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: Voluntary Hardship

Life rises from the ashes. Fire brings renewed growth and  strength. The Forest is resilient. 

Voluntary Hardship is one of the ways we can build our resilience. The Stoics in Ancient Greece and Rome practiced Voluntary Hardship as a way to harden themselves to life. The practice could be as simple as missing a meal or sleeping rough. It was also about being exposed to uncomfortable situations, working with difficult and rude people and seeking out ways to test the limits of mental, emotional and physical endurance.

When I was 18 I decided to join the Army. I felt a need to test my mettle and prove myself a man. There was a need to expose myself to Voluntary Hardship in an environment where my choices were limited and I would be forced to grow. I thought that like a forest regenerating after fire I could be renewed by the furnace of the military.

 

“Lean into the discomfort of the work.” – Brene Brown.

 

Grunting

Being in the Army was like jumping in to a frying pan. Joining the Infantry was like jumping from the pan and in to the fire. It was uncomfortable and harassment constant. The work was dirty and hard. The lifestyle was close to Spartan. Material possessions were few. There was a greater chance of getting injured and suffering long term pain and disability. Knees and backs were shot after years of walking long distances with heavy loads. These are some of the reasons why men (and now women) still choose to do it.

Anyone who has ever been a Grunt knows that the Infantry thrives on a blend or order with random chaos. One minute everything is quiet and calm and then without warning a hurricane in the form of a snap inspection happens. Lockers are over turned, beds and mattresses are thrown about, gear is tossed out of windows and hosed down amidst screaming and yelling.

You find yourself at three am running around outside under a flood light dazed and confused. Grunting in the cold and wet while in your underwear, getting abuse hurled at you through a megaphone, you ask yourself in wonder “I volunteered for this shit?” The Army does this for one reason, to build resilience and prepare soldiers for war.

If you are not miserable, they are not doing it right. Voluntary Hardship works.

 

Yoda’s Method

Remember Luke Skywalker on Dagobah? Yoda pushed him to the limits of his mental, physical and emotional boundaries. The Jedi Master was showing Luke what he was capable of. By pushing Luke hard enough, Yoda was teaching him to find the Force within him and the resilience to meet his destiny.

Yoda: “Mysterious are the ways of the Force.”
Luke: “Did you just make me stand on my head for two hours because I was annoying you?”
Yoda: “Very mysterious.”

During the original trilogy we witnessed Luke evolving from an emotional and petulant Farm boy to a hardened and resilient Jedi. Voluntary Hardship was a Jedi discipline intended to prepare the Jedi for his or her mission.

 

Sane and Safe

Voluntary Hardship is all of these things but not all of us are going to commit to a personal Dagobah. We can do it as part of a sane and safe practice that suits our lifestyle. By constantly testing ourselves and by making life routinely uncomfortable in some way we are hardening ourselves for the day we may need to live it for real.

These days I rely on Voluntary Hardship to help me in my recovery. It is not safe to rest on my laurels and get too comfortable. Alcoholism is a subtle and cunning foe that preys on momentary lapses in reason and weaknesses.

By practicing Voluntary Hardship I am able to forgo things in a mindful way. By doing so I know that I am training myself to resist temptation and better absorb hardship when it comes without warning. I’m better able to deal with HALT* moments that arise and keep my serenity.

We need not deprive ourselves of basic needs. No one who is sane practices Voluntary Hardship by wandering through the wilderness without food or water for forty days or sleeping on a bed of nails. Doing anything at the expense of our health and well being is contrary to the purpose of Voluntary Hardship.

A voluntary hardship might be skipping a meal and going hungry for a night, having a cold shower, sleeping on the floor, leaving your jacket at home when you know it’s cold and raining out donating half of your clothes to charity. You could choose to go without Social Media for a few days or throw your Smart Phone in the drawer. Do it often enough and you begin to understand what scarcity and hardship feels like and that you can live with both if needed.

“The benefits of Voluntary Hardship far outweigh the discomfort.”

 

Easier

You began forcing yourself to get out of bed 6 am a month ago.  At first it was hell but you soon started to get used to it. Soon enough it became routine and then you thought, “why don’t I go for an early morning run?”.  You went from sleeping in till late and struggling out of bed to getting up at sunrise and going for a run.

After a few months you find yourself in the gym. All of the sudden you realize you look and feel great. Why? Because you chose to be uncomfortable.

Incremental improvements happen when we  challenge ourselves. We adapt and become conditioned to hardship and eventually we start to enjoy it.

 

Rewarding

When we were Kids some of us might remember having had “privileges” such as Television revoked for transgressions such as failing to make the bed. The denial was not voluntary but the sense of gratitude we got when the privilege was restored was real.

Imagine denying yourself the pleasures that you routinely enjoy. The truth is most of us don’t because we are on the hedonistic merry-go round. People are constantly seeking new pleasures and distractions. The things that we coveted and received soon lose their shine and we are left wanting for the next best thing. We have forgotten to appreciate the things we have and only want and expect the things we don’t.

What if we were to lose or have some of those things we have withheld? Could we do without them? My Daughter pleaded that she could not do without her Smart Phone until she found out she could. It taught her to value her things more. Still after the next model came out she “needed” that too!

Not having our endless demands met is healthy. Healthy denial teaches us to be grateful for what we have and take the time to enjoy them knowing that life can still be enjoyable without them.

 

Simpler

There is so much we can forgo in life. Peeling away the layers of materialism and settling for a simpler and less cluttered life frees us a lot of stress. Life become more about enjoying the experience rather than amassing possessions.

I do not equate a lack of material wealth as poverty or hardship. Some people do and they are physically and emotionally attached to their belongings in way that it creates a prison for them. By letting go of the clutter we think we need we start to break those bonds.

Wanting less also means having to spend less which means less debt and more money to do things that enrich your life experience.

 

Healthier and Happier

Less stress, more time and money to invest in your health and well-being, putting people before things all lead to a greater sense of self sovereignty, independence and happiness. If Voluntary Hardship leads to adopting a healthier diet, exercise program and positive outlook then all the better. All of these benefits result from having more resilience which results from Voluntary Hardship.

Use your imagination. Have fun with Voluntary Hardship. Remember it is training, not some form of penance.

*HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Triggers) for Alcoholics in early recovery.

 

Further Reading

Ryan Holiday (2014): The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. Available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/29HvsMI

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Available on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/29R3Ysb

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger. Available on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2mqd44A

Self Assessment

Trials

In Star Wars the Jedi Trials were used by Jedi Masters to test and assess Jedi Padawans on their journey to becoming Jedi Knights. There were five trials “Skill”, “Courage”, “Spirit”, “Flesh”, and “Insight”. The Padawan was closely assessed by the Jedi Master overseeing the trials but the Padawan was also expected to be self critical throughout.  A Padawan had to dig deep within and determine if she had passed the trials as intended. A Padawan could get through a trial. But did the Padawan achieve the goals of the trial by gaining the insights and breakthroughs that the test was intended to bring out in her? Only through honest and thorough self assessment could a Padawan hope to fully become a Jedi.

