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!

Jedi practice Martial Arts

Most Jedi know at least one form of martial arts or self-defense.

(33 Jedi Traits)

It goes without saying that the fictional Jedi were accomplished Martial Artists. One only has to remember the epic battles between Yoda and Count Dooku or Darth Sidious to appreciate the martial powers of the Jedi. Like the old Shaolin Kung Fu Monks harnessing chi, the Jedi could also harness the Force to aid them in self defense.

Most real world Jedi train in one form of martial arts or another, however while it is not a requirement it is encouraged for personal growth. The advantages are obvious; increased focus and attention, self discipline, agility, strength and coordination.

In addition martial arts provide practitioners with a form of self defense to use when needed. It is not about learning to beat someone up. In Martial Arts I have learned that the best form of self defense is not to get in to a fight in the first place. Martial arts provide a structured platform for emotional, physical and spiritual development.

Committing is Hard

Prior to getting sober the extent of my martial arts was the “hand to hand combat” taught in the Army and through general “bar room brawling”. I had tried to join various clubs. I figured that the self discipline, commitment and physical conditioning of Martial Arts would keep me out of bars and trouble.

Being an alcoholic is to be adverse to commitment, particularly when it gets in the way of discretionary drinking time. Consistency was never my thing. I showed up to training once or twice half drunk and had to be sent off the mats by disgusted instructors. In short time I would quit and move on.

Never look Back

Anything worth doing takes commitment and practice. We must dedicate our time and effort if we want results. I see recovery as similar to advancement in a martial arts discipline. We start off at white belt, completely new. The white belt is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge and skills, not booze. Our training starts and we grapple with the basics and try to find our feet. We view the old timers with awe. They give us advice. We advance one small step at a time. Some people decide to quit. We stay.

As our confidence advances we move to Yellow and then Blue belts. Occasionally we stumble and fall over, we get knocked on to our ass but we get back up and keep going. More people disappear. We graduate to Green Belt, that’s a tough one. Still we learn more about recovery and ourselves we have been sober for years now. We start guiding others on their journey as we are becoming old timers too. We reach Brown Belt  and as we claim contented sobriety we become Black Belt. Having come so far, we never look back.

What I have learned

At three months sober I joined a  Martial Arts club and continue to train. Some nights I come home bruised and battered. My middle aged body feels like it has been hit by a bus. There are times when I don’t feel like going but I know that I’ll later regret it if I don’t. I know that every training session we go to we come out better not worse. In the time I have practiced I have learned some important lessons:

1. Anything is possible

Training has taught me that we don’t know what we are capable of until we try. We can sit at home and convince ourselves that we won’t be any good and make excuses. The other option is to just get out there and do it. You may surprise yourself.

2. Be Humble

As a younger alcoholic me I would go to a Dojo and end up getting laid out on the floor by another student. The problem was my Ego. I refused to leave it at the door. Being arrogant and cocky I needed to prove myself and when I stepped a little too far over the line I was quickly reminded by a senior rank to respect others. Martial Arts teaches respect and humility. We leave our Ego and problems at the door.

3. Learn from Mistakes

Some nights you learn new skills. Other nights you seem to have two left feet and cannot get it. To look silly is fine as long as we are trying our best it doesn’t matter. Even the most talented Martial Artist struggled at some point. Learn to embrace failure as a lesson. Keep trying.

4. Control Fear and Aggression

Training hurts and can be confronting. I have learned that it is OK to have fear and aggression but to channel it in the right way. Control of fear and aggression is a must in Martial Arts. For success in recovery it is imperative.

5. Pace yourself

Sparring teaches a Fighter strategy, pace and control. A two or three minute round does not sound like much until you step in to the ring. Getting control of breathing, pacing yourself and keeping presence of mind is essential to making it to the next round. Scenario drills also teaches all round awareness which is needed in real life confrontations on the street.

The beauty of Martial Arts is we can translate the skills and attitudes that are developed in to every aspect of our lives. Most who practice for years will tell you it has made them a better person mentally, physically and spiritually.

A way of Life

They say a Black Belt is a White Belt who never gave up. Some forms of Martial Arts view the Black Belt, or equivalent, as the start of a life as a martial artist. The training never ends, there is always more to learn. Being a vessel filled one must also pass on what one has learned and so the cycle continues. Martial arts is a metaphor for life.

We should view every day of our lives in a similar way. Some days we don’t feel like getting out of bed to face the day. Sometimes life smacks us around and we end the day physically and mentally exhausted and emotionally shattered. We somehow get through it “one day at a time”. Every challenge we face and get through makes us tougher and stronger.

Aim for your Black Belt, whatever it is. Know what you want to get out of life and go and get it. If you choose to take up Martial Arts, best of luck. My only regret is that I did not take it up seriously earlier and stick with it.

Jedi serve the Living Force

Trait 3/33

Jedi serve the Living Force and never serve the dark side, in any way, shape or form. Jedi are serious about their service to the Force, and are not thrill seekers or adventure seekers. They are serious about following the Jedi teachings in their own lives, because the Jedi teachings lead to personal growth, and help them to be conscious of their connection to the Living Force, which is within.

