Abundance

 

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

 

That Crait Scene

Over the last year of writing “The Daily Jedi” the concepts of acceptance, gratitude and surrender have been recurring themes.  In the Star Wars mythology we often see all three played out in the same scene.

Obi-wan Kenobi raising his lightsabre in a final move which had him cut down by Darth Vader was not an act of defiance or suicide but an enlightened gesture of acceptance, gratitude and surrender to the Force.

When Luke Skywalker appeared in “The Last Jedi” as a Force projection on the salt flat of Crait and challenged his former Padawan in a game of “Cat and Mouse” it was not a just a ruse to delay the First Order and give the Resistance a chance to escape it was an enlightened act using non-violence over brute force.  Luke Skywalker was emulating the philosophy of Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Luke accepted his fate without struggle and with gratitude and surrendered to the Force with complete trust. Meditating far away on Ahch-To, Luke was then able to transcend in to the Force and leave the physical realm behind. One can only imagine the implications of his transcendence in the coming final struggle. A great paradox was proven, there is great power in acceptance, gratitude and surrender and that power is called Abundance.

Luke said “The Force is neither Light or Dark”. The Force simply is. The Dark and Light that exists resides within us. We have a choice. You can also call it a choice between scarcity or abundance.

 

Pause

Look around you. What do you see? Are you surrounded by the trappings of modern living? Does your work and making money take priority in your life? Do you often stop to reflect that the days and months are flying past and the years growing shorter? Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” type of person? Do you regret the lack or scarcity in your life or do you appreciate and enjoy what you have? One type of person has a “Scarcity Mentality”, the other person has an “Abundance Mindset”.

 

Glass Half Empty

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is the person you meet who is always complaining. There is never enough or things are just not good enough. They bemoan the lack of opportunity in their life and recite one regret after the other. Blame is seldom placed on themselves but on others. The World and life seems to have played them a rough hand and let them down. They always have excuses to explain their misfortune. Rather than seek opportunity they wait for it to come beating down their door.

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is never happy, even in the midst of abundance. They may be financially well off, even wealthy and own all the material possessions most could only dream of. It’s never enough. They may have a nice house, several cars, a great career and a loving circle of friends and family around them but they see fault and lack. We see example of it all the time. The glossy tabloids are full of the “rich and famous” miserable in their existence. No amount of material possessions or money can fill the vast spiritual hole in their life. We shake our heads in disbelief and wonder how someone who is so rich, so famous and popular could be so unhappy. The person with a “Scarcity Mentality” has a “glass half empty” view on life.

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Buddha

 

Glass Half Full

“Abundance Mindset” is the opposite to a “Scarcity Mentality”. The person who has claimed an “Abundance Mindset” is willing to accept the fortunes of life with gratitude but also accepts with equanimity that everything may be taken away in an instant.  As a result this person is perpetually grateful for what she has and will spend more time appreciating her blessings rather than focusing on the scarcity in her life. These people do not worry so much about what they don’t own.

The person with an “Abundance Mindset” accepts that all things are transient and by nature impermanent. We do not get to keep our possessions, our family and friends for ever. Our health will fade and eventually everyone will surrender to nature and the Force. This is the natural cycle of life and death. Rather than waste life regretting the things that were lost or opportunities missed or squandered focus is placed on being grateful for what was given and making the most out of what is on offer. Abundance Mentality people don’t mind sharing or giving credit to others and see opportunity everywhere.

Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance. – Epicuros

 

Peering in to the Glass

Alcoholism, like any addiction is a form of “grasping attachment” gone mad. All people grasp at things and seek attachment. It is the nature of suffering to do so. The human condition. Few learn to truly surrender themselves and let go of all of their attachments and in particular in life itself. Addicts are an extreme example because personal health, security and mental and spiritual well-being, relationships, career and money are all dispensable when it comes to getting the next drink, fix or hit. We Alcoholics did not care who we hurt or what we did to get drunk and keep drinking.

The “Scarcity Mentality” of the Alcoholic dictates that there is never enough. The old adage “one drink too many and a thousand not enough” comes to mind. Our dissatisfaction also extends to other areas of our lives. We see scarcity everywhere. Our jobs are not good enough, we don’t make enough money. All the people in our lives have glaring faults while we have none. People are not to be trusted and only used. There is fault in everything. Eventually we see the glaring truth in ourselves and rather than confront it we commit ourselves to the abyss.

 

“The Fall”

Think “Sith” and you have a good example of the “Scarcity Mentality”. The “Sith” sought only power and were addicted to it. They craved it above all else. The complete domination of others was an exercise in power. Having the power of life and death over entire planetary systems was ultimate power. Absolute power is addictive. Ascendancy was the ultimate objective to the Sith. A Sith apprentice would serve his Master and then at the right opportunity would seek to usurp him. If the Master was wise he would kill his Apprentice before his Apprentice killed him.  The Sith played a cyclical Zero Sum game where only one could assume ultimate power at the expense of all others.

The fall of Anakin was the tale of a man with a “Scarcity Mentality”. The desire to excel as a Jedi and bring order to the Galaxy and balance to the Force dominated Anakin’s life. Anakin only wanted to do good but Inwardly Anakin was a mess. There was a gaping hole within him. The tragedy of his childhood and the death of his Mother affected him deeply. The Clone Wars also left deep scars, not all of them visible. Many of his friends had been killed in the fighting or betrayed by the Republic. The Jedi Order had evolved in to something that was no longer true to itself. Fear and anger began to consume Anakin. Obsessed by visions of the death of his forbidden love and wife Padme he sought ways to control the Force. Driven by hate he was finally driven to the Dark Side and became a Sith. The Fall led him to nowhere but a life of suffering and servitude to an unforgiving Master.

You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life – for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won’t ask for more” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Abundance Mindset”

The Jedi Path is one where an “Abundance Mindset” is necessary to succeed as a Jedi. Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda and finally Anakin and later Luke Skywalker learned to deal with life and tragedy with acceptance, gratitude and surrender. Through pain and suffering they found a way out and the door led them to enlightenment and unity with the Force. As Sages they learned that life is a gift to live and finally surrender with equanimity and complete acceptance.

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

Being a real world Jedi does not mean we will achieve enlightenment in our life time. Some of us may have the potential but few will ever reach the spiritual, mental and physical level of a Jedi Master let alone a Sage. We can try however and having an “Abundance Mindset” of acceptance, gratitude and surrender is a start.

An “Abundance Mentality” is also a virtue and an asset in recovery. In fact it is necessary for our sustained sobriety as it throws a light on the fear, regret  and anger inherent in a “Scarcity Mentality”.  Our goal is to find no use for these destructive emotions. Psychology Today lists a number of ways we can cultivate an “Abundance Mindset”:

