Amathia

 

There is no Ignorance there is Knowledge” – Jedi Code

There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance” – Socrates

Amathia

People do stupid things. We can all admit to behaviour that in retrospection and on reflection seems illogical, irrational, self-destructive and just plain stupid. Being alcoholic I am qualified to attest to this. Looking at my past I could easily write the book “On Stupidity”. I still remind myself that people are not purposely stupid any more than I was. People just do stupid things. To quote Forrest Gump “Stupid is as stupid does”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and Anti-Nazi dissident, wrote that while the reasoned may protest against “Evil” and be inoculated against it there is no such defense against the person who does stupid. Even the person who does “evil” feels a unease with their acts (unless of course the person is a psychopath). “Evil” is however a result of stupidity and ignorance.

The Greeks called such “Stupidity” Amathia, a sort of preventable intelligent “Stupidity”. Amathia is different to the “dull witted” who lacks the mental capacity to know virtue from vice. Socrates considered Amathia the root of evil acts in people. Epictetus described Amathia as anti-wisdom. A spiritual malady that afflicts those that could know and should know better.  Worse than ignorance, Amathia is choosing not to know, the worst type of stupidity.

 

A Stain

Stupidity never receives a clinical description or medical diagnosis. As an affliction it resides outside the realm of psychology. In the Army, “Stupid” or variations of was the worst label one could suffer. Being labelled “Stupid” was like a stain. It marked the unfortunate as “incompetent, unreliable, a liability and a bullet magnet”. “Stupid” was someone who could not be taught because he was incapable. Unable to learn not because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of willingness. Such was a lost cause, a “Cluster”, a “Gomer Pyle”.

Reading Bonhoeffer’s description of stupidity I am stunned by the familiarity to my own behaviour around alcohol. I never considered myself “Stupid” however I did stupid things and refused to learn from them. I was a “Cluster” in the true sense of the word. This flaw was a stain and it touched everyone who came close to me.

 

Defenseless

Bonhoeffer wrote a letter while awaiting his fate in a Nazi prison. I will quote extensively from it as it serves as a wake up call. Bonhoeffer writes “against stupidity we are defenceless” and goes on; “Neither protest nor the use of Force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on death ears

Most alcoholics are defenseless against the power of alcohol. They are hopeless when it comes to being convinced by others of their condition. Loved one’s and friends try to intervene without success. Employers, work mates and medical professionals try to reason with them. All efforts avail nothing.

Not only addicts are affected. People in general tend to grasp on to their system of beliefs and tightly held opinions that an alternate view cannot and will not be entertained. Extremists come in many shades but all share a common refusal to budge on their beliefs even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Some are even prepared to die for them.

 

“facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.”

 

Ignoring Evidence

Even in the face of declining health, lost employment, repossessed house, broken family and destitution an alcoholic will continue to insist that the source of his problems is the fault of others. She will refuse to admit fault or accept being alcoholic. Despite the inevitable cognitive dissonance suffered the person will reject all evidence. This denial and reinforcement of enabling behaviour counteracts any impetus for change.

We call this person sick. Indeed they have a mental, physical and spiritual illness rooted in Amathia.

How often in other areas of life do we put our blinkers on and cherry pick the truth believing only what we want to hear and rejecting opposing views and contradictory evidence as “false”, “fake” or “baseless”? We would rather ignore and reject out of hand ideas or evidence that challenges our perceptions than give them a moment’s thought.

 

The Belligerent

“In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

 

When we are pushed to consider a view point that challenges our sense of self and potentially destroys everything we believe we can become extremely defensive. Pushed hard enough we may defend our beliefs to the point of violence. It happens with addicts who are forced in to a corner.

Violence is also used by  people who have inflexible and dogmatic views on religion, politics and other contentious issues. Are our valued ideas and concepts worth defending or advancing to the point we need to attack others who challenge us? Do we have the right to smother dissenting views and criticism?

 

A Contagion

Somehow people “become stupid” over time. Progressively they adopt attitudes and beliefs that eventually translate in to habits and character. The element of “Stupidity” is demonstrated in the traits described above. The outcome for an alcoholic is gradual loss of control of their lives and eventual descent to a personal hell. I know this because I lived it.

Stupidity is contagious. Bonhoeffer believed that those that felt a strong need to belong  to a group whether social, political or religious tended to be more willing to accept ideas than those who are happier to find their own path. Ideas and attitudes are fueled by people who share similar mind-sets and views.  As a drinker I sought out Drinkers to socialize and associate with and avoided people who did not drink. People tend to seek out the company of those that validate their character and values and avoid those who don’t.

In many ways recovery is a “Solo” mission. We can get advice and direction from people and seek what fits our own individual needs. There is no “one size fits all”. Most spiritual paths and philosophies are similar. There is a community but we are free and encouraged to go out and find our own way. There is nothing wrong with embracing an ideology however never grasp it so tight that it becomes a tether to the mind and soul. Be free to explore and seek new ideas and thoughts.

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.”

