Masks

Luke help me take this mask off” – Anakin

But you’ll die” – Luke Skywalker

Nothing can stop that now. Just for once let me look on you with my own eyes.” – Anakin

George Orwell wrote “He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it”. Today most of us will be wearing a mask, literally, figuratively or both. In the figurative sense we wear a mask to conceal who we are. Vulnerabilities are seldom put on display. Inner secrets and intentions are kept hidden. Character flaws and shortcoming are concealed, buried and denied. We want people to see the person we want them to see. We do not even want to face ourselves. Eventually we learn to fit the mask we wear. We become that person. It becomes a suit of armor but it also becomes a prison preventing us from being who we are meant to be.

Darth Vader wore a mask to function physically as his injuries suffered on the lava flows of Mustafar were so severe that he required it to breath and speak. The mask also  concealed his horrific disfigurement  while it became a symbol of tyranny and oppression across the galaxy. Darth Vader all but extinguished the man that once existed but he could not destroy the memory of who he once was. The mask helped conceal his own agony from others. The mask also reinforced his enslavement to the Dark Side.

Kylo Ren wore a mask to hide his true self. Behind that mask was a man who was weak and vulnerable and deeply flawed. Barely a man, Kylo Ren was a child suffering from betrayal and neglect. From a dark place he cast off his former self and taking inspiration from his grandfather, Darth Vader, sought to be like him. Ben Solo had none of the passion, conviction and real suffering that Anakin had had. Kylo Ren was a façade. The mask he wore was a prop used to intimidate others and it failed. Not even a mask could conceal Kylo’s character that had neither virtue or substance.

The Mandalorian warrior was required to wear a helmet to conceal his identity. Their code forbid them from ever removing it in front of others. With the fall of the Mandalore to the Empire, the survivors of the Mandalorian Death Watch scattered across the galaxy and many ended up in the outer rim as Bounty Hunters and Mercenaries. They were self-reliant loners who rarely took bounties alive where it was easier to choose the dead from “dead or alive”. They were ruthless but also disciplined warriors and loyal to one and another and above all to the Mandalorian Code.

“Mando” is the man with no name. A Star Wars gun slinger. The mask gives him a deeper layer of anonymity in a profession where it was best to be on guard, trust few and anonymous. We may not see the Mandalorians face but his actions reveal his true character despite the mask he wears. The mask does not hide Mando as he truly is.

For decades I wore masks. Alcoholics are experts in switching from one persona to the next depending on the situation. Each is a mask that hides true intentions, motivations and character. I could be nice, charming and amicable when it suited me and quickly turn morose, obstinate or belligerent when it didn’t. I would be your best friend if you bought me a drink and then walk past you in the street with barely a glance the next day. In an evening I would convince myself and others that I was somebody who had and would do great things. I would pretend to be anyone but who I was and would lie even when there was no need of it. My alcoholic personality served as a disguise and eventually I came to fit the masks I wore. The masks we make for ourselves and hide behind conceal our pain and the dark truth of who and what we are.

In recovery I learned to remove the masks. I started to drop them. Through inventory and amends the layers of deceit and lies begin to wash away and masks fell as I revealed myself to others and to a Higher Power. I found I no longer had need of a mask. Without any fear of loss or death,  the need for masks falls away. You cannot hide who you are from the Divine.


These days I meet people wearing masks when I go out. Their masks are literal and figurative. Masks are not mandatory where I live in these strange times but some people choose to wear them. Whether they are protecting themselves from others, or trying to protect others from themselves or wear the mask for comfort from fear or because of social pressure, I am unsure. People seem to act differently around others when they wear them. Not long ago seeing people wearing surgical masks would’ve seemed strange. Now it is seems completely normal. Yet people have always worn masks and it would seem strange if they didn’t. Imagine if they didn’t…

People wear masks and their faces grow to fit them. Eventually they become who they are pretending to be. The mask can still come off. Anakin removed his mask as he lay dying and revealed in his last moments his true self. His scarred face betrayed love and final redemption to his son. Kylo Ren desperate to become more powerful cast aside his mask revealing a fragile and deeply conflicted child that could only be pitied. The Bounty Hunter Mando removed his mask and revealed just Mando.