Ahsoka Tano was an example of a Padawan who critically reviewed her beliefs, ideals and performance often.  Ahsoka was able to moderate Anakin’s behaviour through her strong principles and tireless devotion to her Master. Anakin would often criticize her but Ahsoka was by far her own strongest critic. More on Ahsoka later.

 

Free Pass

One of the things we are rarely encouraged to do is to critically assess our own performance as individuals. Usually someone else is the first to provide us with feed back on our performance or progress.

Whether it is at work, in a relationship, training for an event or plowing through a course, we usually don’t take the time to critically review ourselves. We usually rely on someone else to do it for us. Sometimes we are told things we didn’t want to hear and we act surprised. But should we be? Should we not critically assess ourselves everyday and know ourselves better? Most of us would rather give ourselves a Free Pass.

 

This is to be a test of your knighthood. You and your companions must make your own way through the difficulties you will encounter.” – Jedi Master Arca Jeth

 

The Corporate Slap

I’ve worked for a number of companies that had six monthly performance reviews built in to their human resource management program. Every six months you walked into an office to face your line Manager and a member of HR. They would deliver an appraisal and score you on your performance. The performance review would determine whether you received a bonus or part bonus or nothing at all. Promotions and continued employment was also determined in the review. There was a general rule that anyone who fell in the bottom 10-25% of the company would find themselves on notice and given a “probationary improvement plan”. Anyone in the bottom 10% was usually fired that day. This was how they got rid of undesirables.

The performance review required the individual to give themselves a score for performance against company “pillars” such as “courage”, “integrity”, “safety”, “productivity” and “respect”. Employees had to write a short justification of their score against each of these items. Most people wanted a high score because no one wants to be in the bottom quartile and face dismissal or shame. Everyone wants a bonus. Generally self assessments were scored high and 5 star performances was not uncommon for people who were clearly “under performers”. Why would someone be so dishonest with themselves? They either truly believed they deserved a high score or they were being dishonest.

 

The Truth Hurts

I have seen many people walk out of these performance review meetings clutching tissues as they dabbed tears in their eyes. Strangely some of these people would enter the room expecting a glowing report only to have their expectation dashed by a frosty reception and a dismal review. They had self scored high and seen it decimated from 5 stars to two or three. A reality check had been delivered.

What surprised me is why some of them were so shocked or hurt when they were given an honest assessment of their performance. Could they not see it themselves? Had they not taken the time to be honest with themselves and consider that perhaps people noticed their day to day performance and behaviors? The truth can hurt but it’s worth the pain.

 

 Brutally Honest

For some reason I could always guess how my performance review was going to go. In the military you knew if you were liked or disliked by the chain of command. They told us everyday and were brutally honest about their feelings towards us. Performance review was everyday. Feedback could swing from high praise to vitriolic condemnation reinforced with punishment push-ups and corporal punishment in a single hour.

In civilian life I grew wary of people because unlike the military you did not have such transparency and blatant honesty from your bosses. In the “real world” a person at work who was nice to you and pretended to be your friend might well be putting you down behind your back in order to look better. A supervisor might be blaming all of her failings on her subordinates and taking credit for all their hard work. In the Army this sort of “backstabbing” was unacceptable and was usually dealt with through “old school” methods. Being wary and realistic allowed me to walk in to a performance reviews hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

 

Whistling in the Dark

One of the things that surprised me is how line Managers at some companies only ever bother to speak to their subordinates about performance once or twice a year. Unless there is a glaring problem with behavior you are left alone and allowed to reinforce whatever flaws or habits are letting you down. No one is around to pull you back in to line. Most people don’t take the time to self assess themselves honestly and continue to “whistle in the dark” everyday completely unaware they have a target on their back.

Being alcoholic I knew my obstinacy, belligerency, complacency, dishonesty and hangovers were noticed in the workplace. The stories I made up to cover for absences from work were flimsy at best. I was rude and direct with people and I didn’t like them. The difference for me was I didn’t care. No one ever pulled me aside either. No surprises were ever had on performance review day.

 

High Functioning

Alcoholics can be exceptional people and many are highly talented over achievers. This is often called “High Functioning Alcoholic”. Unfortunately we tend to eventually torpedo ourselves because the ruse takes too much effort to sustain indefinitely. We give our bosses, bank managers and friends and loved ones the rope to hang us with. At the beginning everything runs well and we outperform expectations. Eventually, the cracks start to show but we recover and make up for it in spades. The house of cards starts to wobble and then finally collapses. We are left standing amidst the wreckage of our lives. Those around us stare at the mess and are baffled. We can’t explain why we do the things we do. They say they never saw it coming.

Despite my disease I knew when I had messed up and I tried to hide or deny it. Failing that I could try blaming others. It was only in recovery was I willing to inventory every fault, flaw and misdeed on paper and admit them to myself, another and my Higher Power. Once done I only had to try to make amends where I could and resolve to improve on a daily basis.

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” – Step 10, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

 

Daily Inventory

Daily self assessment is used to self monitor our own progress. We readily admit mistakes when we make them. This takes vigilance, discipline and self honesty. Every day we face challenges that test our emotional, spiritual and mental strength. Without the presence of mind and firm principles life can erode the foundation of our recovery and weaken us.

By taking daily inventory we manage life “one day at a time”.  This daily practice approach allows us to immediately appraise ourselves and adjust our behavior when we admit fault. We orientate ourselves back on to the path, make amends where necessary and continue forward. The goal is progress, not perfection. Mistakes will be made. We will falter. If life did not throw curve balls at us occasionally how would we ever grow?

Stoicism, like the 12 Steps encourages a daily self appraisal through an evening review. The evening review is used to identify what went well and where things can be improved. Personal conduct and interactions throughout the day are assessed and measured against personal values and principles. Did we demonstrate virtues in our interactions with others? Were we polite, patient, calm and civil in our dealings with difficult situations and people? Were there instances where we were angered and said or did something that we later regretted?

 

A Jedi Ritual

The Jedi were also encouraged to constantly undertake personal self assessment and review. This was a daily ritual. By connecting with the Force through meditation they could observe their actions as if looking from the outside in. Over time the Jedi could achieve a constant state of mindfulness where every thought, word and action was assessed before it was given power through release. The Jedi were self sufficient and were self honest enough to be their own best critic.

When the Jedi Council admitted to Padawan Ahsoka Tano that they had wrongly accused her of terrorism and sabotage she was promoted to Jedi Knight. The promotion was based on the premise that the ordeal had served as her final trial. Firm in her convictions Ahsoka Tano rejected the promotion and left the Jedi Order. In her mind she had suffered a great betrayal and had the presence of mind to be honest with herself.