 

A Modern Affliction

Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for many years by the Nazis. Despite his long incarceration Bonhoeffer believed that “stupidity” more than “evil” attracted many people to the Nazi doctrine. The rise of populism, “identity politics”, the “social justice warrior”, nationalism, religious extremism and “alt-left” and “alt-right” movements are all facets of the same thing when observed impartially from above. “Right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad” are subjective.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant and “stupid”.  The argument for reasoned discourse has been drowned out by the noise of divisiveness. People are being conditioned not to think, not to question. At the same time supporters of opposing views claim the moral high ground and possession of the truth. In truth the lack self ownership and independence of thought.

 

it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.”

Independence

Alcoholism like any type of dependence is a complete loss of self-autonomy and independence. It is also attachment and ego run riot. We forget how to think critically and with reason. Our actions are guided by something stronger than our own free will. Our inner world no longer belongs to us.

Ask yourself what are you dependent on? People, places, things, ideas and beliefs can all be our sources of attachment and dependence. Despite ourselves we find our own values and ideas are no longer our own, we are simply reciting the ideas and values of others as our own and “preaching to the converted”.

In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.”

 

Self Wisdom

A person who is self-reliant, independent and emotionally intelligent and capable of critical analysis is unlikely to follow a “false prophet”. Our ego and fears seems to push as that way. Most people want to be part of the crowd. No one wants to be a contrarian. People want to be able to give themselves a label which expresses who they are and what they value. I was no different. Being alcoholic I made many claims and had an inflated sense of self-importance. My disease and the problems it presented defined me.

Recovery has taught me how to be self-reliant and independent. I can differentiate between what is in my control and what it outside of it. My inner world belongs to me. I have command over my proper faculties, my thoughts, perceptions and responses. The tone and attitude I bring in the day is up to me. Opinions and beliefs are mine alone. My spirituality is unique and my own. I choose my values and the principles I live by.

I have little control over people and circumstances. There may be some influence but the world is largely out of my control. Even my body is not entirely under my control. I can choose what to eat and drink from what is before me. My health may fail despite best efforts to be healthy and fit. Cancer or heart disease may still cut my years short. I am my own being and belong to no one but myself.

 

“Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings”

 

Evil is a Symptom

Bonhoeffer witnessed with dismay the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Being an opponent of Hitler he was imprisoned and persecuted. Accused of association in the plot to kill Hitler he was interned in a concentration camp and executed during the closing days of the war. Bonhoeffer would not have justified killing, even Hitler. Violence was not in his philosophy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that the nature of the “Stupid” person is not an “intellectual” deficit but a “human” one. People are not born “stupid” any more than they are born “evil”. Some people are less intelligent than others, even “dull”, but are less “Stupid” in their nature than those with high intellect. History has shown some remarkably talented and brilliant minds who were ultimately betrayed by their own “Stupidity”.

People believe “Evil” is an independent and a tangible concept. That it has a life of its own. “Evil” is what most people perceive to as the really bad things that people do.  No one considers themselves to be inherently “evil”. Bonhoeffer  believed that people were not evil but only capable of doing evil because of their ignorance. Evil is a symptom of Socrates’s Amathia. Bonhoeffer also believed people could change for the better.

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity

 

Liberation

In many ways Bonhoeffer was a real world Jedi Master. Bonhoeffer challenged the Lutheran church with his ideas of spirituality and religiosity but did not alienate himself from it. His views and philosophy of non-violent resistance influenced Martin Luther King, anti-communism in East Europe and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. In his letter from prison Bonhoeffer offered his friends some advice; “Liberation can overcome stupidity“.

More than 2200 years before Bonhoeffer, Socrates suggested  the same thing. Salvation from the worst flaw, the real human evil, Amathia is through the spiritual and psychological liberation that self knowledge brings.

Each of us has the key to our own liberation. Our own reasoned choices determine who we are. We can submit to our own vices or we can embrace virtue. Do we choose to abide by the will of others or make up our own minds? Do we walk the path we want for ourselves or do we follow others blindly? At the same time we can be understanding and compassionate with others, even the “Stupid” that we meet everyday.

In the week the world remembers the Holocaust it is perhaps timely that we reacquaint ourselves with the word Amathia.

 

Animus

Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – The Clone Wars

 

An Expression

In France people often the use the word “Courage” or “Bonne Courage” to encourage a friend or an acquaintance that is facing a challenge large or small. It is not a word which is used in the English language as an informal expression of one’s hope that another will succeed or prevail. We will rarely hear someone say to another “Be Brave” or “Have Courage” as if we were saying “Good Luck” or “Have a nice Day”. In France it is used often and is meant to remind one of the virtues of courage and its universal application in all aspects of life. It is a reminder that self trust is the root of courage.

 

A Virtue

Courage was considered by the Stoics as one of the most important virtues that a person could attain. Along with wisdom, justice and temperance (self-control), courage was considered essential to living a good life. Perhaps with the adoption of the Stoic philosophy by the Romans and its eventual influence on Christianity the virtue of courage became embedded in the Romantic languages such as French.