I do not wear a mask either literal or figurative. I see no point in wearing them. Recovery has taught me to be true to my principles whether they agree with others or not. This includes being authentic in every way. Removing your mask means revealing yourself and putting character and your vulnerabilities on display. It is being honest with yourself and others. Unless you are a Mandalorian true to the code, cast aside your mask and show your face. This is who you are. This is the way.

Service

A great service to the republic, you have done.”– Yoda

I did my duty as a citizen.” – Ahsoka Tano

Not as a Jedi?” – Yoda

The purpose of the Jedi was to serve the Republic. The Jedi cannot be compared to real world services such as the military, the diplomatic corps or law enforcement but they had elements of each. The goal of each is to serve the government which may or may not act on behalf of the people. The Jedi were no different however they were sworn to serve and protect the Republic which had been built on the precepts of democracy and rule of law. Each Jedi existed to that end. Without a Republic to serve there was no reason for the Jedi to exist.

“Fame, recognition—a Jedi does not seek these things. It was enough to serve and have good come from that.” – Plo Koon

Adopting Jedi philosophy carries with it an of expectation of service and a sincere desire to serve others. To be Jedi is by nature to avoid selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-serving behavior. Jedi take the focus off themselves and place it on others. This requires a degree of selflessness and self-sacrifice.

In active abuse we were selfish and did not think of others. If we served in some way it was often insincere. We were motivated to serve ourselves through the guise of helping others. Many serve only for thanks, recognition and reward.

Selfless service is a cornerstone of 12 Step Recovery. We only get to keep what we are willing to pass on. We expect nothing in return because we already have enough. The flow of healing energy must continue from one to the next, growing and expanding as it does. By helping others we help ourselves. We get out of self by focusing on others.

I only wanted to do my duty” – Fives

Most people think of service as being employed directly in the military, police, or in emergency. Service may also be voluntary and unpaid by giving time to worthy causes and charities. It might be providing support and aid to those in need through disaster or crisis relief. Donating clothes, blankets, money and blood is also an important form of service.

Many people also find it hard to dedicate themselves to service to others. Finding the time and opportunity to commit to worthy causes may not be for everyone. This should not preclude anyone from finding ways to be of service to others. Small everyday acts of kindness to others can be as important as dedicated service. Holding open a door, offering to help someone carry a heavy load or complete a difficult task, checking in on a friend, bringing groceries to those who are unable to leave their home are services in themselves. Doing your job to the best of your ability is also an act of service.

The benefits of service to others are obvious. By helping other you help yourself. Research shows that people who volunteer in worthy causes are generally happier and more satisfied with life. Volunteers feel a sense of purpose and community as well as a deeper sense of gratitude for what they have. If you are in a 12 Step group you will discover the joy of service to others simply by providing support by listening to others and being there.

Service was a duty of the Jedi. Even those who failed in their Jedi training went on to serve the Republic in the Jedi Service Corps. The work was hard, demanding at times dangerous and always thankless. Being Jedi is not providing service for the thanks, recognition, or reward but because it is what is done. It’s our duty as a citizen.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” – Howard Zinn

Courage

Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” –Yoda

The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart “cor”. Courage was one of the cardinal virtues of the Stoics. A Roman was measured by not only his courage in the face of combat but also in his response to everyday adversity. A Stoic approached suffering with equanimity and acceptance. The courage shown in the face of uncertainty, pain and death were the only things that truly mattered.

The Jedi also had courage. The rigours of Jedi training, the trial of courage required it in abundance. Without courage a Jedi could not hope to survive the many ordeals that would confront her in a lifetime.

“Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – Moral

Face Fear

I lacked the courage to accept my alcoholism and the damage it had bought to my life and the life of others. Alcoholism made a coward out of me. It removed any willingness and heart to face mistakes and own up to them. I lacked the honesty and courage to accept accountability for my actions. It forced me to avoid or run from my responsibilities. Through the three steps I came to admit my problems, accept responsibility and believe that a Higher Power could restore my sanity and give me all the courage and strength I needed to recover.

