Jedi Trials: Trial of Courage (2/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Courage Establishes a Jedi’s skill and fortitude in the face of danger and overwhelming odds.

Even if your talents lean more toward diplomacy than war, courage is an intrinsic part of being a Jedi.  Though the Force is with us, we are small in number when compared to the people of the galaxy.  We have numerous enemies, and must also contend with those who do not understand our Order and therefore misinterpret our motives.  As Jedi, we can never relax our discipline–nor can we fail to confront injustice is no Jedi at all, which makes the Trial of Courage a revelatory test.

I cannot tell you what you will face in your Trial of Courage.  Its purpose is for a Padawan to persist in the face of fear.  If you know what the trial will consist of, then the true measure of your courage will not be tested.

In previous eras, a Padawan was considered to have passed the Trial of Courage if he or she demonstrated battlefield heroics such as standing up to a vastly powerful Sith Lord.  Similar dispensations were handed out by the Council during the last war.  But in such situations it was at times difficult to sort out courage from recklessness.  Overconfidence is a flaw, and rushing in unprepared can often make things worse.  Courage must be aligned with the fourth precept of the Code: There is no chaos, there is harmony.

The war is over, but the Council may still assign special missions to Padawans who wish to pass the Trial of Courage.  The mission could simply be a creation of the Council to test your reactions within the Jedi trials Chamber, or it could be deadly dangerous.  Regardless of the nature of your challenge, it is important you do not share the details of your experience with your fellow Padawans.  All must experience this Trial untainted.

“The Trial of Courage measures a Padawan’s willingness to fight evil despite the fear it may instill.”

Testing a Jedi’s courage in battle is very difficult, unless fate presents an opportunity that can be observed, but it is unlikely.  It is possible that a scenario could be prepared and presented without the students knowledge, but that would require willing participants that are both unknown to the student, and skilled actors.  Possible, but not easy.

Another route, is to test a Jedi’s courage in handling fears that are non-confrontational.  It would take some deep searching, but find what the student is afraid of and expose them to it while having them complete some sort of task.  Don’t go overboard on this and force them to wade through a pit of snakes if they are afraid of snakes, but have the thing that they fear present somehow.  Each fear would have to be addressed differently of course.

Ways to “test out?”  Well, does the student regularly encounter something they are afraid of and still manage to act in the face of it?  Is the student afraid of heights yet works in the catwalks of a theater?  Are the afraid of flying but have already managed to fly a few times?  Are they afraid of sharks but somehow swam with sharks?

Combat again is a possibility, but again it is difficult to prove that one has faced an opponent directly in a fight and stood their ground.  If enough of a case can be made however, this is, as I said, I possibility.

Jedi Trials: Trial of Skill (1/5)

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

Trial of Skill Demonstrates a Jedi’s competence with a lightsaber and the Force principles of Control.

Don’t be fooled into thinking of the Trial of Skill as a physical challenge.  Master Vaunk and the Council members will judge your performance based on a series of lightsaber tests, but in truth this Trial hinges on a Jedi’s ability to maintain self-discipline in the face of distraction.

Lightsaber combat is attached to the Trial of Skill as a matter of modern convenience, for every Jedi must demonstrate the ability to wield a blade.  Yet lightsaber combat springs from the discipline of Control.  Early in the history of the Order, the Trial of Skill took many forms, including acrobatics while balanced on the tip of a wooden staff and keeping a single pebble suspended while standing in the vortex of a howling Tythonese hailstorm.

Do not bother to anticipate what type of lightsaber challenge you will encounter during the Trial of Skill or which opponent you will face.  The popular rumor among Padawans is that you must outlast the Jedi Battlemaster in a session that may span hours.  This could be true, for aching fatigue provides exactly the kind of challenge to a Jedi’s focus that the Trial of Skill is meant to evaluate.  Yet you may face multiple opponents at once; a succession of fresh opponent while you become increasingly exhausted; a duel with one Jedi while another manipulates your perceptions or shifts the floor tiles beneath your feet; or perhaps even a duel with a member of the Council, including our venerable Grand Master–a rare privilege indeed.

Such challenges are not meant to be unfair.  All are designed to mimic challenges you may one day face if you are to serve the Order and the Republic as a Jedi Knight.