(The 33 Jedi Traits)

This statement provides a number of key requirements to being considered a Jedi. One does not entertain the Dark Side, we take the path seriously, this is not a game but a way of life. Practiced consistently the Jedi Path will lead to spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health and well being. The Trait provides a point of reference for those embarking on the Jedi Path.

I could just as easily take this comment and apply it to the 12 Steps.“The only requirement is a desire to recover from alcoholism. This means abstaining from drinking. Treat the program seriously as to fail could mean relapse and insanity or death. Integrating the principles of recovery in to all personal affairs the 12 steps becomes a way of life. If practiced  consistently the principles will lead to recovery and personal and spiritual growth. Life will take on new meaning”. This has been true for me so far.

I serve the Living Force  when I apply the underpinning principle that my recovery is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. That is, I serve the Force in the manner which I choose to live and be Jedi.

 

The Noble Way

The first two of 33 Traits identify the cause of suffering and the solution to our suffering. The Dark Side points to suffering and the Force reveals redemption. The statement “Jedi serve the living Force” means simply to live in accordance with our values every day. This Trait reveals the simple truth, that if we live in accordance with our principles we will grow as a person. To put this in to real world context let us consider the fundamental teachings of Buddhism the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths teach us that we all suffer, our suffering is caused by our attachment to impermanent states and things. Freedom from attachment ultimately leads to freedom from suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path provides the road map that must be followed to free one’s self from suffering. This is achieved through application of virtues and temperance in our lives, cultivating self discipline and practicing mindfulness and meditation. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation.

 

The Road Map

Being a real world Jedi does not mean that we must enter in to Monastic Life and take vows of service, poverty and chastity. Being a practicing Buddhist does not mean we have to either. Many people imagine the 12 Steps to be some sort of cult with secret handshakes and rigid dogma. It is nothing of the sort. Buddhism, the Jedi Path and 12 Step recovery are essentially personal paths that we follow on our own two feet.

All these paths have one thing in common. They all provide a road map that take different routes but all end up at essentially the same destination; freedom from suffering. If we have a map but do not embark on the journey or decide to head off road or  take another direction we will not arrive at the destination. If we stick to the road map and take our time but remain consistent in our practice we see progress and in time we get to where we are going.

Arriving at the destination we set off again seeking new milestones, new challenges. Over time we improve and become better. We leave behind ideas and things we have outgrown or no longer need. We pick up fresh ideas and tools along the way. This is the cycle of continuous improvement, an endless cycle of planning, doing, checking and correcting.

Our goal is progress not perfection as reality teaches us that perfection in life is an unattainable goal. We should only compare ourselves to who we were yesterday. Compare ourselves to others and we usually find ourselves lacking or we develop an arrogance that eventually trips us up.

 

An endless Journey

Metaphorically speaking recovery and the Jedi Path is a life journey there is no “Finish Line” that proclaims we have arrived. I can’t plod along for years and get to a point and say “I’m cured” and decide that’s it I can put all of this 12 Step stuff away, find my slippers and a bottle of Port. In short time I will be rudely awakened to the fact that I shouldn’t drink. I will soon be back where I started if not worse.

A philosophy for life is by definition “for life”, we live it day by day, one day at a time. We cultivate our practice and harvest the rewards as we move through life. By practicing this philosophy I serve the Force. Calling myself Jedi is optional. Doing so helps remind me constantly where I am headed and keeps me on track.

 

Keep at it

The beauty of the 12 Steps is that they never ever end. We can work them, work them some more and keep going. The Steps can be worked formally with a Sponsor or alone. The real work happens through the little things that we do every day.

The Jedi Path is no different. There are online courses that one can complete if they have the time and inclination. Some Jedi groups offer rank and hierarchy and knighthood ceremonies. A new documentary called “American Jedi” is to soon be released which reveals that side to the community. However anyone can be a Jedi if they commit to the Path and stick to it as a philosophy for life. It is a philosophy for life, not just a “in case of emergency” tool kit. We also only get out what we put in.

Ask yourself; “what can I do to improve myself today?”. If you are in a 12 Step program ask “what step am I on today and where do I need to work?”. Those who commit to the Jedi Path should also ask themselves “am I being true to the Jedi Code and which of the Jedi virtues and practices do I need to apply more effort?” . Keep climbing the stairs, go to work and serve the Force by being the best version of yourself that you can be.

Practice what you Preach

“Prove your words by your deeds.” – Seneca the Younger

The only worth a philosophy has is whether it can be applied in life. If our philosophy can be applied then we should practice what we preach. A practical philosophy means not only knowing what must be done but actually doing it. Without practice, a philosophy is conceptual and not a tool. We can sit in a university café (or online forum) for hours and debate the merits of one philosophy over another. One can bring forward the moral and ethical strong points of their chosen philosophical flavor but unless they have practiced it in real life then there is nothing much to say.