The Jedi ritual can be used as a tool to identify problems and solutions. If something went well, we determine why and resolve to repeat or improve on that in future. If there was a shortcoming or failure we figure out why it happened and find a solution. We do not condemn or berate ourselves needlessly. Everyone makes mistakes and some days go better than others. Each and every day is an opportunity to put our principles in to action and learn something new.

 

 Avoid Complacency

Getting sober and staying that way, going on a diet to lose excess weight, exercising, studying for a qualification, becoming a Jedi and creating a successful relationship are difficult but rewarding. Self improvement is by nature hard because it demands we make real and meaningful changes in our life. It can be easy to get complacent and lose our way without taking the time to pause and assess our progress.

Regularly check in on how you are traveling on the path. Ask yourself “how am I doing right now?” Explore your feelings. If your mind is in turmoil or your emotions are raw take a moment to simply pause and observe impartially and then let go. There are some days when you will need to pause more than once to center yourself. At the end of the day, take the time to review your performance. Do this as part of your meditation practice if you like. That quiet time of contemplation and self assessment will, if you allow it, keep you focused on your goals.

 

The trials are difficult. Many try and fail, so I advise you not to be complacent.” – Jedi Master Satele Shan

Right View

First comes the day Then comes the night. After the darkness Shines through the light. The difference, they say, Is only made right by the resolving of gray through refined Jedi sight” – Journal of the Whills, 7:477

 

Noble Truths

In the practice of Buddhism it is vital that a person come to know and accept the fundamental truths of life. Without the knowledge of these truths and the attainment of wisdom a person will surely continue to live in an existence of delusion and grasping attachment of things impermanent leading to suffering.

Buddhism teaches the four noble truths. Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by our own delusions and liberation from suffering can only come about by releasing our attachment to delusions. The final truth is that the path to freedom from suffering lies in the Eight-fold path. Right View is wisdom and understanding of the four noble truths. Right View is the point of depart on the long path to enlightenment.

 

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” –  Yoda

 

According to Buddhism the root cause of all suffering (Dukkha) are the mental, emotional and behavioral states that lead to greed, ignorance and hatred. Right View is the wisdom to resolve this imbalance. Wisdom leads to freedom from suffering and the attainment of nirvana through the Eight-fold Noble Path.

 

Teaching View

The fictional Jedi follow a similar journey as the Eight-fold path in their lifelong training. The point of depart is the Jedi Code and knowledge of self and the Force. Without an understanding of this wisdom there is no becoming a Jedi. One cannot apply what one does not understand. In the original trilogy Luke Skywalker grapples with his understanding of the Force under the tutelage of Obi-wan Kenobi and then Yoda. The Jedi Masters tried to instruct Luke in “Right View”.

 

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda “The Empire Strikes Back”.

 

In “The Last Jedi” Luke Skywalker in turn tries to explain the Force to Rey. Rey misconceives of the Force although it is strong in her. She believes that the Force is merely some sort of tool used to “control people and make things float”. Luke senses this and is reluctant to teach her the ways of the Jedi as Rey lacks wisdom and he willingness.

 

Learning the Force

The Force can barely be described in words but it can be sensed and felt. Luke tries to show the Force to Rey by teaching her to let go of preconceived notions and to simply allow her self to fully sense the Force through the natural energy of the Island refuge.  The Force is the energy that resides and flows through and between all things and all life. But it is more than that.

Knowledge of the Force as it is rather than what one would judge it to be is crucial in the training of the Jedi. Without real experience and mentoring, Right View is difficult to attain. Skywalker was taught by Yoda but failed to properly instruct Rey on Ahch-To. Rey must rely solely on her self to fulfil her destiny without the guidance of a teacher.  What Rey lacks in Right View she makes up for with an indomitable spirit. It may not be enough however.

 

The Real World

Real world Jedi have divergent view of what the Force is as much as the Fandom has on Rey. Unlike Buddhism we do not have the Four Noble Truths or the Eight-fold Noble Path but we do have the Jedi Code. Buddhists also have the shared community of wisdom (Sangha). The Jedi have an online community.  The parallels in the recovery community are the 12 Steps and a global support fellowship. Each is a path to a form of enlightenment through wisdom.

In my recovery, Right View was paramount. Facing the truth was life and death. I had to wake up to my addiction and admit it to myself and others. Self Knowledge was essential as was honesty. I had to accept that I was powerless over alcohol and that I could never drink again if I wanted to survive. As harsh as the truth was, the reality was that it fit into the paradigm of the Four Noble Truths. Acceptance and letting go of attachment was the only way forward. The 12 Steps the path to freedom from suffering.

 

Jedi View

The Jedi Code provides a mantra for living based on Right View. The Jedi Code teaches that emotions exist and are part of being human. We choose how to respond to our emotions and should not allow ourselves to be ruled by them.

We should always seek knowledge and accept that we will never have full knowledge. Our ignorance should not be ignored. We should strive to learn.

Being human we care. However we should not allow ourselves to become so passionate about what we care for that we suffer for its sake. We should avoid clinging attachment and be prepared to let go of what we fear to lose. Serenity is the outcome of non-attachment.

In the midst of the storm we can find shelter. We can be the source of calm and equanimity when everyone else is losing their minds. In the chaos we can find harmony.

We do not fear death and accept it as part of the circle of life. All things must return to the Force.

 

Emotion, yet peace.

Ignorance, yet knowledge.

Passion, yet serenity.

Chaos, yet harmony.

Death, yet the Force.

 

Right View is Freedom

No endeavor worth pursuing can be achieved, no meaningful change in our lives possible unless we are willing to accept things as they are; the truth. This is the essence of Right View.

To fail to seek the truth is to surrender to a live of illusion. With an illusionary view of life comes unhealthy attachments and ultimately suffering. We are swimming against the flow of life and we will struggle.

As we learn more about who we truly are the falsehoods we came to accept as real start to fall away. We start to see things clearly and we stop fighting the world. On that high road is the path to freedom.

 

“When this exists, that comes to be:
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this does not exist that does not come to be,
With the cessation of this, that ceases.”
– Buddha

The Gathering

He who faces himself, finds himself.” – The Clone Wars “The Gathering” Series 5 Episode 7

Ilum

In the Clone Wars (Series 5, Episode 7 “The Gathering” ) a group of Jedi Younglings are taken to a the planet of Ilum where they will complete a challenge called the Gathering. The Gathering is a rite of passage in the journey to becoming a Knight. The purpose of the challenge is to unite the young Jedi with the crystals that will form the heart of the light sabres they are expected to fashion on completion of the challenge. Each of the sacred Kyber crystals found within the protected Jedi caverns of Ilum amplify the Force and are tied spiritually to the essence of the Jedi it chooses to wield it. The Light Sabre becomes part of the Jedi as it contains their crystal and harnesses the energy of the Force. This is one of the reasons a personal light sabre is such an important part of a Jedi.

