Dreams

 

Dreams pass in time.” ― Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker

 

Jung wrote “Dreams are pure nature”. Dreams are unfettered, they are wild and reside outside our will. We have no control over our dreams yet dreams affect our lives in tangible ways. Dreams tell us a lot about ourselves if we take the time to think about them. They serve as a conduit for our imagination and serve to assist in the integration of our conscious and unconscious lives.

 

Dreams provide us with symbols that act as cardinal points that guide us on our journey. They reflect the archetypes of the human persona to which we gravitate. To dream is to express our inner desires, hopes and vulnerabilities as well as our fears and regrets. In dreaming we resolve much that happens in our inner world. To dream is to allow us to grow beyond what we are, to become whole as intended.

 

Dreams take me to places and experiences that are alluring or terrifying but always compelling. Their residue lingers through the day long after specific details have vanished from memory. Most days I forget my dreams but when I recall them in startling clarity I search deeply for meaning. Dreams are important because they are a looking glass in to our soul. They tell us more than they conceal.

 

It’s like… something out of a dream, or, I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just going crazy” – Luke Skywalker

 

 

Drunk Dreams

When I was drinking I rarely recalled my dreams. Some nights I would black out and not dream at all. If I did there would be no recollection. To be drinking and drunk was to live in a sort of a dream. My consciousness was lowered and in my drinking I searched for answers and meanings that did not exist. Illusions of myself and the world would emerge. In my drunken reverie I would imagine heroic triumphs and build myself up to something I was not.

 

My thoughts would also turn dark and loathsome. I would imagine that the world was against me, that I was not worthy. I would fall in to a dark place of self-pity, resentment and anger. In one hour I could swing from the dizzying heights of euphoria to the dark world of depression and fear and back again.  The sobering up the next day was the “waking up” to reality and the consequences of my actions. In my waking state my mind would torment me with glimpses of my drunken spree as if recalling a nightmare. I would recall things I had done and said with horror.

 

Anakin, you must break through the fog of lies the Jedi have created around you” – Palpatine

 

The Fog

After a while it seemed as if my waking time and my dreams had merged in to one. I would ponder a disturbing dream I had had the night before. Flashes of faces, voices, laughter and lights would appear in my mind and I would soon realize that the images represented a memory, not a dream. I would later recall something about a drinking spree and ask a friend about it only to learn that my recollection was the product of a dream and had never happened. Dreams and reality became confused.

 

To live in alcoholism was to live in a twilight world, a fog, that blurred dreams with reality. As time passes the connection between body, mind and soul breaks down. As the important self-regulating conduit of dreams is taken hostage by alcohol we lose grip on reality and insanity begins to creep in.

 

It was only a dream.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Oneiros

Dreams are harbingers of calamity and disaster in Mythology as well as warnings and prophecies . The Greeks personified dreams as Oneiros. Gods and other mythical creatures spoke to heroes through the Oneiros. They were warned of impending danger and guided by the benevolent Gods. In Norse mythology dreams were seen as harbingers of fate for both mortals and Gods. The Universe and all creation was said to be the dream of the Slavic God Svarog. One day Svarog will awaken from his slumber and all existence shall end.

 

In the Old Testament Joseph the son of Jacob foresaw his own future in dreams and later interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh forewarning him of impending disasters so that the Egyptians could prepare. In the New Testament angels visited Joseph in a dream and foretold that his wife Mary would bear the prophesied Messiah. Joseph was later warned in a dream to take the baby Jesus in to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the infants by King Herod.

 

I had a dream I was a Jedi.” ―Anakin Skywalker

 

I had a Dream

In Star Wars visions and dreams often appear to the characters as a warning or prophecy of danger. The Jedi took notice of their dreams. The Force interacted with the Jedi through their dreams. Ahsoka Tano dreamed of an assassination attempt on Padmé Amidala and was able to foil the plot. On the other dimension world of Mortis, Anakin was shown a vision of Darth Vader and the Death Star in a dream. The dream showed Anakin that he stood on a precipice. The vision revealed his future should he fall to the Dark Side. Yoda was forced to face his shadow in order to transcend. Through a dream induced by the Force Yoda wass confronted by visions and was able to rise above his fears, hopes and ultimately his Dark Side.

 

All Clone Troopers had nightmares. They dreamed of the horrors of war and possibly of an unknown future when the Clones would turn on the Jedi and massacre them under Order 66.

 

The Missions, the Nightmares… they’re finally…. over” – “Fives” last words

 

Nightmares

Anakin Skywalker often dreamed about loss and despair. As the years passed the dreams became darker. The dreams reflected his inner demons and fears. The potential future was manifested in Anakin’s dreams. On Naboo he dreamed of his mother’s death and the visions sent him to Tattooine where his nightmare became a reality. As Anakin began to be drawn tighter in to Palpatine’s web on Coruscant he began to dream of Padmé suffering in childbirth. She would call out to him and scream as she writhed in agony, dying. Anakin felt powerless to act to prevent these tragedies from unfolding.  Desperate to save his wife he turned to the Dark Side and his actions led to his worst nightmares being realized.

 

The fall of Anakin and his transformation in to Darth Vader was the start of a long nightmare from which there was no awakening. In his sleep, Padmé would visit him and he would fight for his soul. Darth Vader would awaken and push the memories of his past behind him. Dreams were a reminder of the dead past. Every waking moment was a nightmare of torment and pain, eased only by a lust for power and revenge. Darth Vader would have dreaded going to sleep for in his dreams lay the residue of who he really was. The desolate soul of Anakin was trapped deep within him, locked in a nightmare he could not escape.

 

Sleep, all life is a dream.” ― Jedi Master Kit Fisto

 

Waking Up

Alcoholism is a bad dream that can last for decades. There are brief moments of wakefulness  however the allure of the dream world of alcohol constantly beckons us. Reality is too painful to endure sober. We fall in to alcohols embrace and find that the fantasy we seek does not exist.

What exists is a meaningless and nihilistic realm where the body, mind and soul withers in a form of dream purgatory. We feel a sense of foreboding as if some calamity awaits. Alcohol affects REM sleep so we never get enough good sleep and our thoughts are scattered as a result. Existence soon becomes a grey netherworld that is neither fully awake or fully asleep.

 

Soon will I rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have” – Yoda

 

Sleep

Sobriety brings restful sleep and dreams I love going to sleep so much so that I look forward to the end of the day and retiring to bed. The morning comes without a hint of regret. Peaceful sleep has ended and dreams evaporate like an early morning mist. I get up to face the new day, my mind is clear and body feels rested. I can remember my dreams. Some make more sense than others. I never ignore them.

 

Mostly my dreams are good. The dreams show me aspects of the past and present, sometimes I believe there are glimpses of the future. Sometimes I dream that I am drinking again. I relive in my dreams the same comic tragedies that played out when I was drunk. Yet they are worse. When I awake I do so with a clear head. There is a sense of relief that it was only a dream. I am still sober. The drinking dreams are mere echoes of the past. They serve as a reminder of what it was like, what happened and how things changed. They also show how things might have been or could be. I keep my feet planted in reality now, my dreams are my own, I learn from them but they do not control me like they did Anakin.

Don’t Panic

“They’ll panic? I’m about to panic!” – Ahsoka Tano

Don’t Panic” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

In a ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” Arthur Dent is mostly oblivious to the rest of the world and its troubles. One day he wakes up to find his house is about to be demolished to make way for a highway bypass. The local council had posted the plans and somehow Dent had failed to take notice. As this was unfolding a Vogon star ship had entered Earth’s orbit and declared to the world that the planet would be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass. Pandemonium ensues and everyone panics.

With the help of his enigmatic friend, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent manages to get off Earth before it blows up. Still wearing his night gown and pajamas from the morning Arthur Dent reluctantly sets off an intergalactic adventure that takes him across and to the end of the Universe and the beginning. The adventure begins with the default clause of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic!”.

 

“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The Second Arrow

Alcoholics are catastrophic thinkers. We tend to imagine the worst possible outcome in all scenarios. An argument is the end of a relationship, a reprimand at work is as good as being fired and a letter from the government or IRS is a herald of financial disaster. We are the worst for dreaming up the worst case scenarios.

The Buddha alluded to catastrophic thinking when he spoke of the “second arrow”. The first arrow was what actually happened to us, the true cause of the suffering. The second arrow was the event magnified within our own minds. The suffering is worsened by our own emotional and irrational reaction to it. The first arrow is out of our control, the second arrow is within it.

 

Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Worst Case Scenarios

When I was a child I would shake in my shoes when called to the principal’s office. I was terrified of imagined and realized punishments my Father would inflict before they happened. No matter what the reason, I still feel unease when summoned by my boss at work for a private chat in his office.

In school at the height of the cold war I was named the “Doomsday Prophet” for my dire predictions that a nuclear holocaust was about to happen. It never did.

Never one to relax I was constantly on edge in the Army believing that each new day would herald more misery, corporal punishment and probably some terrible end. I listened to rumors and digested the news with alarm and consternation. My body was a ball of nervous anxiety. Fortunately my training conditioned my reflexes. To feel fear is normal but to react with panic in combat is unforgivable. .