We go to a doctor or psychiatrist if we are feeling physically or mentally unwell. A psychologist or therapist is visited for counseling. Some of us visit a Priest, Rabbi or Spiritual Advisor to help us grapple with problems or questions. Who these days goes to a Philosopher for advice on how to live in accordance with a particular philosophy? We do not live in ancient Greece or Rome where we can engage in conversation with Socrates, Epicurus, Zeno, Seneca or Epictetus. We will not find Stoics, Skeptics or Ascetics to confer with and take away a formula for living.  If I were to walk in to the Philosophy Department of the local University and ask a professor for some sage advice on how to manage my affairs, handle cravings or deal with emotions he would probably not be able to offer anything practical.

The Philosophers

The ancients had words of advice on all these matters. Today we have many philosophies to choose from. The libraries are full or books written by the classic, renaissance, contemporary and modern philosophers. One can easily create an account on an online forum and engage in debate on Philosophy. The Stoics hold an annual conference and a “Stoic Week”*. The event draws people from around the world in an online experiment on living like a Stoic for a week. I participate in the event and continue to apply many of the practices as part of my own Jedi training throughout the year. You only get out of philosophy what you put in.

I consider myself a student of Jedi Philosophy. This means not only do I read widely on Jedi Philosophy but I broaden my knowledge in others as well. I participate in online forums and read posts to understand what other followers of the Jedi path think and how they live their lives.  The fiction is also there to draw inspiration from. Jedi philosophy is a recent phenomena and an evolving trend. The focus of Jedi Philosophy is similar in many ways to the ancient schools of philosophy. Students are encouraged to study and question but most of all to practice what they have learned every day. The Fictional Jedi was all about action and deeds, not words.

Deeds not Words

This emphasis on a practical philosophy for life agrees with recovery from addiction. The 12 Steps is also all about action. By accepting our disease and embracing certain principles in to our life we embark on a program of recovery that requires action. Reading books, speaking to people and attending meetings is not enough. Recovery occurs outside of that, in the day to day things that we do. We commit to mapping our faults and doing something about them. Addressing the past and seeking to make amends. Action includes daily maintenance of our practice through meditation, prayer and study. Service to others is also a form of direct action that helps us.

It is the same for any philosophy. One can say they are a Stoic but yet live like a Hedonist and allow their emotions and desires to govern their every decision. We are judged by our actions not our words. I can not say I am Jedi if I am rude and obnoxious to people, dishonest in my dealings and commit illegal acts like theft or physical assault no matter what the reason. Would I be able to stand up in a meeting and tell people I follow the 12 Steps and the principles of honesty and humility if in fact I continue to drink when I’m not there?

You are the Master

We can argue and debate about how one should act and what one must do to live a “Good Life” however unless we do these things none of that matters. It is only a rhetorical practice. No one is watching us all the time but ourselves. If there is a “God” and it resides within then the old scripture which tells us “God knows all that we do” is true. It may not be some deity outside of us looking down but our own inner conscience. If I question whether I am consistent with my personal philosophy of life usually checking in with my heart reveals the truth. We can fool ourselves in to thinking that we are something but deep down we know we are faking it. We can be dishonest with others, but to be dishonest to our self is far worse.

If I am unsure of how I must think, speak or act in any given situation there is usually no sage standing by. There are books and forums but usually we must decide on how to proceed from advice given in general terms. We must also filter what works for our unique circumstances and what doesn’t. I know what my principles and values are; I know which virtues to practice when faced with challenges. My philosophy for life gives me that tool kit and I decide how to use apply the tools.  There is a general rule of thumb when we get stuck or are caught with our pants down; we can react and possibly go against our principles or we can stick to the basic rule that Marcus Aurelius set him self every day:

If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it

Jump In

The practice of Kabbalah teaches students to just go out and practice; “first do it, then understand”. Don’t get lost in the detail or the semantics just pick up the tools and get to work. Trying to learn everything there is to know before practicing means never practicing. One must simply jump in. I did not wait to read the Big Book and the 12×12 and a myriad of other literature before I decided to abstain from alcohol, I did that first and then read the books.

At the moment I am trying to learn the guitar. A part of me thinks that I will be able to learn simply by reading the books, understanding theory and watching some you-tube videos. Unless I pick up a guitar and play I will never learn. Philosophy is no different. Even mistakes are useful, in fact making mistakes is essential.

Go out and practice being the person you want to be. There is no need to be a Philosopher or even to have a firm philosophy of life. Simply be the person you want to be and the rest will fall in to place. Practice what you Preach.

*http://modernstoicism.com/stoicon-stoicism-conference/

Experience

 

During a lull in the battle to hold the planet Christophsis from an invading Separatist Droid Army, Ahsoka Tano is bought to Anakin Skywalker and introduced as his Padawan. Ahsoka Tano is spirited, feisty and keen, she is also trained. However she lacks experience and is seen as a burden by Anakin. Palmed off to Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano learns that in order to survive as a Jedi she will need to benefit from the experience of others.