As the six Younglings arrived with Ahsoka Tano they are greeted by Yoda who explains the purpose of their mission. They are to enter the caves and each find the crystal which is matched to them. Yoda does not only want the young Jedi to find their crystals and fashion light sabres. The hidden purpose of The Gathering is to test each individual and push them to face and overcome their weaknesses by working as a team but ultimately each facing the ordeal alone. Like the cave on Dagobah where Luke was tested, the caves of Ilum can sense and manifest the fears and weaknesses of those that enter it. Each Jedi is being judged by his or her actions during the challenge. How they conduct themselves determines whether they pass or fail the test in the next step to becoming a Jedi Knight.

As the Youngling Jedi watched on, Yoda uses the Force to turn the ice wall in to water as the sun rises illuminating the cavernous chamber. The entrance to the Jedi cave opened Yoda warns the Younglings to use their skills and the Force to locate their Kyber Crystals. This they have to do as quickly as possible. As the sun begins to lower the ice wall will form over the entrance closing them in the cave for a full rotation of the planet. Facing their doubts and fears the Younglings enter in to the cave.

 

The March

Twenty of us were gathered in the early morning chill shivering in the dark. There was a hint of the sunrise on the horizon and birds had began to call in anticipation of a new day. The men around  me spoke  in hushed tones. There was a sense of anticipation, dread, fear and hope mixed with bravado. A few smoked last cigarettes and told jokes. Water was guzzled from canteens and a ration energy bar eaten hurriedly. Packs and weapons were propped up nearby having been checked and weighed by the instructors.

This was the final week of Basic Training. There had been thirty two at the start and now we were half of the original Platoon. Recruits had dropped off along the way from injury or failing tests and had been back squadded to Platoons farther back in training. A few had decided to leave the Army completely and requested to cancel their contracts and with some pulling teeth had been granted a dismissal. One had gone AWOL one night and had never returned. Three of the men in our final platoon had been back squadded from earlier platoons. One had been trying to reach graduation for almost a year.

Today was the last test of nearly six months of Basic Training. Over the last few days we had done route marches over 100km of terrain, completed physical fitness tests, completed navigation exercises, run obstacle courses and expended thousands of rounds of ammunition on the range. We had been tested on field craft, first aid, military history and tradition, weapons handling, basic infantry skills and radio communications. Today we had to speed march over 42 kilometers of trails and roads through farmland, heath and forest to a destination where we would be given our corps badges and welcomed in to the family.

We had less than 7 hours to do walk the distance carrying 40 pounds of kit and every one had to cross the finish line as a unit. It was explained that we were being assessed as a team and as individuals. We were to leave no man behind and carry or drag anyone that could not keep up or who fell aside. The pace was going to be brutal because the Officer leading the march was a fitness freak who did these just for the fun of it. Given that none of us had slept that night it was a tall order. It was emphasized, there would be no quitting.

A short safety brief done, the platoon sergeant ordered us to shoulder our packs. I groaned under the weight and cursed as I felt an item stick in to my kidney. Jumping up and down I managed to get it sitting comfortably. I knew within a few kilometers the straps of the pack and webbing would be cutting in to my shoulder stemming circulation. The pouches on my belt would rub at my hips and I’d be feeling heat sores and blisters forming on my feet and crotch. I had tapped up raw patches and was prepared physically and mentally. But I was still anxious and doubted myself.

Over the next few hours there would be nothing but the sound of feet stamping the ground and labored breathing. There would be the urging on by the instructors which would alternate between gentle pressure and frustrated yelling. I would be alone with my thoughts, my self-doubt and fears and would have to push through one pain barrier after the next. This was the final test and the key was to focus on the prize at the end. As light rose above the horizon we set off, silhouettes on the road. I settled in to the pace my eyes locked on the figure in front of me and I started to day dream.

 

The Crystal Hunt

During the hunt for crystals inside the Jedi Cave on Ilum, the young Jedi face their weaknesses one by one and overcome them individually but also as a group. Petro is selfish and impatient and in his haste to find a crystal almost fails the task and also abandons Katooni trapped behind in chamber behind an ice wall. It is only at the last moment that he becomes selfless and rescues Katooni. Petro then works through his task mindfully. He finds wins his crystal and frees himself from the cave. Katooni was at the beginning full of self doubt but her courage and determination sees her overcome her fears. Hesitant at first she scales a sheer rock face to claim her crystal and also finds her self confidence. When Petro abandons her she realizes her fate is sealed and accepts it with equanimity.

Meanwhile the Rodian, Ganodi is despondent in being unable to find a crystal. Her lack of Faith in the Force and her own ability leads her to search aimlessly. It is by finally being present in the moment and turning over the process to the Force that she  is able to identify her crystal and claim it. Ganodi finds Faith and allows the crystal to find her.

Zatt, a Nautolian Youngling also seeks aimlessly and is distracted by technology during his search. Rather than using his intuition he was relying solely on a device to help him find his crystal. Zatt has failed to understand that technology may help but it does not complete missions alone or win wars. His senses and intuition cannot be replaced by a computer. It is only by destroying his personal computer that Zatt is able to open himself to the Force and find his crystal. By doing so Zatt finds his inner intuition and begins to sense with his feelings, not only his thoughts.

The Wookiee Gungi soon finds his crystal in the middle of a frozen subterranean lake partially bathed in sunlight. Attempting to cross the lake Gungi almost falls through the ice. It is apparent that he must wait for the sunlight to recede off the lake allowing it to freeze solid. The Wookie is impatient by nature and forces himself to settle in to meditation and resist the urge to act. As he waits the sunlight recedes from the lake and it freezes over. At last he is able to claim his crystal. Gungi also claims patience as his prize.

Byph, the Ithorian encounters his crystal guarded in a cavern that appears to burn with some malign presence. The Ithorian is terrified of monsters and must muster all of his courage to enter the chamber and take the crystal. When he does he realizes the imagery he had encountered was nothing but the product of his own fears. It was his imagination, the irrational fear of the dark.  Failure is often the product of fear and fear is more often than not completely unjustified. The best way to overcome fear is to face it up close. The “monsters of our imagination” vanish in  to thin air if we refuse to give them power through our mind. Byph does exactly that and also finds his courage.

 

The Last Mile

The platoon was now moving at a canter. My reverie had long been replaced with pain and mental anguish.  Everything was burning. My lungs, legs and back begged for the pace to slow or stop. The last short rest break had been over an hour before and we were now pushing the pace to make up time. A soft rain drizzled down which was a blessing and a curse because it cooled down bodies but made everything wet and heavier. Everyone wheezed around me, coughed and spat as we labored forward. No one had fallen out yet. I knew from the road and passing country we were coming towards the end. We rounded a corner and there it was, two trucks and an ambulance about 400 meters ahead. The finish line! Hearts soared and a cheer went up from the platoon. We sped up in to a run.

