Written by Katie Mock
There is an ancient proverb: in Greek it is gnothi seauton, in Latin, temet nosce. In English, it is usually phrased “Know Thyself”. Last week, I posted an overview of Jedi meditation with a simple exercise that is the first step towards this goal, and that is the core purpose of meditation: to take control of your mind and emotions.
The core of each Jedi’s path, no matter how diverse, is deep self-understanding. Emotions don’t come out of nowhere. We become angry or sad or happy not because there is some set response to each moment, or because people “make” us feel a certain way. Our emotions are clues to our internal landscape. This landscape is shaped by all our experiences, and in turn shapes our ideas, emotions, and tendencies.
If someone says something to make me angry, my first reaction as a Jedi isn’t just to squash down the anger, and certainly isn’t just reacting with knee-jerk rage; the first question I need to ask is “Why am I angry?” What about this person, this statement, this moment is making me see red? Is it actually that I am hurt by their opinion of me? Why do I care about that opinion? Is it that I find their statement offensive? Why am I offended? It is when you can take a moment and find honest answers to those questions that you can begin not only to act instead of merely react, but begin to shape your own emotional landscape.
This ability to see and sculpt our biases, tendencies, and problems internally is a human trait; we have both reason and the power to choose our actions. However it is the responsibility of each Jedi to know themselves deeply, in order to fulfill our objective of acting objectively, not influenced by hidden emotion or unfounded bias. The Jedi code says ‘There is no emotion, there is peace’. To act peacefully, serenely, and objectively we must first understand ourselves deeply, to see what makes each of us tick. This process requires frequent, frank self-examination, and meditation is the most effective way to do that. So to that end, here is another exercise in Jedi Meditation.
Again, carve out a little time where you will not be disturbed, where you can be by yourself and think. Sometimes it helps to write, or speak aloud what your thoughts are, or you can keep them in your mind.
Also keep in mind that as you do this it will become a faster and more natural process, and you can start to practice it before, during, and after moments of stress or high emotion to help you act instead of react.
Close your eyes, and breathe naturally and deeply. Let the darkness behind your eyelids and the air in your lungs calm your mind.
What are you feeling, right now at this moment? What ideas or emotions begin to float to the surface of your consciousness? Try to tease apart the ball of tangled feelings that is normal for most people. Don’t let this stress you out: all you are here to do is look at who you are, not who you were, or could be. You are not here to judge or regret. Examine your emotions as you would the horizon, or a familiar but new object in your hands. What is there?
Likely there will be one or two things that pull your attention in particular. Let yourself be pulled, examining those closely. How do you know that you feel this way? Are there physical sensations, like a tightness in your throat, chest, or shoulders? Are there memories or events associated with these feelings?
Remember to keep breathing and relax as you continue.
Next, delve a little deeper. Why are you feeling these emotions now? What sparked them? It could be something specific, or as nebulous as a rough week. Think about what parts of yourself could spawn these emotions. Are you nervous about your position at work? Worried about a friend? Conflicted about who you are, or what you want? No judgement is attached to whatever you reveal, you are merely following a stream back to its source.
Lastly, what is this emotional reaction based on? We feel emotion, especially strong emotion, as a response to fundamental needs that are either being filled or not, such as our need for love, stability, approval, and independence. When we lack a fundamental need, or feel it threatened somehow, we are often swamped with emotions like fear, insecurity, and anger. If you find that your emotion comes from a lack or need, how can you fill and stabilize that need? Is it good for you to do so? If not, how can you learn to be less dependent on that need?
Give yourself space to feel the emotion and recognize it, and make a note of all you’ve learned. As you do this more, you will start to understand yourself and your reactions in a new way, and start to be able to predict and control how you react or will react; this is the key to balancing objective Jedi behavior with proper emotional self-care. All this meditation is about is self-understanding, gaining knowledge that will help you shape yourself and your actions in the future, so anything you learn is important.
What did you think? Does this work for you, or help you on your path towards emotional wellness and objectivity? Questions, comments, and concerns are all welcome in the comments below.