Reality

Observing the world around them, they saw two moons in the one sky—light Ashla and dark Bogan—and they understood the dual aspects to the Force, light and dark.” – Ketu

The “Reality principle” proposes that each person acting out the desires of the ego will do so without consideration of consequence. These impulses are held in check by societal norms and the boundaries imposed by acceptable behaviour. Most well-adjusted, normal people do not indulge their vices whenever the impulse strikes. They inherently understand the need for restraint under most circumstances because it has been conditioned into them since childhood.

The inverse is true for alcoholics. We maintain a different and distorted view of reality. Self-restraint is sometimes necessary to avoid trouble which may remove or inhibit access to alcohol but not for long. No amount of reason or rational thought will prevent the alcoholic from abuse. We will rationalize our insane behaviour to reflect a distorted view of reality. For alcoholics, the reality principle is cast aside as the need to satisfy addiction overrides everything else. This self-defeating strategy stems from the need to become whole and avoid feeling powerless.

The Sith encouraged immediate and unfettered gratification of desires, particularly the lust for power and control. The only reality which they saw was the reality of the ego run riot. Any constraint to that was seen as a threat that had to be destroyed. If societal norms were contrary to their own, it had to be forced to conform with their own. The natural order had to be bent to the will of the Sith. By their definition, the unfettered and relentless pursuit of power, the dominance of the Dark Side of the Force, was natural and imperative.

The lust for power, the need to overcome powerlessness drove the Sith. The very nature of the Sith was synonymous with desire and addiction. There was a Master and an Apprentice who was enslaved to the Master. The Apprentice desired to usurp the Master and take power from him. This is the nature of grasping attachment and desire, whether it is alcohol, drugs, fame, power, or wealth. One is the Master and one is the Slave. One becomes the other. The ego runs rampant and ultimately controls the self in a struggle for dominance in the attainment of what is desired.

Light is synonymous with truth and truth is reality. Darkness hides the truth and conceals reality. The Light is an expression of the divine and its expression as life. Darkness is an expression of death, destruction, and despair. One symbolizes recovery and the other is a slow death through abuse and addiction. Reality resides within a balance between the two.

In light, there is a darkness and, in the darkness, a light. It is the way of us all. Be a prisoner of neither Bogan nor Ashla. Strive to live in balance.” ―Ketu

To recover is to strive to live in balance. Recovery is a rejection of what is unreal in our lives. Recovery is the embrace of reality over time. Sometimes the fog clears quickly, and the shroud of illusion is removed revealing the truth or who we are. Sometimes it takes years and decades. The ego is deflated in the process. The reality principle now becomes a guiding principle in our life not because of social pressure or acceptable behaviour but because our sanity and survival, both physical and spiritual, depend on it. We become aware that our sobriety is contingent on the daily maintenance of our spiritual condition.

The journey of Luke Skywalker is a story of recovery while the fall of Anakin is a story of descent into drunken lust for power. On his journey Luke learned to face the truth of who he was. Luke made choices that ultimately led to his own redemption and the redemption of the father. Doubts, fears, biases, and ignorance was cast aside as he chose the path of Light. Luke understood that true power resides in powerlessness and surrender when turned over to the Force. Through his struggles Luke was able to find balance in the Force between his own light and dark sides.

Anakin in comparison chose the path of the Dark Side even before he knew it and became blind to the truth. The years that led to his final fall were laden with the milestones of that slow but steady descent into darkness as he sought power to control others and life itself. Darth Vader had power and he wielded it at the will of the Emperor, but he was powerless and a slave to his master. In finally facing the truth laid before him by Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader was able to cast away his illusions and free himself from the cage he had made for himself.

Carl Jung wrote that “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism”. Sobriety requires that we maintain a healthy grasp on reality. That we do not unwittingly replace one addiction for another. Jung also wrote that “we stand in need of a reorientation, a metanoia”. This means a spiritual and a practical realignment of ideas. To succumb to evil results in evil but a desire to do good can also bring unforeseen and evil consequences. We should attach to neither. Recovery means recognizing that the Force exists in a perfect balance between light (Ashla) and dark (Bogan).

Being Jedi is facing the truth, accepting reality, and ultimately finding balance in our lives between our own inner Ashla and Bogan. Reality is immutable and tied to the truth. Illusions and misconceptions need to be removed to reveal what is real. Reality is impossible to ignore we can only choose to. For more than half of my life I walked a similar path as Anakin as I slowly descended into the despair of alcohol, wanting to be the master but only a slave to the addiction. In recovery I try to walk in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker, seeking only to bring balance to the Force that resides within. The road is long and hard, mistakes are made but it is the path to freedom and knowledge and therefore a life worth living.

Shoshin

You must unlearn what you have learned” – Yoda

Yoda was 900 years old when he met Luke Skywalker on Dagobah. That would have made him a Master by any definition. Despite his age and experience, Yoda was humble enough to be reminded by the younglings he taught in the Temple on Coruscant the value of having a beginners mind. On Dagobah he also admonished Luke to put aside what he thought he knew and empty himself of prior experience so that he could be open and receptive to learning, like a beginner.

You can’t learn what you think you already know. There is a reason beginners in karate and other martial arts are given a white belt. White is the color that represents Shoshin, the Zen concept of a mind that is fresh and new, waiting to be taught and  filled with knowledge. In martial arts having a beginners mind keeps one humble and always open to learning. Soshin is the beginners mind of a white belt, however even a black belt is just a white who never quit. In a Dojo you will often find the Sensei wearing a white belt in recognition of the unlimited potential of the “beginners mind”.