  • Every blessing is a gift. We can take them for granted but small acts such as walking the dog, playing with the kids, spending time with family and friends, helping someone out are all moments that will never be repeated the same way. Each of these moments is a gift so give them the mindfulness they deserve.
  • Practice equanimity. Being mindful also mean practicing equanimity. With self-awareness it is possible to remain composed and calm even in the midst of chaos. This means keeping an even keel and not getting carried with emotional impulses whether “positive” or “negative”. This does not mean forcing control, shutting down emotionally or turning in to a Robot. The goal is to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and body on a moment to moment basis. This can be achieved by simply observing ourselves and by asking “What am I thinking and feeling right now”. Acknowledge, accept and let go of those thoughts, emotions and feelings that do not serve. By casting a light on runaway thoughts and emotions we can calm the inner storm and be measured in our responses.
  • Be prepared to share. Sharing allows life as energy to flow like a river instead of becoming stagnant. Whether it is food, time or something else that is scarce be prepared to share. Sharing is an important part of the 12 Steps. By sharing our stories we are helping the person who is struggling and helping ourselves at the same time. It sounds counterintuitive but you get to keep what you give away.
  • Try reframing a situation. Instead of saying “there is not enough” try “there is enough to get by”. You will surprise yourself with what you can achieve even with far less than you thought you would need. Avoid comparing yourself to others, only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  • Turn obstacles in to opportunities. The Stoics say “The obstacle is the way”. They sought adversity and challenge to better themselves. If life was easy and presented no challenges we would barely be able to learn, progress and improve. Use obstacles and problems as an opportunity to practice principles that overcome them.
  • Show gratitude. Thankyou is a word seldom heard these days. It costs nothing and can make all the difference in a person’s day. If a Waitress did a good job getting you coffee, thank her and leave a tip if appropriate. Show those around you that you value their contributions. Offer words of encouragement. Politeness even to rude and obnoxious people is a virtue worth having.
  • Choose your company wisely. “Scarcity Mentality” people rub off on others as do those with an “Abundance Mindset”. Surround yourself with the latter and avoid people who have a toxic view on life.
  • Letting Go. Sometimes life does not go the way we planned. We can find ourselves out of work, or a relationship in an instant. Bad things happen. Fortunes will turn suddenly. How we respond to these events is important. We can wallow in self-pity or take the time to grieve the loss mindfully and then move on with life. Surrendering to the flow of life and letting go keeps us moving forward.
  • Reflect and Meditate. Daily reflection is important as is daily meditation. Try a meditations of gratitude or loving kindness. This opens the heart to the beauty of existence and abundance. It connect us to the Force. Journaling (or Blogging) is a great way to put your thoughts down and make sense of life. Consider how far you have come on your journey. Rather than ruminate on mistakes, resolve to correct them and improve on a daily basis. Never stop learning.

 

You Choose

Remember that people with a “Scarcity Mentality” have a Zero-Sum view of life. They are like the Sith. In Star Wars we see Anakin and Luke Skywalker both grappled with attachments and emotions to their detriment. They wanted to control and possess. As an alcoholic I suffered the same way. An abundance mindset based on gratitude, acceptance and surrender means ridding yourself of the grasping attachment of a “Scarcity Mindset” and setting yourself free. Choose now. Will your glass (of a non-alcoholic beverage) be “half full” or “half empty”?

Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.– Wayne Dyer

Decisions

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose.” – Yoda

 

A process

In previous posts the mental processes at arriving at a decision were discussed in the context of Jedi Philosophy. Arriving at a decision is a multi-step process. We looked at the need for inner reflection to realize the truth and need for change. Resolutions were considered as an affirmation of that shift in thinking. Making a resolution is creating a broad determination to do something or be someone.

Right View was framed as the wisdom and attitude that drives that desire for change and realization of the truth. Before making a decision we must undertake an acid test to determine if an action is consistent with our value system and the principles we live by.

Finally, we had to ask ourselves “why”. The intent of our desired action and outcomes had to be defined and flow from the process. At this point we are ready to actually make a decision and commit to it with action.

People go through a great degree of preparation and work to get somewhere and when the time comes to launch they balk. They face the agony and terror of actually deciding to go ahead with affirmative action.

Making a decision is akin to throwing our selves down the Rabbit Hole. We have pushed the “Go” button and now committed through thought, word and action. Everything to that point was getting the stage set up and rehearsing for the show. When the time comes to step out on to the stage and perform we either go ahead with it or we don’t.

 

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

The Rabbit Hole

I recall when I joined the Army there were a number of other men who had spent their lives wanting to be a soldier and working towards that goal. It was their decision to be there. I’d basically run away from home and had fewer choices. The Military seemed like a viable option in keeping me as far away from my home as possible. I didn’t have a clue of what to expect.

During selection we were put through  physical and medical, psychological and psychometric assessments, a security screening and a final interview. All of these I passed. We were told repeatedly that we could resign at any point during the six months of basic training.  Once we signed the interim contract we were on probation before being offered a definitive contract. This meant we had six months to decide if we wanted “in” or “out”. The Corps also had that time to assess our suitability or not and send us home in the latter case. I was going to make they didn’t send me home.

At the recruiting station I met a guy named Jack who was around 23 and had finished college. Most of the other guys in the Platoon were between 17 to 21 and were out of High School or avoiding jail or the dole. Jack was different; he looked like a soldier; he was fit, tall and tanned and had all the quiet charisma and presence which commands admiration from other men. It turned out he had been preparing for months for training and planned to get in to Special Operations. The Army was a dream of his since he was a child and he had passed up an opportunity to become an Officer preferring instead to start at the bottom.

Opting Out

Six months later there remained 16 of the original 30 intakes. A number of men had been put back farther in their training for failing tests or for minor injuries. A few had left due to injuries or psychological concerns. One recruit had gone so far as to leave one night and become AWOL. The rest of us stood in parade uniform waiting to be interviewed by the Platoon “Boss” who would provide a final appraisal and tender our final contracts for signing. This would be the moment of decision for each of us. After that we would belong to the Army for a minimum of three years.

Jack was ranked top in the platoon and had been an extraordinary recruit. He excelled at everything, drill, battle drills, navigation, first aid, range shoots, physical training, military ethos and doctrine. You name it he came first at everything. Jack also had the right attitude and was squared away all of the time. You could not fault him and he helped others get through basic training. We thought for sure he would be offered a place in Special Forces and have a career the rest of us could only dream about.

The door opened and the Platoon sergeant called up Jack. Crisply marching forward he knocked on the door frame three times and stepped in to the office, saluted and presented himself to the Boss. The door closed and we assumed he was in there to get his accolades while the rest of us waited in the hallway wondering what bits of flesh were going to be torn off us.

A few minutes passed and we wondered if he wasn’t being entertained by the attending Staff with brandy and cigars. A few minutes later Jack emerged with the Platoon Sergeant who was looking a little red faced. Jack looked his usual cool and composed self and passed us in the hallway and whispered with a grin and a wink “Cheers Lads”. That was the last time we saw him.  Later we learned that after being given a glowing report he was presented with his contract but had flatly turned it down. They had gone so far as to promise him a rapid transfer to Special Forces and even a pathway to becoming an Officer but still he turned them down and requested to leave immediately to resume his life as a civilian.

 

Waste no more time arguing about a real man should be. Be one” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

The Red Pill

At the final moment when presented with a piece of paper Jack had made his decision. Everything had culminated to that point and he chose out. None of us had before then heard him voice any doubt at his being in the Army and he had never complained. If anything he  seemed to enjoy the rigors, discipline and deprivations of barrack and field life. Jack’s departure was as much a shock for the platoon instructors as it was for the rest of us. For many, it planted a seed of doubt in their minds. Jack had decided the Army was not for him after all and that was that. What did he see that the rest of us did not?

A few years later as a civilian I reflected on what Jack had done and realized he had been more exceptional than any of us had realized. Not only did Jack do everything to 110% when he did he also refused to compromise his principles and mislead the Army and his mates by signing a contract once he decided it was the wrong decision. Jack had decided he could not commit himself to the path and decided to step away before he regretted his decision. He left without regrets.

The manner in which Jack did this was honorable. Jack had nevertheless taken the Red Pill and realized that his path lay elsewhere. It taught me an important lesson in being true to oneself without fear. Of being able to make the hard decisions in life even when they go against the grain but you know they are right regardless of what people think.

 

Principles

Ironically Jack had displayed exactly the types of virtues valued by the Army; integrity, honesty, sincerity, courage and unwavering commitment to principles. Signing a contract without being absolutely committed did not enter in to his way of thinking as it did mine.