 

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”  – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Panic Junkie

I became drawn to calamity and chaos like a moth to fire. I was addicted to anxiety and panic. Events in the world seemed to mirror what was going on inside me. With a sense I could make a difference I set off on a global bar crawl to set things right. I traveled from the famine of East Africa to air raid sirens and religious hatred in the Middle East, the fraternal war and ethnic bloodletting in Bosnia to the tribal and racial violence in South Africa.

I washed up amidst the “colorful” poverty of the Favelas and the burning season in the Amazon in Brazil. The memories play back like the frames of a movie reel. Within that collage of noise and color I remember the haze of alcohol and an undertow of fear and self loathing.

 

The Burning Issues

Something I saw in Brazil affected me. The Amazon touched my soul. The morning mist shimmering in the early light as it hung low on a still river. I remember the call of macaws as they passed majestically over-head. The dim world of the forest was silent but for the call of birds and spider monkeys complaining in the canopy high above. The forest was vast and it had the power to utterly possess me. It had the primordial and divine peace that I yearned in my own life.

The smell of smoke and the haze hung over the forest as fires burned far away. The forest was being pushed back by ranchers and gold miners who were locked in a struggle with rubber tappers and Indians. I was told in 1994 the forest would be gone in twenty years. This alarmed me.

The forest burned. The world was being destroyed and I felt growing anger and alarm. The more I realized I was powerless to make a difference the greater my resentment grew and fed my anxiety.

 

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Did you ever hear the tragedy of Skywalker?

Irrational fear aroused within Anakin a sense of panic at a destiny he could not control. Fears were magnified in his mind and became catastrophes he could not control. The need to change and control that destiny drove him to abandon reason and allow his shadow self to dominate him.

Anakin allowed irrational fear and catastrophic thinking to bypass a life time of Jedi training. Objectivity, reason, rational decision making and sound judgement were replaced by the darker side of emotion. Emotion rather than reason owned Anakin. This ultimately led Anakin to the dark side.

 

I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

F*k Everything and Run

Sobriety has taught me that any decision based on fear and panic may help in the short term but long term the consequence often negate those positives. In the past I would panic and make rash decisions and do something I would later regret. Often I would say “F*k it” and run away from my responsibilities. I would get drunk.

In hindsight I would realize that these actions incited by fear, anger and ultimately catastrophic thinking had done nothing for me and usually it only made matters worse. Why did I put myself through that? Everything turned out fine.

After witnessing the burning season in Brazil I entered University and studied environmental science. Two decades later I work in conservation and observe with alarm how fear and panic has hijacked rational and reasoned discourse. Short sighted decisions are made with little regard to far reaching consequences. I’m pleased to see that the Amazon is still there. There are monumental problems in the world but I have faith and believe in hope.

 

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Know Faith No Fear

My life was one of reactivity, catastrophic thinking and panic. It’s strange that until you recognize it in others you don’t recognize it in your self. It took me to get sober and work on myself to realize how irrational many of my fears were and how catastrophic thinking ran my life.

Every time I feel the second arrow hit I pull it out immediately. Let the first arrow hurt for a bit but don’t make it worse by imagining something that is not real. Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic”. In other words have faith, not fear.

 

“So this is it, we’re going to die” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The House is on Fire

I don’t want you to panic. The house is not burning down. The world is not coming to an end. There is no reason to abandon reason. If things are not right, work to fix it and put it right. Do what is within your power to do and let go of the rest.

Avoid jumping to conclusions, silence the doomsayer within and never listen to doomsday prophets. Use your own judgement and think hard before deciding.

Study and be prepared to change your view when evidence suggests otherwise. Avoid falling for group-think and hysteria.

Recognize and avoid the mob fueled by dogma and anger. You were given the faculties to make up your own mind and think for yourself. In other words, be a little like Arthur Dent.

 

Don’t Panic

Panic and catastrophic thinking is not for us. Jedi are free thinkers we respect and acknowledge our emotions but we do not react to them mindlessly. We use our brains to decide what is true while remaining tolerant of the views of others. Gathering the facts as they are, we choose how best to act in a way that is applicable, beneficial, practical and positive.

Whatever you do Don’t Panic.

 

Epilogue

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Build Resilience: Be Prepared

“Han Shot First” – The Jury

“Last Resort” is a word I often hear in martial arts and in everyday life. Simply put it is to use martial arts when unable to defuse or deescalate a situation or when evasion is no longer an option. If the situation deteriorates further you may need to then resort to whatever means are available to take an opponent out of a fight. It has become a fight for survival, the last place you last wanted to go. Playing by the rules no longer applies. Are you prepared to do whatever it takes?

You sometimes have to be prepared to resort to actions that might shock or appall you and others. The alternative might be serious injury or death. Are we trained and ready to handle  emergency situations in life?

Police Officers, Paramedics and Soldiers get training in dealing with situations that would leave most people unable to act mindfully. Most people faced with a crisis will go into an automatic fight, flight or freeze response none of which may serve. Most of the time its because they are unprepared.

 

The Cantina

That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time” – Greedo
“Yes, I’ll bet you have”. – Han Solo

When Han Solo faced Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina he did not hesitate to shoot the Bounty Hunter first. It was a casual and cold blooded act at odds with the Solo we are presented with in the backstory movie “Solo”.

Han knew that Greedo would have just as easily killed him. Instead of waiting he put a blaster laser bolt in to the Rodian and casually walked out of the Cantina tossing a coin to the Bar Keep.

Earlier, Obi-wan Kenobi had not hesitated to take off the arm of an aggressor with his Lightsabre when the trouble maker was trying to start a fight with Luke. The Master Jedi realized that it was pointless trying to talk down the Alien Pirate when Ponda Baba reached for his blaster.

 

Ready and Able

Sorry for the mess” – Han Solo

Han Solo did not react in panic. When he reached for his blaster and shot Greedo it was an instinctive reaction that had been drilled in to him after years of living the life of a smuggler. Dealing with scum bags like Greedo came with the territory.

Obi-wan was also acting out a trained response to a threat. The only difference between Obi-wan Kenobi and Han Solo was the intent and the outcome when faced with a crisis. Ponda Baba lost his arm, Greedo lost his life. Violence for Jedi was a last resort while for Han it was a simple case of “kill or be killed” and worry about the consequences later.

Whatever the difference Jedi and Smugglers had to keep a cool head in a Galaxy where a multitude of enemies were out to get them.

Han was never not ready and able. Neither was Obi-wan. Alone in the desert Kenobi came face to face with his old foe, Darth Maul who had come seeking final revenge. Decades had passed. As Lightsabres flashed, Darth Maul was cut down by the old Jedi in three short moves. Kenobi was more prepared than the angry and hateful Dathomirian.

Han Solo  decades later faced his son Kylo Ren ready for whatever might happen but seeking forgiveness. Obi-wan sought out his old friend and apprentice and was cut down by Darth Vader. The Jedi Master was prepared for the final act and perhaps planned it.

 

Ill-Prepared

If you define yourself by your power to take life, to desire to dominate, to possess, then you have nothing” – Ob-wan Kenobi

I have been in fair number of fights, none of which I’m proud of. Most of them I was drunk and the scene was never pretty. My last punch up was probably 25 years ago. Fortunately even as a heavy drinker I eventually learned that fighting was a last resort activity. It was something that could ruin a good night and disrupt a night of drinking.

Anger and frustration played at a world in which I could not find peace. Without calm I was ill prepared for life so I fought against the tide.

I also scared myself. If I lost it I could do something that was beyond a last resort but a primal and mindless act I would wake up to and regret forever. Knowing my inner Demons helped in many ways to keep them on a chain if not completely at bay. Unfortunately this meant largely isolating myself from others and getting drunk alone in exile with my Demons, the greatest of all was Fear.

Fear of the present, fear of the future and fear of not knowing what I would do when “it” happened.

 

Get a Grip

One way to build enough resilience to remain calm in a crisis is to rehearse and play out possible scenarios in your mind before they happen. Imagine how you might react in a situation. Observe yourself remaining calm and focused. Be prepared.

Decide what you would do in the situation. See that playing out in your mind’s eye. It might be any type of scenario. You may have a difficult meeting to attend at work, disagreement with a co-worker which has the potential to explode, a run in with an aggressive drunk in a Bar, an altercation in traffic, a medical emergency on the street, being a bystander (or a victim) of a robbery, getting dumped by your girlfriend or boyfriend, news of a personal loss and so forth. There are countless scenarios that could play out. We cannot rehearse them all but we can work on being prepared for the worst case scenario and respond in a way that does not make it worse.

 

Wrestling Demons

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Being able to deal with “scenarios” by keeping a cool head is essential in recovery. Most alcoholics know what their triggers are. The difference between someone in abuse and someone in recovery is how they handle those triggers. Everyday we wrestle with Demons that clamor to rise to the surface.

If I didn’t run into issues that provided me with an excuse to get drunk I created them out of my own design. I would start a disagreement or act in a way that attracted drama and controversy. It was partly attention seeking and partly contempt for those around me. I could manipulate people well enough to achieve the desired outcome. Being selfish, disagreeable, offensive and belligerent, it wasn’t hard! Soon enough I had the opportunity and the excuse to get drunk.