Life is suffering. Every day is to face a degree of uncertainty in life. With experience we come to understand that plans and expectations rarely match outcomes. What we hope will transpire is often dashed by reality. We have all heard of “Murphy’s Law”. Expect the unexpected and always at the worst possible time. Life is fraught with unknowns, adversity, trials and challenges not to mention disappointments, failures and tragedies.

It is in the act of getting out of bed and facing the world that we demonstrate a measure of courage. With every heart break and loss that we endure, each disappointment that we accept and all the challenges that we face and overcome we show courage.

He certainly has courage.” – Princess Leia

Finding Courage

Courage cannot exist without fear. It is perfectly normal to feel fear. Some people are terrified of public speaking. Others find the challenge of leaving the house with trepidation. Many of us will feel fear for reasons we cannot articulate or do not understand. For example, the world is in a state of turmoil. The media bombards us with a constant stream of bad news and despair. Humanity seems to be in a state of chronic fear. The fear is not a tangible thing. It does not exist outside of our mind.

Fear is a normal human response; it is necessary to our survival. Courage is not the absence of fear but being able to act despite those fears. Courage is the person terrified of public speaking who stands in front of a crowd and delivers their speech. It is the person who walks out of their home to face a hostile world. Courage is choosing to face yours fears despite every fibre in your being that screams at you to turn back. Courage is the very essence of being human because without it, humanity could not have survived in a world that was constantly trying to kill it. Fear and courage are brothers.

Ironically Fear has much to do with my recovery as does Faith. Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it. I fear a return to alcoholism and suffering but know that faith and courage provides the safe harbour from the storm that rages around me.

“This battle is inevitable. You can stand by your beliefs but let us stand by ours.” – Anakin Skywalker

Courageous

Star Wars is a saga of trials, tragedy, loss, hope, struggle, and redemption. The virtue that pervades the story is courage. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are idolised as morally virtuous characters because they repeatedly showed courage in the face of fear and evil . Han Solo despite his faults and shortcomings showed amazing courage and was willing to sacrifice his own safety for the ones he cared for. Each of these characters had their own fears and doubts but they overcame them and did what was needed despite every reason to seek safety and refuge.

What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station is not my idea of courage. It’s more like, suicide.” – Han Solo

The “Heroes Journey” is an act of courage. Courage is what differentiates the mere traveller to the hero on the journey of life. One simply follows the path and arriving at challenges and obstacles chooses to turn back, stay put or go around because of fear. The traveller is not necessarily a coward, he simply lacks courage and will stick to what is familiar, safe, and expedient. The Hero on the other hand overcomes his fear by confronting the challenge head on at the expense of what is safe, secure, and expedient. Through that act the Hero is elevated from one level to another.

“The Force may not have a Light or Dark Side, but we do… and we must choose.” – Luke Skywalker

Rising Above

To show courage:

  • Choose to act, despite the fear. Answer the call to adventure whatever it might be.
  • Follow your heart despite the risks and the naysayers who tell you to abandon your dreams.
  • Persevere in the face of adversity, keeping your eye on the prize. Keep going and never give up.
  • Stand up for what is right to you. Speak up!
  • Face the unknown. Embrace the suck. Eschew comfort and familiarity. Welcome adversity as an opportunity.
  • Face suffering with acceptance and equanimity. Say “This too shall pass”. Mean it whatever your concept of Faith.

Through the catharsis of suffering the Hero has gained where the traveler has not.  By falling, failing, and then persevering through one challenge after another the Hero lives the virtue of courage. It is through these efforts that the Hero achieves her goals and returns home transformed.

Over the next seven days explore your fears and how you can use courage to overcome them. Remember that reality is divided into the things that we can control versus those that we have partial or no control over. In life you have very little control over the things that are external to you. You do control how you perceive those things which harm you. This is an invitation for you to ask your fears to come out and play.

You know why you are here and why you are here. Your mountain is there in front of you waiting to be conquered. Only fear holds you back. The challenge is on you. Only you can muster the courage to go out and get what you want. Have courage and send your fears packing.

Independence Day

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness. Be a candle, or the night.” – Yoda, Dark Rendezvous

“We shall not go in to the night” – William Shakespeare “Henry V”

Every person shines their own light. The goodness within them, the eternal love that exists resides within like a flame. That inner flame is life, truth and redemption with who we truly are.