I signed my contract because I felt pressured and was not wholly committed. This was a pattern that persisted throughout my entire life. Making a decision that I knew deep down was not the right one; never committing to my word.

Eventually life has a way of adjusting misalignment. Someone I never met made a decision and I was  thrown out of the Army for various sins. I bounced about aimlessly through life for many years. I submitted to the will of others and accepted the decisions they made for me with later regret. Girlfriends ended relationships and employers terminated me. Rejection became the norm.

As an alcoholic I had surrendered all power to make decisions that were reasoned and reinforced with commitment. Others made them for me. The only decision I made that stuck was to be committed to my drinking.

 

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” – Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

 

Made a Decision

In seeking recovery through the 12 Steps the most important decision I ever made was to turn my life over to a Higher Power. The decision was definitive and complete. I could attempt to articulate the feeling of control and power that gave me but I would not do it justice. Suddenly the compulsion to drink was lifted and I never drunk again. I had taken the Red Pill.

By turning my life and will over to the Force I had in effect handed my problems over to that power. I now carried that power with me to make any inner change I wanted. With time that inner change would begin to reflect in my outer world. Relationships improved, life became easier and more purposeful and my health also improved. I began to live the philosophy. All of this was based on one single decision.

If you are reading this because you want guidance on being Jedi or are struggling with personal issues including addiction and want to improve your life ask yourself “What is my decision”. Intent is meaningless without action. Without a final decision to jump down the Rabbit Hole and commit ourselves to change completely we remain in a netherworld between action and inaction. We become impeded by lack of momentum. We hesitate at the precipice and while we test the water we refuse to jump in. The curtain has gone up and we must decide; do we step forward and play our part on the stage of life or do we hold back.

 

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision” – Maimonides

 

The Choice is Yours Alone

The agony of decision making is a choice. Finding a quiet place to reflect or seeking the advice of others helps to some extent but a decision must still be made. We can postpone the inevitable determining that the time is not right. That will depend on whether the decision is still available for us to make further down the track. The opportunity may vanish leaving us wondering.

We can weigh the cost, benefits and risks ad infinitum but there will always be a cost and a risk of making a decision. Despite the best knowledge available we could still regret the decision later on. A decision may be a pragmatic choice or an intuitive one. Believe me I have made both and not all of them take us where we thought they would.

 

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato

 

To thine own self be true

Being true to yourself is also a choice. No one can force you to be someone you are not. Anakin in “The Revenge of the Sith” made his choice and committed to the servitude in the Dark Side and not even Obi-wan Kenobi or Padme could save him. In the “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker turned the tables on the Emperor by deciding to spare Vader. Kylo-Ren extended his hand to Rey to join him in uniting Dark and Light, a new order. Rey refused and in making her decision chose her destiny. Those decisions ultimately reflected who these characters were at that point in their lives.

Life is full of decisions. The agony of decisions, even minor can leave us confused, immobile and uncertain and it takes courage to decide. We are all confronted with choices that will be transformative  and some may come at a heavy cost. Decisions are made that will change life forever.

Your decision may be to change a career, get married, have children, embark on a lifestyle change, or commit to a philosophy. Each is an adventure that comes with opportunity, pain, disappointment, joy and most of all learning. The decision to take the plunge is yours. “Do. Or do not, there is no try” as Yoda would say.  Decide you must and do so with conviction and commitment. Once the decision is made be at peace with it.

 

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

The High Ground

 

Art of War

In War the advantage of the high ground is constantly sought out. Seizing and holding high ground is often critical in a military campaign. One only needs to look to history to show how choosing to defend a higher position has resulted in a decisive victory. Federal forces under General Meade defeated the Confederacy at Gettysburg by holding the high ground. Napoleon was able to defeat the Prussians at Jena by attacking in flanking maneuver from a higher position.

The advantage gave both Meade and Napoleon a better view of the battlefield and further reach for their artillery, it also made life harder for the enemy. The Vietminh were able to over run the besieged garrison at Diem Bien Phu during the Indochina War by attacking from and holding the mountains that surrounded the valley in which the French were “ensconced” and subjected to months of withering assaults until they cracked. The Mujahideen in Afghanistan managed to wage a war against the Soviets and Afghan national army by drawing them in to the mountains where they held the advantage with guerrilla tactics and American weapons. The contemporary version of the Mujahideen, the Taliban, today uses the same tactics against their former allies, the Americans.

 

Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight” – Sun Tzu

 

Sun Tzu in the Art of War advises that military commanders should always seek to use the high ground to their advantage. This ideal has come to be used not only in military planning but also in business decision making. Companies that secure the high ground in the field of innovation, use of technology and adopting modern and ethical approaches to business such as diversity, sustainability and a proactive safety culture will often hold a competitive advantage and an adaptable culture. Inflexible companies that refuse to adapt to change or are sluggish in their attempts to keep up and innovate are left behind and out competed.

 

A Battle Ground

Holding the high ground in a tactical sense however does not always make sense. In small units the high ground is avoided unless it is a defensive position. Normally a good commander will read the terrain and use it to the best advantage. On patrol we would often lay up on high ground at night. Before dawn we would silently break camp and withdraw to a position that offered better protection and a means of escape. The tactic also was designed to throw off an enemy planning to attack at dawn.

Patrol commanders would take in to consideration factors such as observation, concealment, and means of escape and avenues of attack; sometimes the high ground is the last place you wanted to be. The advantage of air power and use of drones however has removed some of the advantage of being a militia or guerrilla force ensconced in the mountains as the current war in Afghanistan has shown.

 

A Word Weapon

An often used term is “moral high ground”. In society we see it a lot in arguments. It is a weapon used by both sides of a debate. For example, both pro-life and abortion advocates believe they have a “moral high ground” on the issue of abortion. The same applies with the euthanasia and same sex marriage debate in many countries.In the military the assimilation of females in to combat roles and the acceptance of LGBT divided the population in and out of uniform. Both sides claimed the “moral high ground”.

Progressive movements will often claim the High Ground in these social issues. Very often the term “moral high ground” is also used to excuse violence or intimidation in the name of a contentious issue. Claiming the moral high ground does not mean that an argument is correct unless you are a Sophist.  It also does not justify the use of violence. Unfortunately violence is still used as the power of advantage rests with the side that holds the high ground.

 

Remember back to your early teachings. “All who gain power are afraid to lose it.” Even the Jedi.” – Chancellor Palpatine

 

A Point of View

In the Star Wars sage the Jedi often claimed the moral high ground in their campaigns both military and political. Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn were often predisposed to blur the lines of ethical conduct in order to advance the cause of the Jedi. The argument often put forward by the Jedi was that the use of deception, betrayal and subterfuge was in the interests of the Republic and for the “common good”. The morality and ethics of such actions were tenuous at best. This fact was not lost on Palpatine who ironically often used and played the Jedi for his own nefarious ends.

We often hear such lines being used in the real world. Companies use it when they lay off hundreds of staff for the “common good”. When our government takes us to war they do it in the “national interest”. They use the moral high ground to place legitimacy over an irrational argument. Much later we are left wondering how it could have happened. The real question should be “what is the moral high ground”? Who defines it? Is it valid?

 

Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.” – Chancellor Palpatine

The false High Ground

Anakin had been in many fights over the years and many of these battles had seen him and his opponents seek to take advantage of higher positions. Whether on foot using a light sabre or in a fighter Anakin always vied to take the higher ground by out maneuvering and outwitting his opponents.