Recovery is an exercise in self-discipline, crisis management, conflict resolution and finally impact mitigation. We do not try to hide from life in order to avoid scenarios where our virtues may be tested to their limits. Instead we engage with life head on expecting that daily we will encounter difficulties.

Never forget that we are only human. We may be able to convince ourselves that we are ready for the “accidental and the unforeseen” and then get blindsided by something we weren’t prepared for. It could be a snide remark at the wrong moment or a major catastrophe. Adding to the drama only makes it worse. Being sensitive people it might be enough to tip us over in to relapse.

 

One Day at a Time

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly .” – Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius had a way of dealing with difficult people and the constant challenges of being Emperor. Being a realist Marcus realized that he could not avoid them and that the best way to deal with it was to fully accept his day would be beset by difficulties. This does not mean he was an eternal pessimist who was resigned to every day being as bad as the last. In fact he welcomed the day because he realized it for the gift it is, another day to improve and hopefully make a difference not in spite of the inevitable challenges and difficulties but because of them.

Ancient Rome was a complex and treacherous place to be a ruler. Rome would devour those that were not ruthless enough or wise enough to navigate it safely. The Star Wars universe was no different. The world today can be that way too. The lesson that I take from the Star Wars mythology is to be constantly aware and to expect the unexpected especially when everything seems to be going well and as planned.

 

Stay Calm, Be Ready

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Being prepared is not only being switched on to what is happening around you, but also what is happening within you. It is also being conscious of the present moment. Being attuned to change and being able to anticipate what it going to happen next. It is about allowing our intuition to do its work and being one step ahead of Jabba the Hutt or the “accidental and the unforeseen” of the Stoics.

Hopefully we never find ourselves in a situation where our resolve is put to the test beyond our known limits. I for one sometimes wonder how I might deal with an immediate threat and use self talk and visualization to rehearse a mindful response.

We can also rehearse scenarios through practice. Practicing poverty through self denial and voluntary hardship is one way. Negative visualization is another daily practice. Taking up martial arts which uses reality based scenarios is another way to prepare for the unthinkable. Any form of mental or skills training which prepares us for the worst case scenario is never wasted.

None of us can truly know our selves inside out. We don’t know what we might do as a “last resort”. What we can do is be ready for the “accidental and the unforeseen”. The world is chaotic and the Greedo’s and Ponda Baba’s sometimes impose themselves in to our lives if we are ready or not. It can be a predator or it can be getting blindsided by life. Be ready to reach for you light saber or blaster if you can’t avoid or defuse. Keep your cool and most of all your humanity but be ready to leap in to action.

Always be prepared.

Build Resilience: Be Indifferent

Calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

I try hard to be indifferent. This might raise eyebrows. Tell anyone you are indifferent and they immediately make the assumption that you don’t care. Being indifferent does not mean you don’t care. It means that you can care about something without attaching emotion to it. It means being without passion for that thing and free of the suffering of grasping attachment.

Building resilience and being a resilient person is about being able to accept that life is not fair. It is about being able to absorb punishment, loss and disappointment and brush it off. A resilient person knows that fate is uncertain. Life can be kind and cruel. With one hand it gives and then takes with the other.

The Taoist sage Chuang Tzu said that life is made up of 10,000 joys and sorrows. The nature of samsara means that we are caught in a karmic cycle of joy and sorrow for eternity or until we reach union with the Force. We experience painful times, happiness, laughter, victory and bliss but also sadness, grief, frustration, disappointment and despair. These experiences are a part of the human condition and we grow because of them. Through growth, understanding and compassion some of us achieve a sense of equanimity in our lives. We become indifferent and in doing so become free.

 

Compassion

Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love.” – Anakin

Being indifferent and having compassion is the middle way. The road is the one that is traveled by spiritual seekers. It is a path that I embrace as a 12 Step Jedi.

Compassion is not to be confused with passion. Compassion means “loving kindness”, empathy and concern for others without attachment and suffering. Passion is the antonym of compassion. Compassion comes from the soul while passion come from the heart. Love that is born of passion is grasping and fears loss. It leads to suffering. Compassion is free of bonds and fear and sets free.

 

Passion

There is no passion, there is serenity” – Jedi Code

Epictetus said that all things outside of us are made up of the preferred and the non-preferred indifferent. Nothing is agreeable or disagreeable on its own. Only our impressions attached to that thing make it so. No one wants to lose their job, fall ill, and break up with a person they love or lose a loved one. The emotions that we attach to these events, grief, sadness, anger and denial are normal and healthy. Where they become excessive and cause us and others to suffer needlessly is when they become harmful.

What are you passionate about? I have to say I am passionate about nothing. I can’t afford to be. Alcohol was my passion and I know where that leads. Passion leads to desire then dependence which leads to fear and suffering.

Passion means “to suffer”. It is another word which has been misrepresented through the ages. Jesus faced his passion on the cross. It was through his pain and torment that the Bible tells us that he was able to transcend this material world and become one with God.

Those that have hit “rock bottom” realize a similar passion. It is by hitting “rock bottom” that they find the way out of the hell of addiction and abuse. By going through the darkness and pain we come out the other side to the light.

 

Preferences

“Strength of mind rests in sobriety; for this keeps your reason unclouded by passion.” – Pythagoras

Naturally we prefer that life is good to us and those we love. Ask most people what they would wish for and it would be along the lines of “world peace, happiness and prosperity”. Our preference is in those things that make life pleasurable and fulfilled. We can also become attached to pleasures and sensations. When those attachments become too great they can become a source of suffering.

Addiction is an extreme of attachment. An addict seeks to experience the elusive feeling of bliss and contentment that the drug provides. The sensation is pleasurable but the consequence is suffering. Anyone who has been dependent on anything or suffered an addiction knows very well the terrible cycle of desire, pleasure and regret followed by desire. We lived in abuse on a perpetual Merry-Go round that would not let us get off.

The way to get off the ride and be rid of the insanity is to realize what passion is and let it go.

 

Upekkhā

Equanimity is calamity’s medicine.” – Pubililius Syrus

The Buddhists use the idea of upekkhā (equanimity) to describe the state of being unwavering, unconcerned and neutral in the face of the eight worldly concerns (gain/loss, praise/blame, pleasure/pain, fame/dishonor).

A bodhisattva who practices the Eight Verses for Training the Mind begins to approach upekkhā. The path to enlightenment is followed for the betterment of all living things. Before one can even get close to upekkhā they must renounce worldly pleasures. Through long practice on the path, the bodhisattva cultivates equanimity and mental resilience.

 

Apatheia

The good are virtues and that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between the virtue and vice” – Epictetus

The Stoics speak of Apatheia, a type of indifference similar to upekkhā. Not to be confused with the modern mistranslation “apathy”. Apatheia suffered the same indignity of being deprived of its true meaning as did the word stoic.

Apatheia is a form of indifference as the Pagan Greeks and Romans knew it. A Stoic was able to engage in political or philosophical debate with someone who disagreed with his ideas and remain completely detached from the emotion of the debate. Truths and ideas were valued by the Stoics, not who was right or wrong or had the last word. Right and wrong were irrelevant.

In  Apatheia there are only the preferred and non-preferred indifferent. The person arguing with the Stoic may get flustered, angry and even abusive but the Stoic remains calm and indifferent. The only thing that matters is virtue.

 

Calm, at peace, passive

Imagine being like that? Always “calm, at peace, passive”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be free of the suffering? We could truly care for all things but not let things out of our control charge our emotions in destructive or unproductive ways. Without the passion.

To be in a mental and spiritual state which is indifferent to pain, to injury and insults, to success or failure, poverty or riches, health or illness. This is the essence of indifference. Accept what is with resolve and resilience. With an indifferent mind we can look beyond our failings and shortcomings as well as our successes, triumphs and failures. Indifference removes the emotions and the attachments and then we can learn, heal and grow.

 

Source: Lucas Films

Learning Indifference

Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda

 

My problem is that I try too hard to be indifferent. Ironically I suffer by applying effort in to being indifferent. My decisions to being indifferent are based on avoidance and struggle rather than acceptance. This brings on resistance and suffering. The feelings of equanimity and calm that should come with indifference elude me. I am beginning to understand now that the ego is at play. The ego has a way of tricking us.

The ego is ever present and in perpetual struggles with the inner and silent self that resides within. Ego is selfish and screams like a petulant inner child when it does not get the attention it wants or the last word. Indifference as most people understand it comes from the ego.

The inner self is an observer. It watches with indifference and non-attachment yet from it springs all the boundless love and compassion that we feel and know to be our true self.  The self wants us to realize our true nature not by force but through gentle awakening. That is the difference between indifference and apathy. One comes from the true self, the other from the ego.

 

Choose Lightly

How do we practice indifference? Whatever hand fate deals treat it with indifference. As Luke Skywalker did simply brush it off. Wear life like a loose cloak.