The latest feature in the Jedi trials Chamber is a holographic projector, introduced after the victory at Ruusan and capable of creating enemies from the air itself.  With this tool you might face Darth Ruin, Lord Kaan, or any of the worst monsters to ever rise from the dark side.

“The Trial of Skill is not a test of athleticism, but of control.”

So essentially, the Trial of Skill is more a test of the Force control than of just your fighting, which at first thought could leave the Jedi of Earth in a bit of a quandary.  We do not have Force abilities like what is shown in the fiction.  However, control can still be tested.

First, I think that combat should remain part of this Trial.  Yes, there are some Jedi out there that choose more the path of a healer, diplomat, or some other, less combative path, however I believe that all Jedi should be able to, at the very least, defend themselves and others if need be.  Within the fiction, all Jedi carried a lightsaber, and therefore all Jedi were trained in how to use a lightsaber, whether they actually ever had need to use it or not.  So how to test control within this?

Well first off, there is the simply act of distraction.  Have the student sparing with another, set up a distraction to occur mid-sparing, and see how they react.   The distraction should not be something that would require the student to act upon, but something simple and just out of place.

Also, many styles of Martial Arts already have this control in practice.  For example, in Capoeira, the ranking is reversed.  Instead of the belt darkening, with the idea that it grows dirtier the longer you train, your pants grow lighter, with the idea that the longer you are training the more control you have over your body and the less likely you are to get knocked to the ground.  It is also a sign of a capoeiristas proficiency NOT to knock a sparing partner to the ground.  During a Jogo, the players should never actually make contact, but instead should show their level of control by pulling back on the strike before it makes impact.

It is difficult to say how one would “test out” of the Trial of Skill.  Holding a certain belt level could qualify, but only if the school has been vetted by a Jedi with expertise in Martial Arts in general, if not in that specific style.  There are many martial arts schools out there who will pass people simply because that is what they are paying for, and they produce a lot of black belts who could not hold  their own in a true fight.

Military service is also a very gray area.  Just because a person is enlisted and served overseas does not mean they ever saw true combat, and with this, there is no real way of vetting a students experience.

As will be the case with many, if not all of the Trials, the exact Trial should be taken on a case by case basis.  If a student was reluctant to learn any sort of Martial Arts/Self Defense, then their ability in such should be more closely examined, though control/concentration still taken into consideration.  If it is a student who has already shown prowess and enthusiasm in such fields, the focus would be more on the control/concentration, and also perhaps on whether they have a case of “lightsaber syndrome.”

Jedi Trials Intro

I walked away from the Jedi community in Spring of 2008.  At that time, various sites and groups had all made attempts at coming up with some sort of “Jedi Trial,” but each attempt was short lived.  We had the idea teased to us when Phantom Menace came out in 1999, but it was not until September, 2010, with the release of The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, more than two years after I had left the community, that we finally received a description of what these trials were.  I was ecstatic when this book came out, so full of possibilities and inspiration, but the resource, to me, appears to be squandered.  Over the next five weeks (starting this Thursday), I want to look at each one of the five Jedi Trials, starting this week with the Trial of Skill.

First, some general thoughts.

The current way I have seen these implemented is somewhat of an application process.  In a way, I can see that making sense.  If someone has already experienced something that was at a trial level, just like in the Jedi of fiction, they should be able to be waived from being tried in that area again.

I have also seen some attempt to standardize the trials, which I do and do not agree with.  Yes, you want consistency, and you want to make sure everyone meets a certain baseline, but everyone has different strengths or weaknesses, and the trials should focus on both of those.  If you are prone to arrogance and temper, that boundary needs to be pushed in order to make sure you can control yourself.  If you are someone who claims to be a top martial artist, you need to be tested more than someone who has learned to fight only as a means of defense.

Finally, the “trials” that I have seen at gatherings are basically a two-ish hour interview process.  Granted, many feel that it is more of a review of piers than a trial.  So, my thoughts on timing, is that each trial should be given individual attention, and it could take several days to complete them all.  The Trial of Spirit, for example, could take hours, just going through a Jedi’s life to find their fears, guilt, insecurities, ecc.  Proper time must be allotted.