Confronting Ob-wan Kenobi on the lava flows of Mustafa, Anakin was faced with a dilemma and sought to counter it with a reckless move that almost cost him his life. Obi-wan had the high ground and offered Anakin the chance to surrender and live. Metaphorically speaking, Obi-wan also held the “moral high ground”. By confronting Anakin he was not only attempting to stop the rise of the Sith and the fall of the Jedi Order, he was also trying to save his friend. Both seemed to be noble causes in the context of what we believe. The outcome however was that Obi-wan Kenobi was unable to accomplish either of these objectives.

 

Casualties of War

Taking the moral high ground has pit falls. It can blind us to the “bigger picture”. We take one view and refuse to consider alternatives or opposing arguments. Very often a deep seated “righteousness” pervades an opinion. It does not matter if it is right or wrong, true or false, the only thing that matters is that it is must prevail. Objectivity followed by honesty is often the first casualties on the fight for the “moral high ground”. Arrogance is a flaw that often develops in the belief that a view is superior to all others.


The Higher Objective

Have the high ground means being better able to view the landscape and appreciate the situation for what it is. From a higher vantage we can look down at people or we can help them up to stand beside us. The goal should not to be to hold the moral high ground in order to defeat or belittle others. The goal should be to take that person to the higher vantage point so that they can see the truth for themselves.

Being recovered means we can place a high value on sobriety and clean living. We can also value virtues in ourselves and others such as honesty, humility, benevolence and selflessness. Although we are better we do not act better than others.

Being sober does not give me the right to take a moral high ground at the expense of others especially if I consider my history. No one has the right to take a moral view and consider others lesser than themselves because they fail to make the grade. It would be wrong for me to judge an alcoholic who is desperate and hopeless; I was near enough there once myself. It may be easy to judge a homeless person pan handing in the street who looks young enough and fit enough to be working but it would be wrong. We cannot know what fate put him there. Some of us have hit the skids before and know the bite of poverty and acute apathy. A few of us have slept rough, begged for booze and money or searched for food in rubbish bins.

 

Falling Down

We should always be mindful before taking the High Ground. The fall from our lofty tower might be great when our views are laid bare as false. Having strong opinions on matters can make us feel potent and powerful but they also leave us open to scrutiny and judgment by others. When we are forced to defend our position we can find that our argument does not hold and our defenses have major weaknesses. We fight to hold the high ground and we lose ground. As our defenses crumble so do our firmly held beliefs and with them our self esteem and confidence.

 

It’s over Anakin, I have the high ground” – Obi-wan Kenobi

In that dramatic scene on Mustafa, Obi-wan tells Anakin it is over. Filled with hate and rage, Anakin attempts to leap over Obi-wan and out flank him. The move is a fatal one and Obi-wan’s light sabre flashes and catches Anakin mid air amputating both his legs. Anakin rolls away and comes to rest by a lava flow his skin badly seared by the heat soon bursts in to flames. He screams in anguish, pain and rage.

 

Surrender the Higher Ground

In the end it did not matter who had the high ground on Mustafa. Anakin was reconstructed as Darth Vader and Darth Sidious assumed the role of Emperor. The Jedi Order was destroyed but for few survivors and a scattered rebellion emerged from the ruins of the Republic. Over the decades of war that followed both sides would claim the moral high ground in their struggle over the other. Obi-wan exiled and alone with his memories might have pondered the merit of his beliefs and questioned whether they had been firmly placed on high ground after all.

The idea of a moral high ground is based on what society values. Our parents, friends, teachers, religious instructors and leader, elected leaders and peers all help form our moral views. We hold on to them and build our fortress upon their foundation. How often do we question them, how often do we ask if they are right?

The first thing to ask is “what are my moral high grounds”. The next thing to ask is whether attaching ourselves to an inflexible view point helps or hinders our cause. Would it be better to loosen the bonds of opinion slightly and to critically assess them? Instead of focusing on the failings of others should we not be looking at our own faults? Where there is conflict and hate do we assign blame on the others only or do we also look at the part that we have played? Is there room for compromise and mediation, can common ground be found? Sometimes it can, sometimes it cannot but by engaging in dialogue there is always a chance of a spark of understanding to emerge. The only way to find out is to walk down from the high ground across no mans land and speak with the enemy. The way to peace and forgiveness may be to surrender the High Ground.

The best conversation is rare. Society seems to have agreed to treat fictions as realities, and realities as fictions; and the simple lover of truth, especially if on very high grounds, as a religious or intellectual seeker, finds himself a stranger and alien.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jedi sense disturbance

32. Jedi can feel disturbances in the Force

If Jedi are mindful and are consciously connected to the Force, they can feel disturbances in the Force. Feeling Force disturbances usually happen after there has been some type of disaster, and/or a loss of life.

(33 Jedi Traits)
Did you ever get the feeling that something had happened to a friend or a loved one? For no reason they pop up in your mind and you just know. The nagging feeling in your gut that you should get an unusual lump checked out and it turns out to be the best thing you did for yourself and your family. These moments happen to most of us and we put them down to “gut feel”, “coincidence” or “luck”, when all we did is listen to that little voice we often ignore; the “sixth” sense.

 

Energy doesn’t lie. Keep sensing it, trusting it, letting it liberate you” – Judith Orloff

 

Remote Sensing

A few years ago I was sitting quietly and suddenly I was struck by an overpowering sense that my Father had died. I did not know why and there was no one I could call to find out but I just knew. A feeling or a sense had passed over me that was hard to shake. I was only able to confirm his passing some time afterwards as we had been estranged for many years. My Father had died a skid row drunk on the other side of the country around the time I sensed it. There is no explaining it in terms that make sense. Sensing loss or tragedy is something we feel deep within our consciousness.

Mothers have a deep physical, emotional and spiritual connection to their children. A young Mother will wake and instinctively know her child is in distress and rush to attend to her. How often have we heard stories of Mothers sensing their child close to them as he lies wounded or dying in a war zone thousands of miles away? The Mother feels the loss deep within her heart and soul.

 

The Web

People have a natural ability to sense when things are not right. We feel it in our gut. Sometimes we choose to ignore it, most of the time we cannot pin point the cause but it is undeniable and it is our deeper consciousness trying to tell us something. We are all connected to each other and to the world we live in, every event ripples across the web of life.

When a forest is cleared in the Amazon it has an impact on the world and we feel it. Call it sensing or a “disturbance in the Force”, it is nature’s way of letting us know that the web has been disturbed. Some of us are just more sensitive than others.

 

Angst

During the 90’s the word “angst” came in to popular use. Angst described an ill at ease generation that was deeply concerned about the world and the way society was headed. At the time my angst was conveniently smothered with lots of booze, dope and grunge. I just didn’t want to know. Today that unease is more poignant and tangible; many people would agree that the world feels like it is careening towards some catastrophe.

 

Swimming against the Tide

It is no illusion that the global environment is in trouble. The degradation is accelerating towards a point of no return. The global economy is controlled by a powerful and centralized elite that is geared towards siphoning the world’s wealth in to the hands of a tiny minority. Governments seem to be working against the interests of the people. Corporate influence and a military agenda drive Government policy. War seems to be a perpetual state.

Our food, water and medicines are becoming over priced, non-nutritious and toxic. Education is being hijacked by sociopolitical agendas and students are taught not to think or question the mainstream. The media fuels an atmosphere of distrust and division among the people. Society has become filled with hate, bigotry, intolerance and rage.

 

“”I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

If you sometimes feel like you are swimming against the tide and don’t feel a part of the system you are not alone. If there is unease in your stomach and you prefer to avoid news reports, that’s normal. What you are feeling is not imagination or irrational anxiety but an acute awareness that the world seems to be going to hell in a basket. There is a disturbance in the Force and some of us can feel it, we are the lucky ones.

