Jedi Code: Emotions

There is no emotion, there is peace.

The Jedi Code

The first line of the Jedi Code is one of the most difficult for new students to understand and accept. Stated as it is here (there are other formulations), it seems to argue that a Jedi should not have emotions. But as many Jedi teachers have written, this is a misunderstanding.

Human beings have emotions. That’s simply a part of being a healthy person, and Jedi value being healthy in mind, body, and spirit very, very much. To deny emotion and try to remove it from our lives would be a mistake. So what is the point to this line … the first line …. of one of the most iconic facets of the Star Wars mythos, one that has its foundation in both Samurai maxims and Stoic philosophy?

This line calls for reframing the relationship between a Jedi and their emotions. For so many people, their emotions are considered things outside of their control that not only seem to have a life of their own but that also color and frame the interpretation of events … and that call for specific actions and responses to events.

If someone is running late for an event because of traffic on the freeway, for instance, they think it is inevitable that they will become angry and maybe even honk their car horn or shout at people around them. They may even carry that anger with them through the day, letting it affect their responses to unrelated situations and people, getting even more angry at minor frustrations and blaming the traffic for making them angry and ruining their day.

Yet a Jedi would point out that the emotion did not come from the traffic. It came from within the person. At its most fundamental level, the emotion is an ephemeral chemical reaction in the brain in response to a challenging situation. And, ideally, a Jedi would recognize that momentary anger or frustration, acknowledge it, and then decide what to do. The emotion is not in charge of deciding what happens next; the Jedi is. Ideally, the next steps might be to do some deep breathing, mitigate the effects of being late (informing someone of the late arrival), and letting the frustration evaporate so that it does not bleed over to cause misunderstandings during the rest of the day.

But it is a big step to go from our society conditioning (“the traffic made me angry”) to managing our emotional life. The advice I hear from too many Jedi to “just be emotionally disciplined” comes from good intentions, I hope, but is not useful at the beginning of training. So, I have included an idea from Naya’s shamanic background (The Path to Anger) that I recommend you add to your training program, especially if you are already keeping a journal.

Recording your emotional responses and analyzing what might have evoked them is a good way to beginning to change your relationship with emotions and grow as a Jedi.

Jedi Exercise Programs

After starting meditation, the next item on the Blue Group syllabus was to review and update a student’s exercise program. And then to follow the plan. To exercise body as well as mind for the coming year …. and ideally for the rest of the student’s life.

Yoda famously stated that “… luminous beings are we … not this crude matter … ” and many prospective Jedi took that to mean that they didn’t need to work out, ignoring the fact that Yoda also had Luke doing advanced CrossFit routines in a hostile jungle!! In point of fact, we are complex beings with an embodied nature as well as a spiritual one, and the health of each component of ourselves affects the health of the rest. Hence, I required students to adopt some sort of exercise routine, no matter how minimal.

This Jedi Exercise Programs lesson was based on the fitness advice that we had in 2000. Some things have changed since then. Most advice, however, has not changed significantly. We now know that nearly any activity is helpful – it does not need to be identifiable as exercise nor undertaken in 20-minute sessions. Health experts are still trying to identify how little additional activity is enough to make a significant health impact, but I hope that you will aim slightly higher in your aspirations to become a well-rounded Jedi.

Luke doing a handstand with Yoda.

Ten Rules of Engagement

I am linking the article on these rules in both the martial arts and philosophy sections. While they probably were first intended for consideration in a conflict situation, that conflict is not necessarily martial or even physical in nature. Like the Art of War or the Book of 5 Rings, it can apply to any situation in which there is disagreement and a need to resolve the disagreement and act.

The rules themselves came from Brandel Valico and hence probably originated in Star Wars fiction somewhere. If you know the source, please do let me know.

Ten Rules of Engagement with commentary by Chris-Tien Jinn