Coursea Course on Buddhist Meditation

This course just began yesterday, free to audit.

https://www.coursera.org/learn/buddhist-meditation

About this Course:
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World explores the immense variety of meditation practices past and present. We present their histories, their philosophical underpinnings, their transformations in the modern global world, and we give you a chance to reflect upon meditation practices through secular contemplations designed just for this course. We use a traditional, if overly simplistic, way of grouping Buddhist philosophical systems and ritual-contemplative practices into “three vehicles”, three programs of theory and practice supporting the personal journey from suffering to enlightenment. This scheme became normative in India and Tibet: (i) the Lesser Vehicle (Hīnayāna), (ii) the Great Vehicle (Mahāyāna), and (iii) the Adamantine Vehicle (Vajrayāna), also referred to as “esoteric Buddhism” or “Buddhist tantra”. To this, we will add a fourth Vehicle which is explicit in many Tibetan materials, though no standard term ever emerged that was accepted by all sectarian traditions – we will thus term it as the “Natural Vehicle” or “Post Tantra”. We follow an indigenous Tibetan tradition in terms of characterizing each with a specific orientational paradigm – repression, refinement, transformation, and natural freedom. These twelve meditative traditions constitute the framework for the course’s discussion of the main streams of Tibetan Buddhist meditation. The five modules of the present course, dedicated to “Lesser Vehicle” practices and perspectives, treat the first five of these twelve types. Each module in turn has four components: (i) the specific Buddhist meditation in its traditional presentation and practice; (ii) modern scientific research into its efficacy and dynamics, or on practices, principles, and processes related to this type of meditation in our analysis; (iii) the fact, problems, and opportunities of modern secular adaptations in a variety of educational, professional, and personal settings; and (iv) secular practices for experimentation, which are either direct adaptations or new practices designed to give an experiential sense of some of the principles underlying the Buddhist meditative practice.

Mock Gathering – California Redwoods

Back to the rural, I have always wanted to visit the California Redwoods, and have entertained having a Gathering there for years.

Accommodations
Redwoods River Resort – http://redwoodriverresort.com/html/home.html
Cabins house 35 people at $42.20 per person, per night.
Amenities, each have bathroom with shower, outside kitchenette, TV, private patie with barbecue – sleep 2-6 people per cabin.
Motel Rooms house 34 people at $35.70 per person, per night
Amenities include private bathroom with shower, kitchenette (microwave, small refrigerator, two burner stove, coffee pot, toaster, pots & pans, dishes, and utensils), TV and deck with barbecue.  Sleep 2-6 people per room.
Amenities include fire pits, hiking trail, swimming, wi fi.

Meals
It is possible that there are options for meals here, but nothing is listed on their website.  Still, I would not mind going back to everyone pitching in to cook/clean, even if those rolls need to be assigned before hand.  Evidently, this is how California Jedi does their gatherings anyhow, and it seems to work for them (I use hypothetical language because I have not yet attended a California Jedi Gathering).  Each room in the motel has its own kitchenette, so this would allow people to say, hey, I have a specific diet I need to follow, so I will take care of my own food.

Activities
First, the amenities: hiking trail, swimming, fire pit.  There are also various venues for Horseback Riding and Kayaking.  Of course, those would be extra, but again, voluntary participation.

Be More Charitable

Helping others, center of a Jedi’s world.  Some people can donate money, some people can donate time, it does not matter what you can and cannot give, as long as you are making an effort to better the world.

First, let’s be honest, we are all Star Wars fans.  Unless there are a few Jedi out there who are not fans of the movie that I do not know about, which do not get me wrong, would be pretty cool if we have transcended the fandom, but to my knowledge and recollection, we have not yet done so.  I know several Jedi have Jedi COSTUMES (of varying degrees of quality), but for those who enjoy the costuming side of things, there are groups for that!

  • Jedi Assembly – A group for Jedi costumes only.
  • Mando Mercs – A group for custom Mandalorian costumes.
  • Dark Empire – A group for dark side costumes only.
  • Rebel Legion – One of the two largest groups, RL caters to all canon/legacy good guys, as well as those questionable in between characters.
  • 501st Legion – The big one.  This is the largest of probably ALL costuming groups, having around 10k members across the globe, and is my preferred group for doing “troops.”  The 501st accepts all canon/legacy bad guys, and also the questionable in between characters.  Their motto is “Bad Guys Doing Good.”