Despite his age and mastery as a Jedi, Yoda demonstrated a purer form of Shoshin. That state of mind opened him to the power of the Force and led Yoda to enlightenment.

Observe… without preconceptions and with a blank mind.” – Taiichi Ohno

Al Kavadlo is a well-known personality in the calisthenics community with over 20 years as a personal trainer in New York, a string of books and a growing YouTube channel. Other than being exceptional in the art of calisthenics Kavadlo is also respected for being a warm, humble and positive guy who works to motivate people to reach their goals. In his book “Zen Mind, Strong Body: How To Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength – Using The Power Of “Beginner’s Mind“, Cavadlo states that the path to excellence is often a simple one. We tend to waste a lot of time complicating things and making them harder instead of “keeping it simple” and doing the basics well even when reaching mastery. We should always adopt a beginners mind and view our training with a fresh set of eyes like any novice.

Shoshin

Kavadlo’s Zen like approach to training resonates with me because I have also practice calisthenics. It is a simple but humbling form of exercise which trains complete control of the body through strength and agility. Body and mind work as one. Progress can be very slow. After many years of training it is not unusual to be humbled over and over again by a move that eludes you but others find easy to master. It is also an easy practice to become arrogant and conceited as you progress only to have that progress cut by months or years through a simple injury caused by over-confidence. Many people quit after months of effort because they failed to realize calisthenics is as much a mental journey as a physical one. It require a beginners mind to master.

You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” – Unknown (sometimes attributed to Yoda).

The 12 Steps is about “keeping it simple” and never becoming so conceited that you no longer see the blind spots in front of you. Its about having a “beginners mind” and being humble enough to admit that alcohol is a cunning opponent that exploits arrogance and complacency. Years of abstinence helps but it does not guarantee we will never relapse back into old habits. Having a beginners mind reminds us that we are only one drink away from total relapse.

The 12 Steps also reinforces the need to getting back to basics. Instead of telling ourselves that we know it all already we have to be prepared to adopt a beginners mind in our recovery. After many years of recovery we can still lack emotional sobriety. Over the years we can hit a spiritual plateau and began to stagnate. Some of us are headed for trouble unless we take notice and arrest the slide. We must put aside any perception of mastery and become a humble beginner again and re-learn the basics from scratch. We take on a “beginners mind”. The 12 Steps is a circle it is not a linear path with an end point. In recovery we must often revisit the foundation steps in order to maintain our sobriety.

Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” – Yoda

Recently I have been experiencing a type of mental, physical and spiritual low which left me in a rut. During this time I felt myself often angry and frustrated over little things. I no longer cared about what I was doing or the people around me. “Stinking thinking” started to pervade my thoughts and as they did my behaviour began to change. It was affecting my relationships, my job and my health. I began to lose progress in my training, I stopped writing and in self-pity I began to consider whether I should leave the Jedi Path. Then I picked up and read “Zen Mind, Strong Body” and found that having a beginners mind is very much a part of being Jedi.

I got back to work with a beginners mind. Ideas and possibilities began to reveal themselves. Where before I refused to see past my own problems I now started seeing solutions. The Force started to work for me through an attitude of Shoshin.

So pick yourself up and shake yourself off. Pick up the basic text and read as if it were the first time. Train, meditate, read, pray, eat, sleep and repeat. Treat each day with the respect it deserves as a chance to start afresh and discover new opportunities and experiences. Do what you have to do but keep it simple and get back to basics. Do it with a “beginners mind”.

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” – Shunryu Suzuki.

Zen Mind, Strong Body: How to Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength—Using the Power of “Beginner’s Mind” by Al Kavadlo (paperback or e-book from Amazon or Dragon Door publications https://www.dragondoor.com/b81/

Aequitas

Article first posted 4 May 2020 under the Title “Justice”.

For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic” – Obi-wan Kenobi

The Fall

I have brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new empire”- Anakin

The Jedi were Guardians of Justice. As representatives of the senate they avoided political affiliations and were dedicated to promoting justice and peace in the galaxy. The Jedi did this by applying a code that was ethical, moral and balanced. In other words, they used the “Jedi Method” for dispensing Justice.

Despite their best intentions the Jedi ultimately failed in their mission and were at times a source of injustice in the galaxy. The Jedi were not loved everywhere they went, far from it. As the Republic began to unravel to its end the Jedi found themselves making difficult choices which conflicted with the Jedi Code. The Jedi were complicit in the erosion of the democratic rights of citizens. Their action betrayed the very principles they stood for hastening their final demise. The foundations of justice on which the republic was built were compromised. The failure of Justice led to the rise of Palpatine and the final fall of the Republic.

The Jedi lost sense of who they were. Along the way they compromised their principles for power, prestige and influence. The Jedi became political pawns and were eventually eliminated by Palpatine under Order 66. It was an ignominious end to a shining beacon of freedom and justice in a chaotic galaxy. With the fall of the Jedi came the end of Justice.

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity” –  Alexander Solzhenitsyn

A Complex Moral Virtue

Justice is a moral virtue that is as hard to define as it is to achieve. Justice is rarely universal or perfect. For every Justice  there is always a grievance left in its shadow. The scales will tip in favour for one party at the expense for another.

In a perfect world, every decision made in the name of Justice would serve everyone equally and no harm would result. We know this is rarely the case and one person’s gain will be another person’s loss. As hard as it can be to grapple with the outcomes, we should all strive toward “Justice for all” but be aware that mistakes can and will be made. Spend a day in the criminal or family courts to see this how Justice often plays out.