Continue to prefer what is preferable. Choose richer before poorer, health over sickness, success over failure, choose life over death. But be prepared for the non preferred and the unexpected and unintended vicissitudes of life. Make the most of them too and learn because it is the hard times that we truly test our virtues and apply our principles. It is in battle that we shine and become resilient.

“Pain is slight if opinion has added nothing to it;… in thinking it slight, you will make it slight. Everything depends on opinion; ambition, luxury, greed, hark back to opinion. It is according to opinion that we suffer…. So let us also win the way to victory in all our struggles, – for the reward is… virtue, steadfastness of soul, and a peace that is won for all time.” – Seneca

 

Further Reading

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F by Mark Manson

OODA

Your focus determines your reality” – Qui-Gon Jinn

The Loop

The OODA Loop is a handy tool. OODA is the acronym for Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act. The acronym is used by Fighter Pilots to help them instinctively assess a situation and decide on a course of action in time and space. The Pilot is fully aware of his surroundings and can plan ahead rapidly orientating themselves in a better position to defeat an opponent in an aerial combat. US Fighter pilots used the strategy effectively in the Vietnam War.

A modern fighter jet may have all the technological advantages to assist with threat detection and guidance. They may have on board weapons systems and defenses however individual skill, prowess and instinct are still a major asset to a Combat Fighter Pilot. The OODA Loop is a cycle which allows a person to constantly re-assess a changing environment and act accordingly.

 

KO by the Force

When Luke Skywalker was engaging Imperial Tie-Fighters during the Battle of Yavin he was being assisted by on-board computers, Rebel command and a Droid that was constantly feeding him information on the battle situation and threats. The combat environment was extremely volatile and fast moving. Fighters and Bombers weaved in space around the Death Star like hornets around a hive. Blaster rays from Fighters and Death Star cannons formed a web that Rebel pilots had to skillfully maneuver through as they sought to out-skill and outmaneuver Imperial Fighters. The enemy were Clones who were trained, battle hardened and supported by superior systems on the Death Star. Situational awareness and fluidity of precise movements as well as full commitment once a decision was made were key to survival. One small mistake and the X-Wing Fighter was obliterated.

 

“Use the Force Luke” – Obi-wan Kenobi

What saved the day for day for Luke was his willingness to put aside the technological tools he had been given to target the fatal flaw of the Death Star. To the final moment  as he approached his target, a combination of pluck, instinct and situational awareness and technology had kept him alive. The final enemy Fighters had been knocked out of the fight but so had all the Rebels. The Death Star was moving into a firing position with the Rebel Base, the planet of Yavin coming in to view. The Death Stars planet killer weapon was being charged and primed to fire.

There was not a second to lose. One mistake and Luke could miss his last chance to destroy the Death Star and save the Rebel alliance from final destruction. The voice of Obi-wan Kenobi came into his mind telling him to trust in the Force. With a clear mind and his aiming system put aside, Luke put trust in the Force and in his own abilities and delivered the fatal blow that destroyed the Death Star.

Was it the Force or OODA which had won the day? Perhaps both.

 

Being Aware

The OODA Loop is a combination of situational and self awareness. It is being completely aware of what is happening around us at any given time and knowing what is happening within us. OODA is also being agile and fluid enough to adapt with change. An environment can change rapidly and OODA allows us to detect the change, orientate ourselves to it, adjust our level of alertness and make the necessary adjustments based on sound judgement. Decisions are not reactive but guided by a mixture of intuition, instinct, experience and the rapid processing of information coming in. The OODA Loop relies on the user being adaptable and agile in their decision making.

 

“Remember your training, trust your instincts” – Qui-Gon Jinn

 

 

Scenarios

Consider OODA in an everyday setting. You are driving through town at night and come to a red light. The neighborhood is not a crime hot spot but you do a quick scan of your surroundings and make sure your doors are locked. At this point you are relaxed but still alert to the task at hand, driving. A car pulls alongside, you saw if approach in your rear view mirror. Slightly more aware now you glance at the driver and see nothing amiss. The light turns green and you look both ways and carry on, relaxed again.

Along the way you see a bank and decide to stop to draw money from the ATM. Before getting out of the car you do a quick scan of the area. You are now alert assessing your surroundings, looking for threats and anything out of place. It’s very quiet and there is no one on  the street. You get out of the car do another quick scan and lock the car checking the door before walking to the ATM.

On arriving at the ATM you hear laughter and raised voices and notice a small group of guys further up the street. They are walking in your direction. You don’t stare but you can tell they are drunk; you drove past a bar farther up the road and they have probably come from there. At this point your awareness is acute and your senses have heightened. The situation is delicate, alone and unarmed, at an ATM with your card, this puts you in a vulnerable position. You glance up and see a security camera looking down at you so you have that. The guys are getting closer and have got quieter as they have noticed you standing there. Making a quick getaway at this point is not appropriate. A threat has not presented itself yet, lets not over react. You reach for your phone and put it to your ear pretending to speak to someone while not losing track of the situation.

 

Fight and Flight

The guys are almost on top you now. At this point you are more aware, time seems to have slowed down, adrenaline has started to flow and you are ready to respond to any verbal or physical assault. There is no fear just a heightened awareness. All your senses are now completely engaged. You know you can outrun them if you have to, you are fit and they are drunk. They will be surprised and thrown off balance by any fast movements you make. Most people who assault soft targets don’t expect them to charge with confidence and aggression. People who train in Krav Maga use this principle to get out of a scenario involving multiple attackers. Speed and aggression is the key.

They are three guys, age you guess at late teens or early twenties, one has a tattoo on his lower arm, a rose and dagger. They have short hair cuts; soldiers or college kids on a night out maybe? You keep your guard ready and quickly take a mental picture of their faces and clothes as they pass by barely looking at you. They move on and disappear down the street. Breathing a short sigh of relief you go to the ATM and looking around once more you key in your pass code and draw out the cash you need before going back to your car. You are aware that your alertness level has fallen from hyper-alert back to alert. Congratulations you have just used the OODA loop about five times in the space of a couple of minutes. Both at the lights and at the ATM you went through the OODA Loops. Your level of alertness moved from Green, to Amber to Red seamlessly and then back to Green without losing focus.

 

Staying Alert

The scenario was innocent benign but it may not have been. It could have changed in an instant and quickly turned violent. One of the guys could have doubled back while you focused on the ATM or walked back to your car and charged you delivering a  king hit and a rain of kicks as you fell while his friend grabbed your wallet and keys. The third guy on the lookout. Could happen, how would you respond?

How often do we see people at the ATM headphones in, staring at their phones and barely aware of what is going on around them? People are often seen wandering out in to traffic as they check their phones. Some people barely look both ways as they cross the street or blindly walk out at a crossing when the Red Man is flashing. A car slams on the brakes and lays on the horn. The driver might yell “Wake up Moron!” and is thanked with an “Up Yours” and a middle finger. It’s little wonder that accident related trauma is on the rise, we have become a society that is no longer attentive to what is going on around us.

I’m not suggesting that we should be constantly in a state of high alert, no no one needs that level of stress. We should be more aware of our surroundings and others as well our physical, mental and emotional state moment to moment. If we are observing what is going on we can orientate ourselves in time and space and adjust ourselves accordingly.

In this day and age people are suffering from chronic stress because they are constantly exposed to stimuli through media which elicits fear and anger. The fight or flight response is constantly activated but never processed in a realistic or appropriate way. Out on the street we are however oblivious to the world until someone or something enters our space and comes in to our consciousness. With a jolt we wake up and react rather than respond proactively to the situation . Many of us have also been conditioned to avoid any type of conflict, confrontation or even disagreement because we don’t know how to handle it mindfully or proportionally.

 

 

Reactivity

If someone cuts us off in traffic and we lose it and lay on the horn swearing, we might feel strangely good but it hasn’t done anything. We might drive on and realize we were in the wrong and then berate ourselves. If the offending driver slams on his brakes and gets out of his car with a baseball bat and starts walking over we panic and go into the fight, flight or freeze mode. Some of us would literally soil ourselves as we sat there mute and terrified completely clueless about what to do in this situation.  Being Jedi is having self and situational awareness. We respond mindfully rather than reacting mindlessly. We are constantly applying the OODA Loop in our day.

Making the slow transition from drunk to recovered alcoholic has been a journey in raising personal self and situational awareness. It’s been a hard slog. Observe anyone who is inebriated and they are not only oblivious of their surroundings, unless it punches them in the face. They are also largely unaware of their own thoughts, words and actions in the context of their impact on self and others.

With recovery comes self honesty and a lot more mindfulness. Instead of reacting to situations, we take the time to observe what is going on and orientate ourselves fully. This means being aware of our inner,  as well as outer world and applying our principles. We can then make decisions based on mindful appreciation and good judgement rather than reacting on assumption and instinct alone. Actions become effective and justified rather than being half cocked, out of proportion and requiring explanation and justification.

 

Keep Calm and OODA

The OODA Loop can be used for more than just rapid changes in a situation like aerial combat or a possible threat to personal safety. Situations will change constantly while we are driving, working or negotiating a transaction. Relationships with people evolve and can sometimes change rapidly. Every aspect of our lives is subject to gradual or sudden change which we may or may not be ready for. By training yourself to be agile enough to respond mindfully to those changes you can reduce the chances of being caught unaware and off guard.

