Agency

We all have a choice.” – Captain Rex

If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.” – Yoda

To have agency is to have control over one’s thoughts, actions, and impressions. Agency means self-ownership and self-sovereignty over the things which you can control not the things you can’t.

Addiction not only takes over agency it becomes uncontrollable. This is why people find addictions so hard to break, they no longer control the habit. The habit controls them. Addiction is the point at which we have lost the freedom of choice.

Some people forget that addiction takes many forms. For me it was addiction to alcohol. But I was also addicted to certain patterns of behaviour and character defects that led to undesired consequences. This included dishonesty, anger, resentment, fear and constantly trying to control others and situations and becoming frustrated when they failed to meet expectations.

We can also be addicted to money, attention, fame, sex, caffeine, nicotine, gambling, gaming, work, food, drugs, and adrenaline. Even good things like exercise can become addictive and eventually lead to adverse consequence. Anything that provides reward, and a dopamine rush can therefore become addictive. Eventually that thing takes complete control.

Then how do we wrest control back? How do we regain agency in our lives and freedom from addiction?

The 12 steps provided me with a spiritual based solution to my addiction to alcohol. The irony is the addiction is still there. I am not cured of my irrational compulsion towards alcohol. In fact, I have no doubt that if I took one drink, I would quickly find myself drunk and back on the merry go road of alcoholism in no time. At least I have agency where it comes to alcohol. There is no power that would compel me to drink again.

That does not mean I have agency in all areas of my life. Only a Sage or a Jedi Master of the highest order would be able to achieve anything approaching complete agency in their lives. The important this is to claim what you have control over and let go of what you do not. You need only choose.

Why not now?

Clarity

The dark side clouds everything”. – Yoda

What I have been lacking over the last couple of years is clarity. In many ways I have been fumbling about in the dark without direction and without purpose. This has made it very hard to focus on much, let alone training, to become a better version of myself. Life has felt like an uphill slog through fog, mud, and low hanging branches. I’m not even sure of where I am going or what I mean to do when I get there. Life has become a meaningless existence, a day-to-day grind, void of any real purpose. To clear the fog and find a clear path I need to find clarity. Clarity of purpose, intent, meaning, anything.

If one does not know which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca

It seems to me that lack of clarity is a universal problem. When the pandemic started everyone seemed to be clear on the need to quickly get through it and resume normal lives. More than two years passed, and the issue never really resolved but it faded from media attention, government priority and public interest. The world then stumbled into more problems, economic and political. War in Europe and the Middle East added to the confusion and sense that the world is spinning out of control. There is no longer a clear path only noise, division and derision.

The current situation reminds me of the Republic towards the end of the Clone Wars. The Galactic Senate had become hawk like and irrational. Decisions lacked clarity and the senate was ruled by personalities and vested interests instead of a common purpose or goal. The Jedi Order had long lost its path and become a political beast leveraging its influence and interests in the senate and the military. The Clone Army also became a weapon used for personal and political gain rather than its intended purpose, to defend the Republic and its democratic institutions. There was a lot of noise and arguing in the Senate, Jedi Temple and in military briefings but no common purpose, no clarity.

Insight enables you to know your own heart. Clarity enables you to accept without illusion.” – Deepak Chopra

Yoda was referring to the inner world when he reminded his fellow council members “the dark side clouds everything”. The Dark Side was gathering its forces against the Republic, but Yoda was concerned more about the rot that was taking place within the Senate and the Jedi Council. The real threat did not reside with separatist forces but was there among them growing like cancer and shrouding everything in a dark cloud of doubt, deceit, confusion, and uncertainty.

Palpatine undermined and defeated the Jedi not through combat but by seeding doubt and uncertainty through lies, manipulation, and subterfuge.  The Jedi lost clarity and in that fog of doubt the very sense of who they were. Darth Sidious, clear in his vision for the galaxy, only needed to enact Order 66 to finish off the Jedi and usurp the senate.

Lack of clarity, the insidious cloud of doubt and despair will derail progress and threaten recovery. Besides falling to resentment and despair, lack of clarity is one of the main things that will betray you.

I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.” – Carl Jung

Clarity can be had by doing a few different things. Getting the right amount and right type of sleep, eating a balanced diet, and taking supplements especially vitamin B and choline.  Physical exercise, meditation, and mindfulness practice, reading and doing mental exercises also improve cognitive function. Listing what needs to be done, prioritizing, and having a clear plan of action provides direction and focus.  Striving for meaning and purpose in everything you do will lead to clarity in your mind and heart. Being grateful for what you have instead of constantly wanting what you don’t have provides clarity to the soul.

The world may be falling apart but you don’t need to. Being Jedi means being able to accept what is without judgement and keeping a clear mind. A clear mind leads to clarity and with clarity we have purpose and intent and find meaning in our lives. We know where we are going, and we know why and what we will do when we get there. Finding clarity amidst the noise, confusion and uncertainty in our external lives is impossible. You won’t find it anywhere but within yourself. Look there.

I hope that’s clear.

Dwell not on the faults and shortcomings of others; instead, seek clarity about your own.” – Buddha

Jedi Living

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd.

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live” – Seneca

“When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.” – Yoda

Yoda lived to over 900 years of age and he never stopped learning how to live. In comparison to a human life span that is beyond comprehension. Imagine meeting someone who had been alive for 900 years. The stories and experiences they could tell, the lessons they had learned, the things they had seen over the centuries. Would anyone even want to live that long? They would live on generation after generation. It would be hard to watch the people they know, and love pass away from life and memory while they lived on to endure the slow march of time. Death never comes but yet one day it will. For even 900 years is nothing compared to the 100 000 years that Humans have been wandering the planet. Nothing and no one lives for ever.

Is it better to live a shorter life that is memorable than a long life that is mediocre? A long-life does not mean a full life and a short life does not mean that it has not been filled. A life can be like the slow burn of a candle, its low flame barely disturbed by air. It can also be short burn and cast a bright light across the lives of others. Is it better to live a life full of meaning or a long and meaningless one?

