Sword and Bow
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In our lives we are always doing something. Working, playing, sleeping, eating, walking, breathing. We are often doing more than one thing; working and breathing whilst thinking about eating and gradually falling asleep. As Jedi we are reminded of our unity and oneness with all existence. There are differing conceptions of what the Force is, but my belief is that all that exists is imbued with the energy of the Force.
Jedi distance ourselves from Star Wars because we're well aware that Force jumping, Force running and other superhuman feats are not something we can actually do. But one power shared by both real and fictional Jedi is that of mindfulness. Fictional Jedi are masters of a type of sword art, lightsaber combat. They wield lethal blades of energy in dancing, dizzying battles without even glancing at their dazzling weapons. The lightsaber is an extension of the Jedi; though made of metal and crystal, when used it becomes part of the body, Jedi and saber as one.
I recently started studying a sword art, Shinkendo. We use wooden bokken for practice rather than the almost lightsaber-lethal katana worn by the samurai who inspired the art, but even so, the first thing we learn is not how to cut someone in half. We learn to treat the sword as a tool to reach our point of focus (our opponent). To stop thinking about turning our hands so the live part of the blade is always at the front, and to move around without accidentally slicing off a limb. The sword becomes an extension of the arms, allowing us to keep our opponent at distance and to reach beyond the normal range of our hands. The training allows us to focus on the opponent, rather than our own sword.
I'm also an archer, and have been for some years now. Archers have a saying, "the arrow is an extension of the soul". I always liked that idea; the feeling of reaching out across the field to the target, touching the distant bullseye with our focus before even nocking an arrow or drawing the bowstring. Then the feeling of well-practiced alignment, our body moving as if by itself into perfect attunement with the small golden circle some 70, 80 yards away. And finally that sensation of release, loosing the arrow and moments later (hopefully) hearing the satisfying "thunk" of a successful shot.
Notice that in both sword and bow arts, the focus is not on the tool: it is on the target. The tool allows us to reach the target; when we know what we're doing we need not think about the tool. Its use is like the use of a hand, or the sure step of a foot. A piece of lifeless metal or wood has become part of our body: through our focus on a target, a goal, a task, we have merged with something we'd ordinarily consider a separate object. We have become one with it: we have achieved unity with an element of the wider Force.
Zen archery (known as Kyudo) prioritises the mindful precision of perfect physical form over the actual business of putting arrows into targets. The archer is to become "one" with the bow, and with the correct posture and movement of the shot - it's immaterial where the arrow goes. Zen in general is similarly about becoming "lost" inside the activity we're partaking in; another traditional Zen practice is calligraphy, where perfect focus on the symbol being created is more important than simply holding the brush properly. Only when we become one with the brush can we achieve a beautiful result.
I believe that the Force moves through everything. Zen teaches the unity of person, action, and where relevant, object; we also call this mindfulness. When we are mindful, we find the flow of an activity and become one with it. It needn't be swinging a sword or aiming a bow; it can be using a brush, a pen, a keyboard or hammer or guitar. But as Jedi, I believe it is in through mindfulness that we bring our actions into harmony with the Force.
What do you plan to do today? Is there anything which doesn't require you to multi-task, and which will allow you to find your flow? One of the time-honoured practices one can do mindfully is washing dishes. Treat it like meditation. Every time your mind wanders from the activity of cleaning the crockery, gently bring it back to what you're doing. See how it feels to become one with the scrubbing brush, the water in the sink. Allow yourself to focus on the wide range of sensations, sounds and textures available to your senses. Feel your feet and their connection to the ground, the kitchen, the building. Remember that you probably do this every day (OK, maybe every other day...) without mindfulness, and realise how much more of a connection with the wider Force is possible in even the most mundane of daily tasks.
It needn't be washing dishes: walking, eating, even just breathing are all things we can do mindfully, consciously choosing to do them without distraction, allowing ourselves to become "lost inside". Mindful breathing is one of the simplest forms of meditation. I once heard meditation described as finding the line which separates us from the rest of the world, and gently, consciously, erasing it.
Become one with the Force. Find unity with some part of it. Lose yourself inside it. The connection is always available. Sure, it's not flashy like in science fiction, accompanied by an aura of green light and a high pitched humming.
But it’s with you... always.
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