We drew closer and the vehicles suddenly roared in to life and drove away disappearing in a cloud of smoke. I stared in disbelief and horror. Someone groaned and swore loudly. Everyone’s hopes were dashed. I wanted to fall to the side and collapse in to a road side drain and cry like a baby. One of the instructor yelled at us “keep Effin moving, this is it, this is why you have been working!”. Soon enough the vehicles reappeared further down the road and we ran up to them gasping for air. Our Platoon leader directed us to drop our packs and form up. We had finished and passed the test.

 

The Tally

In the space of 6 hours and 20 minutes  to complete the march every emotion had swept over my consciousness. I felt as if I had to grapple with every dark and negative thought that visited to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My mind tormented me constantly, egging me to quit. During moments that seemed like hours I hated myself and the men around me and wanted to be anywhere else but there. Self pity filled my senses and I wallowed in the mud of a personal misery. Someone started to falter and fell behind and the instructors fell on him like hyenas, yelling and cursing him to move it as he begged that he couldn’t go on. My heart filled with rage and hate as we were halted, did a 180 degree turn and ran back to him so he could find his place back in the pack before we turned around and resumed the march. Fantasies started to fill my mind, some pleasant and others terrifying and disturbing. My mind screamed through the pain. We were barely at the 20 kilometer mark.

As the march progressed past that half way mark and we came closer to the finish line the mental burden started to ease a bit and I started to get numb to the pain. The time we were making was encouraging and everyone was keeping up the brutal pace. As the mental fog started to lift a ray of sunshine started to filter through. I felt renewed confidence and self belief. Doubt and self pity was replaced with a sense of hope, courage and determination. “I can do this” I thought. We started to encourage each other and those that were suffering more than others. With words of encouragement came a renewed drive to push through the mental and physical barriers of the march. We were working as a cohesive team that cared for each other and wanted each other to succeed.

 

The Will to Succeed

All of the Younglings had made it outside of the Cave except Petro and Katooni. The four Younglings wanted to re-enter the cave but Yoda told them to not to move. There is a time to act and this was not one of them. The Younglings in the cave had to face their peril alone as Jedi often must. Katooni appeared as the ice wall was closing and manages to slip through with inches to spare. Petro was not with her. By rescuing Katooni, Petro had lost precious seconds and was now trapped behind by the ice wall. The cave entrance was sealed. The Younglings stared at the wall in realization of the loss of their friend who would certainly freeze to death in the cave. Yoda and Ahsoka did not seem concerned. A moment later, Petro smashes his way through the ice wall and presents his crystal to Yoda. The ice wall could be broken. It was only impenetrable if the mind allowed it to be.

After the March and back in Barracks, one of the Instructors said that the final march was a mental challenge more than a physical one. The march was intended to test character as much as fitness and force each recruit to face their weaknesses and overcome them. They had no doubt that after six months of training most of us were fit enough to have been able to turn around and march back to the start line if we had been ordered to do so. That was our job. In war time under horrific conditions, wounded and exhausted soldiers are force marched over far worse terrain for days, not hours.

The Sergeant revealed that Recruits did not quit because they physically could not handle training, they quit because they lost the mental game. They quit because they built walls in their minds and sabotaged themselves along the way with self defeating talk and attitudes. The vehicles had been parked a kilometer short of the finish line on purpose. They had been instructed to move on as we approached. The reason for this was simple, a person’s character is revealed when you give them hope and then snatch it away. Spirits that were soaring had now hit rock bottom. This is the moment when most will give up and quit, at the very end of the road. The Sergeant asked us all; “What were you going to do? Keeping going or lay down and die?”. The Instructors wanted to know if they were sending Lambs or Lions to a unit that could go to war.

No Limits

The limits we imagine that we have only exist in our mind. We are actually capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for. Most of the time we are only fighting ourselves and the internal dialogue that says “I can’t do it”, “I’m not good enough” and “This is too hard”. Like the ice wall in the Jedi cave our obstacles only appear impenetrable because we convince ourselves that they are. We can smash through the barriers that we think block our way.  The march was a final test because it revealed to the Instructors and to each recruit their true nature. It tested the mental, emotional  and physical boundaries and exposed weaknesses within the individual. Over a few hours we learned more about ourselves than most of us had in our short lives.

 

Easy to break (the wall) if you have the will” – Yoda (The Gathering)

 

The end of Basic Training was not the end but only the beginning of our journey. Each of us graduated and went on to our units where we faced greater challenges as individuals but also in our teams. Likewise the Gathering on Ilum ultimately led the Youngling Jedi to further trials on their journey to Knighthood. As Jedi each of the Younglings would grow and face their own challenges. The ordeal in the caves of Ilum was but the first.  Each Jedi proved they could go past their self imposed limits.

 

The Gathering

My Platoon was also a Gathering of young men who wanted to be warriors and do greater things. We all wanted to test ourselves. Together we faced a challenge that most would find daunting if not impossible. For many of us it was the hardest and most important challenge we had ever faced. By digging deep and finding the power within we found the key to success. As individuals we fought our own internal battles during the march but we made sure that everyone of us got over the finish line and we finished  as one.   We each won the coveted brevet, our own personal Kyber crystal.

The Jedi Path is a journey in spiritual, mental and physical development and growth. The challenges are increased in intensity and difficulty with one level to the next in order to push the Jedi to the limits of their capability. The intent is not to break the Jedi or push them to quit but to show the Jedi what they can do if they have confidence in themselves and in their training. Fantasy often reflects reality in many ways. The march, the Army and the decades of stumbling through life and my eventual recovery from alcoholism has taught me that life is a similar journey. Along the way we face challenges some hard and some seemingly impossible. Somehow we find a way and even failure carries lessons that we can use. Every day is an opportunity to learn and practice the values we hold dear and the virtues that we value.

The virtues which Yoda offered to the Younglings in the “The Gathering” are the same virtues I aspired to in the Army. They were the values that our Instructors tried to drum in to us during Training and the fuel which got us over the line during the final march. The virtues of patience, quiet determination, fearlessness, confidence, courage, faith, humility, team work, responsibility and selflessness won the Jedi their crystals. These same virtues can help us daily meet our own personal challenges in life if we embrace them. We also recognize that most of the barriers and walls we encounter are only in our minds. We can chose to breakthrough them if we really want to.

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.

Grease the Groove

Strength is a Skill

Pavel Tsatsouline was the Russian fitness guru who popularized the Kettle Bell in the west and trained Soviet Special Forces he also coined the phrase “Grease the Groove”. Pavel argued that “Strength is a Skill” and like any skill it needs to be practiced continuously and consistently.

