Whatever our spiritual and mental nature, we are constrained in what we can do in the world by the physical laws of the universe. Our personal ability to move around and influence objects and people on a physical level are limited by the condition of our physical body; potentially, the condition of our physical body also limits the amount of time we have before returning to the Force, as looking after ourselves can shorten or lengthen our lives.

As Jedi it’s important for us to be in as good a physical condition as it’s possible to be. If we want to find harmony in our minds we must not be hung up on issues around our physical nature. What we eat and our physical capacity can affect our moods, attention span and memory. This can have a huge impact on our capacity to focus, our ability to gather and retain knowledge, and our capacity to use what we learn wisely – primarily down to our emotions, and our capacity to master them. Meditation is one of the key aspects of Jedi life; without a certain level of physical ability, meditation becomes all but impossible. Additionally if we are to serve others we must be in a position to help them, and that isn’t always a mental or emotional thing; we need to be able to help with our bodies as well.

I’ve been lucky physically, as whilst I’ve never been especially athletic I’ve also always been relatively slim and muscular without really trying. However as I get older, my waistline and physical ability are both getting a little out of shape. It’s something I need to spend more time on and I intend to take this forward as part of my approach to being a Jedi. In terms of physical recreation, over the last few years I’ve taken up archery and attended a trial session of Shinkendo, which I really enjoyed but never followed up on. Archery has rather fallen by the wayside after several years, I loved it but my “shooting buddy” moved away and there’s little chance of finding another locally as it’s a niche sport here in the UK, plus it was a Summer-only sport here. I may look into Shinkendo again as it’s much more aerobic exercise, plus has more philosophy and mindfulness to its practice, plus it’s year-round and doesn’t require my attending with a partner, unlike my local archery range.

Thinking of whether the mind is more important than the body, there are arguments either way. One could say that the body is “just the flesh” and has no intention, no desire to do good, no ability to act in itself. Most people exist on a functioning level in the world, where fewer seem to engage on a mental or emotional level in a way which really works; from this position we could say that more work is ordinarily required on the mental side of things. That said, because so much of the mental depends on our physical state, from our happiness with our body image to our capacity to sit for prolonged times in focused meditation, one could argue the physical is the basis for all our training, and without a strong physical base we can never be fully mentally capable.

As with everything in the Jedi worldview, the ideal position is one of balance: a balance between mental and physical training; a balanced diet; a balance between giving no attention to our bodies as “corpses to pilot around” and identifying wholly with our body to the point of obsession over our physical state. We don’t need to be physical demigods to be good Jedi, but equally we shouldn’t be junk food swilling couch potatoes. One of the key aspects of the Jedi lifestyle is to live “in the world” and serve not just on a conceptual, philosophical level, but also in a real, practical and hands-on way. As such, we must be able to rely on our physical bodies, and our bodies in turn must be able to rely on us.

Better still, we must recognise that body is mind and mind is body. The limit of our body is only a conceptual phenomenon we create to divide ourselves off from the rest of reality, so is a mental construct. But it is on a physical level that we begin, from the newborn baby living on a purely physical level onwards throughout our lives, needing food, exercise and proper breathing in order to live wholly in the world in order to engage with reality on a mental level. Both are equally important, even if our motivation to maintain the physical is largely our desire for mental growth.