For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past 30+ years and have no idea what a Jedi is, there was a story created in 1977 by George Lucas called Star Wars. This story is set in a vast universe where war and greed are pursued by evil men who continually try to take control of everything. But in every story there’s a hero and in this case it is the JEDI. The Jedi cultivate this connection to “the FORCE” which can use for telepathy, telekinesis, agility, and sensing energies around them. But they’re not just born with these powers they have to train extensively to hone it’s power.
During Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, we watch a young man named Luke Skywalker, go through all sorts of training to connect to the force. Meditation, concentration, discipline, headstands. All exercises that help bring awareness to the body and help focus the mind. Days pass and Luke finally begins to connect to the force and his powers strengthen until finally he is ready to face his enemy. Which actually turns out to be his father. Super messed up.
So how in this day and age does one become a Jedi?
One word - VIPASSINA
I recently went through what I would consider the equivalent to Jedi training. For 10 days in May I left the busy city of Vancouver and checked into the Vipassina Meditation Centre in Merritt BC. I handed over my phone, car keys and signed a contract saying that I would not leave for all 10 days. No phones, no TV, no reading, writing, exercise or conversation. Pure isolation for 10 whole days. Oh and we took a vow of silence. Not exactly a relaxing vacation in the woods.
It was the hardest 10 days of my life and the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
During the 10 days you learn 2 meditation techniques that were created by Buddha himself while on his path to enlightenment.
The 1st - Anapana
You focus all your attention on the upper lip and nostrils. You're focusing on observing the breath moving in and out naturally. Oh and you do this for 10.5 hrs a day. WHAT?! Ya, I know it sounds crazy but stay with me.
During the first couple of days practicing this technique I wanted to think of anything else but my nostrils. My mind continuously wandered and it made the hours pass by quickly. On the 4th day they told us to see if we could feel sensations on the tip of the nostrils. It sounded like the weirdest thing. But my thoughts had slowed down, I could focus on my nose for longer periods in time so obviously this technique was doing something. I gave it a try and holy smokes it was intense! I could feel my heart beat, neurones firing, the temperature of my breath. I could feel small sensations and big sensations and I started to feel like I was unlocking some kind of SUPER POWER! Then we started to learn the 2nd technique.
The 2nd - Panna
You open your awareness from the sensations on your nostrils to sensations in the entire body! You mind is so sharp and focused that you start to feel subtle sensations like tingling, prickling, temperature changes, muscle tension, etc. You become present with your now physical reality. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do but sit and feel. But sitting for 1, 1.5, sometimes 2hrs straight, can cause some serious pain and discomfort in the body and this is where the technique really starts to take off.
As the fire in your hip starts to spread and the cramping in your back starts to throb you're told to stay equanimous or un-reactive. The law of nature states that everything is changing. Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is made of tiny sub-atomic particles that are moving in rapid succession so all you have to understand is that soon whatever sensation you are feeling will change. The crazy part is it does. Over and over you experience these pains and aches and observe as one by one they dissipate, stop or change.
“If there is no peace in the minds of individuals, how can there be peace in the world? Make peace in your mind first.”
— S.N. Goenka
Human suffering is caused by two things-Craving and Aversion. When we experience something pleasant we want more. On the flip side if we experience something unpleasant we want to get rid of it. Craving and Aversion. During the 10 days you experience this on so many levels. You want to be somewhere else. You want this to stop. You want to exercise or go back to sleep. But as you continue to practice staying neutral to the sensations in the body during your meditation the cravings and aversions outside of the meditation hall start to subside. You don’t feel as excited as you once did and you don’t want to leave as badly as you did before.