At times the light burns brightly and at other times it flickers. Some times the flame is buffeted by the winds of life but still it burns. It may be reduced to the tiniest of flames in our darkest times but it still burns waiting to be kindled with new Faith and Hope.

Recovery is also that flame. It is fed by the daily acts that we do to ensure our sobriety, our thoughts and our words. Evert choice we make either feeds or stifles that flame. As it burns brightly with our spiritual condition the shadow of addiction retreats. Our path forward is guided by that Light. We can share it with others.

To give up all hope and to lose all faith is to surrender to the darkness, to accept the final fall and to go in to the night.

Never give in to the Dark Side.

Who can forget Bill Pullman as the President in the movie “Independence Day”?

The Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night!”

This was probably the most memorable moment in the movie. Against all odds the President rallies the nation and the world to fight. At that moment the story turns to hope and resolve. The flame burns bright and refuses to go out.

So it is with recovery. Keep the flame alive, hold the light and share it. Celebrate this Fourth of July. For unity and for recovery.

Happy Independence Day

 

Statues

The Statue of Jedha (Copyright and all rights reserved by Lucas Films Ltd)

 

If you believe in the Jedi and you believe in the Force, it feels like Jedha is somewhere you should visit in your lifetime.“―Gareth Edwards

 

The great Jedi statue lay fallen in the desert. A symbol of a forgotten time. All memory of the Jedi had been erased. It was safer not to speak of the legends that mentioned them. It was treason and punishable by death to do so. Those that still held on to the hope of a better future looked to the past and the stories to give them strength.

 

Statues can be works of art, they are symbols of the past, present and future. To some they represent a memory of life in different time. They may be seen as reminders of past glories, victories and success. Erecting statues has been a form of human reverence and celebration since early antiquity. Yet while they are admired as symbols of the past good and bad by some their existence is reviled by others. Statues that stand eventually come down.

 

The Colossus of Rhodes stood 100 feet high and was toppled by an earthquake. The  great statues of Rome stood for centuries until they were toppled when the city was sacked. The greatest of the Roman statues, the Colossus of Constantine stood 40 feet tall. The great statue of Zeus in the Temple of Olympia survived for almost a millennia until it was destroyed in the fifth century. Hundreds of statues glorifying the founders of the Soviet Union were removed following the fall of the Berlin Wall. More recently the great Buddha statue at Bamyam was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

 

Removing monuments and statues has now become a form of cultural cleansing designed to rewrite history and expunge the memory of past injustices. The act is a cultural and political one. Statues are made of stone and bronze and are silent yet they tell a different story to different people. Statues themselves are indifferent. They do not care if they remain standing or are broken in to pieces. Statues cause no injury or offence. The harm that they are perceived to cause resides only in the minds of the offended. Whether a statue stands or is removed from existence makes no difference to past glories, tragedies or injustices.

 

Sometimes I visit a war memorial. I look at the statues that are there. For me the inner experience of seeing the monument to a distant past and reading the names of the fallen is personal. It is different to everyone. When I was drinking I had beliefs and attitudes that were as tall and solid as statues of marble. They were my monuments to an ego run riot. In time I learned to no longer look to these pillars and statues. I no longer revered them. My choice is not to forget the past but to remind myself daily what it was like, what changed and how it is now. I need those reminders because they tell a story that I cannot forget if I mean to remain sober.

 

If we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it.

 

When the Jedi Order fell and the survivors of Order 66 fled in to exile the Empire moved to erase all memory of the Jedi. Jedi Temples were destroyed. Statues of the great Jedi Masters were pulled down. New statues and monuments that exalted the glory of the Empire were built on the ruins of those that had been ground to dust. The Great Jedi Temple of Coruscant was ransacked, the library destroyed but the building preserved for the enjoyment of Darth Sidious. It became the the Imperial Palace. Where reason, inquiry, learning and light had filled the corridors and halls now only fear, intimidation and darkness resided.

 

Hope still survives in the galaxy. On a distant planet on the outer rim an old hermit peers out across the desert as if gazing in to the past and the future at the same time. The old man has seen many things and he remembers them all.

