From Mentee to Apprentice: Anna & Christopher’s Journey So Far
One of the most fulfilling aspects of the Jedi Path is passing on what you have learned. I have been a teacher in various guises for most of my adult life. My primary way of teaching the Jedi Path is through media, be it from the Jedi Path Academy Website or the Jedi Path Academy Learner’s Program video classes, YouTube videos, discussions in our Discord server, or in a book. But in 2020, I started on a new journey with becoming the mentor to Anna Lightsky with a focus on one-on-one training. In this essay, Anna and I will discuss the steps we have so far taken together on the Jedi Path and how we got there, and how things have evolved over time.
How did we connect?
First, we will hear from Anna Lightsky:
In early 2020 I rejoined the Jedi community after being away since 2004. I discovered L. Christopher Bird's introductory book "Your First Step Into a Larger World'' through a reading list and decided that his teachings would orient the restart of my path. I connected with Christopher online during a Discord discussion about his book and joined the early Jedi Path Academy community soon after.
Our training relationship officially began when I asked Christopher for a mentorship and to become his mentee. My initial intentions were to get personalized assistance onboarding into the modern-day version of the Jedi path and to help me avoid the training pitfalls I encountered in 2004. I also wanted to offer help in return as I had some experience with the type of growth Jedi Path Academy was experiencing at that time.
L. Christopher Bird:
In the Fall of 2018, I published my book “Your First Step Into a Larger World” but it really started getting traction in January of 2020 when it was included in the Jedi Living reading list. I had started to be asked to discuss my book and answer questions in the wider Jedi community as a result. Around the same time, the Jedi Path Academy Discord was beginning to see some growth, and the community there was starting to coalesce. It was there and on the Jedi Living Discord that I first started interacting with Anna. I noticed that she was sincere in her desire to better herself and better the world, and was already doing things in that regard. But what I was most impressed by was her willingness to just show up and put in the work consistently. I could see that she did not do things by half measures, and it looked to me that she would take individualized training just as seriously. It was for that reason that I agreed to be her mentor.
It seems to me in the early days, much of the work as a Mentor was guiding Anna around and away from the pitfalls I saw in the Jedi community and in training and the own mistakes and preconceptions I had early on. So I had about 15 years of experience on the Jedi path at this point, and much of my experience since I did not have a mentor were things that did not work out such as false starts, dead ends, and toxic communities. Since I knew of these pitfalls, I could steer Anna around them, and I did, and she has shown so much good growth, much faster than I grew on the path on my own. But at the same time, I was teaching her from my experience about these pitfalls and she soon could see them in others and other training programs as she grew and became more knowledgeable, more disciplined, and deepened her connection to the Force.
Why a mentorship?
When I first came back to the Jedi community I observed substantial baggage surrounding the terms master/apprentice. The term "master" has historical slavery connotations as well as unrealistic expectations for the teacher. My knowledge of the lore at that time was also from the prequel movie era, where the masters raise their padawans as children and the Jedi order acts as an extended family. I wanted a solid Jedi training relationship with Christopher, but not a father or a family. So I decided to remove all of the Star Wars labeling and frame the relationship as a Jedi mentorship with Christopher serving as my guide and mentor and with myself as the mentee. This protected our early relationship as the labeling helped us dodge preconceptions from the lore and to focus on real-world growth.
L. Christopher Bird:
I was knighted at the 2017 California Jedi Gathering. One of the things this means is that my Jedi peers believe me to be capable of teaching the path to others in a mentoring relationship or the taking on of an apprentice. Early in my knighthood, I was eager to get to work and train someone, to kind of prove myself and my community’s trust in my abilities as a teacher. I early on tried to train someone who said she wanted to be a Jedi but would not do the work that was required. I made a choice too hastily and learning from that mistake and failure, I had a bit of a better eye for my next attempt.
In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed in March when Anna did not want to use the terms Master and Apprentice (or Padawan) but she explained her reasons to me, and I agreed with her. There was a lot of baggage and expectations when one uses those labels, and by rejecting them, we were able to forge our own path together as Mentor and Mentee. In my mind, the training would be the same despite what labels we had, but I soon found out how important the labels could be. By clearly making this a mentoring relationship instead of a relationship between Master and Apprentice, we could go about the training and the relationship intentionally, custom tailoring both our arrangement and our expectations. In time I grew to love the role of Jedi Mentor and having Anna as my Mentee was one of the most rewarding experiences in my Jedi career.
How did the mentorship progress?
Christopher and I used the California Jedi training guidelines for the foundation of my early training. We committed to a multi-year training relationship that would end with my Knighthood or when a similar level of progress has been reached. As part of this process, we meet bi-weekly to check-in and review progress on these objectives and our progress.
