retrieved from https://www.cleverism.com/mantras-for-meditation/