 

Now ask, ‘Where is the Force of Others?’ and one answer becomes inevitable: the kind and cold moon of Jedha. For a thousand faiths see the truth in Jedha’s mysteries, no matter that their stories differ; no matter that not one history of the Temple of the Kyber can explain each brick in its foundation, or that our legends entwine and part in paradox.―”Faith and the Force of Others”: An excerpt from the archives of the Order of the Esoteric Pulsar.

 

Star Wars Actor John Boyega Shares Yoda's Message Of Support For ...

Gratitude

I’m thinking – I owe you one” – Han Solo (deleted scene, “Return of the Jedi”)

Imagine coming home to find your home has been looted and burned to the ground. You see the devastation and walk in mute shock through the ruins. Disbelief, anger, and grief kick in. Then you remember that everyone close to you is OK, that you are alive, and you still have two hands and a will to rebuild. Property was lost but the things that truly matter remain.

 

Momento Mori

When Seneca the Roman Stoic philosopher was ordered to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero he beseeched his grieving family to be grateful for the time they had enjoyed together, to be grateful for what they still had. The Stoics were grateful for each day. They contemplated the inevitability of death daily and it taught them to live more fully and with gratitude.

In every grave situation we find ourselves there is cause for sorrow but there is also cause for gratitude. It is often not until we are faced with calamity and loss that we realise this fact. When you pause and count your blessings despite your losses you experience nothing less than a divine sense of gratitude.

 

I Owe You One

Star Wars is full of acts of gratitude. The heroes in the story suffer defeat and loss yet are always able to count their blessings in the presence of their friends.

In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations.  In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends. Han needed to express gratitude for their friendship.

In “Attack of the Clones” Cleig Lars and Anakin Skywalker attend the grave site of Shmi Skywalker. They pay homage in gratitude to mother and wife. The scene is heart wrenching and shows that gratitude is an expression of love.

Being in recovery has taught me to remember what it was like and how things could be if I had not sought and won sobriety. The end of the road was certain to lead to despair, insanity and death. I am reminded to be grateful and to remember that I could lose it all at a moments notice.

 

A Daily Ritual

A daily practice should include a period of self-reflection and gratitude. You can do this as part of a morning meditation or as part of a daily journal. It could be that you are enjoying success or have landed a new opportunity that you worked hard to get. You may have finished a project or completed a test. Having a job, earning an income, having food on the table, a roof over your head, being healthy and alive in the moment are all things we often take for granted.

Being grateful in the face of loss and adversity does not mean resigned acceptance of the situation. It should never leave you feeling impotent, helpless and playing the victim. You are responsible for getting active your own recovery. Whether it is recovery from addiction, financial loss, sudden unemployment, a broken down relationship, loss of property or the loss of a loved one.

 

Call to Action

You can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough. Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?

Acceptance is a way to resolve issues. We have a choice, we can either do something about them or not. Sometimes it is better to act, sometimes it is better to wait and at times, no action is the answer. Denying that the problem exists is no solution as eventually it will force us to face it, possibly under worse conditions. Acceptance is also putting aside pride and being willing to accept the help of others.

Once we have accepted our problems, we need to commit to doing something about them now, later, or never. Decide and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out. Act to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.

 

Gratitude is the Attitude

List five things to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there are always five things you can name which you can be grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.

The ancient Stoics would rise early in the morning and greet the rising sun. It was an act of self-discipline to get out of a warm bed when others were still asleep. The majesty of the sunrise and the fresh air more than compensated for it. As the sun rose in all its splendour the Stoics would contemplate their own mortality and insignificance in the universe and experience nothing less than gratitude for being alive and being able to witness the birth of a new day.

Today is a gift. Use it.

Suffering

Police use smoke grenades, pepper balls during Baltimore protest ...

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

 

The AA 12 Steps are a path to recovery and peace. The program takes an alcoholic who is at war with herself and others and redeems them. Recovery is arrived at by committing to action. Action changes thinking and ultimately beliefs.

In my experience the 12 steps are transformative at a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. Taking the first three steps bought me out of my personal “rock bottom”. The journey has since led to sustained sobriety and a measure of serenity I had never known before.