A daily practice of meditation, exercise and mindfulness as well as enough sleep and relaxation, a healthy diet and a sense of purpose and meaning are the essential ingredients for wellbeing and longevity. Connection with others and with nature are also important. We cannot live in isolation or be separated from nature. Humans also need to express themselves and be creative. The goal should be to realise the potential to live long, productive and meaningful lives.

Body

The body is the medium through which we experience the world. It is fragile, prone to damage and disease. The body fatigues and it eventually grows old and breaks down before it dies. Longevity is about keeping the body and the organs within it functioning at an optimal level for as long as possible. With care, effort and self-discipline the body can be maintained to last well beyond normal expectations. The three main areas that need to be considered are exercise, diet and sleep.

Exercise

It is no secret that regular exercise carries a net benefit to health. The key is the right amount of volume and intensity. I know people that overtrain and push their limits constantly and as a consequence experience injury and chronic fatigue. Unless you are attempting to break records or become a professional elite athlete there is no reason to break yourself with exercise. A good middle path should be taken. For me that includes a blend of strength and aerobic exercise that is designed to improve functional strength, burn calories, flexibility and mobility as well as cardio-vascular endurance measured by VO2 max. My activities include body weight calisthenics at the park, running, hiking, rucking with a 30-pound pack and fastpacking. I also regularly stretch and do yoga-based routines to improve flexibility and mobility which is very important. Your routine might be similar or completely different. I know people who exclusively workout at the gym or do CrossFit. Others are into running, trail running and ultramarathons. Some people prefer to stay fit through martial arts or team sports. There is no one size fits all.

The key to exercise it to elevate your heart and breathing rate to a level of stress where it might be difficult to talk. During strength exercises use resistance, sets and reps that fatigue targeted muscles to the point of failure. You can increase stress progressively starting off at a base and building up from there. Consistency is the key. Always seek advice from your medical advisor and a fitness professional before embarking on a new training regime especially if you have underlying health conditions.

Diet

The cliché is you are what you eat. It is true. In active alcoholism I did not eat healthy, and I consumed dangerous levels of alcohol. My liver was likely under severe stress as were my kidneys, heart and brain. Sobering up and abstaining from alcohol I quickly noticed the difference in my body. I was less fatigued and irritable, my sleep improved. My appetite improved, and stomach problems resolved. The mental fog lifted, and I felt healthier. Sticking to one type of diet for me is not practical. I have had short bouts of doing vegetarian, low carb and paleo but have stuck to none. These days I try to calibrate my diet to reflect my level of activity and what my body is telling me. This includes modest portions of protein, carbs, fibre and fat. I only eat when I am hungry and never overeat. Sometimes I will skip meals if I’m not hungry and do short bouts of intermittent fasting. My weight resides in the normal BMI range and rarely fluctuates as caloric intake generally equals energy spent. They key is to eat the right combination of food groups and include macronutrients in quantities that are needed to maintain health. There is no problem that food won’t solve but you can always eat yourself into trouble.

Sleep

Some people need little, and some need a lot. I tend to be in the latter group. Generally, I sleep 8-9 hours a day going to bed around 10pm and rising between 6-7am. This is enough to keep me functioning. Sleep hygiene is important. I never use portable device before going to bed and use a blue light filter on my PC. Reading is a good activity before bed. Some nights I skip dinner if I had a late lunch to avoid going to bed on a full stomach otherwise, I try to eat light in the evenings. Coffee is my only vice. I tend to drink my last cup in the evening, but it never keeps me awake. I tend to sleep warm, so I try to maintain a cool temperature in the room and ensure that there is water nearby and the room is well ventilated. If the room is not dark enough, I will wear a sleep mask and earplugs if there is ambient or background noise. Sleep is imperative to good mental and physical health. In alcohol abuse I never got enough or the wrong type of sleep and as a result I was always tired if not hungover, grumpy and sluggish. One of the main benefits of not drinking is waking up refreshed and rested and no longer suffering hangovers.

Mind

Having a healthy mind is important to living a good life. Mental health is tied to cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, psychological resilience and mood. The presence and absence of psychological disorders is a function of mental health. For twenty years I lived through a mental as well as a psychological disease. The deleterious effects of alcohol on the body have been relatively easy to reverse compared to the mental damage that occurs after years of alcohol abuse. Most alcoholics struggle with emotional and psychological issues long after they have stopped drinking. The compulsion to drink may be gone but the emotional scars remain. By working the 12 steps, seeking professional help and having a spiritual practice and a relationship with a Higher Power I was able to mitigate if not overcome much of the emotional and psychological baggage that I carried. As a 12 Step Jedi in recovery my mental health practice includes meditation, mindfulness, journalling, study and being curious about the world around me. I use Stoicism and CBT to observe and understand my emotions and realize my circle of control.

There are numerous ways to improve mental health. Getting enough exercise, a healthy diet and enough sleep is important. Reading books instead of spending hours scrolling through social media posts is a great way to practice attention and focus. Learning a language assists with memory. Playing games that require a level of puzzle solving and strategy is also beneficial. I enjoy video games that require you to think. The brain may not be a muscle, but it does thrive on activity. Cognitive decline can be delayed and even prevented by having an active mind late into life. Alcohol has a devastating affect on the brain, especially on younger people which is why alcohol should never be given to children under 18. I won’t find out for some time whether alcohol becomes a factor in my own mental decline but in the meantime, I will try to delay my own cognitive decline for as long as possible by staying as mentally active as possible.

Spiritual practice

Spirituality means different things to different people. It ranges from the deeply religious devotee to the person who finds intrinsic meaning in nature, people and the universe. I would not consider myself religious and could not give a label to my spiritual views if asked. In a census I have responded to the question around “religion” as being agnostic, pagan and most recently I added Jedi. I have a personal relationship with my Higher Power as I conceive it. I call that Power “The Force” or “God” or nothing at all. My relationship with the Divine changes and evolves.