The vast majority of people in the world are obsessed with non-issues, the latest fashion trends and mindless consumerism. Society is sleep walking to the edge of a great chasm completely unaware of the peril.

 

Pay Attention

Being sober and being Jedi has taught me to pay close attention to my surroundings and to use all of my senses. The Path has also taught me to “have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can”. The reality is there is little we can do outside of our own power to change the world. We can still make small changes and do our own part to try to make a better world. Much of that choice is in the way we conduct ourselves and how we respond to emotions.

If society were to collapse tomorrow how would we react? Would we panic and abandon our principles? Do we continue to hope for the best but train ourselves for the worst? Can we face the future with resolve and dignity or will we revert to base savagery to survive? No matter what happens we still have a choice in how we respond to the emotion of Fear. We can choose to be Jedi.

Jedi Let Go

 

Jedi believe in ‘letting go’ of their attachments.

Jedi work on ‘letting go’ of their attachments and train themselves on this. The fear of loss of one’s attachments leads to the dark side, so a ‘letting go’ and ‘trusting in the will of the Force’ attitude needs to be developed gradually to overcome this fear of loss. Everything really belongs to the Force anyhow, so we need to trust the Force, and not be so attached to people and possessions.

 

“Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is” – Yoda

“Train yourself to let go of every thing you fear to lose” – Yoda

 

10’000 Joys and Sorrows

Buddhists believe that the fundamental cause of suffering is attachment. The premise is not solely with one religion. All of the mainstream faiths warn followers of becoming overly attached to our earthly possessions, title, bodies, relationships and beliefs. With attachment comes the fear of losing what one is attached to. Since infancy we are constantly experiencing the anxiety of anticipated loss. A child will cry when her mother leaves the room through separation anxiety. The loss of a favorite toy is a constant preoccupation of many children. They will clutch on to their prized possessions and weep inconsolably if it is lost.

As we grow we become attached to our body image and fear any harm that comes to it. Our reputation and standing among peers becomes inflated in our minds. Acceptance within the group becomes paramount. We become adults and start to attach to our identity, our beliefs and convictions. Our Ego starts to expand and we find someone whom we believe might “complete” us. Attachments form for a significant other and a partnership may be formed. We become attached to our profession, our career and the many possessions that we accumulate along the way.

As we age our ego has completely transcended who we truly are. Our children become an extension of ourselves and we see our being as intrinsically linked to our social status, standing with peers, qualifications, bank balance, lifestyle and our appearance and health. Entering into middle age we start to mellow out a little but we are set in our ways, our convictions and beliefs as well as our opinion of ourselves and others. Some of us may start to ask the important questions at various stages of our lives and even seek non-attachment.

For the most part we are caught in the paradigm and “letting go” of attachment and especially of our life is something we can barely begin to consider. We forget that all of the things that we value; all that we are attached are impermanent by nature. Any or all of them can be removed at any time. Nothing lasts forever and all things must change and eventually end. Everything ultimately returns to the Force.

There is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. The name of that thing is attachment” – Anthony de Mello

 

The Meaning

In his book “Man’s search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl recounts a story. During the Nazi occupation of his home city Vienna an important Academic was arrested by the Gestapo for the crime of being an intellectual and a Jew. While awaiting interrogation and eventual deportation to a concentration camp the academic protested his arrest. “I’ll have you know I am an important man in Vienna”, he proclaimed and rattled off memberships to various distinguished bodies, awards and medals of honor and qualifications. The Academic removed from a satchel a pile of papers stating his various standings and showed them to the police officer.

A German Officer standing nearby took up the papers and tore them to pieces, “There, you are nothing now!” he yelled tearing at the sheets and throwing them on the floor “You are nothing but a Jew!” The Academic was shocked. Months later deprived of his standing, his home and his family and wearing nothing but a filthy prison uniform bearing a number and stripped of his dignity the Academic died a broken man. He had lost his identity and unable to see any hope for the future, he withered and died.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu

Hope Survives

Frankl was also an Academic and a Jew. As a Psychologist he understood the power of the Ego and its ability to build up an image and drag us down with it when it is dismantled. In Auschwitz, Frankl survived in the face of atrocious odds. Frankl refused to let the Nazis take the one thing he had control over, his mind. He understood that everything he had before was probably gone. His house was probably destroyed, his position gone for ever and his wife and family probably dead. The thought of it would torture anyone but Frankl accepted it for what it was and “let go” of his mental attachment to the things he had no control over.

From one moment to the next, one day after the other, Frankl continued to breathe and live. He never lost Hope that the war would end and he would be allowed to return home and whatever was left. One Day in late 1943 the Soviet Army appeared and the Nazis fled. Frankl had survived.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell

 

The Stoics

James Stockdale spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison cell after his Navy bomber was shot down during a raid in 1965. Stockdale was a student of the Stoics and kept a copy of Epictetus with him during his time as a POW. The Stoic example of accepting one’s present condition beyond what one is capable of controlling carried Stockdale through his ordeal.

The attachments he had for freedom, his family and career were put aside as he focused on keeping what he did have, his mind and the choice to give up or continue. More importantly despite seven years of life lost, Stockdale carried no bitterness and no regrets seeing it as a pivotal experience:

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade” – James Stockdale

The Stoics were themselves beyond attachment. Like the Buddhist precept of non-attachment the Stoics accepted what came their way with equanimity. Seneca was extremely wealthy but accepted the loss of his wealth and an order from Nero to kill himself with equanimity, even ironic humor.

Cato the younger was one of the most influential men in Rome and yet wandered the streets in simple clothing and bare feet. Removed from an important military rank during the civil war, he shrugged off the snub and rallied his soldiers around him and did his duty for the Republic.

Epictetus was banished to a desolate Greek Island by the Emperor. Instead of dwelling on his loss he started a small Stoic school. His student and later the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, fought the Germanic tribes while his wife plotted with a trusted friend, Cassius, to bring his reign to an end. The plot was uncovered by loyalists and Cassius was killed and his wife arrested. Instead of flying in to a blind rage Aurelius forgave his wife and wept at the news of Cassius’s death.

Receive without pride, let go without attachment” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Letting Go

Grasping attachment and the fear of losing what was most dear to him ultimately led Anakin to the Dark Side. Not happy to simply accept things as they were, Anakin wanted to control the Force to his will and claim ultimate power, the power over life and death. In his fear Anakin lost everything that was dear to him and became a tortured servant of the Dark Lord.

“You only lose what you cling to” – Buddha

The Fictional Jedi were expected to follow the precept of non-attachment. For this reason they were not allowed to marry or have children or carry on as normal Galactic citizens might. Their commitment was similar to being in a Monastic Order or perhaps even the Army of some countries. Personal possessions were eschewed as were other attachments that the rest of us take for granted.

Obviously most of us are not going to give all of our possessions away but the clothes on our back and start to live such a life. Being sober also means being sane and rational. I for one like the things that I own. I’m not prepared to just hand them over and become a Monk, walking away from family and job. We can still loosen our attachments however.

There is no need to grasp so tightly on the things that we prize. Life need not be a monkey trap where a monkey is held fast only by its refusal to let go of a bait. The monkey can slip its hands inside the trap and clutch on to a treat but unless it lets go of the prize it cannot withdraw its hand. The monkey is trapped only by its refusal to let go. That is the nature of grasping attachment.

The root of attachment is suffering” – Buddha

 

Negative Visualization

A Zen Master once received an exquisite and precious porcelain cup. The item was so precious that he decided to consider it broken and worthless straight away. As a result the Master was able to keep the cup without attachment so that when one day when it did break he shrugged “of course”. No big deal.