I was able to make peace with the past, myself, others and my Higher Power. It was a new beginning. A second chance. A way out of suffering.

 

I fear by the time you have control of the bureaucrats, Senator, there will be nothing left of our cities, our people, our way of life…” – Padme Amidala

 

The world is sick. Suffering is everywhere. A pandemic rages across the world, the global economy is sinking, starvation and famine is likely in many countries. The United States is burning as years of fear, anger, frustration, hate and division explodes into violence and looting. Media pumps out more fear which only feeds on itself.

There are no easy solutions. Each person has a duty to act in accordance with what is right. To first, be a good human being. To act on the things that they can control. This includes one’s own emotions and actions. Fear is an illusion, anger is a choice and hate is a grave fault.

 

Revenge is a confession of pain.” – The Clone Wars

 

Perhaps the spirit of the 12 Steps provide a model path to heal not just the individual but also the community and ultimately the planet. What the world needs right now is not more fear and anger but hope, compassion and forgiveness. Whether we like it or not we really are connected and in this together.

Here are 12 suggested steps:

  • First admitting a problem exists, is systemic, is causing harm and needs to change.
  • Being willing to accept a vision for change that provides hope.
  • Committing to that vision.
  • Being honest about the injustices that have been done.
  • Being committed to not allowing those injustices to repeat.
  • Questioning ones beliefs and seeking to change individual behaviour and attitudes at a personal level.
  • Demonstrating that change comes through ones actions and words.
  • Seeking to address injustices of the past and present.
  • Taking meaningful action to right those wrongs and provide justice for all.
  • Being open, honest and transparent about mistakes as they arise. Resolving to fix them.
  • Taking time to be grateful, reflecting on achievements and celebrating success.
  • Learning constantly and striving for continuous improvement.

How we conduct ourselves during these times will ultimately determine where we end up. The choices we face could never have been more stark than now.

Make the right choices. That’s all you have to do.

Accountability

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” – Moral (Clone Wars: Storm Over Ryloth)

 

To err is to human to forgive is divine. But are you accountable for your mistakes? Do you inspire people or do you let your ego lay blame elsewhere?

 

The Human Condition

Today there is an accountability crisis. People avoid being held accountable for their actions. When they do or say something wrong, they avoid taking ownership. Blame is allocated elsewhere. Fault can always be assigned. The status of “victim” or a person’s identity can be used to excuse the behaviour or justify it.

 

We live in a world where the consequence for bad behaviour and poor performance are routinely avoided, argued away, and dismissed.

 

This should not be the way. When a mistake is made, we should owe up to it and commit to doing better. If at fault, we should accept it and the consequences that it carries. We should learn from our mistake and use it to avoid a repeat. You can own your feeling and mistakes.

 

In the end, cowards are those who follow the dark side.” – Yoda

 

You are not a Mistake

No one is perfect. At times everyone thinks, says, and acts in ways that they are ashamed of or regret. By being accountable we learn to accept that we are only human and have the right to make mistakes and learn from them. We learn that we made mistakes, we are not a mistake.

 

By making mistakes we build a value system from an early age. We earn our place in the family unit, social group, community, and society by being accountable. Being accountable is to be a social creature made to work with others, a human being.

 

You are responsible, Ahsoka. These men are depending on you, and this time, so am I” – Anakin

 

Making Amends

Alcoholics have an accountability problem. Everyone knows this. It came with the territory. The last person an alcoholic will blame for the mess they have created is themselves. The act of choosing to drink is a failure of accountability because we know where the drink leads. Money that was needed for food is spent on booze, time better spent elsewhere is lost in a bar. We disappoint and hurt family, close friends, associates, employers and partners.

 

Through alcoholism we leave a trail of broken hearts and dreams behind us. We fail to acknowledge the harm we have caused to others and to ourselves. Facing reality we seek someone else to blame, a scapegoat but deep inside we know we are the cause of our problems.

 

Recovery is futile without taking action to make amends for the harm we have caused others. Without accepting accountability for our faults and mistakes we leave a dark shadow on our soul and eventually we return to drink.