Humans are born with a sense of justice and become conscious of it at an early age. Children know intrinsically when something is unfair. They recognise compassion and empathy and carry an innate natural wisdom. As children age, they are influenced by parents, peers, teachers and the environment. Personal prejudices and biases creep in as the ego flowers. We never lose our divine sense of Justice; it only becomes shrouded.

Truth never damages a cause that is just” – Mahatma Gandhi

Lady Justice

No two people will have the same answers because everyone holds a different set of values which they define as stated principles. Each person has a varying outlook and idea on how Justice should be dispensed and appear at any given time for any issue. Every person has their unique set of preferences, bias and prejudices known and unknown. These vary and change over time with knowledge and experience.  The exception is those that are told what to think. Without further thought or reasoning they blindly accept dogma and dare not stray from it.

Jedi used their sound judgement and reason. They were flexible enough in their thinking to not fall into traps or follow orders without question. Dogma was avoided. Jedi would at times question the sanity or the morality of decisions made. At the same time the Jedi were sworn to the order and were expected to follow orders. This conflict between personal judgement of what was right versus duty would plague many Jedi.

A real-world Jedi must confront the same questions and grapple with the same inner conflicts. Real-world Jedi are diverse, they are every race, colour, creed, gender, political leaning, sexual orientation and opinion. There is no die-cast Jedi with a “typical” appearance, character or set of ideas. People in general are no different. Regardless of who you vote for, the causes and issues you follow be they social or environmental how you define “Justice” in every instance may differ from that of others.

The foundation of justice is good faith” – Cicero

Seeking Justice

Alcoholism distorts ones sense of right and wrong. I had a very skewed sense of justice as it applied to me. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, I was never at fault for any of the harm I caused. Restitution was for others, not me. Blame for my own faults could be assigned to others. I was never at fault. Even when deep inside I knew I had overstepped the mark I was able to rationalise my way out of it. I was the victim in all of this.

Recovery forces us to get honest with ourselves. We look back in to the past  and list all of the people we have harmed. Character flaws are exposed for what they are. Mistakes and injustices are admitted. Seeking to put things right we seek to make amends as far as we can without causing harm to others. Our pride, ego and security is no longer important, we have to put justice first. Our sobriety depends on it.

Justice takes courage. It also takes a commitment to rigorous honesty and humility. Selfishness, pride and ego need to be put aside. It is not a case of saying “I am right therefore you must be wrong“. It is about looking beyond appearances and courageously seeking the truth.

Justice is truth in action.” –  Benjamin Disraeli

Jedi Method

So be careful when you demand “Justice”. Things may not be as black and white as they appear. Bias and prejudice will only further cloud judgement. Be mindful of hidden agendas, ulterior motives and a natural desire for restitution or revenge. Be wary of the mob demanding retribution at all costs. Justice should contain none of these things. Justice should be Aequitas.

You must ask if your sense of justice correct? You can seek advice but decide you must, what is right. It may help to ask three important questions before you dispense Justice:

Is it ethical? Ask yourself “would you do something that you would consider wrong or questionable if it were done by someone else?”. If you cannot satisfy this test, then the thing should not be done.

Is it moral? Ask yourself before making a decision “Will I be able to sleep soundly tonight? How would I react if I were on the receiving end? Will I be judged harshly?”. Remember that each judgement that you pass carries consequences, for others and for yourself. Accept that.

Is it balanced? You must determine if something is fair. Does it respect the rights of others? Is it equitable (equity)? Is there also a degree of impartiality? Does it recognise the arguments and grievances of all sides equally (equality)? Is it fair?

Justice only holds if it is based on truth. Honesty is paramount. Lies, half truths and falsehoods negate justice. The truth is not predicated on the views of the mob and prevailing attitudes. Justice is predicated on truth which is immutable.

So, the question you have to ask is “what do you value? What are your principles and finally, how do you define Justice? What is your blind side, and do you know your own biases?” Are your decisions around Justice based on truth, fairness, equity, compassion and wisdom? Are you like the Goddess Aequitas, blind in serving justice to others?

Father

Father

“Dad”

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker

Carl Jung wrote that the archetype of the Father was in constant struggle with the son. That struggle exists because the son is born to outlive and surpass the Father. The Father places himself between the child man and the mother, rendering the sacred bond. The son in his presence also threatens the Fathers position, he makes him redundant and replaces him. The son is the symbol of the new. The power of the Father reaches its zenith and begins to wane as he ages. The Father is the past. The old is replaced by the new and the circle continues. The story continues to be written, wisdom is passed down and the son eventually becomes the Father. The passing of the mantle from Father to son has continued since the dawn of humans and continues to this day.

In the “The Hero with a thousand faces” by Joseph Campbell, the son on his perilous quest must come to an atonement with the Father. Through his struggles the boy becomes the man that he is meant to be. To complete the journey of becoming fully integrated the man must confront and overcome the Father or reconcile with him. Atonement with the Father is necessary for individuation to occur.

Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t say that Master… You’re the closest thing I have to a father… I love you. I don’t want to cause you pain.” – Anakin

Star Wars is a fictional portrayal of the Heroes Journey which follows the same stages of all great myths. The archetype of the Father and the conflict with the son looms large in the mythology both in the canon and in the expanded universe stories. The story is played out between Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Anakin and finally Han Solo and his estranged son, Ben.