Greasing the Groove” Pavel argued is training smart, not hard. If an athlete such as a gymnast is trying to increase strength and flexibility one of the ways is to keep training through the day not just during routine training sessions. The Gymnast would practice moves and stretches anywhere and anytime. She may be  waiting for the bus, watching TV or having a break at work. Rather than being idle she takes the opportunity to practice her skills. This keeps the muscles activated and adds to incremental improvements over time. In addition it keeps her mind on the game.

While the rest of us in bed sleeping, the Gymnast and others who “Grease the Groove” are up before sunrise training and practicing to be better.

 

In the Fight

Conor McGregor practices the principles of “Greasing the Groove”. In the lead up to a fight he is constantly training and getting himself ready mentally, physically and spiritually. Between fights he continues to train not only in the gym and in the ring but in all other aspects of his life pushing for continuous improvement. McGregor is never not “Greasing the Groove”, his mindset is geared towards constant and incremental improvement and winning at all costs.

The author of “Rome’s Last Citizen”, a biography of Cato, Rob Goodman keeps a Kettle Bell next to his desk at Huffington Post. Goodman explains that the Stoics practiced a type of “Greasing the Groove”, every couple of hours he arises from his desk and does Kettle Bell reps. The Jedi would also train when ever they got the chance and did not wait for an opportunity, they made them.

 

Anytime, Any Place

I practice calisthenics as my primary form of personal fitness. I love it because I can do it anytime, any place. It costs nothing and it gets me outdoors and keeps me active. At the beginning I could barely manage a few pull-ups and over the months my strength has increased way beyond what I was capable of.

Through the practice of “Greasing the Groove” I have managed to improve form and fitness incrementally. I set small goals through the week and congratulate myself on achieving them. My training sessions are recorded and I make a point of doing a few dips or pull-ups when ever and where ever the opportunity presents itself. These exercises are never done to exhaustion but to about 70% of maximum effort. The break in routine to do 30 seconds of exercise makes the day go faster and keeps me motivated.

 

Anything

Greasing the Groove is a principle we can obviously apply in every aspect of our life. If our aim is to be good at something we should practice consistently. Learning a new language, a musical instrument or a sport like surfing does not come over night. It takes a lot of effort and time. When we see someone who is accomplished in those areas and ask them how they got so good, their answers is always “practice and consistency”.

 

Every habit and faculty is confirmed and strengthened by the corresponding actions, that of walking by walking, that of running by running.” – Epictetus

 

No Excuses

We all want to be better people for our own sake and for others. Demonstrating our principles and core values is one of the ways in which we express the person we want to be. Often we find that wanting to be a better person and actually being that person are two different things. A cognitive dissonance exists; we know we shouldn’t lose our temper or treat people unfairly but we do anyway. Our diet is poor and we know we should eat healthy still we default to the tasty but unhealthy options. We want to change and act in accordance with our values rather than just see them as pillars we aspire to achieving at some point in the future. We should as Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”.

 

Break and Make Habits

Greasing the groove would be taking every challenge and using it as an opportunity to practice our principles. For example instead of getting impatient with someone who is having a difficult time understanding we should remember that once we were learners too. Rather than getting angry or offended when someone insults us, we should make light of it and laugh it off. Words do not harm us unless we choose to allow them to. When we have the urge to act on impulse or emotion we should take a step back and take a moment to collect ourselves and think rationally or seek advice. Instead of grabbing a soda we can drink water, an apple can be eaten instead of a doughnut. The more often we break from old patterns and habits and act in way that is more consistent with our values the more ingrained they become. We form new habits.

 

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs” – AA Step 12

Challenge Yourself

Epictetus (and perhaps Yoda) would challenge us to go a day without anger. Then he would challenge us to go another day and then another without getting angry. They would say “find the counter habit to our anger and use it”. That’s all it takes, find what works and apply it, one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Alcoholics also take a “one day at a time” approach to abstaining from drinking. To consider a life time without drinking can seem daunting and even impossible in early recovery. With enough sober days under our belt we form new habits and our recovery strengthens. We have to continuously “grease the groove”; even now I never say “I will never drink again”.

I only choose to not drink today and let tomorrow look after itself. When I get to tomorrow I will ask the Force to give me strength for the day to meet challenges head on. At the end of the day I reflect on the day and thank the Force for letting me have another sober day. I never forget that my sobriety is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. By practicing my principles daily in all things I am “greasing the groove”.

Being a better person and living a good life is a skill that is not acquired without effort, it is gained through consistent repetition and practice. So “Grease the Groove” where you want to change.

Jedi use the Force for good works

Jedi have special powers and are encouraged to learn the ways of the Force, and to use the Force, but only for good works like training, defense, knowledge, and helping others who are in need.

(33 Jedi Traits)

The Purpose

Every thing we learn has a purpose. We can use experience and knowledge to improve our lives if we choose. The only sin is to be given the benefit of knowledge and not to use it. Worse is to go against what we have been taught and what we know is right.

The purpose of Jedi Philosophy is to seek knowledge, learn and apply it real life. Philosophy should always be a practical as well as an intellectual pursuit. Wisdom is shared so that it may benefit others in some way. To keep that knowledge for ourselves and to never use it is a waste and also a disservice.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

A River flows through

I have worked the 12 Steps now for five years. In comparison to many others it is a short amount of time. My time on the Jedi path has been even less. I have only started to grasp the concepts and lessons that I have learned on this journey. There is still much to learn. I view both as a life journey with no end point.

Faith without Works is Dead” – James 2:24-26

All the knowledge and experience that we attain is useless unless we try to share it in some way through works. We can help others. There are people only starting out on their journey and others who are seeking answers we can provide. Service comes in many forms.

If we can offer something that can help point someone in the right direction then it is worth it. A lake fed by a river that goes no where soon becomes stagnant. A lake that flows on remains vital. We only get to keep what we give away.

“Always pass on what you have learned.” – Yoda

Responsibility

The price of knowledge is responsibility. That responsibility extends to how we use the knowledge and skills we have learned and to what purpose. Do we use our training purely for selfish reasons or do we improve ourselves ultimately for the betterment of others?

One of the greatest misconceptions about military training is the idea that it produces “trained killers”. This is sometimes extended to people who train in martial arts. The belief being that some students will use their acquired skills for nefarious reasons. That martial training somehow glorifies and encourages violence. Certainly there are exceptions but they are rare. In my experience such personalities are quickly shown the door.

We should always remember that we bear a responsibility to use our skills and knowledge for Good Works. Whether the outcomes of our efforts are beneficial or adverse, we should always take ownership and responsibility for our actions.

Whatever happens, take responsibility” – Tony Robbins

 

Motives

In Buddhism the precept of Right Motive is paramount. An adherent seeking training towards eventual enlightenment does so to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings not just her own. It is meant be selfless action.

We must ask ourselves what our motives are. Why am I doing this? For what purpose? Do I really want to change for the better or am I attached to some fantasy? Am I prepared to do the work and put in the effort or just pretend and coast along.