 

If you make decisions out of fear you are more likely to be wrong” – Ahsoka Tano

 

Owning it

So why is it so hard for so many people today to face mistakes, own feelings, admit wrong, apologise to others, and make amends? It all boils down to ego and personal values. The Jedi and Sith provide a analogy:

 

A Jedi is fundamentally different from a Sith in that she will always be accountable for her conduct. This is because a Jedi is self-reliant, self-assured, and grounded enough to know that shirking accountability and blaming others betrays their inner system of values. Most of all it hurts others as well as themselves.

 

A Jedi is gracious enough to quickly admit a mistake, seek to make amends and resolve not to do it again. A strong sense of self and self-discipline will help turn out thoughts of denial, blame, resentment, and self-pity.

 

A Sith by comparison is a narcissist who is unable to show and feel empathy. They display a grandiose disregard for others and care only for themselves. A Sith is never at fault, other people are the problem, not they. Mistakes are never made unless they are caused by others. Blame is always deflected. Where a Sith perceives a wrong done, he will seek restitution or revenge.

 

Being narcissistic, a Sith personality will fly into rage and will bully, threaten, and accuse others of wrong. The Sith relish in the failings of others and use it to prop their egos up.

 

The Sith, like narcissists everywhere are weak and fragile self-loathing people who hide their true selves by projecting their faults on to others. They instil fear, anxiety, and self-doubt in other people so that they can maintain a level of control. The chaos and insecurity they create is debilitating to those around them.

 

You don’t have to carry a sword to be powerful. Some leaders’ strength is inspiring greatness in others.” – Ahsoka Tano

 

Own it or be Owned

There is a Jedi in all of us and there is also a little bit of the Sith. The next time you find yourself on shaky ground after an emotional outburst or a mistake will you own it, or will you be like a Sith and refuse to take the blame?

 

Will you work on being accountable and set an example to others and make amends?

 

Will you inspire fear or greatness? Do you let your ego or humility step forward?

 

That is your choice.

 

Justice

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

 

The Fall

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. Justice should contain none of these things.

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?

Is it true? Justice only holds if it is based on truth. Honesty is paramount. Lies, half truths and falsehoods negate justice.

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, compassion and wisdom?

Does it agree with the Jedi Method?

 

Image: March on the Jedi Temple during Order 66 (Copyright and all rights reserved by Lucas Films Ltd)

Force

There is no Death; there is the Force” – Jedi Code

 

The underlying message of the mantra “There is no Death; there is the Force” is self realisation. You are more than a persona, a physical being with an ego. Within all people resides the potential of infinite higher self. The true goal in life is to come to knowledge, understanding and realisation of that true nature.

The Jedi accepted that death does not exist. Death is an illusion like time or matter. Life is seen as a manifestation of an eternal state that transforms between the physical and the spiritual which is eternal. Some people describe the eternal essence as the spirit, the inner divine and Chi, Prana, Baraka. The Jedi describe it as the Force. How you describe it and what you call it is up to you.

 

Luminous Beings

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

Death does not exist, only the dissolution of the physical state and the ego. What is left, call it the spirit, returns to the Force. This true inner self was always connected to the Force and always one with it; it just did not know in its physical state and was disconnected. This is the illusion of separation.

The concept of enlightenment is the return of oneness with the source, the loss of duality and self realisation. Some call this enlightenment or transcendence. It is also know as “God-Realisation” and “Nirvana”. The Jedi aspired to reach this level of awareness and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Anakin and Luke Skywalker achieved this state of becoming “one with the Force” through their physical deaths.

 

Dying every day

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.” – Yoda

An alcoholic is also an example of ego run riot and the greatest fear is not so much death but the dying every day that comes with it. In a way, an alcoholic lives in a twilight zone between the living and the dead. The ego, ever fearful of death, feeds denial and false pride with resentments and belligerency. The disease will often carry its host to the grave. In my experience there are worse things than death; spiritual death is to live in a very dark place.

Many alcoholics will be vaguely aware that they are in trouble when temporarily sober but are unable to prevent the “next time” and the spiral descent to what we call “rock bottom”. A spiritual solution is more often than not the way out. That may be nothing more than an admission of the truth and surrender to a higher power. At rock bottom I experienced nothing less than a spiritual experience at this point and the impact was immediate and dramatic.