Anakin was the divine child in the Star Wars mythology. A child with no Father. Anakin was a product of the Force and he was said to be the chosen one. The coming of the chosen one was prophesized since ancient times and promised a return of balance to the Force. Without a biological Father, Anakin found a surrogate in Ob-wan Kenobi. Over the years that Obi-wan trained Anakin and mentored him on missions the Padawan and then the Jedi felt a need to better his Master and challenge him at every turn. The relationship soured as Anakin fell under the influence of Palpatine and this led to confrontation. Obi-wan Kenobi prevailed against Anakin on Mustafar condemning him to a life of regret and Anakin a life of hell. Decades later on the Death Star, Obi-wan surrendered to his fate and became atoned.

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

Luke Skywalker never knew his father. The identity was only revealed to him after he had already embraced the call to adventure. The second half of the original trilogy was the unfolding of the conflict between Father and son and the eventual redeeming of Anakin by his son on the second Death Star. Love reconciled and reunited them.

Luke, I am your Father” – Darth Vader

Ben Solo had a troubled life. He was the child of two of the most famous people in the galaxy and watched his mother and father fight and go separate ways. Luke taking Ben as his apprentice also failed and betrayed his nephew. In his confusion and anger he eventually turned to the dark side believing that it bought him closer to his Great Uncle while not understanding that Anakin had been atoned and returned to the light side of the Force. Han Solo sought to reconcile with his son and return him to the mother and in doing so gave up his life. Much later Ben was atoned and reunited with his Father and the Force through self-sacrifice. The prodigal son returned forgiven to the Father with one word he had never uttered before “Dad”.

Your Son Is Gone. He Was Weak, And Foolish Like His Father.” – Kylo Ren

I walked out of home days after finishing High School and made my way to an Army Recruiters office where I took the first steps in to the life of an adult. I never saw or spoke to my father again. Our relationship had been difficult. I wanted to have a good father-son relationship but I despised him for the harm he had done over the years. I also feared him and could never hope to confront him to resolve the conflict that existed. It was easier to run and never have to deal with it. To this day I still dream of a meeting between us where we can reconcile and atone for the past.

My Father was from a remote place in the Balkans. That region had suffered centuries of war and occupation by foreign powers. It had experienced ethnic and religious conflict and genocide before the oppression of communism. The mountains were soaked with blood and tears. Fleeing that country he sought a better life in the west as a refugee and married, settled in a new country and became alcoholic.

Then there were the years I remember of turmoil, grief, anxiety and fear living in poverty with a man who had no control of his behaviours or emotions. Always the ever present alcoholism that bought utter despair. I moved out as soon as I could and went as far away as I could. 

Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware anger, fear, and aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke… do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor or suffer your father’s fate you will.” – Yoda

A decade ago I awoke one night and had the strangest sense that my Father had passed away. I could feel his essence passing from this world to the next. Awake with that I felt nothing but a twinge of regret that whatever I had to say to him would now never be said in person. I also realised that my journey would never be really completed because I was unable to meet my Father again before he passed away.

Not long after I learned through an anonymous phone call that he had indeed passed away as a destitute alcoholic on the other side of the country. I still have no idea how I was tracked down. After the call things got worse. I felt as if I had failed in an important endeavour. Regret of a missed reconciliation turned to bitterness. I felt creeping anxiety of my own mortality and the passing of time. Shadows seemed to crowd in. I became bitter and resentful. This of course fed the final year of my drinking which became uncontrollable. I no longer enjoyed it. The taste of alcohol was revolting and my hangovers grew worse and worse. Soon I could barely support a single drink but it did not matter. I had no choice but to drink.

One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Yoda

The figure of my Father loomed large with every drunk. At times I felt as if I was becoming him. I feared to become the man that he was but I looked in the mirror and saw him looking back. The spiral downwards continued and so did the despair. The shadows grew darker and enclosed around me. I felt my insanity beginning to slip. Thoughts of suicide pervaded my drunken thoughts and haunted me during hangovers and short periods of sobriety.

I will never forget seeing my Father when he visited I and my brother in a state orphanage. The state had intervened and removed us from his care when I was 10. My mother had died partly from his ineptitude and was in the grave three years already. He arrived at the orphanage in a dishevelled state and very drunk. I and my brother were kept indoors, away from him. Outside my father stumbled and fell while a few boys poked fun at him and threw stones, one of the boys tried to steal his bottle as the others distracted him. It was pathetic and sad to watch. I was beyond ashamed. My father was a shadow of the man he had once been and was extremely thin and pale. A counsellor from the orphanage called the police and they came and took him away. The authorities placed him in an asylum. The memory burned itself in my mind. Decades later I could see myself becoming that person.

Dad” – Kylo Ren’s (Ben Solo) last words in the Star Wars saga.

In recovery we seek to make amends where possible. Admitting our faults, making inventory and amends brings us atonement. This often includes seeking to make amends and reconciling with family members. Parents reconcile with children. Sons and daughters reconcile with parents. It is not possible to make amends with the dead in person like Ben Solo did with Han Solo. We know that there is no way we can turn the clock back and we accept that the person is beyond our reach and amends in the physical sense are impossible. Despite that we cannot fall into self-condemnation and remorse. Amends are made daily by living in virtue and practicing principles. You can make peace with the departed through your actions. You can speak to them through prayer if you want. I eventually forgave my Father and asked for his forgiveness in return.

One of the greatest responsibilities and roles is to be a Father. Sadly we see the absence of Fathers emotionally and physically in many families. Despite what many social commentators say, a child needs the presence of the Father. Boys especially need their Father, or at the very least a male role model who can guide and mentor them into life and help them reach their potential. To those in recovery that are estranged from their parents and especially men who are estranged from their sons or fathers, seek to make amends and reconcile. Atone for the past. As hard and painful as that may be do not leave it until it is too late.