We can only judge our own motives and decide if they are right.

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others.” – Charles Darwin

Right Effort

We only get out what we put in. Consistent application of practices and principles will get results and half measures will avail us nothing. In recovery I have found this to be true. Anything worth doing must be done consistently and with the necessary effort.

In recovery we sometimes see others lapse back in to active addiction. We see it as a loss but we never condemn the person. Any of us could fall at any moment, we cannot be sure that our sobriety is bullet proof. We can have all the tools and all the knowledge at our disposal and years of experience but still come undone. Never grow too arrogant or cock-sure.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Humility

As we improve ourselves and get better our self-confidence grows. We should never use that as an excuse to become arrogant or place ourselves above others. Remaining humble while retaining a healthy degree of self esteem is a virtue.

One does not need to boast and brag about their achievements. We can be inwardly proud of what we have achieved without succumbing to pride. One should never forget why they decided to start the journey in the first place. Was it for self improvement or was to prove themselves to others?

Humility is not thinking less of your self, just thinking of you self less” – CS Lewis

Live your own Life

You should only stop drinking for yourself and no one else” was the first thing someone told me at a 12 Step meeting. I had said that I was getting sober for my family so that I could be a better person for them. The lesson was important. I had made a decision to quit drinking before in order to please others and I had always failed.

It was only when I decided that it had to be my choice alone that I started to get it. No one could do this but me. Our purpose is our own and from that should flow benefits that cascade to others.  Through self betterment comes world betterment. Always get yourself sorted out before you try to save the world.

Don’t let others dictate your life. Take advice and wisdom but make your own choices.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

Timing is everything

With the purge of the Jedi following Order 66 the survivors fled in to exile. Rather than seeking to retaliate immediately and lead a counter attack on the Empire, the Jedi withdrew and let the rebellion take it’s own course. The Jedi chose a path of non-intervention realizing that their time was not at hand and they would need to wait to re-emerge and restore balance to the Force. After 900 years Yoda had the wisdom to accept the turn of events and not to allow self interest to make matters worse.

Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing but wait. Life is not a race. We do not have to rush to achieve our goals. At times we are forced to make a major life changing decision. We must always ask ourselves; “am I ready for that”. The Force will let us now when we are.

A couple of years ago I was offered a Management role and looking at the scope I decided to turn it down for the simple reason that I did not feel ready to accept that level of responsibility. I put off a lot of things over the years and fortunately they were wise decisions.

In exile Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi dived in to their studies and training. Their knowledge of the Force expanded as did their connection with it. When the time came they played a pivotal role in the future of the Galaxy. Deciding not to act can be as important as choosing when to as Yoda revealed to Luke Skywalker on Dagobah.

Decide you must how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could, but you will destroy all for which they have fought and suffered.” – Yoda

Keep Improving

We should never stop learning. Even the most experienced Veteran can learn something new. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Keep seeking and never box yourself in to some dogma that enforces one world view point rejecting all others.

Take what you need and leave the rest. With time comes improvement and change. Old ideas will be replaced by new. We should turn the soil of the mind over once in a while to keep ourselves open and fresh.

Accept criticism with grace and be ready to critique yourself. Always admit mistakes and work on improvement rather than on blame. Ask “how can I fix this” rather than “why did it happen”.

If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.” – Epictetus

Keep Going

I don’t know how one is exactly meant to “Learn the ways of the Force”. The best way I can apply it is to regularly say “Let Go, Let God” and “Thy Will be done not mine”. These are affirmations to direct myself in to the moment where everything happens. We can only do our best every day to be the person we want to be. Turn the outcomes to a Higher Power, the Force. Let the Force work through you.

We can continue to look at where we are lacking  and make adjustments there. We can review our daily practices of being Jedi and assess where work need to be done. When others request help, we give it within our capacity. We can treat people as we expect to be treated. Commit to our principles always and without compromise.

There are things we can control and many more things we cannot. Always focus on where your control resides and accept that a lot of mistakes will be made along the way. Being Jedi is all about the little every day acts. It is about the mundane and the mediocre as much as it is about the big and important things. It is also about falling down but getting up and trudging on.

You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.” – George Lucas

Be True to Thyself

Every one of us must decide what their “Good Works” is. We must all decide how we spend each day and what we want out of life. People generally know what they must do to live a good life. Some of us face a tension between where we want to be going and where we seem to be heading. Remember, you are the Master of your own vessel, the Pilot of your own ship. Take it where you want to go and be true to thyself first.

MTFBWY

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” – Shakespeare

Jedi practice Lightsaber

 

 

Lightsaber dueling is the Jedi’s sport of choice.

Jedi duel with lightsaber replicas to practice living in the present moment. It’s hard to think about the past or the future if you are dueling with a lightsaber! Lightsaber practice actually has a multitude of benefits. Dueling helps improve a Jedi’s coordination, flexibility, and balance because when dueling with a lightsaber, it becomes an extension of you. It’s a good form of cardiovascular exercise too. The real lightsaber only exists in the Star Wars Universe, but for the Jedi the lightsaber is a powerful symbol that represents alertness, mindfulness, agility, discipline, skill and living in the present moment.

(Jedi 33 Traits)

Elegance and Power

Mention Jedi and the first thing that comes to mind is the beautiful and elegant Lightsaber. The primary weapon of defense of the Jedi was a symbol of the order for thousands of years. The Lightsaber was also lethal and bought the Jedi close to their opponent.

Unlike a blaster or a support weapon a Jedi had two choices with the Lightsaber. They could deflect lasers back to their origin striking the opponent alternately they used it as a sword. The Jedi would close in and bring the Lightsaber to the enemy.

A Symbol

The Lightsaber was also a symbol of hope and light. When Lucas invented the Lightsaber perhaps he intended it to be a symbol of the chivalry, courage and decorum of the Jedi. Throughout the Star Wars saga the Lightsaber remains the most poignant symbol of the struggle between good and evil. The Lightsaber inspires awe and wonder as much as the swords of the old Knights did during the Middle Ages.

(The Lightsaber) is the weapon of a Jedi knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire. – Obi-wan Kenobi “A New Hope”.

There is no such thing as a Lightsaber in our Universe, at least not yet. Even if it were created it is unlikely to be used as a close quarter weapon for the simple reason that anything that gets close to a Lightsaber gets burned. It would be too dangerous to wield. Real world Jedi use replicas and schools have sprung up in Europe and the United States that teach the art of Lightsaber dueling.

 

French Cane Fighting

I don’t train with a Lightsaber replica, in fact I don’t even own one.  Fortuitously my martial arts uses a weapon of defense which is as elegant but far less conspicuous than the Lightsaber; the humble cane.