The Stoics had a practice called “Negative visualization” which captures the Zen practice. Negative visualization recommends that we spend time thinking about loss every day. We consider losing our jobs and having the bank foreclose on the mortgage and losing all our property. Imagine your spouse leaving you or someone close dying. The Stoics suggested that parents should consider that they may never hold their children again after they have tucked them in to bed at night. As morbid as it sounds, contemplating catastrophe is an intellectual exercise and is psychologically safe as long as we do not attach emotion to our visualization. The act is not pessimism which reflects a negative outlook. If it were we would be called pessimistic for buying life or health insurance.

With daily practice we can use negative visualization to appreciate what we do have while “letting go” at little of the attachment that we tie to them. As Epictetus said we should avoid holding on to something so tight that it removes our ability to act with reason and destroys us when we lose them. The practice hardens us for the inevitability of loss.

“In short, you must remember this – that if you hold anything dear outside of your own reasoned choice, you will have destroyed the capacity for choice” – Epictetus

 

The Reserve Clause

The Stoics also used the “Reserve Clause” which is simply another way of framing a situation. We can always add a caveat to any statement that allows for it to not proceed to our expectations. For example we may work extremely hard in preparation for an exam or train fanatically for a sporting event. We can either attach to the effort that we put in and put our focus there or we can become fixated on an outcome which is not entirely within our control.

Despite the hours of study, we may end up getting a paper that covers areas we overlooked. On the day of our event we make some simple mistakes and loose the competition. Attaching to the goal would leave us bitterly disappointed. Having a reverse clause which says “I’ve worked really hard for this and I’ll do my best but leave the rest to fate” is one way we can loosen our attachment to outcomes.

 

Live Life with an Open Hand

Life can be lived from one day to the next mindfully or we can spend it in anxiety ridden anticipation of loss and catastrophe. We can spend our days clutching on to our money, possessions and life or we can loosen the bonds that tie us to this world a little. Do we hold a Dove in hand so tight that we squeeze the life out of it or do we hold it gently and loosely and willingly let it go when the time comes?

 

Let Go, Let God” – Anonymous

Growing Old

When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not.” – Yoda

Recently I turned half a century. The milestone was not marked by any celebration and I asked that family and friends treat it as any other day. My Stoic attitude to turning 50 was to take the time to contemplate my life up until that point. I wanted to appreciate where I currently am in my life and ponder the future.

The inescapable fact

It is hard to escape the fact that time is not on our side. No one will live to be as old as Yoda. Those that do not die young will see their parents grow frail and eventually lose their health. Children bury their parents and grieve their passing as is the nature of things.

Our children grow up and eventually leave the nest seeking to start their own journey through life.  If we manage to dodge the many ailments and illnesses that seem to beset the middle aged we too also eventually grow frail. Our strength and agility slowly start to leave us. Sight grows dimmer, conversations are harder to follow and loud noises bother us more.

We watch as the world around us becomes more and more unfamiliar and we notice how young new parents look with their small children. Once upon a time not long ago we were that age too and had the same glow and vibrancy of youth.

One by one that that we knew leave us and start to dim in our memory. Soon our time comes.

Looking Back

I am now fifty years old. It feels strange to say it. I am a product of the 60’s and was born at a time when youth was rebelling against authority. The Vietnam War was being fought and the counter culture was in full swing not only in the States but around the world. They called it the “Love Generation” among other things. Some may actually remember that era (pun intended) and recall that it doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet it probably seems like an eternity.

They say I am Generation X. The very mention of the term brings back a lot of nostalgia. Which in itself is weird. I remember getting drunk and stoned a lot through the 90’s. The music was a mix of House music and then Grunge. An entire decade seems to have been lost in some sort of haze of booze and drugs or the fog of hangovers and brief recovery.Trainspotting and Kurt Cobain inspired the times.

There are the faded and yellowed photos of forgotten friends and fellow travelers in some remote and distant parts of the world. Everyone looks so young and happy. We are holding up bottles of beer and nursing cigarettes. There are bongs laying about.

We are wearing cut off Jeans, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin T-shirts and Thai Dye. Everyone has long hair and some of the guys have beards. Most of us are skinny, tattooed and tanned. There’s the promise of a good night and maybe love with a stranger. Life is a care free adventure, for a time there is no need to worry about the future. Youth seemed to be the promise that would last forever.

Never Lasts

Nothing lasts for ever and everything must end. Our travels, careers, friendships and close relationships, our very lives are all finite and impermanent. The party also had to end. I just never caught on like most and didn’t start growing up.

Booze tends to hold back the clock a little. Soon enough we are the middle aged person trying to keep up with people half our age. They are where we were 20 years ago and here we are still in the same place.

Ripped Off

Getting sober is a little like Rip Van Winkle waking up from his drunken slumber. The first thing Rip did on waking was go to his local Tavern and order an Ale. Looking around the Bar he noticed that the clientele was different. Some of the older people stared at him curiously. There was a young man that looked vaguely familiar to him.

Soon enough he was approached and it became revealed that he had vanished 20 years before and was now a much older version of himself. Rip Van Winkle had slept for 20 years, the result of a ghostly practical joke. The old fellows were his Friends and the young man his grown son. He learned that his wife had passed on. A bit relieved, Rip had another drink.

Waking Up

When we get sober the world appears different. Like Rip Van Winkle we realize we have been in some sort of slumber for years. Others have been moving on with their lives and in many ways we have been moving forward too but a large part of us has been rooted in the same spot. Once we have freed ourselves from the compulsion to drink our old haunts and old way of life no longer appeal. The chains slip off.

Sometimes I pass a bar or a night club and feel an urge to go inside, to resurrect a part of me that is now dead. I see the young people partying and having a great time, the music is blaring and the laughter fills the air. I feel a sense of nostalgia for the past but it soon passes and I remember who I am and most importantly when I am.

Old is a State of Mind

I do not consider myself old. In many ways I am excited about the coming years. After five years of sobriety I have learned so much about myself and recovery. I have barely touched the surface. Like Rip Van Winkle I see a chance to make a fresh start with every day. Age need not hold me back.

Indeed I can proudly say that I am fitter and stronger now than I was at 25. People say I look younger too, which I’ll take. There’s still a spring of youth in my step. I hope I’m wiser. There is the advantage of experience on my side. Wisdom acquired from a life of mistakes to draw from.

The Future

We can accept that the years will wear on us and eventually the tide of time will take us with it. Like Yoda I can face my ultimate destination with equanimity. My only concern is to live what Epictetus called the “Good Life” and whether I do or not is largely entirely up to me.

No one can know what the next day will bring. The future is always a mystery. With some certainty we can say that the sun will set tonight and rise in the morning to another day. Each day brings another chance to get things right, to learn and to grow and to use what we have learned. We can continue to look forward with hope and draw on our Faith that your best days are yet to come.

Recently I saw an article about a man who reportedly lived to 256. This man had been taught by another man who he claimed had lived for 500 years. The man is now dead but his story was documented early last century. The very old man had a secret for living to such an age which he shared…I’ll share it…..Tomorrow.

Fear

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This was a prophetic line and one which reverberated through the entire Star Wars Saga . Yoda’s words revealed the destiny of a single child who was to ultimately change the course of history and have a resounding impact on an entire galaxy of trillions of sentient beings. The wisdom also shows us the path that can lead us back to despair. Our own journey to the Dark Side begins with fear.

Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with Fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself” – ACIM

Fear is the polar opposite of Faith. Only Fear can eclipse Love. It was Fear which drives the wedge of separation between who we truly are and our divine source. It is Fear that keeps us in that illusion of separation. The Ego thrives on Fear and validates itself there in the human expressions of anger and hate. Fear, Anger and Hate are the harbinger of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse; Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Every negative expression of human emotion and each of the seven deadly sins finds its source in Fear.