If you want to use your costume to raise money for charity, I HIGHLY recommend not doing it yourself, but joining one of these groups.  These are groups that are recognized by LFL/Disney, and have permission to do so as long as they follow the guidelines set in place by Disney.  To do charitable events outside of one of these organizations puts yourself at risk for legal action, and all groups at risk for being shut down.  Trust me, as a member of most of these groups, there is red tape.

Links

  • Free Rice – This site asks you questions in various subjects, and for every correct answer, the World Food Programme donates 10 grains of rice to the global cause.  Learning and Charity tied together.
  • Tab for a Cause – “Raise money for charity with each new tab you open.”
  • Charity Navigator – A place to look up more information about charities
  • Guide Star – Another information site

Apps

  • Charity Miles – If you do any walking, running, or biking, this app is great.  You choose a charity from their list and go.  The donate $.25 per mile to your chosen charity. Android | iOS
  • Give 2 Charity – Tracks your location to earn points.  Use points to donate to charity. Android | iOS
  • Tinbox – Donate $1 per day, paid for by sponsers. Android | iOS
  • Check-in for Good – “a free crowdfunding app that turns your everyday actions into donations for the causes you care about” Android | iOS

Donate Items
As I just recently moved this year, and am planning a cross country move in about seven months, I am having a hard lesson in the subject of downsizing.  I have been going through all of my belongings, and slowly putting aside items I do not need.  Some of these items are junk and end up in the trash, but a lot of these items are still good.  If you have the time, space, and energy, you could hold a garage sale.  The other option is donating your items, and there are several organizations with which you can do so.  Below are, from my perspective where I live, the top three, however a search in your local area could yield further results, but these three are fairly prevelant in the US.

A Comment on Today

I do not want this blog to become political, but I will say that a lot of people woke up to a shock this morning.  The one thing to take away from today, is to watch the people around you and how they react, it will tell you a lot about their character.  Many are reacting with fear…many have the right to.  Many are apathetic.  But many are reacting with hate.  Regardless of who you voted for if you are in the US, or who you would have wanted to vote for if you are not or are ineligible to vote, nothing excuses the hate.

It is unfortunate that I have already witnessed it within the “Jedi” community this morning, but it is helpful to be able to see those people for what they are, or more accurately, what they are not.  Jedi do not spew hate, and do not laugh and those in terror.  See those people, know that they are not what they claim, and treat their words and action as they deserve.

Be the light for people, not the source of pain.

Be More Centered

Something you will see pretty much all Jedi agree on is meditation.  Meditation comes in various forms, sitting vs. moving, solo vs. guided, focused vs. emptying, ecc.  The key is to find the method that works best for you.  This is not about me teaching you how to meditate, just giving you the resources, so lets get right to it.

Links

  • Holosync – The full program is ridiculously expensive, and the website looks like a cheap infomercial product, but the free demo has some nice ambient sounds.
  • UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center – A variety of guided meditations, including a few in Spanish.
  • A Soft Murmur – A website with various ambient sounds to play in the background, and you can adjust the volume of each.
  • Ambient Mixer – I have only just begun to explore this site, but I especially love the “Movies and Series” themes.  Plus you can adjust the levels of various sounds to tune out something that you do not really like.
  • 7 Cups of Tea – You can complete daily wellness challenges, or connect with a live “listener” for free.  Completely anonymous.

YouTube Channels 

Apps

  • Buddhify – Eighty different guided meditations tailored to what you are doing, ranging from five-thirty minutes, and a timer for non-guided meditations.  Great program, $3 though. Android | iOS
  • Calm – Has a seven day program, and choices of sound and length of time as well as scenes to focus on visualy.  Multpile guided and unguided sessions.  Subscription for 21-day prgram. Android | iOS
  • Headspace – Free ten day program, great for learning meditation and has a buddy system. Android | iOS
  • Daylio – This app asks you each day how your day went so that you can track your moods over time.  Android | iOS not yet available, see website
  • Zen Koi – Part smartphone game, part zen.  It is like having a zen garden on your phone, except you are a Koi fish trying to become a dragon.  Android | iOS

 Books

Art
(I am adding this as a late edit (12/12/2016) after a conversation with Opie last night.  Art can be a great visual focus for meditation, and Escher’s is some of the best)