So you’re a Captain and I’m a Jedi then technically I outrank you right?” – Ahsoka Tano to Captain Rex

In my book, experience outranks everything” – Captain Rex, 501 Legion

Then if experience outranks everything, I better start getting some” – Ahsoka Tano

The Value of Experience

The Jedi were seen a leaders and advisors not just in war but also in diplomatic and political spheres. Many would argue that the Jedi intrusion in to the governance of the Republic was akin to a theocracy. Interference by a religious elite at best. In fact it was no such thing.

The Jedi only offered their assistance to the Republic when it was asked. Jedi were skilled and experienced in diplomacy, etiquette, military strategy and organization and served the Republic. Jedi were invaluable as Advisors and Leaders. Most Jedi were also exceptional fighter pilots. What made the Jedi so invaluable was their versatility, discipline, mission mind set and most of all their experience. Jedi were doers. They learned by doing not by pretending and bluffing.

The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein

Inexperience

Experience and mastery was seen as vital to achieving Knighthood in the Jedi Order. The Jedi were a meritocracy; the Council assigned missions and tasks that matched the competency and experience of an individual. Throwing an inexperienced Jedi into a complex and dangerous mission was avoided until the Jedi was considered ready. This is an ideal we rarely see in the Real World.

Often we see people assume roles and responsibilities that surpass their experience. They may be qualified and have knowledge but they lack experience in application in the real world. Sometimes we also see people leap frog past others in rank or title. Through good political play, favoritism or sheer ambition they have ascended the ladder quickly.

Experience is the teacher of all things” – Julius Caesar

Muppets

In the Army we had the type who had the rank but not the experience. We called them Muppets. They usually signaled their ineptitude eventually and were often “managed” out. In some cases truly incompetent individuals were given responsibilities that included leading men in to situations they barely understood let alone had experience in. Failure in that responsibility could cost lives.

Oftentimes the individuals who held on to their roles did so by getting their way and removing obstacles. Otherwise they were protected by the “Higher Ups” for reasons that included right family and schooling.

You cannot create experience, you must undergo it” – Albert Camus

The Conscious Incompetent

In my unit I was trained as a corpsman. In the role of Patrol Medic my job was to attend to a squad. If someone got shot or kicked an IED the job fell on me. When I got back from the course I marched up to my Squad leader and told him I was qualified but inexperienced and in my view “not ready”. He thanked me for my honesty and said with time and confidence competency would come. “Just do your best and never be too proud to say you don’t know or to ask for help” he said.

The last comment was reference to some of the Officers who having been through University and Officer school considered themselves above asking ranks below for advice. They saw rank as more important than experience.

Experience is the one thing you cannot get for nothing” – Oscar Wilde

The Evolution of Competency

In almost any group you get people who fall in to one of four stages of competency. There is the unconscious incompetent who does not know what he doesn’t know. In a high stakes game these guys are dangerous. They believe they know it already and have nothing more to learn. Certain Officers fell in to this category.

The conscious incompetent is the guy who knows what he doesn’t know and recognizes his limitations. I was that guy taking the job as Patrol Medic. Everyone was aware and while they weren’t happy they respected my right to ride with trainer wheels. I was given a chance to prove myself.

The conscious competent is the person who knows what he knows and is continuously learning to get better. We see demonstrated proficiency. The last stage is Mastery, this is the unconscious competent. The level of skill and experience surpasses proficiency. They have reached the upper percentile in expertise. People in this category actually don’t know how awesome they are at what they do.

“Experience is the most brutal teacher. But you learn, my God do you learn” – CS Lewis

Easy does it

In recovery it is important to know which stage in our evolution we are. By taking the view that one is ready to test the limits of their physical, mental and spiritual carrying capacity before they are ready is to risk failing in recovery. There is a reason we say “easy does it” and “one day at a time”. Recovery as in a profession or art is mastered over time, slowly and with experience.

Where are you at this moment? Are you competent? Do you have the experience required or is it built on over confidence? As my Sergeant said to me all those years ago, “don’t be too proud to admit you don’t know, don’t be too proud to ask for help”.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man” – Heraclitus

Needs

 Maslow’s Theory

The theory of motivational needs by Maslow states that there is a hierarchy which must be ascended like a ladder in order for an individual to achieve higher level needs. Simply stated, basic needs like food, water, shelter must be met first. The need for a safe and secure environment is followed by the need to be in healthy relationships, family and friends. The self worth of a person, their self esteem is also a need that must be met in order for them to have the confidence to achieve self actualization, the realization of one’s potential. Viktor Frankl suggested the highest need was to rise above the ego through self transcendence or enlightenment.

Alcoholism tends to skew our hierarchy of needs. The compulsion to drink will over ride basic needs such as nutritious food, sleep and basic health care. We often put our safety and security at risk and as well as our relationships. Being riddled with self pity, self hate, fear and anger our self esteem is near to non-existent or presents as a facade of arrogance and “big shotism”. Our primary need is satisfying our addiction. Everything else falls in to some fumbled order that rejects Maslow’s theory.