Every single negative emotion and action has its root in Fear. Fear is Suffering, the very essence of the Dark Side. The need to resist, attack, impose, possess and control all come from Fear. Fear controls us in so many ways and forms the basis of the Ego. Without Fear there is no Ego as it removes the filter between our false and true selves. To live in separation is to exist in Fear.

 Facing Fear

Besides your recognizing that thoughts are never idle, salvation requires that you also recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear.” – ACIM

Fear kept me in alcoholism for decades and controlled every aspect of my life, every decision. The Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of the truth defined who I was. For me it was “F#*k everything and Run”. In recovery we make our way out of the dark and we begin to realize that Fear is nothing but an illusion which the Ego uses to keep us from self-realisation.

In recovery we learn to face our Fears and facing them they vanish one after the other. We realize that we have been held captive by something we empowered with our own minds. Like the children’s tale of an imaginary beast that lives in the Forest in order to keep them from straying, our Ego creates a beast and the more we resist it or try to run, the larger it grows until it consumes us. Through non-resistance we are able to confront our Fears and face them down, what appears to be real soon fades and vanishes.

All healing is essentially release from Fear” – ACIM

We become free of Fear, we really had nothing to Fear in the first place other than Fear itself. Fear really is “False Evidence Appearing Real”.

Destiny

In “The Clone Wars: Destiny”, Yoda meets the manifestation of his Dark Side. The creature harbors all of Yoda’s Fears and Doubts and tries to attack and kill the Jedi Master. Yoda fights for his life but the more he struggles the stronger the entity becomes. Realizing the truth Yoda confronts the Dark figure and draws it to him. No longer afraid Yoda looks in to the face of his Dark Side and releases it, banishing the entity to oblivion. The Force Priestess Serenity arrives and reveals that the entity was nothing more than a manifestation of the mind, it never existed.

Observe and Let Go

In the “Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle teaches that within us all exists a light that we can use to illuminate anything we Fear. I doubted this and realizing that Doubt is the cousin of Fear I began to explore. One day I felt a strong sense of Fear and foreboding hit me that was overwhelming. It took me to the edge of sanity and I knew that unless I did something I would lose my grip and drink again. I resisted and fought the sensation and the Fear grew stronger. Somewhere in my mind I realized it didn’t have to be like this, I was giving in to Fear. I remembered the “Power of Now” and used my own inner light.

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness.” —Eckhart Tolle

This is how it works. Observe your Fear to overcome it. Imagine that Fear to be inside, a dark mass where the core is. Now imagine a strong glowing light growing brighter and brighter in your mind. Watch that glowing white light fill you entire body and illuminate the “Dark Mass” of Fear within you. Observe without judgment, with equanimity and without resistance. As Fear recedes from the light, embrace it and let it go. I imagine this as the Force negating Fear.

Your Fears have no Power over you no more than the Dark Side had any Power over Yoda. Luke faced his Dark Side on Dagobah also an illusion of Fear. Anakin let himself fall victim to something that was not real, his own Fears. This led to immense anger and then hate, the very fuel and oxygen needed for the dark Side to consume him. Our Fears do not own us unless we let it.

 Natural Fear

In some situations Fear is a healthy response. For example if confronted with a threat to life the Fear emotion is a normal. Natural Fear is used to elicit a “fight”, “freeze” or “flight” physiological and behavioural response in the face of Danger. The Jedi were trained, like Soldiers and Emergency workers in the real world to harness that Fear in to mindful actions and responses. Anxiety, fear of the unknown and the imagined is Ego-Fear and it is not real and not rational. Therefore there is no need for the emotional suffering we put ourselves through. It is important that we know the difference between Real Fear and Irrational Fear.

The greatest insanity of all is to submit to Fear. The greatest act one can do is free oneself from Fear. Love is the only thing which can truly overcomes Fear. Choose Love not Fear.

He who has escaped all fear of future pain has found his way to present peace. Place then, your future in the Hands of God.” – ACIM

Fools Rush In

No! Unfortunate that you rushed to face him… that incomplete was your training. Not ready for the burden were you.” – Yoda

In “The Empire Strikes Back” Luke Skywalker departs Dagobah against the advice of his teacher and mentor Yoda. Luke is driven by the need to help his friends and seeks to confront the evil that is Darth Vader. At this time Luke is unaware of the truth about Darth Vader, he is untrained and mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually unprepared for the challenge he has set himself. All of this matters not to Luke, like his father Anakin, he has a strong will and wants to prove himself. There is the compulsion in him to rush things and reach his goals before he is ready. In the Cloud City of Bespin Luke is lured in to a trap and meeting Darth Vader learns the terrible truth of his past before narrowly escaping. The revelation nearly destroys Luke.

Later in “The Return of the Jedi” Luke returns to Dagobah seeking to resume his training and finds there a frail Yoda, close to death. Luke broaches the subject of his Father and it is revealed that indeed Darth Vader is his Father, Anakin. Yoda then admonishes Luke that he was bound to fail in his confrontation with Vader, he was unprepared and not ready for the strong psychological and spiritual burden of knowing the truth and resisting the Dark Side. Yoda reminds Luke that sometimes in life we must realize we have much to learn and farther to go in our personal growth before we are ready to enter the next stage of our life.

The Stages of Life

Life happens in stages. We all know this. Babies are born and grow, Children bloom in to Teens and young Adults and then enter Adulthood. Eventually they find their chosen profession, find a partner and perhaps begin a family. Along the way they reach and surpass typical milestones in life mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Eventually their own kids grow up and leave the nest and they enter in to the middle years of life possibly with Grandkid. There is retirement and contemplation and eventually the twilight years before succumbing to old age. That is how an “ideal” or “typical” life is meant to look, or so we are told.

The life experience of one person will differ to another. This can be due to a range of factors including age, gender, cultural upbringing and education. We may find ourselves getting impatient with other people or disagree with their views. Often times we have to consider that they may be at a stage in their life which we have passed or yet to reach. We have to make allowances for that. Remember that life is a progression, a journey in which we learn and grow over time often in stages. Sometimes we guide others, like our kids and sometimes we take advice from those with more life experience and wisdom than us.

It takes a long time to bring excellence to maturity.” – Publilius Syrus

Growing Up

Everyone ages and matures at a different rate. I have met 16 year old kids living in less developed countries who were more mature and grounded than some middle age professionals I have encountered in the corporate rate race. Maturity does not necessarily correlate  with age, position, address or size of pay check. Indeed as an active alcoholic I was emotionally and socially immature, a child in a man’s body. I stopped growing as a person once I started to rely on alcohol as a social stimulant and then a requirement. That did not stop me from being relatively functional but I needed booze to function. In sobriety I discovered that I lacked the basic tools to interact with people and handle situations normally. The crutch had been removed and I had to learn to stand on my own two feet with nothing more than a basic comprehension of a program for recovery and an even dimmer understanding of the concept of a ‘Higher Power”.

“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.” – Epictetus

I would not expect someone who has just hit rock bottom and looking for a way out of alcoholism to know everything there is to know about recovery. It takes time, patience, effort and a lot of faith to build the experience, knowledge, wisdom and skills required to attain “contented sobriety”. Deciding after 6 weeks of “white knuckled” abstinence that we are cured is deceiving one’s self. We can try to test that idea and perhaps get away with it but it is a huge gamble and one that rarely pays off in the long run. Believe me I tried.

