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December 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm #143061oakjediParticipant
I’ve been keeping a training blog over at WordPress for about a year now, Jedi Shield, but I think it might be worthwhile to cross-post things here for a little feedback/interaction. I’m still early on in my course work and my journal activity gets more or less infrequent based on how busy I am, but I’ll plan to post here when I post there. Not sure if it makes sense to post my course work here as well, I’m happy to do it either way. Also, for reference, I took up the Meditation Journal for Force Realists by Alethea Thompson – it was gifted to me a year ago by my family and I only started to work on it recently. But the meditation prompts I refer to are typically related to that.
MTFBWY :yodaDecember 22, 2015 at 4:12 am #188604oakjediParticipant
Cross-posting this coursework/journaling from my blog.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
This line occurs in the Odan-Urr version of the Jedi code and isn’t embraced by everyone. How can there be no chaos? Everything is striving towards chaos! Chaos theory! Clutter! Aahhhhhhhh!!
Take a step back and see it another way. If you walk into a forest, you might notice one particular tree, some moss, ferns and other plans individually occurring. It’s chaos from on point of view, everything growing where seeds happen to fall, some things dying, others living until their time comes. But pull back your point of view and you’ll see a different story. There are great cycles of cause and effect that are often predictable – the food chain, the water cycle, ways that the animals shape the growth of the plants, ways the plants affect the behavior of the animals, and all of it interacts with the inanimate objects and landscape as a whole. The system may shift as it matures or faces new stresses, with changes in the balance between short-lived adaptable species and longer-lived ones, but it remains a system. A natural example of harmony. Harmony not in the sense of no dissonant or challenging elements, but harmony in the sense of things interacting together to create a larger whole.
Musically some harmonies/chords sound more or less pleasing to our ears. Harmonies in music are also “smart” – they often know where they want to go, what the next natural step would be. If you’ve ever listened to a piece of music you’ve never heard before and could guess what the next note or chord would be, you’re tuned in to the harmony.
In life, as referenced earlier, when things seem totally like chaos, it may be a matter of viewpoint. From a higher vantage point, you might see that an action or event may have been predictable with more details, like car accident related to the distracted or intoxicated state of the other driver(s). A car accident doesn’t exactly fit the normal view of harmony, but it is a sign of our inter-relatedness. The interdependence of our lives. I never liked the saying “It’s part of God’s plan” for a number of reasons, but this seems like a better response when doubt or disappointment occur. “…There is harmony” – there is a greater order, a bigger universe, that you are a part of. It’s not all about you, but at the same time you are an integral part of it. A thread needed for a bigger tapestry.
Chaos, or a lack of order, comes into our lives in little ways that can be cumulative, and the occasional big way that is basically a force of change.
If you occasionally don’t put a single shirt away, no big deal, unless that one never goes away and the pattern continues, til you have a stack of unsourced unfolded shirts on your floor. This kind of small cumulative chaos is definitely a part of my home, one that we’ve been trying to chip away at for the holiday season. Definitely encountered the “worse before it’s better” stage. And still have a lot to go with it.
Mentally I sometimes have chaos in the form of feeling anxious or self-doubting. Sometimes some of that can be a healthy response, but for me it can get excessive. Self-care and mental upkeep help keep this at bay, particularly meditation, sleep, and exercise in my case. Remembering the interconnectedness helps too – reaching out to loved ones, practicing compassion (in the Buddhist sense), remembering that I’m not the only one thinking, feeling, or going through what I am.
As a favorite podcast states, “We exist in a state of perpetual interdependence.” ~ IDPDecember 26, 2015 at 6:02 am #188663oakjediParticipant
Breath meditation (Meditation day 12) was hard today. Had to take some asthma medication this morning and have been otherwise feeling pretty comfortable, but I felt like getting my breaths to their full extension was a real battle. Keeping count was also difficult, and I think what was my hardest segment (just-barely-making-it, or with micro-yawns sneaking in) seemed to be associated with a slight slowing of my count. I also noted that my heart rate was definitely up from what it normally was, likely a medication side effect though I hadn’t perceived it until the exercise. Over the course of the meditation it slowed. Because of the physical struggle, this meditation wasn’t as mentally/emotionally quieting as others in the past could be. I didn’t feel calmer because I was struggling and frustrated that I was struggling. Even when I tried to calm the frustration it didn’t go away completely. Post-meditation I do feel mentally a bit more level than I was before, but i have some soreness because I really pushed it with my accessory muscles of breathing. I realized in the last quarter of the meditation that I wasn’t diaphragmatically breathing as efficiently as I normally do which I’m sure contributed to the increased effort everything else had to take.