The Recovery Ladder

In recovery I’ve become acutely aware of my personal hierarchy of needs. Some times they seem selfish. I often ask myself if I’m putting my own needs before others. Is my recovery so important that the way I live my life is neglectful of others. Have I replaced one addiction for another in the form of a program of recovery? Sometimes I get confused as to why my need to self actualize and improve through the daily practices of meditation, study and physical exercise seems to be at odds with loved ones. Even with compromise there seems to be a tension. Am I missing something? What are my needs and how to I reconcile those with the needs of others? Am I being selfish and self centered?

In recovery we adopt a principle of “Live and Let Live” and “Let Go and Let God”. We surrender much of the control we once struggled to maintain. Trying to control people, places, things and circumstance put as at odds with the flow of life and when we didn’t get our way we drunk to get even. We grew resentful and bitter that the world did not conform itself to our expectations. Then in recovery we focus on self improvement and are left feeling guilty asking if self improvement is self indulgence.

The Me Reality

Look around you. Everyone is doing what they want. Not only that they are making their cake, eating it and posting the entire event on Face Book or Instagram. Right now there is a global phenomenon of highly visible but false self actualization going on. People have become so fixated in gaining acceptance and validation that they follow fads or what ever is trending that day and fish for likes for everything from the mundane to the insane.

Society is obsessed with instant gratification and entitlement. The effort required to achieve real self esteem and self actualization is sabotaged by a pervasive attitude of easy access and discouragement. People want the gains but they are not prepared to work for it and are confused when life does not grant them their wishes. In the perpetual search for approval and validation they will accept ‘Likes” on Social Media as a surrogate. From the moment kids were given “participation trophies” for showing up and the words “winning and losing” were banned from school age competition we created a society that screams “me, me and me”.

The Other Side

It seems people are too busy judging each other or trying to validate themselves on social media. They have forgotten the motivating factor behind their actions or it has been reduced to “Likes”. Does it really matter what other people think? Do we really need to be so obsessed with widespread approval?

What happens on the other side of the street is not as important as what happens on our side. Sobriety is largely contingent on how we feel about ourselves and how we think moment to moment. If our words and actions are consistent with our personal values then we are on steady ground. When we allow conflicting needs and expectations to confuse our own primary goal of staying sober and we start to fall off course.

Jedi Needs

The needs of a Fictional Jedi were very clear and very simple. Basic needs were met without fuss or fanfare. Jedi would eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when tired and seek shelter from the elements when required. They dressed to suit the environmental conditions they expected to operate in. The safety and security of others was more commonly placed before their own. Jedi were still cautious when required and did not take unnecessary risks. With the exception of Anakin and one or two others, the Jedi were mindfully daring but not foolhardy or reckless. Decades of rigorous training meant that actions and reactions were drilled in to them.

The Jedi formed close bonds with their own and with other sentient beings. While grasping attachment to individuals was not allowed they were encouraged to form positive and productive relationships with all life forms. The Jedi knew that all life is interconnected and belongs to the Force and they identified strongly to that non-dualistic belief.

Jedi naturally had self esteem and self confidence that comes with achieving excellence. The Jedi Order was a meritocracy and Jedi were promoted from Padawan to Knight and finally to Master and Council Member when they demonstrated they were ready. There were no free lunches and no short cuts.

Self actualization was the outcome of Jedi training. The harsh conditions under which they trained and operated, the supportive nature of the Jedi Order and the focus on personal development and self improvement through training, mentorship and experience produced individuals who were mentally, physically, emotionally  and spiritually highly evolved. The Jedi could also reach transcendence and unite with the Force.

Realities and Needs

The goal of “world betterment through self betterment” in Jedi Philosophy strongly advocates self actualization. Real World Jedi are expected to demonstrate virtues and qualities in all their affairs which are consistent with the Jedi Code. This means that real world Jedi, like the fictional Jedi we take inspiration from, have the following qualities:

  • they are tolerant and accepting of others. Being easy on others but hard on themselves;
  • they are humble without being self deprecating or lacking self esteem;
  • they seek meaningful and rewarding relationships based on mutual respect for each other needs and opinions;
  • take a realistic and objective view of life that understands that good and bad things happen;
  • understand that hard work and effort is needed to get results;
  • accept that sometimes we do not get what we want;
  • simplify and take a minimalist approach to possessions and wants;
  • can be self reliant and not have to depend on others for needs including approval and validation;
  • show creativity through expression or through action;
  • take an active interest in the environment and community, thinking global, acting local;
  • Jedi seek practical and sane solutions to problems as they arise.

When I look at this list I see many of the virtues and principles that underpin the 12 Steps. Being a 12-Stepper and a Jedi is not that much different. We know who we are and we know what our needs are and we can define them. Our hierarchy of needs are re-established. We take care of ourselves and care for others. We build meaningful and deep relationships. Our self esteem improves over time and we remain humble. With spiritual growth we  go beyond single spiritual experiences and start to realize transcendence.

We seem different to other people, because we are; we are survivors. Having values and principles that keep us sober is not a drawback, it is a great asset in these times of instant gratification and discouragement. Of all the people out there, it is those that have survived the trials of life be it trauma, tragedy, addiction or mental illness that truly understand the climb up the ladder of the hierarchy of needs. The blessing is we can use that to pass a hand down and help others up.