Go with the Force, always it will give you strength.

Powerless

Power! Unlimited power!” – Darth Sidious

Darth Sidious epitomizes a character who is intoxicated with power and is consumed by his lust for it. That lust allowed Palpatine to spend decades plotting and planning his revenge against the Jedi. The lust for power led to his supremacy. Palpatine’s addiction to power grew until it consumed the galaxy. That unlimited power disfigured Palpatine such was its corruption on the body and mind. All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The Emperor ruled over the galaxy with a cruel intent masquerading as benevolent but firm order. The worlds controlled by the Empire were kept under the boot of the Imperial Troops commanded by Darth Vader. Nothing less than total obedience and complete submission was tolerated. Any resistance was met with brutal force. The power of the Empire was relentless and ever expanding, omniscient and omnipresent, consuming everything in its reach.

Darth Sidious was able to rise at the height of the Republic because the Jedi had become obsessed with power. The Jedi had become a political and military apparatus that accumulated influence, prestige and power. In their hubris, Palpatine was able to blind the senate and the Jedi and lead Anakin into his confidence.

At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out.” – Luke Skywalker

Anakin was the chosen one destined to become the most powerful Jedi who had ever lived. Anakin was meant to bring order to the Force, not leave it in darkness but that is exactly what happened. The promise of redemption through the Dark Side of the Force offered by Palpatine led Anakin down a path of no return. Palpatine had told him “I have the power to save the one you love”. It was a lie but in the desire of that power to overcome death, Anakin destroyed everything that was dear to him.

Power is the ultimate drug. Those that seek and wield power are reluctant to let it go once it is obtained and harnessed. Even the allure of vast wealth pales in comparison to the intoxication of power. Being able to control the lives of others and direct the course of events leads to a desire for power that is addictive. Power yields a high far more intoxicating than any drug. Those that become drunk with power will seek absolute power the same way a junkie seeks the ultimate hit. Absolute power knows no limits. The goal of unlimited power is to usurp and replace God.

He won’t give up his power. I’ve just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.” – Anakin

We often hear of politicians and public figures who let hubris and power lead them to over reach their limits and abuse their authority and become corrupt. Without any fetters to control them they spiral out of control and fall to their demise. Dictators, autocrats, corrupt politicians and crooked businessmen eventually fail because they can no longer hold the power they have amassed. The power they have is coveted by others. It attracts the deceit, disloyalty and betrayal of others who desire it. Eventually the powerful fall but they never go easily. They are finally replaced and the cycle repeats.

All who gain power are afraid to lose it. Even the Jedi.” – Palpatine

Alcohol held me in the grip of its power for decades. I imagined that power was transferred to me. My ego was so inflated that it was intoxicated with a overwhelming sense of self. My immediate needs and desires far outweighed any others. Every decision made was done to benefit the addiction. Anyone or anything that I perceived as an obstacle to that desire was a threat. Any opinions or ideas contrary to my own and the people who made them, were dismissed with contempt. I was smarter than everyone else and could not see beyond the narrow view of a sick ego.

Intoxicated, I was literally drunk on power when in fact I was just drunk and powerless to alcohol. Drunk, I had no control over my thoughts, words or actions. They were erratic and chaotic. My inhibitions were dismantled and any behaviour no matter how deviant, perverse or salacious was possible.

I was stuck on a hedonistic merry-go round until it became a cage and the pleasure was long gone. The line between pleasure and pain was blurred. People were friend, then foe, then friend again. People were to be used and discarded and then used again. I had no control of my emotions, responses or body. I was powerless, not powerful.

Deep within I knew it but I was afraid to lose the illusion of power. I was afraid to confront my own fear.

Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.” – Yoda

True power resides in recognizing that we are powerless over alcohol. The illusion of power in addiction reveals itself to be false. Alcohol is a subtle, cunning and powerful foe, much like the Dark Side of the Sith. It brings you into its confidence, seduces and then overwhelms and corrupts you. The idea of power comes from addiction. Alcohol dulls the higher centers of the brain and removes inhibitions replacing them with a feeling of confidence, superiority and power.

True power resides in sanity. In recovery we say that our sobriety is a daily reprieve from the insanity of alcoholism contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Everyday it behoves us to:

  1. Recognize that we are powerless over alcohol but not in our own recovery.
  2. Affirm a faith in a personal Higher Power. Surrender to that Higher Power by letting go of a need to control everything.
  3. Be active in our own recovery by being active not passive. By seeking to become powerfully recovered.

To answer power with power, the Jedi way, this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.” – Yoda

Obi-wan Kenobi showed Darth Vader that raw power is a mere illusion and one that often turns in on itself. Darth Vader cut Obi-wan Kenobi down with one fell stroke of a Lightsaber. In that act of submission and self-sacrifice, Obi-wan showed Darth Vader he had the true power. Kenobi found power in surrender to the Force. There was no need to fight, dominate or impose his will on another. Kenobi simply let go of his attachments and gave himself up completely to the Force and became more powerful.

In “Return of the Jedi”, Luke Skywalker refused to fight Darth Vader on the second Death Star. Victory over the Dark Side could not be won through the exercise of raw power. Darth Sidious could not be defeated in combat. Darth Vader could not be redeemed through force. To wield a Lightsaber in anger would have only played in to the hands of Sidious. Luke recognized that non-violence and surrender was the only way. Luke was not powerless without a Lightsaber and armed with only his faith and a love for a Father he never knew, he had become more powerful than Darth Sidious.