The OODA Loop may not resolve problems and issues but it does allow us to make timely decisions on how to act based on principle. OODA takes in to consideration all available information. Instead of going in blind and full steam or half cocked we are going in using all of our senses and if you believe, as I do, with the Force.

InnSaei

I recently watched the documentary “InnSaei” on Netflix. InnSaei means intuition in the ancient Nordic language of Iceland. The literal translation of the word is “the sea within” and it can also mean to “see within” and to “see from the inside out”.  The word describes the human ability of being able to sense things from deep within, to perceive and understand the world beyond our five senses and rational mind.

The ancient Icelandic society was based on a maritime culture. The sea and the spiritual connection of the Vikings to it influenced their view of the world. Other ancient cultures had their own deeper understanding of reality and connection with nature. The Polynesians for example roamed the Pacific Ocean without the use of navigational tools other than maps made of sticks. The Australian aboriginals crossed the vast deserts finding water holes and direction by following the stories told by their ancestors in the dreaming and passed down. People had a strong sense of place which transcended logic and relied heavily on intuition and a spiritual connection to the land, sea and stars.

 

Intuition in a Left Hemisphere World

Everyone has intuition but few people can harness the potential power that it offers. Modern Western society is heavily reliant on logic and the application of objective reasoning. Our society favors the left hemisphere of the brain. The rational side of the psyche and the ability to accumulate knowledge and process data is preferred.

The right side of the brain is the center of intuition. It is where our ability to imagine and view the abstract and intangible resides. Creativity and spirituality as well as a deeper sense of reality originate in the right hemisphere. The “soul” of our character resides there. Combined with the rational left hemisphere the brain uses 98% of its mass to process the information and stimuli which the remaining 2% uses in all of our cognitive functions. The brain is a balanced organ, the left and right sides functioning in harmony to create the person you are. We are using a fraction of our capacity as human beings.

 

Rose Colored Glasses

Humans are less intuitive than ever before. The world is a different place now than it was in the past. Today we are bombarded with information and constantly distracted. The amount of data and stimuli processed by the average person who is connected to mass media and communications is staggering. This does not mean people are more intelligent or happier than they were in the past. The opposite is true. Humans are less connected in a tangible sense and more disconnected from their authentic selves and others. Wisdom is vanishing and being replaced with information overload. As a result people feel more alienated, less empowered and lost. Most don’t even know why and fall to drugs, alcohol and rampant consumerism to fill the void.

Sometimes it is also easy to feel that sobriety fails to deliver a perfect or fulfilling life. Being sober does not create an ideal utopia internally or externally. What it does do however is awaken intuition. We feel more aware of our surroundings and are more in touch with reality. The rose colored glasses that we wore as we were whistling in the dark of alcoholism are removed. Some of us land heavy on our feet. We have awoken from a slumber and before us lay the wreckage of our past and an uncertain future. All we have is this day, this moment to live.

Being intuitive is being in tune with the moment and everything that surrounds us. It is being able to imagine a transcendent state while keeping our feet planted firmly on the ground. Intuition is an inherent part of our psyche, a sixth sense that helps us function in this plane. It is the inner voice yearning to be heard. Combine intuition with experience, reason and logic and you ultimately have wisdom.

 

 

Blinded Jedi

The fictitious Jedi were intuitive. They could sense trouble before it appeared. To “sense a disturbance in the Force” was a highly tuned intuition at work. The Jedi could go further and apply the skill not only in their appreciation of others and assessment of situations but also in light saber fighting. To be effective in light saber, a Jedi had to be highly intuitive and be able to “sense” where an opponent would strike next. The Jedi had to fight as a combined physical, mental, emotional and spiritual unit completely in harmony. A light sabre duel was a battle that tested the intuitive power as well as skill, wit and “sangfroid”.  This is why is symbolizes the Jedi.

By sharpening their sensing skills with the use of a training helmet that blocked out vision and encouraged reliance on the Force, the Jedi were using intuition to act and counter a laser fired from a training aid. Over time the skill became so ingrained and refined that the light sabre could be used to deflect laser bolts fired from blasters back on to the enemy. The Jedi were able to close in with their opponents, evading laser bolts with nothing more than an ancient weapon and a use of their intuition and training.

 

 

Lead the Tail

Our intuitive powers may not be so sharp as to give us super human power but we can still make use of our intuition. To be Jedi is to use objectivity in dealing with perception but we should also use and trust our intuition. Emotions can often cloud our mind so we treat them mindfully. Passion is tempered in to something useful and constructive rather than being the “tail that leads the dog”.

With a heightened intuition we are more aware. Problems do not trouble us as much. We tend to find solutions without struggle. Relationships improve as our empathy and understanding of others improves. Self knowledge becomes broader and deeper. Not only do we know ourselves better but we know our selves in ways that evaded us before. We can anticipate life better and thereby our response to it. In the past we were uncomfortable in our own skin, now we are at ease with who we are. Every day we extend the boundaries and surpass our limits. Constantly improving we are able to redefine our own “impossible”. Decisions become more fluid and confident as we are able to blend calm logic with intuition. We are surer of ourselves.

Intuition becomes a big part of how we make decision and use our judgement. Sometimes we get our “gut feel” wrong but the more we use that inner compass the more skillful we are at applying it. With time and practice we are able to distinguish between subconscious bias and intuition which speaks to us at a much deeper level. Our Innsaei begins to speak to us as it spoke to the Vikings, the Islanders, the Aboriginals on Earth and the Jedi in the Star Wars Universe.

 

 

Sharpen Up

Five ways to improve and sharpen your intuition:

  1. Meditate: A formal practice of meditation clears the clutter and noise from the mind and allows ideas and thoughts to emerge which are fresh and unpolluted.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Be fully aware of your thoughts and actions as well as the sensations in your body. Listen to your gut as much as your logic and reasoning. Avoid jumping to conclusions or making rash decision. Intuition is not rushed or charged with emotion.
  3. Know the difference: Differentiating between bias and intuition can be difficult. If we encounter a guy who is 200 pounds, covered in tattoos and piercing and has a big beard our first impression might be negative. Then we find out he is a genuinely nice and generous guy who has a heart of gold. The initial impression was shallow bias, intuition means spending a bit of time to “suss” out people before tainting them with a lable based on stereotype or prejudice. Never judge a book by its cover.
  4. Spend time in nature: Reconnecting with nature re-awakens our intuition. Hunters and fishermen know this very well. As a surfer I can not stress the impact of nature on the psyche. A surfer is in tune with the ocean, she can sense the rhythm of the swell and anticipate how a wave will evolve, form and shape. It’s deeper than knowing, the ocean speaks to them. I know surfers who can sense when danger is about and will egress from the water finding our later that a shark was spotted close by.
  5. Trust your intuition: Sometimes we get a strong pull one way or another yet we ignore it. Later we realize our intuition was trying to tell us something. As a Medic I used to assess patients all the time. My questioning would provide answers that would direct my assessment and formulation of a treatment plan. I would dismiss a bit of epigastric pain as bit of indigestion and be ready to send them away but something would nag at me. Just to be safe I would apply a 12 lead ECG and probe further and realize that the person was having a silent MI (heart attack). “Gut Feel” in combination with good medical knowledge, experience and training is a valuable asset for Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics. Ignore your intuition at your own peril!

Jedi are Positive

Jedi believe in practicing awareness and are mindful of their thoughts. Jedi keep their thoughts positive. A positive mental attitude is healthy for both the mind and body. Not every thought that ‘pops’ into our head is actually ours, since thoughts can originate from many sources across the Universe, and not just from our physical brain. We have to be able to discern the thoughts and remove the bad ones or negative, fear-based ones. Even the food we eat, and things we drink can influence our thoughts. So, we must always be mindful of our thoughts.

Jedi Optimism

In the Clone Wars episode “The Blue Shadow Virus” Anakin is becoming agitated as it becomes clear that Padme and the entire planet of Naboo may be in grave danger from a biological weapon unleashed by the Separatists. Obi-wan Kenobi watching Anakin tie himself in to knots of anxiety wryly points out that Anakin seems a little “on edge”.

There’s a good chance we’re about to destroy all life on this planet including ours and the senator so yes I’m a little on edge, why aren’t you?” replies Anakin with exasperation.

Obi-wan Kenobi shrugs nonchalantly, “I’m better at hiding it”.

Obi-wan always reserved optimism. Even when faced with a hopeless situation he never gave up hope and it showed in his attitude. Obi-wan was realistic but never defeatist. Anakin on the other hand could be positive but was easily drawn in to a negative outlook at the expense of reality.

Jedi Pessimism

In the Clone Wars The Jedi Master Pong Krell switched sides. Arriving on Umbara during an assault to take the capital, Krell relieves Anakin who has been ordered back to Coruscant. Krell takes command of a battalion of the 501st and begins to undermine the mission. The Clone troopers under his charge eventually discovered the deception and mutinied. They manage to restrain the Master Jedi after many Troopers are killed in the attempt to capture the traitor.