Cane Fighting is an integral part of the French martial art called Savate. The cane was historically used as a training device to teach Officers in saber fighting. With the banning of carrying swords and long knives by the French Emperor the public adopted the cane as a suitable alternative. The cane became an accessory to the French gentleman. Across the channel the British caught on. Canes with hidden blades were sold, some could fire a small caliber round as a last resort.

Today we seldom see people in the street with canes unless they are infirm or elderly. The cane is still taught as a form of defense along with other stick forms however it has limited use as an able bodied person carrying a cane would likely attract as much attention as a person wearing a robe and replica lightsaber.

 

Rapide, Aesthetique et Lethale

My first cane lesson went like this. I was taught the “salute”, “en garde” and the basic strikes, blocks and feints. Then there were the basic foot movements, advancing, moving side ways, retreating. In cane fighting one is always moving, never stationary. It is similar to fencing but far more dynamic.

The French have a codified version in which points are awarded for “touches” and which illegal moves are penalized. The street version (Canne de Defense) however mixes cane strikes with lethal booted kicks and sweeps, grappling, holds and punches. When the opponent is down the handle can be used to pommel the opponent until he is senseless. The hook of a walking cane can be used to lock, hold and sweep an opponent.

The sport known as “Canne de Combat” is probably the closest thing I have encountered to Lightsaber dueling. It is fast, fluid and requires aerobic fitness, agility, stamina and presence of mind.

The cane has served to remind that one should always lead with their sword hand and sometimes it is smarter to “riposte” than “lunge”. It is also handy to know when to withdraw. These lessons are useful in other areas of life as well.

Verbal Fencing

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

 

Our words are also like Lightsabers. They can do harm or bring light and healing. We can us our words to rally people together or we can use them to create rifts and division. Words are powerful. We must know when we use our words that they may cut as deep as a Lightsaber. They may wound others but also ourselves.

The art of communication is mastered over time and with many mistakes. It seems simple enough though. One person speaks, the other person listens and responds.

An ideal exchange involves active listening with feedback and validation. Listen without judgement and keep silent resisting the urge to cross talk. Speak clearly using unambiguous language and are conscious of nonverbal cues such as body language. Seek understanding and we provide the listener with the chance to make their case. Accusations without evidence and value judgements are avoided. Focus on the issue at fault not the person.

Words are like swords, if you use them the wrong way, it’ll turn into ugly weapons.”  – Gosho Aoyama

Sheath your Pride

When we communicate be mindful of Verbal Fencing. In the past I could not stand to be corrected and contradicted. A divergent opinion to my own would spark disagreement, argument and resentment. In recovery I have learned to swallow my pride and avoid tit for tat exchanges. An argument should remain objective and not intended to hurt. There are no points for “touché”, “riposte” and “counter attack” in an argument. No one wins in a bout of verbal fencing.

Always remember that the tongue is the only part of the body which gets sharper with use.

 

The Lightsaber within

We may not carry a Lightsaber on our belt but we can carry one in our heart. For me the symbol of recovery is three lightsaber joined in to a triangle and surrounded by a circle. The Lightsabers represent Humility, Respect and Temperance, the circle represents Faith. These are my cardinal principles which I measure myself against. They are my swords with which I use to recover and improve every day.

What is your Lightsaber? How do you use it?

 “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints from the marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

Jedi stay physically fit

Jedi stay physically fit for many reasons.
Jedi stay physically fit in order to accomplish their mission in life. Fitness is a part of Jedi philosophy, but the level of fitness depends on the individual. Fitness effects your mental health and over-all well being.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Jedi Fit

Jedi Philosophy is one of the few practical philosophies eastern or western outside of the martial arts which have a strong emphasis on the importance of physical fitness. Most other philosophies focus on the mental and spiritual state of the individual and overlook the holistic nature of the being must encompass the body. Jedi Philosophy considers spiritual, mental, emotional and physical well being. A holistic approach is taken that focuses on each element. To focus on the spiritual or the mental without training the body is counter intuitive to the Jedi. The elements are treated as one.

For obvious reasons the physical fitness was important to the fictional Jedi. The physicality of the Jedi trials is an example of the level of fitness required to be a Jedi. Light sabre combat skills and the ability to move quickly and with instinct were all part of Jedi training. The Jedi had incredible endurance. If we compare the fitness of a fictional Jedi to the real world we would have to look to professional athletes or top tier elite special force operators to come even close.

 

(Source: Lucasfilm)

Get Motivated

Obviously few of us are going to aim for a supreme level of fitness to the level of an elite athlete or a SF operator. For a start most of us don’t have the time to dedicate to that level of training. We also don’t have professional instructors, nutritionists and allied medical professionals like physiotherapists and exercise physiologists to support our progress. That’s no excuse though. Many of us sitting on the couch right now or eating a doughnut in front of the computer know we can do something for our health and fitness.

At this minute I am glancing out the window looking at the sky for the tell tale signs of rain. I’m asking myself “is it going to rain? Should I go to the park to train?” The problem many of us is motivation. Body may be willing but mind makes excuses. If we can get our mind willing, the body will follow.

Keep it personal

I can share my fitness regime but it’s not for everyone. Most of what I do is a mixture of Army PT meets Street Workout. I run once or twice a week up to 5 miles and train most days doing body weight exercises. Occasionally I do free weights in a gym or a session of high intensity interval training which is a series of exercises followed by kickboxing on a heavy bag. The regime works for me.

How you choose to keep fit is up to you. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a minimum of 5 days of moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or more such as walking or light exercise. More vigorous or intense aerobic exercise should be undertaken 3-4 days a week for 25 minutes.

The AHA also recommends 2 sessions a week of strength building activity. These are guidelines and individual programs will vary depending on age, overall health and personal goals. If you plan to run a marathon your fitness goals and training will differ to starting a weight lifting regime to bulk up or lose fat and put on lean muscle.

 

Just Do it

Physical exercise for me has been a panacea in my recovery along with the 12 Steps. When I got sober I was hypertensive and overweight.  I looked unhealthy. With exercise I started to get my blood pressure and weight under control and the activity made me cope better with the symptoms of withdrawal. Exercise has kept me sane as well as fit. Some days I just want to get away so I will go for a run.

Exercise allows us time to process our emotions and clear the mind. Endorphins are released and we feel better. Our mood starts to improve and life becomes more enjoyable and fun. Park Run is an example where running brings both fitness and social benefits. You can meet people and have fun. Who needs a bar to meet people unless its the local park pull up bar?

The health benefits of physical exercise cannot be understated. Exercise will not only change your life it might even save it and give you decades of quality life to look forward to.

These days I am as fit as I was in the Army around 25 years ago. Age is an illusion as are your self imposed limits. Men and women of all ages and body types can turn their life around by simply deciding to take action. Every day I see incredible results and lives transformed. The ball is in your court.

Ok the sun is out and I have time to do something. I’m off to the park to get some reps in on the bar. Get moving Jedi!