The Force is not a power you have. It’s not about lifting rocks. It’s the energy between all things, a tension, a balance, that binds the universe together.” – Luke Skywalker

Decades later on Ach-To, Luke reflected on his life and failures. In his own hubris and desire for power Luke had made terrible and tragic mistakes with consequences he could not fathom or control. The old Jedi Master had betrayed the man who had once stepped in to the liar of Darth Sidious and casting aside his Lightsaber had bought his father back from the darkness. Now alone on an island far removed from danger he at last saw that he still had a chance to once again answer power with an empty hand. Luke surrendered to the power of the living Force.

We say we are powerless against alcohol because it is the truth. There is no shame in that. But we are not powerless in recovery. We find power in admitting it and in surrender to a higher power. By working the steps we learn that we are empowered in our own recovery. The ego is deflated. Anger, fear, hate, dishonesty, hubris, selfishness and resentment are overcome through temperance, courage, honesty, humility, compassion, faith and sacrifice. An inner power is found that was always there, it was only hidden behind the illusion of self and the layers of the false ego.

Voice

I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.” – Gina Carano

Imagine, if you would, being gagged and forbidden to speak your mind. How would that feel? Imagine also being told how and when to think, speak and act. What would that do to your soul? It would be like keeping a tree in a small pot. As the tree grows, its roots branch out and unable to go deeper they begin to bunch into a mangled and tortured mass. Eventually the tree begins to stunt and whither in its growth.

Humans have an inherent and divine need to express themselves without being suppressed and stymied by others. The inner divine seeks to grow and expand. This is part of our nature to know and experience life and ultimately the Force. When we are prevented from doing so we suffer and like the tree we also become stunted in our development.

Imagine putting up barrier to a child’s physical and mental growth for a year. What would that do? How would that affect the child long-term?

Do not let what you think they think of you make you stop and question everything you are.” – Carrie Fischer

Through early childhood, school and then the military my thoughts, words and actions were highly regulated. Deep within me raged a battle between a side that needed to conform and be accepted and another side that wanted to cut the bonds, cry out and be free to be who I wanted to be. Every time I strayed from the path chosen for me I was punished or threatened with expulsion. Fear kept me in check. I had to watch what I said and did. Even thoughts had to be moderated because they can be betrayed. As the years passed I felt as if inside I was a mangled and tortured mass of suppressed emotions. My soul felt caged.

Alcohol offered me an escape. It was an alluring illusion. Within a bottle lay freedom from care and worry. I could be at peace with myself and others. There were no barriers to what I could do, say or think. I was unchained and my soul was free to fly to the heavens like some Icarus.

It was a lie.

I cried out and my prayer was answered” – Gina Carano

Alcohol provided the illusion of a temporary respite from reality but reality never gave respite. In the morning, reality came crashing down. There were consequences for wrong thought, words and actions. I found that booze did not bring out the real me, it had created some twisted and obscene persona. That person was the opposite of who I wanted to be. The real me was prevented from being realized. Eventually the truth of that became too great to bear any longer and I was either to fall in to a very dark place and never return or recover.

Recovery can be summed up in three words; admit, accept and act. Rinse and repeat. To be truly recovered one must be honest and have courage. This means admitting to yourself and others your disease and faults. Accepting a power greater than yourself in to your life. You start letting go of the need to control everything and please others. That means having the courage to think, speak and act free from fear of judgment from others. It means being an authentic human being for once in your life. That means finding your voice and using it.

The Star Wars heroes are loved because they are authentic. They all used their voices and refused to be silenced by fear. Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo never pulled any punches when it came to speaking their minds.  In real life Carrie Fischer had bigger stones than most men in Hollywood and said exactly what was on her mind. Gina Carano is not far behind her.

Authenticity means having the courage to remove the gag and chains that bind you and having the freedom to express and be who you are. Be Jedi and use your voice free of fear.

This is the way.

I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.” – Carrie Fischer

I’m in” – Cara Dune

Stillness

Be calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

Before creation there was infinite stillness. Time, matter and energy resided as the Force waiting to be released into being. Nothing yet existed. There was only the potential for all that ever was in that stillness.

Stillness is being alert and in a state of complete awareness without action. Stillness is nature. A Lion relies on stillness to prepare for the dash which will bring down its prey. The universe is largely still and empty, a great void of potential yet to be realized. All matter is 99% emptiness. The remainder is vibrational energy that appears as matter.

To be still is to like an empty vessel waiting to be filled. The mind is clear, the body is relaxed and one is at peace. Stillness is being passive while being alert to everything happening around you. There is unrealized potential in stillness. This is the nature of the Force.

Attention!

“SILENCE!” yelled the Drill Sergeant at the top of his lungs as he entered the barracks room. In a flash everyone was on his feet standing at attention. You could not hear a pin drop as the Sergeant stood in the centre of the room and looked around. One spoken command had bought complete silence to a room that moments had been full of noise and activity. All focus was on this single imposing figure standing there, tattooed muscles bristled under a camouflage shirt, a green beret angled slightly on a clean shaven head, a slight smirk on a rugged tanned face as his gaze swept over the platoon. He moved slowly down the line of bunk beds and men at attention. Cold blue eyes pierced hard into recruits stood on a line painted on the floor. No one dared make a sound or move. We were going to lose the bad habits of a spoilt and soft civilian existence. We were going to learn stillness.