When asked “why” the Jedi Master revealed that the Republic’s efforts are futile and he was going to save his skin and become Count Dooku’s apprentice. Pong Krell had lost confidence in the Republic and his pessimism at their chances forced him to abandon the Jedi Code and sway to the Dark Side. This is the nature of chronic pessimism.

The Power of Positive Thought

Over sixty years ago the “Power of Positive Thinking” became an international best seller. The premise of the book was that each and every person has the ability to completely transform their lives simply through the power of positive thought. This was hardly a new concept. The philosophy had been around for thousands of years. The Buddha revealed to his followers this profound fact over 2500 years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans were tossing it about between the different philosophies of the day even before Socrates spoke about it. The early Christians preached of the power of the mind to transform one’s life through simple belief and Faith. The idea of miracles is largely one of the power of the mind over the body. If we truly believe we can be healed, so we shall.

Speak to any Doctor and you will be told that diagnostic medicine works most of the time. That most of the time is due largely to clinical trials undertaken to prove drugs and treatments. Some diseases like cancer provide Oncologists with a challenge in that science has not quite nailed a cure. A person identified with Stage IV lung cancer is likely to have a low rate of survivability even with treatment particularly if the tumor is aggressive. Doctors are now finding that patients who have grit, determination or abiding faith can at times turn these odds around and “demonstrate modern day miracles”.

Doctors will also tell you that treatment of any disease and the healing process is a team effort. The conscious patient is not just a passive subject but an active participant in their treatment and recovery. The Patient is expected to be compliant with the treatment plan. If a course of drugs is not taken as ordered or instructions are not followed then the Doctor cannot be held accountable for lack of progress. The Patient must also bring a willing and positive attitude to the table if they are to stand a chance of full recovery.

In a dark place we find ourselves and a little more knowledge lights our way” – Yoda

Think and Heal

Very often we hear stories of people who have been given a hopeless prognosis. Some are given months or a few years to live. Yet their sheer will to live and their “can do”, “never say die” attitude not only keeps them alive but in some cases leads to complete recovery. Ask any but the most closed minded Doctors and they will tell you that a patient’s positive attitude is a crucial element in the successful outcome of a case. Some people think themselves into illness. Some patients think themselves worse and sabotage their recovery. Recovery is a mental as well as a physiological process.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that backs the “mind-body connection”  with hard science1.. Optimistic and confident patients who went in to surgery fared better than those who went in fearful or pessimistic about their chances. Post-operative pain was also lower in patients who were positive and more proactive in their recovery. In another study optimism and a positive outlook was also correlated with long term health and quality of life2.

The “woe is me” cohort were found to have more dependency on treatment and pain therapy and lower success rates to full recovery. In the past Doctors would refer anything they could not touch, hear or feel and measure to the “Psych” department. Increasingly Doctors are talking to their Patients about the importance of having a positive attitude. Meditation and relaxation exercises are encouraged along with affirmations and visualization.

 “In order to carry a positive action we must develop a positive vision” – Dalai Lama

The Operation

Some years ago I had a large non-malignant tumor removed from my head. The mass if it had been allowed to continue growing would have have been fatal. The Doctors were honest about the surgery and the potential outcomes. I was going to lose most of my hearing. There would be disfigurement and facial palsy. My eye sight would like be badly affected as well as balance. It would be months before I would be fit to return to work and I’d probably never have the same quality of life again. There would be chronic pain. The upside is I’d get to live for a few more decades.

The operation went ahead. I walked out of hospital and was back at work four weeks later. Within a few months I was back to full fitness. The palsy and eye issues were there but I was alive. The Doctors were surprised by the progress and stated that it was my drive and determination to get better that accelerated the healing. A positive attitude on my part had made their job a lot easier. They did the medicine, I did positive attitude. I got better and went back to work.

If you change your mind your conditions must change too. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.” – Emmet Fox

Stinking Thinking

While this disease had been easy to lick my problem with the other disease, alcoholism, was not so simple. Alcoholics have a way of self inoculating themselves against a mental attitude adverse to drinking. Where alcohol is concerned we become completely irrational and unreasonable. Our mind is hijacked by a deeper need than self preservation.We sabotage ourselves mentally.

Several months after my life saving operation I was wondering what was the point of being granted a second chance. I was frustrated with the pain and discomfort. My eyes watered or were too dry, I had headaches all the time and I was conscious of the palsy. Alcohol became a release. I had stinking thinking.

As the depression set in so did the anxiety and the resentment. Fear leads to anger leads to the dark side. I was losing my mind and as I spiraled downward there seemed to be little hope. Would it have not been better if that tumor had killed me rather than let me live through this suffering? I seemed to be sinking in to some kind of deep hole and into a morass of self pity, despair, anger, sadness and lingering insanity. I could not muster the bravado which had helped me recover after surgery. Why was that?

Waking Up

It was a simple and feeble call for help. A flimsy reed was offered and I was raised up out of that pit. I can remember the experience but it is hard to describe. My call for help was a surrender, a submission to some power. Something washed over me and I felt like a light flared within. The sensation was overwhelming. I knew at once everything would be alright. There was no need to worry ever again. My compulsion to drink was gone and it has never returned.

For a few weeks after I rode a wave of spiritual and emotional high. I embraced the ethos of recovery and set out to better myself. In the span of two months I worked through Steps 1 to 9. Such was my attitude that I was able to achieve all the goals I set myself. A positive attitude was paramount in early recovery. Since then I have discovered that attitude is a choice. We can choose to adopt a negative attitude or a positive attitude to almost any situation. It’s what we make it.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” – Colin Powell

Get Positive

Having a positive attitude does not mean we dance as Rome burns down. It means taking a realistic view of life by taking control where we can and accepting that some things are out of our control. Even in the face of a unwanted events we can still be cautiously optimistic. To fall in to despair or a cycle of negative self talk  solves nothing, it makes it worse.

Things will happen in life which broadside us in completely unexpected ways. We received bad news and we ask how can anyone be positive. I recently learned that someone close to me has lung cancer. The person is very ill but not terminal and is fighting the disease. I try to present a positive attitude every time I see him. It is largely up to him to decide whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about his chances.

When others are down we can help them raise their spirits. No one need carry the load themselves. We cannot take the cancer or the disease and carry it for them because we are stronger but we can help carry them through the rough times. As Samwise Gamgee said to Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom as the Ring Bearer lay on the rocks unable to go any further “Come on Mr Frodo, I can’t carry the ring for you…..but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get!”.

Be mindful of your attitude. The frame of mind that you take in to almost any situation will affect the outcome. A positive attitude can achieve almost anything, even miracles.

Men are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them” – Epictetus

1.http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20010727/power-of-positive-thinking

2. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/4/E150

Jedi trust their feelings or intuitions

Jedi are a ‘feeling people’ and believe in using and trusting their feelings and intuition. Jedi are intuitive and are in touch with the core of their being.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Who am I?

A decade or more ago I took a personality evaluation test called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). My Employer’s HR executive had decided it would be a good idea if everyone took the test and shared with everyone else their traits. The rationale was that people are different and they react differently to things. Their personality type will determine many of the traits we observe that either inspire or annoy us.

For supervisors like myself it was explained I had to map the personalities of my subordinates in order to manage them better. If I know my tools, the psychologist explained, I can use them more effectively. The results for supervisors would also be used to help determine advancement through the ranks of the company to higher level positions.

My results were disappointing and inconsistent with the companies profile for advancement to middle management and beyond. Based on my personality type I was to advance no further than frontline supervisor. I was stuck. This was disappointing but I also felt intuitively that it was for the best. I liked being in the field, interacting with people and getting my hands dirty. The sterile world of “brown nosing” and office politics was not for me. Besides, I figured that eventually my drinking would mess things up so why climb the lofty heights only to be unceremoniously thrown back down.

INFJ

What was my fatal flaw? The MBTI revealed my personality type to be INFJ. My chosen profession should have been an artist, poet, monk, philosopher, aid worker, teacher or child care worker. I was a bit shocked because I always thought I was a bit of a rough diamond he-man sort of guy. To be told I was more of a quiet “sharing and caring” kind of guy was not what I was expecting. I sought to hide the results. The lads at the pub and the guys in my Army Reserve unit must not know about this. I started to feel I didn’t know myself. I didn’t.

For years booze had obscured my true nature from myself. From the age of 18 I had tried hard to be someone else. My real personality had been eclipsed by a false persona that was not the real me. Alcohol had kept me in denial and now some psychologists test had just held up a mirror that showed me who I was beneath my fake exterior. It was a revelation but intuitively I knew I had been suppressing my true self for decades in order to be accepted. Alcoholics tend to do this and it causes an inner tension. We eventually face a psychic crisis as the real person we are catches up with us.

Introversion

The MBTI test revealed that a strong “I” meant introvert. This surprised everyone as I always played the extrovert but it was show. I never felt comfortable around people or crowds. The Psychologist revealed that “I”’s have a “party going on inside” but when forced in to social situations could would tire easily. She reassured me I was no social leper, we just don’t need others to draw energy from. We get it from ourselves. “E” suck energy out of others. It sort of made sense; I had to drink to feel comfortable in a crowd.