So yeah, breath meditating experiment with asthma… I probably won’t do that again. At least not that rigid a method.December 27, 2015 at 5:35 am #188664oakjediParticipant
Day 13 of meditation, and I’m back to standing breath-counting meditation for 10 minutes. I performed it in my bedroom with my back to my dresser, but not leaning against anything. Breathing was better than the other day but I still have some soreness in the muscles above my clavicles – I tried extra hard to make sure I was diaphragm-breathing as much as possible. Counting was easier. I had a distraction in the form of a cat noticing me and demanding my attention, going so far as to climb up on the dresser behind my head and purr and sniff my head. Even though it distracted me I chose not to give in and just ignored it, and she gave up.
Still have room to improve, but I know I’ll get better with time.December 27, 2015 at 4:21 pm #188666Jedi_PhoenixModerator
I don’t know if we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Jedi Phoenix, and the Asst. Principal here. I’m trying to do better about floating around in people’s journals. As a Massage Therapist, it sounds like those scalenes (which assist with breathing) might be causing you the issue. If you can, it might be better to sit and meditate to take pressure off of the neck muscles. While diaphragm breathing is helpful, you are actually tensing up your scalenes forcing them not to assist with breathing. This tension will just cause more pulling and pain; rather than helping them relax. It might help to send a ball of light to those areas asking them to relax before starting your meditations.
Just some thoughts (again, I don’t know the whole story here) so I hope this helps a bit!
PhoenixDecember 29, 2015 at 6:09 am #188692oakjediParticipant
Thanks Jedi Phoenix! Your comments made me reflect on what was going on and gave me some ideas for what to do. I think I was dealing with overworked accessory breathing muscles such as the scalenes because I was dealing with an asthma exacerbation, which has now calmed down. But I realized you were right and that I have been recruiting them unintentionally to help control my breath during these breath meditations even when I’ve been well. I reframed my breathing situation as one of singing, because I have had vocal training in the past and never had scalene issues during that, and I think I improved the problem.December 29, 2015 at 6:11 am #188693oakjediParticipant
Did day 14 of meditation – 10 minute standing breath meditation again – with the focus of breathing a supported breath. I realized I was doing something silly – I was hoping my neck/throat/mouth would be the controlling factor for my breath. But I have a vocal background. I know how to use breath support (from the diaphragm) to sustain much longer notes, and to support a range of volumes of sound. Because I’d been practicing poor technique earlier, I had to exaggerate this one, picturing a force pushing up under my diaphragm to remind me to keep it supported. For this one exercise I also gently varied my head position to release any tension in my neck. My asthma symptoms were gone by then, so this also helped significantly too. This exercise of course wasn’t really mentally clearing this time, but I’m hoping that if I can rehabilitate my technique that it will clear some room for that in the future.
Thanks to one of the IJRS members who helped me figure out what was going on and somehow jogged my memory that I know how to do. Another thought I had based on a vocal exercise I know is that if I or anyone else continued to have a hard time at this point, making a “sss” (hiss) during the exhalation helps make sure it’s better supported.
In other news, it’s rainy and cold, and I dealt with some awkward family situations and some indigestion. I did not practice as much patience as I could/should have but I hope to do better tomorrow. We should be getting somewhat better sleep tonight which should help. I know I have baseline stress surrounding traveling, and I would really like to compensate with more meditation, but there hasn’t been great timing. The short time I could have used earlier for meditation I actually used for a nap, which seemed necessary at the time. I will see if it’s possible to create more room for that tomorrow, so I can do more beyond the proscribed exercises and do some meditation that actually feels replenishing for me.January 1, 2016 at 12:11 am #188733oakjediParticipant
Did Day 15 two days ago and Day 16 today. Day 15 was done standing and actually went very well. I finally felt like my breathing was truly easy and I was reaching my counts throughout the 10 minutes nearly effortlessly. I did pay attention to make sure I wasnt holding tension anywhere, and I shifted head positions a few times to make sure I wasnt hiding any tension in my neck. Overall I was actually able to be relaxed by it, which was good because I was traveling at that time.
Day 16 was 10 minutes of meditation while lying down. The position was easy, the breath was easy. I felt like I could surpass the counts if I wanted to. The downside of this ease is that in combination with the tiredness from travel I’d accumulated, I didn’t stay focused as easily. I definitely had counts where my attention lapsed during the exhalation phase, and I had to judge based on how filled my lungs felt whether I had already done 8, 12, or 16 of the 16 count. This issue was most prominent during the third quarter of my meditation, and I was able to pull things back together by the end.
Since I should also be able to improve my sleep tonight and over the weekend, I expect to improve the next two times I do it again.