Stillness is something you are forced to learn in the Infantry. Your mental and physical health and even your life can rely on your ability to remain still and silent. If one soldier moves an arm or head in a company formation on the parade square he immediately draws attention to himself. A sniper camouflaged in a hide will give himself away through movement that is not executed carefully, with economy and precision.

Soldiers are expected to remain rigid and silent as long as is required. It take self-discipline, focus and self-control to remain perfectly still and quiet the mind screaming for activity. To not scratch that itch or speak up when silence is required can be harder than you think. Some people cannot remain still for more than a minute. In the army I was told “ears open, mouth shut” and reminded constantly “never draw attention to yourself!”, this meant being still, silent and alert.

Stand Firm

The military understands the value of stillness. The ability to remain immobile but alert is a hallmark of discipline. A soldier who can be passive and exercise self-control under pressure until an order is given is more useful in war than a mindless Berserker who cannot be controlled. In the confusion and chaos of battle the ability to remain still in mind but active in body is the trait of a true warrior.

The warrior is in complete control of his movements, actions and emotions. The weapon becomes an extension of himself driven by the power of the mind. The mind is laser focused on intent and achieving an objective. The still warrior is a weapon waiting to be unleashed.

The Jedi used stillness as a tool to remain calm and ready before battle but also for diplomacy and negotiations. They were in no rush to make a move when the best strategy was to stand firm and wait. A Jedi would wait for her opponent to make the first move and then respond accordingly. In negotiations it was necessary to remain impassive, silent and still and let others speak first.

Much can be conveyed through Stillness. Stillness can be intimidating for some. It can confuse the enemy and disarm them. Often the best tactic is to stay still. When Yoda said “be calm, at peace, passive”, he was reminding Luke that the true power of the Force resides in the stillness.

Calm, at Peace, Passive

Being alcoholic I was unable to be still. I had to always be on the go. My mind was always active and could never relax. I needed alcohol to calm my thoughts. I was ill disciplined. Irrational thoughts, emotions and impulses constantly pulled at me and directed my decisions. In order to embrace recovery I had to tap into my inner source. A stillness resides within ourselves that is immutable and beyond time and space. The stillness connects us to the Divine of which only an illusion of separation exists. I had to come to believe in a power greater than myself and let go. Through surrender I was able to find that stillness and walk free from alcohol. Those in the 12 step community will recognise this as Steps 2 and 3.

Being still does not mean being inactive or unassertive. Recovery is an active process but it is requires one to seek to be “calm, at peace, passive” through mindful action. The act of surrender requires letting go while also accepting responsibility for ourselves. We can no longer be like a marionette pulled mindlessly from one extreme to the other by the strings of impulses and emotions.

Being still allows us to gather our thoughts and process emotions in a way that benefits us and causes no harm to others. Thoughts and ideas can pass in and out of the mind through the day without requiring us to act until we are ready. Emotions can stir and then dissipate without needing to be energized by our attachments to them. Different impulses rise up through the day but It does not mean we need to respond to any of them. Thoughts, emotions and impulses do not have any power over you unless you choose so. The choice is yours.

Be still.

Order 66

(Source: zedge.net)

The time has come. Execute Order Sixty-Six.” – Darth Sidious

Order 66 was one of the most infamous days of the entire history of the Republic. Darth Sidious as Chancellor Palpatine saw his chance at last to seize power and finally destroy the Jedi Order. Every single Trooper in the Clone Army had been bio-engineered with a xenobot “chip” at birth. The Inhibitor chips were programmed to follow the Palpatine’s orders no matter how obscene or insane they might be once activated. When the order came, the Clone Army immediately carried out Order 66 to kill every Jedi to the last without question or hesitation.

In Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker was tasked with murdering the Younglings at the Jedi Temple. An act which would give Darth Sidious much pleasure and cement Anakin to the Dark Side. Anakin did not have a biochip engineered in to his brain. Unlike the Clone Troopers who indifferently and in cold blood gunned down the Jedi, Anakin only had his fear, anger and hate driving him to kill children. The Clone Troopers had no choice given that the biochip enforced compliance with Order 66. They acted like automatons in carrying it out. Anakin had a choice and still followed through with his actions with callous impunity.

Order 66 also marked the end of the Republic and ushered in the Empire with Darth Sidious placing himself as Emperor. Democracy had been dismantled with deafening applause. Now the the Republic would die and a long cold dark winter would descend on the galaxy. Where there had been celebration that the war with the Separatist Confederation there was now despair. Where the ascendancy of Palpatine had bought hope there was now  only the boot of the empire. The terror that was Darth Vader and the Death Star would soon follow.

I guess the new galactic order must’ve seemed promising to everyone on Coruscant until they woke up one morning and found all of their freedoms revoked. A fascist state had been imposed from the citadel that was once the Jedi Temple. Any choice the galactic demos had was now gone. Democracy and liberty was gone. Hope was gone.

Drinking is like that. You have a choice until you decide to abrogate it to alcohol. Then you don’t have a choice anymore. It seemed like a good idea at the time, obviously it wasn’t, not sure why I did it or why I will do it again and again, without end. That is insanity.

Sometimes I wonder if, like a Clone Trooper, I have a biochip in my head that was activated the day I took my fist drink. I was damned from the beginning to become what I became, an alcoholic. Only through recovery was I able to deactivate the chip and stop the drinking and the insane behavior that cascaded from it. What would happen if I took a drink now? Would the biochip be reactivated and would I once again descend in to the insanity? Would I walk back in to a long cold dark winter?