Spirituality is more than just believing. Being a spiritual person is being and doing. You can live your life to make every act a spiritual one. We are after all spiritual beings having a human experience. The hardest thing of all is to reconnect with our spiritual source. Religions offer prayer, contemplation and meditation. But being in a religion is not a prerequisite for doing any of these things. I subscribe to no religion and pray, meditate, contemplate God and creation. Living a life as I believe God would want me to live is enough.

Spiritual practices look easy, but they are not. Good practice may take years or decades. Perfect practice in meditation can take a lifetime or never happen. The main thing is to apply effort and practice.

Community

Social Health is closely tied to mental health. Individuals may be solitary, but humans are by nature and necessity social creatures that really on other people. Civilization requires that people work together towards a common purpose. Let’s face it, you were dependent on another human being when you were a baby and will likely need someone to care for you again in the future. No one is an Island, but we also cannot become over dependent on others.

Being on a social media platform or on-line Jedi community is no surrogate to actual human contact and interaction. Worse it creates a false sense of reality. Social media distorts the truth, proliferates lies and creates social contagions which diminish rather than enrich the human experience.

I am a loner and rarely feel lonely. This is due to being introverted but also from becoming more self-reliant and self-sufficient through recovery. In alcohol abuse I shunned people and abused them, but I needed constant outside validation and company to prevent me from going insane. People were pushed away and pulled in depending on my mood and without care or consideration. I used alcohol as the medium to seek company and social acceptance. Of course, this was a charade. People were merely props to drinking, friends were drinking buddies and anyone who did not drink was open to suspicion and scorn. Recovery teaches us to go halfway with people and to be a useful member of a family, community, a citizen of a country and ultimately the world. We learn to respect and love people again and to love and respect ourselves. Recovery also trains us to never over rely on others and to have the self-reliance and resilience to cope with the inevitable disappointments, conflicts and tragedies in our lives that would otherwise lead us to alcohol.

Live long, Live Well

Humans have been searching for the keys to immortality for centuries without success. It remains a human obsession to remain on the mortal coil for as long as possible. Few of us will pass a century but we can still live a good and long life if we make the right choices. Health and wellness are the keys to longevity. In my midlife I am healthier now than when I was in my twenties. I get sick less often and recover faster when laid low with an illness. I had COVID three times, once before and twice after being vaccinated (under mandate) and was barely affected primarily due to my ideal weight and strong fitness. Today I deal with heart arrhythmias associated with the COVID vaccine and in the absence of known treatments take the necessary steps to offset that with diet, sleep and exercise. Only you, as an individual is responsible for your health and wellbeing, No one else.

Jedi living is not about how much material possessions you can accumulate, your bank balance or maintaining a physical appearance to impress others. Jedi living is about getting the most out of the time available to you as possible and never being satisfied with the status quo. It is not about the number of years you can clock before you check out, it is about improving constantly and living a good life. Do you want to live for 900 years as Yoda did to joke “When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.” Or do you want to live a life that is full and free of regret? Do or do not.

AI Jedi

According to Bing AI the answer to the question “How do I live like a Jedi“:

Living like a Jedi knight is not an easy task, but it is possible if you are willing to follow some principles and practices. Here are some steps you can take to become more like a Jedi:


Study the Jedi code.

The Jedi code is a set of ethical guidelines that Jedi knights follow to resist the dark side of the Force and promote peace and justice in the galaxy. You can find the Jedi code online or in various Star Wars books and comics. The code consists of five lines:
• There is no emotion, there is peace.
• There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
• There is no passion, there is serenity.
• There is no chaos, there is harmony.
• There is no death, there is the Force.


Meditate regularly.

Meditation is the foundation of Jediism, as it helps you to connect with the Force and yourself. Meditation can also improve your mental and physical health, reduce stress, and increase your focus and awareness. You can meditate in any way that suits you, such as sitting quietly, breathing deeply, listening to music, or repeating a mantra. You can also use guided meditations from various Jedi websites or apps.


Train your body and mind.

Jedi knights are known for their physical prowess and mental acuity, which they achieve through rigorous training and discipline. You can train your body by doing exercises such as running, swimming, yoga, martial arts, or lightsaber combat (you can use a toy lightsaber or a wooden stick). You can train your mind by doing puzzles, games, reading, learning new skills, or studying various topics such as philosophy, history, science, or languages.


Help others in need.

Jedi knights are protectors of the weak and defenders of the oppressed. They use their skills and abilities to serve the greater good and not for personal gain or glory. You can help others in your community by volunteering for a charity, donating to a cause, tutoring a student, helping a neighbor, or standing up for a victim of injustice. You can also join or support various Jedi organizations that work for social and environmental causes.


Be humble and respectful.

Jedi knights are not arrogant or boastful, but rather modest and courteous. They respect all forms of life and do not judge others based on their appearance, beliefs, or background. They also admit their mistakes and learn from them. You can be humble and respectful by being polite, honest, grateful, compassionate, and forgiving. You can also avoid gossiping, lying, cheating, or harming others.


These are some of the ways you can live like a Jedi knight. However, remember that being a Jedi is not about following a set of rules or rituals, but rather about finding your own path and discovering your true self. As Yoda said: “Do or do not. There is no try“.

Not Bad…..

Silent Witness

Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Yoda

Have you ever felt you were being watched? Did you ever get the feeling that your every word and action was observed, scrutinised and judged by a silent and impassive observer? If you did or said something you knew to be wrong but rationalised it to be justified, did you ever get the sense that someone was looking on as a silent witness? If you said yes to any or all of the above, you have probably experienced the presence of the silent witness.