Intuition

For some reason “N” means “Intuition”. I didn’t know much about the word “Intuition” other than the racy video clip by the singer Jewel. I also thought intuition was something to do with stopping at three beers, something I was never good at so I thought my intuition must be poor. Apparently it was also off the scales. This fortunately was good, if I were a CEO, but not so good so far down the ladder. She had to interrupt me as I drifted off a bit and thought about Jewel. “Intuitors”, she told me tend to be dreamers.

Feeling

“F” was for feeling. F meant I tend to listen to my heart more than my head. If I feel something is not right I’m usually on the mark. The problem of course is that emotions can get away from strong “Feelers”. Otherwise she said “F”s are sensitive to other people and can be empathetic.  I wear my heart on a sleeve is what the shrink said and I protested in indignation. This was a problem for the company as my “F” was off the charts. Being an “F” meant I was liable to have principles that would extend beyond share holder value. I could turn in to a “whistle blower” or worse, a unionist. The blood drained from my face. I started to remember the trouble I had caused in the Army because of principle and wanting to defend others. “F” meant “Fail”.

Judging

My “J” was not as strong but still significant. “J” is for Judging. Not to be confused with the judgemental type. This was a redeeming feature as it indicated I am task orientated and plan work. Unfortunately I can get so focused on one task I forget others or miss information. It seemed to me I would now spend the rest of my career doing data entry. Why couldn’t I have been an ESTJ like Darth Vader? Those guys made it far in the company. The CEO was an ESTJ.

Be Yourself

The final report went to my boss sealing my career trajectory. I was sort of relieved but still hated myself for being an INFJ. Who should I blame? Parents, God, the English teacher who had told me to be a writer some day. I had often looked in the mirror and asked “Who am I?”, this test revealed my personality. I saw the result as a flaw not realizing it was actually a good thing. My real character flaws were obstinacy, belligerency, resentment, apathy, anger, dishonesty, self pity and selfishness all alcoholic tendencies. Not the real me.

I often wonder how the test would have gone if I had arrived at work drunk and fresh out of a Night Club. Before the morning blues and dry horrors had set in. I could have sat the test and got a completely different score. The Psychologist told me the test was very hard to fool. I have sat it several times and once got drunk and did it again trying for a different score. Every time INFJ.

These days I actually love that I am an INFJ. It makes perfect sense. The company and that job is long gone but I am still an INFJ and always will be. I know myself better than I did and to know thyself is a great thing. Whether a person can truly know themselves is a matter of opinion. We can be Jedi and go some way to trusting ourselves and being in tune with our feelings.  We can be ourselves without fear and with confidence. I will never again try to be anyone other than who I am. That’s a start.

The Advocat

I looked up INFJ today and found our archetype is the “Advocat” or the counsellor. We have a strong sense of morality and idealism as well as loyalty. Obi-Wan Kenobi was an INFJ as was Aragorn and Lady Galadriel of Lord of the Rings.  INFJ’s are dreamers who do. They are quiet achievers who try hard to make a positive impact on the world. They are altruistic and selfless people who fight tirelessly for what they believe is right. We are strong willed and decisive but soft spoken and caring. We are less than 1% of the world so we are truly special. Yes we have our weaknesses but then so does everyone else.

To my delight I found that Carrie Fisher, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela were all INFJ. I feel blessed to have that in common with these great people.

Accept who you are, be yourself. Embrace the authentic you even if you are an ESTJ like Darth Vader. MTFBWY.

https://www.personalityclub.com/blog/star-wars-personality-chart/

Jedi can feel the Force

Jedi are Force sensitive people, and are experts at feeling energy. Our senses and our scattered minds can block us from feeling the Force, but it’s always there. Jedi are equally sensitive to dark energy or negative energy, and know how to avoid it and to protect themselves from it.

(33 Jedi Traits)

The fictional Jedi were indeed experts at feeling energy. Due to a strong connection to the Force they were able sense when things were not right. For example Jedi were usually able to detect a trap before they walked in to one. They were also able to identify those that carried a lot of negative energy and were particularly sensitive to the Dark Side.

In the spiritual traditions and religions of the world there are many examples of Prophets, Saints, Mystics and Sages who were extremely sensitive to the Divine source. They were able to commune with that source through prayer and contemplation.

 

Like attracts Like

The old adage “birds of a feather flock together” rings true. People are generally drawn to like minded people. In almost any social setting people will naturally gravitate towards people who are similar in outlook and interests. People also unconsciously gravitate to people who have the same or a higher vibrational energy than themselves. Vibrational energy is a word used to describe positive energy; a person’s overall  state of being. A person that has lower vibrational energy is essentially denser; they have lower physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being than a person with higher vibrational energy.

A person with low vibrational energy usually feels it and their life may reflect it too. For example they may suffer poor health, emotional turmoil and a string of unfortunate events. Like energy attracts energy. If we surround ourselves with negative people and allow ourselves to be drawn in to poor choices our vibrational energy starts to drop and our life starts to suffer. The only way out of the situation is to change our surroundings and the people we associate with. Being surrounded by positive and motivated people tends to brush off on us. Our thoughts, words and actions largely determine our vibration. We make our own reality.

 

Good Apples Bad Apples

I have worked in many different jobs and have found that while one place may be similar to the next they can be worlds apart in atmosphere. If the people are positive the energy is infectious and the workplace is happy and productive. In negative work environments with poor morale and low energy the atmosphere can be stale and it weighs you down. These workplaces are generally less safe and have lower productivity and higher turnover. The people there are what make it positive or negative. Have you ever noticed that horrible places to work attract low quality candidates or never retain staff while great places to work keep their people longer and are far more happy and profitable?

In the Army I had one Platoon leader that did not tolerate “trouble makers”. He realized that one bad apple bringing dissent and negativity could infect the entire unit in no time and lower morale. Any sign of it and he stamped it out or ejected the cause. The Officer knew that on Operations such an element was a liability to team effectiveness and mission success.

 

Rising Up

Becoming sober I soon started to come out of a state of low vibration. Without even realizing it I was growing distant from the people and places that I had been close to during active abuse. As my life changed so did my interests. Old associations dropped off either because I no longer resembled them or I decided I did not want that influence in my recovery. I stopped wanting to go to bars and pubs preferring the outdoors and the company of sober people instead. My energy level was rising and it naturally sought out like energy.

Always be mindful of the people you choose to associate with and the places you frequent. Soon they become you. If a person makes you feel bad about yourself you had to ask if the relationship is worth it or whether you are better off without them.

If you hang around the barbershop, you’re bound to get a haircut.” – Unknown

Social Media

Social media is another domain through which negativity seems to flow unfettered in to our lives. Before we were able to choose who to allow in to our lives, now through the power of the internet we allow complete strangers to affect us. The stories of online harassment, trolling and bullying are alarming. Many people live in fear and despair at the online hostility they receive. Some take their own lives.

Almost every time I visit Social Media I am confronted by news which is designed to elicit a negative response from an audience, usually fear or rage. Hate is ubiquitous and the forum promotes it as a form of distraction or entertainment.  Always avoid places, people and situations that are negative and likely to drag you down if you can. Otherwise find ways to observe without judgement and objectively, this of course can be very hard when confronted with images of tragedy and injustice that demand our attention and ire.

 

Self Talk

Every thought, word and action that we have has an impact on our reality. If I think that I won’t be able to do something, I’m probably right. If I think I can achieve it, I’m probably right. There is truth in the old saying that a fight is already won or lost even before the fighter enters the ring. Physical prowess and fighting skills aside, mental attitude is everything. If a Fighter enters the ring in doubt and has failed in the mental game the odd are he will lose the bout. This is why competitive Fighters like Connor McGregor win fights, they believe themselves in to winning. They make it happen by training hard, sticking to a program and making sure their head is in the right space all of the time.

We all have bad days. There are times when life really sucks and it is a struggle to get out of bed. Lately I’ve been feeling this way. I’ve wondered what’s the point to all this? I look at my family, career, appearance, life and I start to convince myself that it is all lacking. I begin to wallow in self pity and embrace the early chill of depression. This is a red flag for me, something we in the program call a HALT moment. I have to confront my negativity and defeatist self talk and allow it to quietly exit. There is no need to grapple with it. I know fighting it will only make it stronger. Acknowledge your feeling and let them go with affection.

“Never saw a wild thing sorry for itself” – DH Lawrence

Gratitude

Now with negativity gone I fortify myself with a short prayer and I list five things to be grateful about. Gratitude leads to grace as we focus on what we have rather than the things we don’t. We realize that everything our negative thoughts were saying are false. I have a career, family, health and a life many people would envy. Gratitude dispels self pity. Another way to raise energy is through random acts of kindness. Move the focus from self to others and suddenly the little you seem to have is the surplus you can share.

 

Diet

Some foods lift our energy. It is important to know which foods affect our moods and energy levels. Processed foods will not have as much benefit as raw foods with little to no additives and preservatives. I substantially reduced sugar in my diet a few months ago and besides losing a few pounds I have more energy than before.