It was the start of a journey.

 

The Journey

Close your eyes. Feel it. The light…it’s always been there. It will guide you.” – Maz Kanata

Arriving at self-realisation can take years or decades. Sudden enlightenment can also occur through a profound spiritual experience. People who have had traumatic experiences, hit rock bottom and visited hell speak of a sudden and overwhelming spiritual realisation. Some psychedelic experiences have also left a permanent mark on people through a transcendent episode.

For the most part self realisation of our true nature evolves slowly and gradually through meditation practice and application of training. Over time we come to different levels of awareness and realisation on our life journey.

 

Self Awareness

Self awareness is an awakening to our potential. We come to a spiritual awakening that reveals our ignorance and the path before us. This is the beginning of the spiritual Hero’s journey for many. Luke Skywalker accepting the call to adventure on Tatooine was the realisation of this stage.

 

Self Exploration

Self exploration follows. Awoken to the possibilities we begin to seek answers to the questions that matter; “who am I?” and “what is my purpose?”. We begin to change the way we live and adopt practices such as meditation and study to deepen our understanding. We are looking for jewels. Luke Skywalker’s time with Obi-wan Kenobi and with Yoda on Dagobah gave him the opportunity to seek knowledge of his life purpose.

 

Self Discovery

Self discovery is experienced through insights as our consciousness begins to expand through the practices. We are finding jewels through our efforts. On Dagobah and then on Cloud City Luke was forced to confront his shadow and dark personal truths. Along the way, he came to deep insights.

 

Self Understanding

Self understanding is the beginning of self knowledge at a deeper level. In Jungian terms it is the process of individuation of the true self. Knowledge of the ego self, the inner anima and animus and acceptance of the shadow are part of the process.

 

Self Love

Self love is acceptance of the whole of one’s being and forgiveness of ones faults. This acceptance and forgiveness is extended to others. The presence of the inner divine is heightened at this point. Luke Skywalker at “Return of the Jedi” had grown into a man at ease with himself. Being a Jedi meant being able to find forgiveness and empathy for others.

 

Self Transformation

Self transformation is the realisation of the archetypes in our lives. Through inner awareness and life experience we put aside old habits and ideas that no longer serve. The personality undergoes a death and rebirth as the ego begins to be eclipsed by the true (individuated) self. One can be said to be reborn. Luke Skywalker arrived at this nexus when he refused to kill Vader. As a result the Dark Lord, Darth Sidious was defeated.

 

Self Mastery

Self mastery is the full realisation of individuation. The whole personality is born and the ego is mastered. The emerging archetype resembles the Jedi Master who is calm, at peace, passive. Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine had arrived at Self Mastery when he met Luke Skywalker. Luke also finally achieved mastery when he faced his old apprentice Kylo Ren on Crait.

 

Self Transcendence

Self transcendence is the flowering of the individual potential in this life. Short of being “one with the Force” it is the highest level of awareness possible. This state is being in constant conscious contact with the divine. Life becomes a meditation. Very little will upset or ruffle the feathers of someone at this level. There is complete acceptance of life and death. Imagine Yoda on Dagobah as he neared his physical end.

 

Self Realisation

Self realisation is the conscious union of the self with the soul. Enlightenment has occurred. The illusion of suffering, separation, duality and the ego has been dispelled. The true nature of all things comes in to focus as the veil is finally removed. There is no longer self, there is all. There is no death there is only the Force. One can now be said to be “one with the Force”.

This is the Jedi journey.

 

There is no Death

Life is a journey and we can be said to arrive at the destination when we transcend to the next life. The meaning that we apply to the time we have ultimately defines the life we live. Being sober is a start. If this journey brings me closer to knowledge of the Divine then I can be all the more grateful.

The reality is that everything and everyone must die. Nothing is eternal, not even this universe that we live in. To grasp to attachments and refuse to “let go” when the time comes is to truly suffer. People will die including those close to us and to mourn them is natural and healthy but to mourn obsessively and refuse to accept the nature of things is unhealthy. I take faith in my personal belief that death is simply an event in the wheel of life and that nothing truly dies. Ultimately the Force is everything and all there is.

We belong the the Force and ultimately return to it.