To say that if the Jedi die, the light dies, is vanity.” – Luke Skywalker

The silent witness can be referred to as your conscience, inner moral compass, inner divine, guardian angel or soul. Everyone has one. It does matter if they are inherently “good” or “bad” people. Even the Sith had a conscience as diminished as it was in their absolutist view of things. Count Dooku (Darth Tyranus) for example felt that some actions were too extreme in the persecution of the Clone Wars. At times he made feeble attempts at diplomacy and peace that were quickly put down by Darth Sidious. In the end Dooku was punished for his “weakness” and betrayed by his Master at the hand of Anakin. In these moments of “weakness” was Dooku listening to his conscience? Did a shred of the Jedi Master that he was before falling to the Dark Side still remain as a silent witness to his crimes?

There are two ways to view the world. Through the eyes of the observer and through the perceiver. The observer see’s unfiltered reality. The perceiver also observes reality but adds the filter of judgement, bias, experience, hopes and fears. The silent witness is the observer of things as they are while the ego-mind is the perceiver from a given point of view. The silent witness is indifferent and immune to harm while the ego-mind is stuck in the state of suffering.

Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

The inner witness is the silent and unjudging divine observer that is ever present within our lives. We may not notice but it is there. The Dark Side of our nature attempts to supress it and drive it back into the shadows because the silent witness threatens the ego. Through mindfulness and meditation, we come to experience the inner witness and become aware that it is closer to our true self than the perceiving ego.

Close your eyes for a moment, take a breath in and relax, ask yourself “what am I thinking now?”. Notice how your mind goes blank? You have thrown a light onto your conscious and judgemental thoughts. The ego recedes from the light and all that is left is silence. Ask yourself “what am I feeling now?”. You will notice the swirl of emotions within you behind the rise and fall of your diaphragm as you breath in and out. As you observe and accept these emotions without judgement they will fade and be replaced by a feeling of lightness. You are present in the moment seeing reality without the filter of personal perspective. This is the state of NOW and the presence of the inner witness. You have become the observer.

Do it enough times and you will begin to feel a connection to the Force. All you need to do is become the observer to your thoughts and emotions. Your perception changes. You begin to lose judgment of your fleeting thoughts and emotions allowing them to wash over you. They lose their power to hurt you. You being to achieve a higher state of equanimity. Validation is found within the self rather than through others. Self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-realisation begin to unfold like a blossoming flower.

In my experience, when you think you understand the Force, you realize just how little you know.” – Ahsoka Tano

The Sith used meditation to cultivate their connection to the Dark Side of the Force and harness its power. The inverse was true for the Jedi. That was the nature of the duality of the Force which is actually one. Our reality has us experiencing the full spectrum of the Force.

In alcohol abuse I resided in a grey world that drifted in and out of a dark place. I was barely conscious of my inner witness and lived in the tight grip of the ego. In recovery the pendulum has shifted the other way. I am now more aware and less likely to act impulsively or allow rampant thoughts and emotions to get away from me. There is no Light Side or Dark Side to the Force. There is only the Force. The Light and Dark sides reside within me.

The execution of Count Dooku at the hands of Anakin was a pivotal moment in the Skywalker saga. Count Dooku was vulnerable and had surrendered himself to the Republic. Darth Tyrannus was defeated, his fate sealed. Anakin cut Count Dooku down without hesitation on command of Palpatine and became the new apprentice to the Sith Lord. The Jedi Code did not matter to Anakin and neither did his conscience. Anakin had shut out the silent witness and the Dark Side had taken its place.”

It takes strength to resist the dark side. Only the weak embrace it.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

People do evil things not because they are evil but because they perceive that they do good and that the means justify the ends. Atrocities are committed by humans in full control of their senses and emotions. They do them because the silent witness has been ignored. The silent witness continues to observe all that they do because it is the Force that resides within all, the eternal spark of the divine, the immortal Soul. It is the witness to your life, it can be ignored or shut out but it never leaves you and witnesses everything.

The line “May the Force be with you” is a call to let the Force be a silent witness, a power, in your life. Whether or not you let it depends on you. You can choose to let your life be run by the ego or the silent witness.

Further Reading:

“The Mindful Body: Thinking Our Way to Chronic Health” by Dr. Ellen J. Langer (Harvard School of Psychology). Ballantine Books (September 5, 2023). https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/705365/the-mindful-body-by-ellen-j-langer/

Contract

Recently I signed a one-year contract of employment. The terms and conditions on paper were excellent. I was excited about the new job and started a few days before Christmas after handing in notice and leaving my old place of work. It would be an understatement to say that I had made a mistake. Within 20 minutes of being in the offices of my new company I realized that I had been misled or rather had misled myself into believing something that was not true. Wishful thinking had replaced a rational mind. Instead of taking the time to carefully consider and maybe check in with a Higher Power (Force) I took a leap of faith. By the end of the week I had resigned and fortunately my old place of work took me back.  So much for contracts that can be signed and broken by either party on a whim with a one-week notice.

Over ten years ago I entered into another contract. A contract for life. The agreement was made between me and my Higher Power. The terms were simple, I was to remain sober and in return I would have half a shot at living a reasonably happy life. The degree to which I took advantage of this new arrangement was up to me. I could use the second (third*) chance at life to grow in understanding of the divine principal which I call at turns “God” and the “Force” and lead a spiritual life improving progressively over time. The goal being progress not perfection on a path of self-realization and self-actualization. The vehicle that would take me there was the 12 steps of AA.

The 12 Steps is a program of continuous improvement. The steps call for commitment, action, review and adjustment. Like any contract our performance it is open for periodic review. Step 10 calls for a daily review so that any flaws and faults can be identified and rectified and amends made if needed. Daily review ensures that a backward slide towards old counterproductive habits can be checked and arrested. If we start wandering off the path we can reorientate ourselves and get back on the beam.