Self care is also a focus after all of the travel. I experienced anxiety over the past few days, with some circumstantial and some clearly hormonal contributing factors, and generally felt stretched thin. I realized I’d ramped up my caffeine and sugar intake significantly and hadn’t gotten good quality sleep. Today I am mending the caffeine and sleep components. I can’t avoid stress entirely, but the traveling is done and I am putting less on my schedule for this weekend. I know I have a tendency to overextend myself and today I know I can’t right now or else I’m going to get myself sick. I also had some nettle and oatstraw tea and lots of cuddle time, and I took a nap when I felt I needed it. I have work to do, but I’m trying to attack it in chunks so it doesn’t overwhelm me. I’m also thinking that I’ll do some knitting and/or reiki later depending on how the evening goes. Starting the new year caring for myself is the best thing I think I can do right now.January 4, 2016 at 5:15 am #188774oakjediParticipant
I did 10 minutes of yoga this morning followed by 10 minutes of breathing meditation lying down. This was essentially Day 17 although it appears I switched up the order of things, so I’ll plan on doing a seated and then a standing during the next two days to make up for it. Today I noticed that if I tried to slow my counting pace significantly slower than my heartbeat (which itself slowed over the time), I had to actively push and pull more. I know my pulse was above 60 bpm because I had just been doing movement, but it wasn’t racing – I didn’t actually check it. The more active pushing & pulling I did, the more I felt it in my neck, likely those scalenes doing too much again. But they quieted when I didn’t push to go quite as slowly. I noticed that I was relaxed but focused. I actively tried to see if I could relax my focus more, but I noted that my breath got away from me (ex: the breath was exhaled a little too quickly).
I also watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens again today. While my emotions still come up during the same parts of the movie, I finally feel like it isn’t raw anymore. I’ve processed it. I am intrigued by the new things it brings to the Star Wars universe and the unanswered questions, and I accept its content as authentically “Star Wars.” I have my own ideas about what might happen during the next movie based on the breadcrumbs left and the new things I continue to notice with each reward hint. But I’m not out to do any wild speculation right now.
I think the thing that I look forward to the most in Episode VIII is Jedi training – whether it’s part of the active plot or covering what’s happened in the past. It’s one of the things I really liked about the now non-canonical EU books, and the void has only begun to be filled. There has yet to be the equivalent of an I, Jedi in the new canon. The Luke-centric YA book The Weapon of a Jedi started to address this gap but it was limited, and I’m definitely looking for more. I also wonder how it will affect us, the Jedi, the fans who are looking to the fiction for inspiration on how to improve our lives. I don’t think anything will change any core ethics – that wouldn’t feel true to the spirit of the originals. But I do wonder what nuances it will bring to our approaches and philosophical discussions.January 5, 2016 at 6:04 pm #188808oakjediParticipant
I used to do a lot of meditation on public transit, though with these meditation days of breath counting and different positions I basically took a break from it. Today I got back to it, though, with Meditation day 18. Why? I think I had expectations of the headspace that I was supposed to access with the breathing meditation, one that I thought I might have a hard time getting to on the train. Despite the fact that meditating on the train used to be the one consistent way I used to make sure I got my meditation in. And that I didn’t have a problem with it then. But I had put up a mental block for myself when it came to these exercises.
However, because I continued on with the meditation exercises even when I was ill the other week, I realized that I don’t have to wait for the perfect conditions in order to meditate. Okay, sure, there are some limitations – I’m not going to do a lying down meditation on the train – but there’s more flexibility than I recognized.
So today I did a 10 minute seated breath meditation. My usual 4 counts in, 4 held, then exhale for 16. Still focused on making sure I wasn’t getting “stuck” or holding tension anywhere. I had the extra focus on not breathing too loudly or weirdly in a way that would draw attention. And it was much easier than I was expecting. My focus remained, with a few thoughts lazily floating in and going back out. I remained with minimal tension in my breathing cycle. The only postural tension came from how I was seated betqeen people. I didn’t feel any significant heart rate change. I would happily do it again.
Public transit is a resource I recommend exploring for any urban Jedi out there. Even suburban Jedi might be able to tap into this if there’s a system available. Public transit is used by the majority of people where I live, but even if it’s only a subset of people, it’s still an opportunity to be with people in space (and time). You can observe your surroundings in a way that’s hard to do as fully if you’re operating a vehicle. And you can actually observe quite a lot about people that way. I’ve done exercises in the past during my commute where I sit (or stand) with a soft focus, trying to passively observe without judgement. Being at the mercy of public transit is also an exercise in patience, like sitting in traffic. There really is nothing you can do to make a train go faster. Well, nothing physical – more on the mental/spiritual in an upcoming post.
I think I will touch on more about being an urban Jedi in the future. I know starting out I thought of Jedi as being the hermit – off in a desert or swamp somewhere, meditating, living simply, sort of a monastic lifestyle. The subsequent Star Wars media helped broaden out the idea of who/where a Jedi could be. Eventually I figures out that you can be a Jedi in any environment you could live, because it’s all about how you live. I’m happy to talk about my experience if it may help someone else understand how it might work in an urban environment.
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