Commitment

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” – Yoda “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”.

The Noble Path

In the Noble Eight Fold Path of Buddhism the virtue of commitment is inferred twice. Right Resolve is the first practice and is the act of making a conscience decision and acting on it. This may mean renunciation of a former way of life and the acceptance of a new path. Old habits and modes of thought are put aside and replaced with a philosophy and system of belief.  The mendicant would be adopting a new way of life which would involve renunciation of property, family ties and romantic love.

The second practice is Right Effort, having accepted the new way of life and training, the mendicant then applies consistently the principles underpinning their practice. This may include meditation, mental discipline, physical training, study and devotion.

Right Resolve and Right Effort both demonstrate commitment.

Commitment was crucial to the Jedi. Right Resolve was taking the vow to enter the Jedi Order and accepting the Jedi Code as the tenet governing behavior. As the Jedi progressed through training their resolve was continuously tested. The Jedi Trials were used as rituals to assess the progress of the Jedi Padawan on their journey to Knighthood.

The Trials of Life

Trial of Skill, the Trial of Courage, the Trial of the Flesh, the Trial of Spirit, and the Trial of Insight were used to test the Jedi. In “The Empire Strikes Back” Luke Skywalker undergoes Jedi Trials before he leaves his training early to rescue his friends and confront Darth Vader.

Right Effort was applied throughout the life of a Jedi to the moment of death. Every thought, word and act of the Jedi was to be in accordance with the Jedi Code. Mindfulness in every aspect of life was applied. The effort  to achieve this would require great commitment and self discipline.

Commitment to a Philosophy of Life takes effort and resolve. Being Jedi is not easy. Applying valued principles from the Buddha, Jesus and the Stoics takes self discipline. I sometimes wonder if I’m not playing some joke on myself and then I remember that one of the virtues is  also humor.

“If you commit to philosophy, be prepared at once to be laughed at and made the butt of many snide remarks. “ – Epictetus, Enchiridion 20.

Effort is Rewarded

Commitment is also tested in the real world. Our resolve and effort in staying sober is tested daily. We are assessed by our loved one’s, our friends and our employers. In the Army some of the guys I served with applied to enter in to the elite special forces community. The selection courses they completed were in many ways like the Jedi trials. They were continuously tested for their physical, mental and emotional fitness, their ability to make decisions under pressure, their perseverance and resolve and ultimately their character was under the microscope.

Those who failed returned devastated. Those who passed were moved on through their training as SF Operators and rarely seen again. When they were encountered they seemed different and they were different, they were better versions of themselves. I stood in awe and respect at what they had achieved.

I now stand in awe at what I have achieved in the last few years of recovery. My life is “a daily reprieve” and I owe it to the “Grace of God”. My effort was only to hold up my end of the bargain and not pick up a drink. I also made the commitment of “drop the rock” through Steps 6 and 7 and let go of my character faults and live in accordance with my values. This takes effort. I know what it takes and when I encounter another recovering addict I know the pain they have gone through and I stand in awe and respect.

“I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent. As simplistic as this may sound, it is still the common denominator separating those who live their dreams from those who live in regret” – Tony Robbins

One Day at a Time

Commitment starts at Step 1. The moment we admit our disease and powerlessness over our addiction is the moment we commit to taking the first step to claiming the power to recover. What does it take? Everything. Do you need Right Resolve and Right Effort? Everyday and “one day at a time”.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. – Corinthians 15:10

The commitment required to stay sober and to live a life of continuous self improvement is by its very nature a hard slog. We trudge along in our recovery, one step at a time, one moment at a time. In our way appear obstacles and pit falls. We go down and we get back up and we keep going. Sometimes our mind is screaming for us to stop, yet out hearts and something more powerful within us keeps us going. We keep going because to stop and to quit is to die.

Go Hard

Every day we are on selection. Everyday we are working for our special forces tab. We get up, we get through the day, we thank our Higher Power and we claim renewed strength to get through another day. It takes effort and commitment all day every day.

The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment…there is no abiding success without commitment” – Tony Robbins
Your only limit is the boundaries that you set yourself. You are far more powerful than you know and it shows with your commitment in everything that you do. Today when you get up, own the day, commit to that and gut it.
Hooah!” – Army Slogan

Leadership

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

A Rare Quality

To be Jedi is to be a Leader. Jedi choose to lead even if they are reluctant at first to do so they know it is their duty and responsibility as Jedi. The Jedi lead by example not by Force.

The Fictional Jedi were given leadership roles in the Republic. Positions of authority were granted as part of the Jedi title. A young Padawan student might have been given command of a battalion of Clone Troopers and was expected to lead them in to battle. The reality of war service demanded that they be willing to put aside hesitation, control their fear, reject their doubt and do their duty. They had to put the mission and the welfare of their troops above themselves. Quite a demand!