To be honest I don’t do a rigorous daily review. At best I might ruminate over cock ups and mistakes I’ve made and chastise myself swearing not to repeat them. I remember the need to take inventory and make amends but allow myself to procrastinate and rationalize reasons to put it aside. Complacency creeps in and eventually it catches us out. We forget that we are headed for trouble and end up doing something stupid like signing contracts without checking in with Higher Power.

Today is New Years day. It is just another day but it carries significance because if marks a full turn of the calendar. I read the “Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday every morning along with the “Twenty-Four Hours a Day” by Hazelden. Each day I turn the page and eventually I land back on December 31 at the end of the book and start the next day on page 1, January 1. New Years Day is a chance to start over. It is also a perfect day to review “The Contract” I made on September 23, 2012 with a spiritual power I barely understood but became willing to turn my life over to.

So today I renew that contract for another year understanding that the only way to break it is to return to alcohol and thereby renounce my Faith. Without the presence of a Higher Power in my life there can be no sobriety and in turn without sobriety there is no life worth living. Its that simple.

Happy New Year.

Personal Contract for a Jedi.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,

people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,

you will win some false friends and some true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,

people may cheat you.

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building,

someone could destroy overnight.

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,

they may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,

people will often forget tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,

and it may never be enough.

Give the best you’ve got anyway.

No matter how hard you try you may never reach your goals.

Keep striving anyway.

You see,

in the final analysis it is between you and the Force;

it was never between you and them anyway.

Virtues

If your virtues hinder you from salvation, discard them, since they have become evil to you. The slave to virtue finds the way as little as the slave to vices.” – Carl Jung

It is to surrender yourself, to make yourself a slave to a teaching or belief, that makes it so that belief will always rule you.” – Kreia

Milestone

Recently I hit 10 years of sobriety. I have been sober and have abstained completely from alcohol since 23 September 2012. Ten years is an accomplishment, but it is just a number. The length of time sober does not guarantee a permanent reprieve from alcoholism or a fundamental and permanent character transformation. I always remember that my sobriety is a reprieve contingent on the daily maintenance of my spiritual condition. Complacency and wishful thinking could still lead to a slip and a relapse.

In addition, ten years sober does not mean I have a high level of emotional sobriety. A sober alcoholic can still be a dry drunk who chooses to abstain from alcohol. Constant work and vigilance are needed to progress. We may be recovered but we are never completely cured or rid of character flaws that could land us back where we started.

Flaws

After ten years I paused to reflect on where I had come from. It is not easy to compare oneself to a former version after many years has lapsed. Character change in sobriety is rarely dramatic and sudden. Change occurs slowly and gradually over time. You may not notice but sometimes other people do.

The truth is often what we make of it; you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

If I am honest there are still many character flaws and faults that I need to work on. Many are relicts from my years of active alcoholism. They remain because I like having them or they are too hard to let go or because they are so ingrained that they have become part of my mental DNA. All that can be done is containment and mitigation to ensure that these faults do not cause more harm than necessary. This requires honesty. The honesty to admit to wrongs and the willingness to make amends for them is as relevant now as it was ten years ago.

As is the willingness to change.

Change

I am no Saint, I am no Jedi Master. I can aspire for perfection but never hope to achieve it. All that can be hoped for is progress over time and growing self-knowledge. Steps 10, 11 and 12 are the maintenance steps that keep us sober and allow us to progress in recovery. Daily practice is essential. Any Jedi knows that one needs to practice, practice, practice to become better. This means practicing virtues that uphold our stated values and principles.

Never step in the same river twice can you. Each time the river hurries on. Each time he that steps has changed” – Yoda

A value is something you hold as important. Principles are non-conditionals that govern behaviors that explicitly expresses your values. Virtues are character traits that underpins both your values and principles. For example, sobriety is a value, temperance is a virtue and complete abstinence from alcohol is a principle. Virtues grow with the practice of principals over time.

We may never gain mastery in the expression of virtue, but we can achieve desired change though effort and application of virtue.

Pursuit of Virtue

Practice virtues and live by your principles but become slave to neither. Once they impede or hinder your progress it is time to check in and see where you went wrong. The virtue may be correct but the application might be wrong. For example, rigorous honesty that harms others and yourself for the sake of honesty is counter productive. Excessive discipline that leads to an unbalanced life and strains relationships is also unhealthy. A sense of balance and pragmatism must be applied. Practice common sense. Be mindful.

Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised.” – Yoda

Compromise

Virtues are always used in a way that is beneficial. Being inflexible, uncompromising and fanatical may be unhelpful and lead to anger, resentment and bitterness. Being sane means being realistic with yourself and others. That means compromise.

The one exception is sobriety. When I hit 10 years the thought of having a drink came to my mind. I thought to myself “surely after 10 years I can have a beer or two and not let it get away”? Wrong. Experience and self knowledge taught me that most things I can compromise but with booze, there is no compromise. Abstinence means total and lifelong abstinence.

12 Virtues

These are the virtues to work on through practice. They each reflect one of the 12 Steps. In some Steps more than one virtue is applied but there is a single principle at the heart of the Step which forms part of the 12 Step philosophy. Practiced daily without force and with right intent, these virtues will not only help you get stronger in sobriety but will help in your personal journey as Jedi. Here are the 12 virtues to Self-Knowledge:

Step 1: Honesty

Step 2: Hope

Step 3: Surrender

Step 4: Courage

Step 5: Integrity

Step 6: Willingness

Step 7: Humility

Step 8: Love

Step 9: Responsibility

Step 10: Discipline

Step 11: Awareness

Step 12: Service

The Clockwork Man

Copyright: Lucas Films

Anakin is gone…. I am what remains

You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker…I did” – Darth Vader

Have you ever had the notion that you are more than one personality and that at times your persona changes? Rarely are you conscious that it is happening. At times you are left confused or surprised at your own behavior noting that it is out of character. It is for one of your personas but not the other. If you can relate you probably wonder at times “who am I?”.

Who are we, really?