The Long Curve

There are many things in life which present as a steep learning curve, parenting is one of them, bringing a baby home for the first time can seem daunting and even terrifying to new parents. There is all this stuff you have to do and know that no one tells you about and the books don’t even mention. Nothing prepares you for it. Babies don’t wait if they are hungry or need a diaper changed or run a fever for us to figure it out the first time.  By child number two you are a bit more settled and after that it’s a doddle. Now you are a veteran in child raising and you look at new parents going through the same steep learning curve and you smile knowingly. Parenting is stressful but most parents cope fine and learn a lot about themselves. Recovery is sort of the same, it is a learning curve but it’s not steep, its long and its all up hill.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. – Aristotle

Fools Rush In

One of the things I learned is that we cannot rush our recovery. There is no well defined point that can be reached where one declares “That’s it! I’m cured”. To take the view that a cure exists is to decide there might be short cuts and seek arrival at the desired destination of a subjective “normalcy” sooner. This is called the merry-go-round approach to life. We may change seats and try different ways of but we are still on the same ride and nothing changes.

What is “normal” anyway? Some would argue for alcoholics it is the ability to “take it or leave it” and to respond to life in an appropriate and proportionate manner. I am recovered but I will never be fully recovered and being honest would not even be able to define what “recovered” is. If I make it to the end of the day in a better condition than yesterday it’s a win.

The important thing to remember is that although we can claim the power to recover, we remain powerless over alcohol but we are never powerless to act. Many people might dispute this and claim a definitive cure but I err on the side of caution and set the cardinal rule as it applies to my addiction. I may be ready to take up a lot of challenges in life now and in the future but I will never be able to drink normally again. I won’t make the same mistake that Luke did and rush in to confront my addiction by feeding it.

Wise men say, Only Fools Rush in” – Elvis Presley

 Reaching Victory

Will I ever reach a stage in my life where I can claim victory? If recovery is a journey where the final destination is the end of life then it would be fair to say yes. If I can reach the end of life without having relapsed in to who I was before and can hopefully look back on a life “well lived” and accept death with equanimity, that is a victory in my book. There is no desire in me to declare a “cure” and return to drinking or arrive at a point that can be defined as “happily ever after“. I would not return to the illusion if I could, even if assured of being able to indulge without fear or anything worse than a hangover. That is a sane and a mature approach to something as insane as addiction. Live on life’s terms.

The final battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader provides a lesson in victory. Surrendering control, accepting what is, embracing reality and letting go of what does not serve through action leads us there:

Luke Skywalker departs Dagobah and on the Planet Endor surrenders to Darth Vader. Taken to the Death Star II Luke is tempted to the Dark Side by Darth Sidious. The Emperor forces Luke to  battle Darth Vader and urges his to succumb to anger. Luke has grown and is able to resist falling to the Dark Side. His actions ultimately save his father and destroy the Dark Lord. Like Luke we must be willing to confront our own darker side not by use of force or resistance but by surrendering to what is, accepting who we are, embracing change and finally letting go. That is the path to victory. Luke had reached the end of his training and could now call himself a Jedi.

There is no “happily ever after” but Luke does find some closure, for now.

There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”- Sir Frances Drake

Science

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play.” Yoda, “Shatterpoint”

Science is based on proposition and the testing of a hypothesis. Experimentation is used to arrive at a statistically significant determination that a hypothesis is correct or incorrect. The best Scientists will try to reject a hypothesis and disprove a theory rather than default to a bias. They will try to prove themselves wrong no matter how important their theory is to them.

There are two types of Scientist in my experience. The first is those that undertake research to arrive at the truth. They want to understand the world as it is without the influence of any bias. Unbiased Scientists test their theories and accept when they are wrong.

The other type of Scientist will invest personal bias in their theories and adjust or interpret results accordingly to arrive at a conclusion. Such Scientists rarely welcome debate or criticism of their findings. You will find them in the halls of academia guarding their beliefs jealously and deriding any idea that challenges theirs. They are inflexible and they stymie the growth of scientific endeavor and the open exchange of ideas.

Truth of the Matter

No matter how you try to change it, the truth remains the truth. If you conduct an experiment and everything you do is correct but the outcome is the opposite of what is expected then that is the truth. The truth is not what you would make it. We have to accept the truth in order to recover.

The definition of insanity is to do something over and over again with the same outcome and expect something different. After trying an experiment a number of times in the same way with no change in conditions or parameters one should arrive at the same result. There may be some variation but when you do the math the result is still significant.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results“: Albert Einstein.

Despite a background in Science I was never good at exercising Scientific method in my own life. I would try the same things over and over and expect the same outcome only to be proved wrong again and again. Of course this flies in the face of logic but then who every said that logic applies when it comes to Alcohol.

Let me list some of the experiments I tried to drink normally:

  1. Stick to Light Beer only: Failed
  2. Drink only when eating: Failed
  3. Add water to wine: Failed
  4. Stop at three drinks: Failed
  5. Pace Drinking, have one, wait an hour and have another: Failed
  6. Not drink at all at a Party: Failed
  7. Empty the house of alcohol: Failed
  8. Exercise more often, start a health kick: Failed
  9. Swear off: Failed
  10. Seek help from a Psychologist: Failed
  11. Isolate myself from alcohol and everyone else: Failed
  12. Accept my alcoholism and Surrender my addiction: Worked

Whatever works

Only the last method worked. I tried it once but unlike the others there was no need to go back to the experimental design and manipulate parameters and variables. My hypothesis “an active program of recovery based on spiritual principles leads to sustained abstinence” worked. It still does.

Everything else I was doing before that? There was nothing wrong with any of it. Under certain conditions they will work in some cases. For me, they didn’t so I had to take a radical depart and think outside the realm of normal science. I had to reject my bias and accept that in my case only a spiritual solution could work. I tried it and much to my surprise and delight it did work.

Yoda summed it up very well. Everything you are doing in your life might seem right; there may be nothing wrong with it. But is it working for you? Does it serve? Will making one change, doing one thing differently make all the difference in the world? Perhaps we should consider a different solution instead of being stuck in our own paradigm and rejecting the alternatives.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer

Freedom

I will never forget the night sitting on a train I watched my Father Play poker with a stranger as they drank whisky. I watched my father lose one round after the other until he was broke. The man who had emptied my father’s wallet asked “have you got anything left to wager”?  My father nodded in my direction and said drunkenly “the Boy”.  The man nodded and said “OK”. They played their hand and my Father won and soon had most of his money back. It seemed like his luck had returned, I’m still undecided about mine. Who wagers Freedom?

Alcoholics do.

I was around 7 years of age when I experienced that and would soon find myself in a religious orphanage where my view of Christianity would forever be blighted by my experience. Later in State care I would learn the meaning of class, rank and status. The event that played out on the train may have been a joke to scare me or it was as it seemed; it remained with me till now more than 40 years later and forever changed my perception of my Father and what it means to be Free.

Anakin Skywalker was a slave as was his mother. The distinction obviously affected Anakin in his younger years and later as a Jedi Knight as he struggled with his identity and his past. Anakin then became a slave to his guilt, his anger and his hate until he became a slave to the Dark Side and was lost to it.

Slave to Self

I was never a Slave in the normal sense of the world but I was a slave to my addiction and to my Fears. The things that keep us down and in bondage are very often of our own making. I had the key, in fact the door was always open. I just chose never to take it and kept myself a slave for decades after that moment on the Train.

Surrendering is the key to Freedom. By turning over my drinking problem and then my fears, anger, anxieties and resentments to the Force I was setting myself Free. The paradox of surrender is a powerful one and it does not need a spiritual source. All it needs is willingness.

We all have within us an inherent desire to be Free. Not only free from oppression and fear but free from our own negative and self defeating emotions. We want to be Free from our darker side and our past. The key to Freedom is in our hands. Set yourself Free Now.