Alcohol is not good for us, regardless of whether we are alcoholic or not. The medical profession is undecided about what a safe amount of alcohol is. Many are now moving to the “none is best” position. As an alcoholic I abstain and stick to water or coffee. Each person will determine the diet that best works for them as well as the type, intensity and frequency of exercise suited to their needs.

 

Practice Mindfulness and Mediation

Mindfulness we can practice anytime. Meditation is practiced by the Jedi and recommended by the 12 Steps as a daily exercise. At least 20 minutes a day is ideal but even 10 minutes still provides great health benefits and helps raise our vibrational energy.

 

Laugh Often

Life need not be so glum and serious. Enjoy a good comedy now and then. Have a joke with friends and take time out to have fun and act silly. We are all still children at heart. Let the child out to play sometimes. Spend time in nature if you can. Get away from the computer. Pets are wonderful companions and will raise your energy as well as give you unconditional love. Laugh a lot.

“Good humor is a virtue” – Aristotle

 

The Key

We are all sensitive to the Force. Some of us block out that flow of energy in to our lives by being self absorbed or distracted by material wealth or other superficial wants. There are many simple things that we can do to get in touch with our inner selves. We can recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries by doing simple things.

Positivity is largely a choice however whether we have low vibrational energy or high is largely dependent on what we expose ourselves to and our own frame of mind. We can surround ourselves with positive people or we can fall in with negative influences. Our thoughts can be mindful enough to know when we are succumbing to negative self talk. We can choose to avoid people and places that make us feel bad about ourselves. The key to the good life is in our hands.

Jedi live in the present moment

Jedi live in the here and now, and don’t have stress about the future or the past. This isn’t as easy as it might seem because the mind always rushes to the future or past. Contact with the Living Force always occurs in the present moment. The mind is our tool, and we need to stop the incessant thinking and mental chatter that comes from the mind in order to be conscious of the present moment, and to live in the present moment. We need to control the mind, and not let the mind control us.

(The 33 Jedi Traits)

Like Air

Mindfulness is defined by the Webster dictionary as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Other sources define mindfulness as pretty much the same thing, the practice of being present in the here and now. In other words being mentally right here in this present moment as you read these words. Mindfulness is nothing more than that. If we still our mind for a minute and sense every quiver, every sensation in our body without judgement. If we allow thoughts to pass like clouds without engaging them. We are completely aware of what is happening inside and outside of ourselves with each passing breath, that is mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives.
It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.
We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources
for insight, transformation, and healing”.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is a word that has a lot of connotations and brings up a lot of imagery like meditating monks, yoga on the beach or a child humming while drawing shapes. All of these things are mindfulness in action. The word is also a cliché.

In recent years the term has become a buzz word in marketing, entrepreneurship, leadership and the health industry. Thousands of books and magazine articles have been written on the health benefits of Mindfulness and hundreds more on how to be mindful. Entire shelves and racks in book shops and magazine stores are full of coloring books that promote mindful practices by sitting for a few minutes a day shading in shapes with colored pencils.

Psychologists refer their clients to courses and apps that teach and guide them through mindfulness techniques. There is mindfulness techniques offered for all activities, cooking, cleaning, running, walking, child raising, working and breathing. The sheer genius of business to make a multi-billion industry out of Mindfulness astounds me. Since Eckhart Tolle penned the “Power of Now” the mindfulness craze has touched just about everyone in the west.

I have friends who are lifelong Buddhists. They watch the current phenomena with despair and  bemoan the rampant commercialization of Mindfulness. They feel that a noble practice has been hijacked for profit. The idea that someone could do something as audacious as sell mindfulness for vast profits seems insane. It is like selling air.

 

The Past

What many people don’t realize is that mindfulness has been around for a very long time. In fact it is part of our makeup. The Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual traditions have advocated mindfulness and the power of living in the Now for millennia. Mindfulness is no mystery, people just don’t live in the present. Our minds are perched in the past as we ruminate on events or regrets.

We ask ourselves “why” and berate ourselves for mistakes as if we could turn the clock back and make things right. Of course we can’t and to think this way is a form of insanity. The best we can do is learn from the past and resolve not to make the same mistakes again. We can and should make amends for past mistakes if we can. If we can’t we should learn to forgive ourselves and others and move on with our life

Listing the wrongs I had to done to people in my past and seeking to make amends was a Step I took in my first year of recovery. It was one of the hardest but also the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was compelled to face my role in past grievances and let the blame on others go. Grievances, blame and grudges against people and organizations were forgotten. I started to realize where I had made mistakes and burned bridges. Resentment seemed like such a foolish notion and I was able to forgive and let go. Those I approached and confessed my wrongs were open armed and understanding.

I began to realize the value of sincerity and honesty. Humility without self depreciation and mutual respect for others became virtues more valuable than gold. I realized my resentments and belligerency and refusal to forgive and forget had cost me many opportunities. Determined to place it all behind me I moved on with my life. The past is there as a resource. The best lessons in life are learned from the worst mistakes. I don’t reside in the past now but I won’t forget it either.

The Future

We also tend to compromise the present by projecting our minds in to the Future. We are always heading somewhere. Goals and targets are set. Preconceived conditions are made that determine what our imagined state of happiness or fulfillment is. We set conditions like; “Once I get that promotion things will be perfect” and “I’ll finish my degree and life will be great” or “Once I make a couple of million I’ll retire and be happy”. These statements make two assumptions about the future which are largely out of our control; that these events will occur as planned and that we’ll derive a perpetual state of fulfillment, happiness or contentment on reaching that goal.

Obviously life does not always play along with our plans and when they do we find ourselves no better off than when we started. The Promotion provides more money and perks but has more responsibility and stress. The degree allows us to do other things but life is anything but “great” because we can’t start the career the course promised or we get jaded as reality bites. We eventually make enough money to retire and find ourselves too old to “really live” or we retire early and find that life is not so green on the other side of the day to day grind.

The Lure of Tomorrow

When I was in the Army I volunteered for a posting to a country in Africa. I decided that the posting would provide invaluable experience and would be worth two years of my life. Within a few months I was counting the days and months down to the end of my rotation. I dreamed of what it would be like when I got back home and imagined wonderful things. Depression set in as the months dragged on and the tempo ranged from full alert on long range patrols to days of mind numbing barrack duties.

Eventually the day arrived when I got on a plane and flew out. The elation was short lived. Months later I was wishing I was back. I hear veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq say the same thing, wanted to be home and then wanted to be back. For two years I lived with my head in some place other than the here and now.

I can still remember laying in the desert under a sky filled with stars and hearing jackals yelping in the distance. The burning sunsets over a parched land in all its splendor. The call of wild birds in the mountain forests and the cries of Baboons. Mountains that rose above the desert capped with clouds and covered in ancient forests. A train of camels being led by men wearing skirts gilded with large belts bearing long curved swords. Images that haunt me to this day and yet at the time I was utterly miserable and longed for a better tomorrow.

One of the reasons alcoholism is so spiritually debilitating is because it keeps us anywhere but in the Now. We don’t want to face the reality of the present moment. So we drink to escape to an imagined past or a better future.

Living in the Now

What is a modern day cliché has actually been known for thousands of years. Life happens in the here and now. Not in the past and not in some time in the future. The past is gone beyond recall and the future is uncertain. Every moment we find ourselves in is the Now. There is no time other than the Now which really matters. We plan for the future in the Now, we regret or remember the past in the Now. Our mind may be trying to drag us to the future, our Ego may be ruminating on the past but all of this is happening in the present moment. Every moment that we are absent is a moment lost.

The benefits of living in the Now are well documented. Everyone knows that stress is a killer. Research has shown that mindfulness practice leads to lower stress and anxiety levels. Lower stress in turn has a benefit to cardiovascular health, sleep and immunity. We become more in tune with our emotions and learn to deal with them objectively and constructively. Our senses become more refined, we begin to notice the world around us more.

Listening to others becomes easier. We are able to stop and appreciate the sights and sounds of life. Food is tasted rather than being hurriedly shoved in to our mouths. We become more conscious of our body in a healthy way and start to care for it more.

The things that upset us or caused us anxiety and depression in the past no longer have that effect. We are more resilient and accepting of life’s vicissitudes. Relationships with other people improve and as we become more self accepting we start to appreciate others more and are more empathetic. We find ourselves calm in the midst of a raging storm. Who would not want that?

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day
– unless you’re too busy –
then you should sit for an hour.

– Old Zen adage –

Practice

Meditation is a mindfulness exercise however one can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime. While driving a car, brushing the dog, washing the dishes, listening to music, playing with the kids and in fact doing just about any activity. It is simply paying attention to what you are doing. Commit your mind to the task with intent. If you are washing the dishes you are only washing the dishes and nothing else. Feel the water on your hands, the hardness of the porcelain and cutlery. Hear the sounds it makes. Use all of your senses.

Allow mental intrusions to pass without engaging them. You can focus on the breath, the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If thoughts distract you simply return to the breath. There is a saying that when an old man sits, he only sits, there is nothing else going on; this is the essence of mindfulness.

Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Sanskrit proverb