Carl Jung had two distinct personalities that he became aware of early in life. One was a young lad and the other an old man. Jung put down the manifestations of these personas as the development of facets of his psyche and the function of a deep subconscious. There were aspects of the spiritual to the manifestations of these personalities in Jung’s estimation that could not be explained by psychology. As a child Jung was sensitive and often had visions and lucid dreams that purveyed deep and profound messages that he could only decipher decades later. For most of his life Jung lived within a “myth” of himself, only becoming fully integrated later in life.

A long time ago when I resided in Israel, I struck a friendship with a hippy from Canada in the “Holy City”. Let’s make it clear that I was not there for any spiritual reasons but strictly to party. The city of Jerusalem was almost deserted of tourists because the First Gulf War was raging. There was not much to do but eat, drink and sleep. One night we ventured out and hit the bars and nightclubs in West Jerusalem and sometime in the early morning found ourselves in the completely deserted old city.

The walls and towers were mostly in shadow, the streets were empty and only dim light showed the way along the cobbled streets and avenues of the Armenian and Arab quarter. By this now I was completely drunk and dragging my friend in tow went on an adventure climbing the walls and battlements, entering dark passages and stealing into ruins all the while oblivious to the danger of being spotted by a police or military patrol and being potentially arrested or even shot. I was someone else, in a different time, having an adventure cut straight out of the Arabian Nights. After a while, the early morning call to prayer sounded from the local mosques, almost deafening, awaking me from my drunken reverie as my friend grabbed me and said we needed to go home.

Later that day I awoke in the hostel and found my friend already up. After seeing that I was back to myself he laughed and told be about the night before. There was a bar, then another bar, then a nightclub, a rebuff and then a slap from a girl, some soldiers, a spilled drink, an argument and a scuffle, the hands of a bouncer dragging me to the door. Another nightclub. Then out on the street and pretending to be crusaders marching on the old city.

My friend laughed as he recounted that as the night wore on, he saw a gradual change in me. Not just from sober to tipsy to drunk but the manifestations of different personas. He laughed “Dude, it was like I was drinking with three or four different people through the night but all of them were in you”. “You were not you, it was like seeing Dr Jekyll change a bunch of times”. He said that only now he was looking at the same person he had walked out of the hostel with the day before for “one beer”, “that person checked out as soon as he had that beer”. “One minute you were having a laugh and the next you’d go all dark and be like this completely different person, man it was freaky”.

When I think back to being drunk, I remember having experiences that were almost out of body. I was there, it was me talking, laughing, drinking, swearing, singing, dancing, fighting, falling over, vomiting being the funny guy and being the ugly drunk. But it wasn’t me. Part of me was standing in the background watching silently. Who was I, really?

Now that I’m sober, I am aware of three distinct personalities. One I will call the child, the other is the shadow, the last is the Clockwork Man. The child is the creative free persona who would prefer to be left alone to read, write, play video games, exercise, spend time in nature and basically enjoy life and its pleasures. The child does not like being told what to do, he hates authority and resents being controlled by others. Is prone to sulk and throw tantrums. Work and other responsibilities is a burden and a curse to the child. If the child could do anything it would be to abandon all of his responsibilities and embark on a grand adventure. The child lives in a sort of a fantasy world, spontaneous, reckless and impulsive.

The shadow is the dark persona that resides deep within the shadows of my psyche. It is the beast that is chained but not completely restrained. It is the darkness that wells up in the form of anger, resentment and callousness. The persona might appear during a HALT moment. It can be frightening and reminds me of my potential to do harm to self and others. The shadow was the persona that kept a grip on alcohol for all of those decades. It is the Dark Side that lurks in the cave on Dagobah. It waits for a chance to reclaim its lost hold.

The Clockwork Man is the persona that resides between the reckless abandon of the child and the self-destructive nature of the shadow beast. It is the functional being that exists within the constraints of society as a productive individual. The persona, gets up in the morning, attends to his duties, pay his taxes and meets his obligations. The man is sober, attends to his physical, mental and spiritual needs while caring for the needs of others. This is the ego-persona that other people will mostly see and interact with. The shadow looks down at the man in contempt while the child sulks. As an ego-persona, the Clockwork Man is incomplete and will remain incomplete without integrating the child and the shadow so that the “Higher Self” can emerge.

Carl Jung integrated his personalities and found the cure for many patients by finding the path for them to identify, expose and finally integrate their conflicting and divergent personas that manifested in states of psychosis. Alcohol manifests a state of psychosis. In alcoholics that state is advanced and sometimes acute. How often have we heard “one’s true nature comes out after a few drinks”? Abstinence will suppress the hidden persona while recovery deals with them by admitting and confronting our self-destructive traits and character flaws. Integrating the inner child and the shadow. Deflating the ego. Eventually, through effort and time, that part of us that resides silently in the background quietly watching and guiding emerges as the “Higher Self”.

In the final episode of “Kenobi” Obi-wan meets “Anakin”. During the ensuing lightsaber duel, Anakin is stuck in the head and part of his helmet comes off revealing a scarred and tortured face. Anakin’s eyes are unmistakable. For all the terrible flaws in “Kenobi”, this moment took my breath away. This is the crucial moment at which “Anakin” reveals himself as “Darth Vader”. The one called “Anakin” no longer exists in mind or body, he is dead and the “Demon” that is “Darth Vader” has finally revealed himself. Of course, that is not the whole story. Anakin did not die, he was not killed by Vader. Anakin continued to live in some deep recess of Vader’s psyche consumed by the Shadow.

It was only more than a decade later when forced to choose between the love for his children or slavery to the Emperor did Anakin finally fully integrate and allow his true self to emerge. The child, the man, the Jedi and the shadow converged as the light and dark sides of the Force came together. At that moment Anakin become transcendent and unified with the Force, he came to know his “Higher Self”.