That’s a question I ask myself every time I peer in to my Shadow and the Dark Side tempts me to a drink. It grins and it waits.

Grace

Grace

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

Grace is a term that brings up many religious connotations. Raised as a catholic I was confused by the term. Grace was a word that was used by the clergy to describe communion. In boarding school we were told that one had to achieve grace in order to ascend to heaven. We were also told that children such as us were beyond redemption and could never acquire grace. One of the Priests would state that it was only by his good grace that I receive six strokes of the cane and not a dozen. A visiting Bishop was called “your Grace” and many years later I heard that he had been arrested for turning a blind eye to the abuse of fostered and orphaned children in his care.

I could never get the word grace and for me it always held dark connotations. It reminded me of the dark halls of the orphanage, shivering in cold dark mornings at early prayers, the scolding of a priest hidden behind a curtain for not understanding the rites of confession and the leer of a drunken Brother who spoke with a thick Irish accent and smelt of beer and cabbage. There are memories of the taste of cold porridge, fights in the school yard, the kick from a nun and the sting of a cane on my fingers. I was glad when it ended. Grace never found me again and I wanted no part of it until I found what it meant many years later.

My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us.” – Yoda

Don’t confuse Grace with religion. Neither is it a virtue. Grace is a spiritual state of being that approaches enlightenment. To arrive at Grace is to realize the Force within your life.

Grace is genuine and selfless humility and compassion for others.  not when they have fallen on hard times but when you have. Grace is putting the concerns of others above your own without seeking recognition. It is to feel one’s own loss while also feeling the suffering of another and accepting it as one’s own. To have grace is to endure the suffering caused by others and to not only forgive them but to love them at the same time. The passion of the crucifixion is a symbol of grace. Jesus chose to accept suffering and death for the sake of others, especially those that were not deserving. Suffering terribly Jesus asked God to forgive those who had betrayed, punished and tortured him. Through grace, Jesus arrived at enlightenment and overcame duality.

You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda

Is grace the path to enlightenment? I think so. The Buddha lived a life of Grace, as did Guru Nanak and Zarathustra. Their example of a life lived in grace inspires their followers and seekers of truth. Perhaps they came so close to the realizing idea of God while mortal men made of flesh that they achieved a state of perpetual grace.

We are reminded of the power of Grace in the Star Wars mythology. Yoda lived in harmony with others and acquired grace over a lifetime and became “one with the Force”. Obi-wan Kenobi, through a lifetime of pain and sacrifice and years of solitude in the desert found grace in realizing his purpose to protect the “chosen one” from harm. Anakin believed that power and control was his path to salvation but found true redemption and grace by sacrificing his life to save his son. Through the grace of forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love Luke  also saved his Father and found Grace.  Decades later, Luke chose to forsake his purpose and abandon his destiny but fate forced him to confront it and through grace find the living Force. Han Solo, a scoundrel, found Grace by giving up his life in a failed attempt to redeem his son. Ben Solo found grace in surrendering his life to save Rey. United with his mother, Leia Organa and Ben were united in the Force.

What do you know about the Force?” – Luke (to Rey)

I have never reached a state of Grace. My life could be best described as having been lived in “sin” and “excess” of alcoholism. I got a glimpse of Grace at the bottom of the dark pit called “rock bottom” but it was from a place beyond space and time. Perhaps I was touched by God. Whatever it was, it led me out of that place and I never drunk again. When I first saw the words “But by the Grace of God” framed on a wall at my first AA meeting it hit me and I finally got the idea of Grace.

Grace  is a word rarely heard or written but it still has a place in this world and it is in desperate short supply. One rarely witnesses the losing side in sports or politics accept their defeat with Grace. There are recriminations, protests and harsh words. The winning side also demonstrates arrogance and claims the spoils of victory and a moral superiority over the vanquished rather than seeking to offer a hand of peace and conciliation. Right now the world could use a good measure of grace.

Be gracious to others, stop fighting, put down your Lightsaber.

Daily Jedi Journal

The Daily Jedi journal is finally complete in time for the new year. The Journal has a page to enter your daily gratitude and morning and evening reflections for 366 days. Each week discusses an aspect of Jedi Philosophy and every day begins with a quote from Star Wars to reflect on. Life is a journey and the central theme of the Journal is the Hero’s Journey.

The first day is Day 1. You may start any day of the year. The journal progresses through weekly cycles. You can also complete the book at your own pace or read sections at your leisure. You may wish to add additional notes and pages to expand on your writings. You may use this book as a primer for a more in-depth personal journal.

This is a practical journal to help those who wish to practice the tenets of Jedi Philosophy in daily living. Each day presents its own challenges and often all that is needed is a compass to help guide us on the path to being Jedi. This book has been developed to help you accomplish your goals in living a more mindful and fulfilling life through personal reflection.

Whether you consider yourself a Real-World Jedi or someone who is only seeking to improve every day I hope this book can serve you in some small way. One does not need to be a Star Wars fan to benefit from Jedi Philosophy.

The benefits of Journaling are well documented in psychology. Journaling is an excellent way to track your progress on the path to self improvement and self discovery. Keeping a journal also allows you to express your ideas, thoughts and hopes.

The hyperlinks download a pdf document which can then be printed out and used or saved to a computer.

Please go to http://www.dailyjedi.com/daily-journal/

The full pdf version of the Daily Jedi Journal can be downloaded here

I do not accept payment for this work. If you would like to make a donation to one of my favorite charities please go to http://www.dailyjedi.com/donate/