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.

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/

Self-Discipline

At the beginning of the year, it is customary for us to sit down and create New Year’s Resolutions, even as we know that most people will have abandoned them before February 1st. In fact, a study from 2019 suggests that most Americans won’t last beyond January 19th … that’s only 10 days away!!!

Since, as Jedi and knights, we are often on a path of self-improvement, how do we beat the odds and maintain our momentum during the coming year?

As noted in the linked article, one of the most important factors is to make the resolution a specific, measurable goal. Rather than resolving to “meditate more”, be specific and frame the resolution as a goal such as “meditate for 20 minutes 5 times per week”. I would further add that intermediate milestones also help in keeping the big picture in mind while making smaller, achievable goals that are more easily reachable.

There are many good ideas in the article, and I would like to add to their suggestion that you engineer your environment to help you … enlist one or more people to join you in pursuing the goal and helping you remain accountable. While the Jedi community has not always been the most supportive group or safe space in which to admit your growth areas, see if there are people who you can trust to walk the path with you. Or check out a group such as Nerd Fitness, where you can always find supportive, friendly folks who are embracing changes as well as various fandoms in short, time-boxed challenges.

Finally, I encourage you to read this article On Self Discipline by Morken, from 2000. The advice doesn’t change much. And we know what to do. The challenge is … to do it!!

Make this a great year!!