Everyone finds themselves conflicted between their ego persona, their shadow and their true self. Alcoholics are no exception; we just experience the extremes of that conflict in a  war with ourselves. Perhaps when we are drunk the door is flung open, no restrains on the psyche and Mr Jekyll is given free rein.  In recovery we find the peace and serenity of a “Higher Power”. There we find our “Higher Self” and become integrated. The purpose of being is to ask, “Who am I?” and to go out and find the answer.

Who are you?

Courtesy to Auralnauts. Visit and subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/c/Auralnauts

Larry’s Story

The story being told in ‘Star Wars’ is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.” – George Lucas

You told me there’s a bar here” – Larry Kenobi

Every person has a story. Every story is unique. Everyone intuitively recognizes the importance of stories in their lives. We seek to share our story and learn the stories of others because it defines who we are in the shared experience called life. 

Humanity is made up of innumerable individual stories woven together into the tapestry of human experience. Some of those stories become timeless myths which serve to communicate who we are and where we are going. Stories that let us appreciate the past, understand the present and predict the future. They provide us with a cultural identity and a chart with which to navigate our lives.

I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is really a form of archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, what they fear.” – George Lucas

Every time we read a novel or comic book, watch a movie or a play or listen to someone telling a story we are experiencing something that has been part of the human experience for hundreds of thousands of years, the sharing of stories. It is a sacred ritual passed down to us from the oral traditions of our ancestors.

Sharing personal stories is a fundamental part of the 12 Step movement and other group therapies that draw out an individuals experience so that others can identify, and the person sharing can heal. This works when stories are told with honesty, conviction and sincerity. People can easily spot a disingenuous, insincere or contrived story from afar. It is not hard because since we were children we listened to stories and learned to recognise the difference. We intuitively know when someone is being authentic or not.

A special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing” – George Lucas.

There are also the stories that you tell yourself. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into believing a version of events that no one else would believe. The mind can play tricks and fabricate a story that we want to believe rather than know is true. For obvious reasons, this trap is dangerous for addicts and alcoholics. Sharing in a 12 Step meeting to complete strangers and making inventory reminds us that authenticity, honesty and sincerity is key to sobriety.

Star Wars is a story comprised of many smaller stories. Each story represents a fragment of the entire picture that is creative in nature and poetic in design. The story flows from one source and splits into many branches of a continuously growing and expanding mythology. Of this mythology, most people would only be familiar with the main titles of movies and books. Those that are familiar with the Skywalker saga know that story. Lucas did his best to keep Star Wars authentic. It was his life work after all and his vision.

Storytelling is about two things; it’s about character and plot.” – George Lucas

In the past Star Wars was written and presented with the story and the audience in mind. The authenticity of the story was what was captivating about the Star Wars franchise. The story took us to another time and universe allowing us the suspension of disbelief because we trusted the ride and took faith in the journey because it was authentic. People enjoyed the story because it was genuine, sincere and honest as well as entertaining. Once any of those crucial elements are removed, the story loses its authenticity and begins to unravel as it did with the “Kenobi” series.

“Kenobi” was not authentic as a story because it was not about the Jedi Master. The story was not genuine, sincere or honest because it failed to respect the lore. The mythology of Kenobi was upturned if not ruined. The plot was pointless and had no meaning or point. Characters were contrived and had weak development. No inspiration could be gained from either plot or characters and therefore nothing could be learned or added to the Star Wars universe. Parts of “Kenobi” were entertaining or nostalgic such as the return of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen but it was a missed opportunity and failed to do the legendary Obi-Wan Kenobi justice.

I am simply trying to struggle through life; trying to do God’s bidding.” – George Lucas

I know my story. Mine is a story of a deeply flawed individual that arrested his decline to mental and spiritual oblivion and struggles daily to live by principle. It is no fairy tale or Hero’s Journey. My story is not one I can be proud of, but it is authentic. By being authentic it has meaning,  it keeps me sober, and the experience can serve as a lesson to others. That’s why Star Wars serves as an inspiration on this journey.

“Kenobi” reminded me how important mythology is. Myths and Hero’s provide examples and direction in living meaningful and virtuous lives. We draw inspiration from the heroic archetypes as role models and mentors. The story teaches universal truths in an authentic way. When the story unravels so does the message and that is a grave loss especially when it carries the name “Kenobi”. The power of the myth wanes and disappears soon to be forgotten and wiped from the collective memory.

Star Wars’ is fun, its exciting, its inspirational, and people respond to that. It’s what they want.” – George Lucas

And… here is a story about an alcoholic named Larry.

Kenobi

My Name is Ben

Recently Obi-Wan Kenobi made a return. The long-anticipated series “Kenobi” debuted on Disney Plus. Some people love the series, and some people hate it. I am still undecided exactly where I sit on the spectrum but at the conclusion of the fourth episode I would be reside somewhere in the middle ( a discussion for another time). What I notice most about the series is the character Kenobi. How his character develops, the relationships he has with others, his many flaws and how he struggles with them, the choices, and mistakes he makes.

I believe that Ewan McGregor gives the role the respect it deserves within the limitations and flaws of the story writers vision. Despite the shortcomings I see Kenobi as he is meant to be. Kenobi is a teacher, a protector, and a Jedi but most of all a man struggling with memories, his fears, and vulnerabilities a decade after the events on Mustafar.

The Advocate

You think the less you say, the less you give away, but really it is the opposite” – Leia Organa (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Of all the Star Wars characters I have always best identified with Kenobi. Like me, the character is an introvert and a natural loner, but he does not shun the company of others. Kenobi is a recluse out of the necessity of his mission to watch and protect Luke without drawing attention to himself or the boy. Like myself, Kenobi is reserved, yet friendly, quiet but at the same time not silent when words must be spoken. He is ready to act but never impulsive yet at times he struggles with decisions.