On our world I have met barely 21 year old men and women in the Israeli Defense Force with the rank of Captain or Major. Their dedication to duty and willingness to sacrifice themselves and lead others from the front is what makes their Defense Force and the country so united, resilient and strong. The young Young Kurdish female fighters of the YPG also lead men into battle against the Islamic State fanatics today. Their bravery, optimism, love of life and courage has gained the admiration of the world and continues to as they march to final victory.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” – Alexander the Great

False Leadership

Being Alcoholic and arrogant I had a false sense of superiority and an inflated ego that demanded respect without earning it. I expected simple length of service and appointed rank sufficient to define me as a leader. My subordinates at work may have obeyed my orders but it was out of fear and with resentment.

In my role as a Leader I was demanding standards in work and conduct from my charges that I was not applying to myself. Where there was failure or mistakes the blame would cascade down. Any credit for hard work and success went to me. My double standards negated my mandate to lead however the system kept me in charge and my team did what they could to resist and undermine me. To defy poor and incompetent leadership is a natural thing to do despite what we are told by society.

In my Regiment in the Army obedience to command was paramount but insubordination was common and also a natural response to incompetence. A corporal seemed to have the power of life and death over a private. Sergeants were a class above and Officers were like Gods. You did not even look at Officers unless you wanted a NCO to march over and literally rip your face off.

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership” – Colin Powell

Fear and Coercion

The entire ethos in my regiment was one of fear and intimidation. Through coercion and harsh discipline we were shaped in to an effective fighting force but there was no love or respect for command. With few exceptions they did not inspire us. If they told us to fight we did because we loved the fight anyway not because we respected them. We did what we did for each other and true Leaders stood among us in the ranks.

Operations were interesting. They say what “goes in the field stays in the field”. A number of unpopular NCO’s met “accidents” on patrol and were badly injured and repatriated. If a squad or platoon leader was a cluster in the field he was a liability and if not removed by echelon then he was removed one way or another by the Grunts.

Leaders that only care for themselves are not leaders. They may hold rank through some community, civic or military authority and enforce it through fear and intimidation but they are not Leaders.

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives” – Theodore Roosevelt

Lead by Example

Being sober and recovered gives us the opportunity to demonstrate that we are leaders in the truest sense. At home, work and in the community we can lead by virtue of example. We can demonstrate our principles consistently and in all of our affairs.

Being firm but fair in our approach we can adopt an attitude of transparency and openness. We look to where we can serve others before ourselves. People become drawn to our humility and selflessness. They recognize these virtues as leadership qualities and they gravitate to us. The respect is mutual and trust is established.

Leaders do this not for rewards or credit but because it is the right thing to do. It is their duty.

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you” – Anonymous
In the program there are no leaders, just persons appointed in to certain support functions needed to ensure the fellowship works. It is a egalitarian system that fosters trust and respect. All the same every person who shows up to help his fellow is a Leader in their own right.
Being given the opportunity to Lead is a privilege not an entitlement as I once imagined. Whether you hold that responsibility at home, at work or in the community remember we lead in order to serve others, not ourselves. By being sober and living in accordance with principles you lead by example. In doing so you help others strive to be better.

Be the Leader you are meant to be.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

Solitude

Until the time is right, disappear, we will. Master Kenobi, wait a moment. In your solitude on Tatooine, training, I have for you.” – Yoda “Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith”.

The Practice

Solitude is a practice that has been embraced by many Philosophies and Spiritual Traditions both in the east and the west. Most are familiar with the Christian mystic practice of seeking periods of solitude in the wilderness where one could pray, contemplate and connect with the Divine. Jesus would often leave his followers to wander the wilderness to commune with God. Judaism, Sufism, Buddhism and Taoism all place a great deal of importance on isolating one’s self from society for periods of time in order to achieve transcendence through prayer and meditation.

In Silence there is eloquence.” – Rumi, Sufi Poet

The Jedi in fiction also recognized the benefits of cutting themselves off from others in order to strengthen their connection with the Force. Solitude also conditioned the Jedi to the rigors of Jedi Service and cultivated the self discipline needed to practice non-attachment. Master Jedi Voolvif Monn was a recluse who shunned company and spent much of his life in solitude.

Following the destruction of the Jedi Temple and the purge of the Order by Emperor Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda both spent years hiding in solitude.  In their isolation they kept busy planning for the return of the Jedi. Both achieved enlightenment during their reclusion.

Life of the Party

I understand isolation and solitude. Both terms for me have come to mean different things. Isolation was something that I did in addiction. Solitude is something I seek in recovery.

Originally I was a social drinker that needed the company of others when I was getting drunk. Friends and acquaintances were nothing more to me than “drinking props”. Being alcoholic I was unable to build normal relationships with people. Friendship, as most people understand it, did not apply to me.

Everyone I ever got intimate with was only familiar with my drinking persona. I was the likeable drunk who knew how to party hard. The guy who was your best friend and keeping you company all night and in to the day if you were ready to keep up.  When I was sober I was never interested in connecting with people, preferring to be alone. Being awkward in the company of others I also shut myself off from others when I was sober. If you did not drink or could not go the distance, I was not interested in you.

I could be surrounded by people during those days and still feel incredibly lonely. The companionship felt shallow and cheap.