In addition to California Jedi's training program, I also identified training objectives and undertook projects of varying lengths with Christopher to improve my skills. I initially wanted to work on my writing and communication skills and to develop my ability to write essays. Over the summer I assembled a code of conduct, wrote an essay on objectivity, and co-authored an essay with Christopher on toxicity for Jedi Path academy. We also collaborated on a text adventure game, trained in conflict resolution through Aikido philosophy, and worked on leadership and communication skills through role-playing in Second Life.
L. Christopher Bird:
My view of the Jedi Path is one of personal transformation centered on the five areas of wellness from The Jedi Circle (Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Intellectual Wellness, Social Wellness, & Spiritual Wellness) along with an emphasis on anti-racism, anti-fascism, and social justice. So these were the areas where I would most offer guidance. The five areas of wellness and growth within them is part of the core knowledge of the California Jedi Knighthood standards, and a touchstone for my training for many years now. We try to get in practices each day that reflect the five areas of wellness, and checking in with Anna regularly gave us both accountability in these practices because not only would I ask her how she is doing in the five areas of wellness, but in turn, she would ask me. I saw the mentorship as a two-way street, where we both would learn from and support each other, but with me as the more experienced Jedi leading in some regards, but also I offered training in different areas outside of this core knowledge as I or Anna saw the need for it.
I eschewed all “busy work” such as reading assignments and reports on the same, or specific periods of exercise and meditation (only the expectation that they would be done daily barring a temporary obstacle that prevents it for any given day), rather focusing on practical applications of the Jedi Path and seeing to the gaps in knowledge and practice that was preventing Anna from being the best possible Jedi that she could be. Any assignment I had given her during our mentorship had a concrete goal in mind, in either self-betterment or world-betterment (or sometimes both).
Transitioning from a Mentee to an Apprentice
In early December Christopher and I had a conversation about the level of responsibility I was undertaking at the academy and the increasingly collaborative nature of our training. I had also caught up on more recent Star Wars media that reframed the terminology surrounding fictional training relationships. Christopher and I mutually decided that much of our collaboration and training had gone beyond our initial ideas and framework for the early mentorship. Yet, reframing ourselves as a partnership didn't quite make sense, since I'm still a student of Christopher's and have several years left in my training plan. Ultimately, we decided to change my label from Mentee to Apprentice since I am taking on more work as part of my training that aligns with Christopher's path as well as my own.
L. Christopher Bird:
Anna and I spent about 10 months together as Mentor and Mentee, and organically that relationship began to deepen. As Anna’s training progressed and we could see the amount of personal transformation that had happened in such a short amount of time, it was clear that she was training both sincerely and diligently and was able to take on more responsibilities within the Jedi communities she participates in, especially the Jedi Path Academy and California Jedi.
One of the lessons learned during my time as her Mentor is that labels matter and that they have power. The lure of being a Jedi apprentice to a Jedi Master is a powerful pull and one we sidestepped by clearly stating and acting that our relationship was that of mentorship. This was also appropriate in the early months since, in a way, Anna and I thought we connected strongly right away were still learning about each other, and how we fit together as a training team. During the Mentoring relationship we learned about each other, our training styles, our personalities, our communications styles, as well as our limitations, what upsets us, and what we are both willing to fight for. We could have not known these things from the outset, and the level of commitment in a mentoring relationship was appropriate to learn such things. I am now of the opinion that an experienced Jedi should mentor a potential apprentice for about 6 months to a year before taking that next step to an apprenticeship.
Knowing that labels have power, I also did not want to be referred to as “Master” even by my apprentice. Running the Jedi Path Academy, I sometimes get new students who try the appellation on me, which I quickly correct. I also did not want my apprentice to refer to me as “Master” in shared community spaces hence causing confusion by what we are modeling. Instead, when Anna became my Apprentice, I chose to use the title of Jedi Guide. Again labels have power, and I really do not want the baggage of the word “master” both culturally and within the Jedi Community, and did not want to use titles I earned outside of a Jedi context (such as “Sensei”) to be used for a Jedi endeavor.
I also wanted the transition from mentee to apprentice to be somewhat initiatory for Anna, so I wrote a short ceremony marking the occasion and asked her to place a learner’s braid in her hair, which my hope is to cut off either when she is Knighted or otherwise completes her training with me and is ready to pass on what she has learned herself. We each made promises one to another during this ceremony to continue our training as Guide and Apprentice.
This year I took my first steps back onto the Jedi path and committed to world betterment through self-betterment. I plan to continue to show up and do the work.
L. Christopher Bird:
More of the same, but more of it. A deeper connection and a deeper commitment and deeper training. The transition from Mentor and Mentee to Guide and Apprentice would be difficult to spot, as it happened organically, hence my desire for a ceremony to mark the transition. When I am teaching and am especially pleased with a student’s effort, I say, “good job, keep going.” and that is what we will do. We both will continue to show up and do the work when we are able, and we will keep going until such time as we reach our actual goal that we set upon at the beginning of this journey; I want to be someone she grows beyond, and I look forward to seeing the Jedi of quality she will teach in the future.