Kenobi struggles to say no, especially when asked for help and finds it hard to look the other way when an injustice is being done. Compassion is his strength and weakness. I am also blessed and cursed with these traits. Kenobi is a complex character, a typical introverted intuitive, an “Advocate” INFJ type personality who is often misunderstood and underestimated by others. Like Kenobi, I am an INFJ, the rarest personality type.

If I came across a shambling, silent and downcast “Ben” in the real world I would wonder if he were an active alcoholic. I would be drawn to Ben out of a sense of familiarity because I would see many similarities between him and me. There is a good chance that I would be compelled to speak with him, to get to know him and learn his story. I would be blind to his demeanor and not easily put off or pushed away as I would recognize his trait as my own form of defense. Like attracts like.

Demons

If ever I need guidance Master, it is now” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Let’s imagine that over the years of sitting in the desert in his cave, keeping an eye on Luke and doing casual labor at an abattoir Kenobi has become alcoholic. Unable to drink socially in a local saloon for fear of drawing attention to himself and alerting the Imperial Inquisitors of his presence he chooses to stop by the trading post on his way home every day and buy a quart of Tatooine moonshine. The alcohol helps him sleep, or so he tells himself as he mounts his Eopie for the long ride home.

Every night Kenobi drinks from the bottle and tries to drown out the memories of the past. The voices of long dead friends come back to haunt him. Kenobi is back on Geonosis.  He can hear the cries, the screams, and the roar of battle. The silence of the desert and the dance of the flames of the fire in his cave casts shadows on the wall that come to life. Kenobi can see clone troopers fighting with droids, men cut down and mutilated under a storm of laser bolts. Lightsabers flash, troop transports and gunships explode and fall from the sky in flames.

Sleep takes Kenobi and he is back on Mustafar the heat and smell of Sulphur and burnt flesh is overpowering, the screams of Anakin and Padme seem combined, merged.  Anakin, the chosen one, is lost to him and he can hear the words “I hate you!” echo in his mind. He sees the twisted form of Anakin rise charred black and in flames like a Demon and transform into Darth Vader before his eyes. A Lightsaber ignites and Vader advances on him. Kenobi can hear the mechanical breathing and the words “Now I am the Master”. In horror Kenobi casts his Lightsaber aside and flees.

His eyes fly open, the suns have risen, the fireplace is cold, the dream recedes and sudden fear grips his chest “the boy!”. Kenobi settles himself and shaky hands reach for the bottle now empty. This happens every night for years on end.

My Name is Ben

Help me Master Qui-Gon. Give me strength” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Now Imagine Ben at a 12-step meeting. Ben would be the guy sitting silently at the back of the room trying not to draw attention to himself quietly observing others in an unobtrusive way. He would give out no “bad vibes”, he would just be there seated in the shadows or in the corner. That’s what I would do, I always take the corner and try to face the door. I try not to stand out. Ben would probably go unnoticed and to the question “is there anyone new or coming back?” he would probably give a slight nod or remain immobile. Ben would go to a few meetings before speaking but only if prompted and he might say the following:

Hi, my name is Ben K and I’m an alcoholic” (the room responds with hello Ben). “I started drinking a long time ago and over the last few years I let it get away from me. I guess it had a lot to do with the death of a close friend, who I’ll call a brother. My friend died because I failed him, I failed to show him the right path. I tried but it was not good enough. I was too late to act, too blind to see where he was going and what he had become. I was blinded by duty. Because of that he and a lot of people close to me paid with their lives. Now I am here doing what I can to make it right but it’s not enough and it’ll never change what happened. Nothing will change what happened. I can’t claim what’s lost. So, I drink, and I wait till the time comes for me to face him and myself, to end it all at last”….

Man on Fire

Only when eyes are closed can you truly see” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Kenobi is a fantasy adventure that will somehow weave its way into the Star Wars canon that began 45 years ago with a New Hope. It is a story that introduces new characters and new character arcs. Leia is a stubborn, smart, and mischievous girl of 10 years. Luke remains cloistered on the farm under the protection of his uncle. There are new protagonists and antagonists. No one can tell where it will lead to. I’ll put my own spin on Kenobi without deferring at all to the book “Kenobi” which resides in the Expanded Universe. We have no idea what happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi between his exile to Tatooine after the fall of the Republic and his reappearance in a New Hope as the mysterious hermit “Ben”.

My spin is that Kenobi let himself become “Ben” because of his guilt and loss he hit rock bottom in the first decade of his exile. Like the character Creasy in the novel “Man on Fire” by AJ Quinnell, Kenobi had an existential crisis that led him down a very dark path towards self-destruction and despair. In “Man on Fire” it is a young girl who Creasy is employed to protect that causes the embittered and burnt-out veteran mercenary to find his humanity again and give up drinking. I believe that Leia is the rope that pulls Kenobi back from the dark pit of depression that “Ben” has dug himself into on Tatooine. Leia is the catalyst that restores Kenobi to his former self, forcing him to accept the call to adventure, to face his shadow and become Jedi once again.

Memory of Hope

Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

How Leia loses her memory of Ben-Kenobi later? I don’t know but maybe Kenobi uses a mind trick on her as a selfless act of love so that she is spared the truth of her origin to protect her from Vader until the day she is ready to meet her destiny. In this way Kenobi repays her for the hope she gave him.

Kenobi is a story of recovery and redemption of a man called “Ben” and the second birth of a Jedi named Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is the journey of a man who is broken emotionally and spiritually and has cut himself off from the force. I can relate to that because that is exactly what alcoholism does, it leads to slow physical, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy and cuts us off from a Higher Power I call the Force. Through recovery we regain our sovereignty and self-respect, and we learn to replace the ego with a sense of a Higher Power in our lives. We don’t need to “see” to believe, we have Faith. That in essence is the spirit of the “Hero’s Journey”.

How does it work? The Force. What does it feel like?” – Leia Organa
Have you ever been afraid of the dark? How did you feel when you turned on the light?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
I feel safe” – Leia Organa
Yes, it feels like that” – Obi-Wan Kenobi