Being Alone

I started to isolate in the latter years of my drinking as many alcoholics do. We are acutely aware that our drinking is no longer normal and no longer dependent on others. The need for social props disappears. We are also aware that when we drink we are no longer sociable. We get melancholy or irritated or silent. Conversation no longer interests us.

People party and celebrate life and if we are holding a bar up the chances are we would prefer to be somewhere else drinking alone. Eventually we retreat to someplace we can drink without distraction or interference. Alcohol is purchased in a semi clandestine way. We come in, head for the shelf with the cheap stuff, pay and leave avoiding small chat and eye contact.

In our isolation we drink and we swing from euphoria to a brooding darkness. As we get drunk we begin to form ideas and we verbalize them often to no one in the room. We argue with ourselves, at first grappling with our sick mental fog before fighting and then slipping in to black out. We Isolate because we are ashamed of who we have become.

Seeking Solitude

Solitude is not Isolation. Seeking solitude is seeking a place where we can be by ourselves to re-calibrate and become centered.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Solitude allows us to discover ourselves, to feel our breath and the wind against our face. The sounds of birds, running water, waves at the beach, wind and rain become real. To be in solitude is to marvel at the wonder of nature and the mystery of creation and feel the spark of the divine within us. Life becomes simpler.

The things that we pursue in society no longer seem to matter, there is no conflict, no disagreement.One cannot gossip, cheat or lie or steal when truly in solitude and apart from fellow humans. Our senses become keener and every cell within our bodies vibrate with the essence of life.

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Most of us cannot just drop everything and reside in a cabin near a lake like Thoreau did for a year. We can still seek solitude through time alone with a book, a walk through the park or sit in solitary meditation. I sometimes use exercise to seek solitude and will run for miles. I used to run to escape for a time from my troubles, I now run for serenity. The “loneliness of the long distance runner” can be bliss.

Isolation was to distance myself from people and responsibilities; solitude is there now to help me reconnect with the Force and with myself. Solitude is to be used sparingly and when needed, like medicine, it is a balm to the body, mind and soul.

Do you choose blissful solitude or do you choose to isolate?

Learn

“Suspend your judgment, and every being has something to teach you.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

One of the greatest mistakes that can be made is to reject something out of hand, without any consideration. More often than not we pass judgement on others before we have gotten to know them, we decide on an issue before we have all the facts. As a result we deny ourselves an opportunity to learn something new. We close our minds.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.” – Desiderata

Another mistake is to not try new things. To blindly follow one way and ignore all others deprives us of the chance to further grow in our recovery.

Evolve

I am a strong believer in the precept “take what you need and leave the rest”.  To place labels on myself is to make a statement “this is who I am”. Who I am actually changes constantly. There is no definitive “I am”. We are not who we were yesterday and we will not be the same tomorrow. Our lives are bombarded constantly with information. With every experience our perception of the world changes and sometimes our view point can change dramatically. The way I viewed my own life, spirituality, God and recovery five years ago is very very different to the way I view it now. I have no doubt it will continue to evolve.

As I change, so do my needs.

Sometimes the main challenge is to sift through the information and decide what to take on board and what to reject. The beauty of a practical philosophy for life is that we embrace the chance to learn and try new things. We adopt what works and drop what does not in the now. Dogma and doctrine does not bind the Jedi.

Everyone has heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It is true that with age we become wiser and more set in our ways. We are more judging and skeptical. Fortunately most of us also accept that we don’t know everything, the problem is we are often reluctant to change. However change we must.

Listen and Learn

The fellowship of the 12 steps program is a thing of beauty. I can sit in a room and listen to complete strangers tell their story and share their hope and dreams for a sober life. Every story is unique and carries a message. Every person who speaks adds to the collective experience in the room and contributes to the recovery of others. We all listen with open ears and open hearts. We may not agree with everything that is said, but we listen, consider and decide what to take from the share. Every share is an opportunity to learn.

The truth is we never stop learning and very often the most valuable lessons come from the most unlikely places. My children for example have taught me more about empathy, compassion and tolerance than I thought possible. They also taught me to be a kid again. Friends, companions and co-workers teach us in ways we often overlook. The fellow alcoholic in the 12 step meeting teaches me a lot, especially to never forget. Sometimes I also wish I could be the person my Dog thinks I am. Pets are a gift. They teach us to be gentle, kind, loyal and attentive, to love unconditionally.

Share to Keep

It has taken a long time for me to realize that I don’t know everything and that we never stop learning. Old dogs can learn new tricks. I have also come to learn that everyone I encounter in my life leaves an imprint on me in someway.

We should never ignore “even the dull and the ignorant”.  I also often wonder if everyone who has enters and leaves our life was meant to. That some sort of serendipitous fate exists that brings souls together for their mutual benefit and growth. When that soul benefit is gained they move apart.

I learned so much about myself during my years of active alcoholism and I learned more during recovery. Every experience has made me the person I am today. My role now is to continue to learn from every angle but also to share what I’ve learned along the way.

So I will share what I think I know and if someone suspends their judgement, hears me out and benefits from that then it’s all been worth it.