 

Heart

The Latin word for courage is “cor” which roughly translates to “heart”. When people say, “He had the heart of a Lion” they mean he had courage which was exemplary. More than courage, the person had “heart”. “Heart” often refers to the inner resolve and spirit of a person which courage is a part of. A person may have the courage to face a fight and enter a ring to face an adversary but “heart” keeps him in the fight even when the odds are stacked against him. The person is not being reckless or suicidal; the person has the self trust to carry on past any fears and doubts.

 

Nihil tam acerbum est in quo non æquus animus solatium inveniat”

“There is nothing so disagreeable, that a patient mind can not find some solace for it”. – Seneca the Younger

 

Animus

The Latin word “Animus” was used to describe something more than “heart”. Animus roughly translated to the virtues of spirit, mind and courage. Animus entails the development of human mind, body and spirit and the transcendence of the human consciousness to higher levels.

Carl Jung believed that the masculine Animus and the feminine Anima are part of the collective unconscious in humans, transcending the personal psyche. Jung believed that humans evolved along a trajectory which culminates at transcendence, the expression of the rational soul. Seneca also described Animus to mean the rational soul expressed as the reasoned mind.

 

Anti-Ego

At the highest level Animus is the antithesis of the ego. The Ancient Greeks and Romans recognized that the ego was the greatest challenge that people faced. The root of all fears and doubts stem from the ego. The ego overrides reason and better judgement.

Cor (Heart) is needed to overcome that fear and arrive at a state of Animus which breaks us free from the grip of the ego. By finding Animus we overcome the barriers that we have built to stop us getting where we want to go.

 

Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it” – Mark Twain

 

Warrior Spirit

The Ancient Greeks and Romans considered Animus to be exemplified by the “warrior spirit” of duty, sacrifice, loyalty, honor and courage. When a warrior died in battle they had achieved the greatest feat for their nation. The Ancients believed that a warrior slain on the battlefield held an esteemed place in the underworld of the dead.

Even today we revere and honor our fallen heroes and use words such as courage, bravery and selflessness to describe them. Soldiers still use the slogan “Until Valhalla” in reference to the glory assigned to fighting with spirit and dying with honor. They are not fanatics, they trust themselves and their comrades beside them.

 

The Seeker

The purpose of the “Heroes Journey” is for the one “called to adventure” to find their internal Animus by overcoming the trials and challenges that stand before them. By venturing in to the dark and the unknown one arrives at light and knowledge. By sinking in to despair one finds hope. Through defeats and disappointments one finds the strength to overcome and the will to continue on to victory. The story has been told and retold through the myths and stories of the ages. We see it clearly in the saga of Star Wars. These stories inspire us.

 

“Bonus animus in mala re, dimidium est mali”

Courage in danger is half the battle.” – Plautus

 

Resolve

You do not need to be a hero on a life and death mission to discover your own Animus. I once thought the only way to truly test myself and find honor was by going to war. One does not need to do either to live a good and meaningful life. Life will test our courage and strength in many ways. It may be as simple as practicing principles even when others push the boundaries and provoke us. Staying sober is a daily and sometimes hourly test of resolve. We can express Animus in everything we do.

 

Bonne Courage

The French regularly say “Bonne Courage” as an offering of support to someone who is facing a challenge or difficult time. It is an odd expression to the English ear but it makes perfect sense. What the French are saying is much more than “Bonne Chance – Good Luck”. “Courage” is a reminder that everyone has an inner and sacred Animus that resides within. If one has the self trust to find heart and dig deep enough they will find it there and it will give them all the strength they need to prevail.

 

Gratus animus est una virtus non solum maxima, sed etiam mater virtutum onmium reliquarum

A courageous heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Intention

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda

 

Symbols of Intent

The first thing most people imagine when they hear the word Jedi is Luke Skywalker or Obi-wan Kenobi with Light Saber in hand rushing towards an enemy as they deflect laser bolts. The image of the warrior is prominent in peoples mind. It is true that the fictional Jedi are armed with light Saber the same way Monks of the east and west were armed with staffs and martial arts to defend themselves. To imagine the Light Saber as a weapon of offense is an error in fact it was a symbol of the Jedi principle of protection and defense. The intent of the Light Saber is its power. It was only used as a weapon as a last resort and never in anger.

In “Return of the Jedi” Luke casts aside his Light Saber during the final confrontation with Darth Vader. The act is symbolic. Luke decided to cast his anger aside and find the love and compassion within him. It is the only way he can defeat Darth Sidious and redeem Vader.

In “The Last Jedi” the ageing Luke Skywalker takes the Light Saber offered to him by Rey after she has found him living as a Hermit on the hidden planet of Ahch-To. With comical irreverence Luke throws his old Light Saber behind his back.

For years Obi-wan Kenobi resided on Tatooine watching over Luke from a distance. Although he still had his Light Saber it was kept aside. Even in confronting the Sand People who had captured Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope”, Obi-wan Kenobi chose only to use the power of perception and his own voice in driving the Tuscan Raiders away in fear. The Light Saber is symbolic of the Jedi only if it used with Right Intent.

 

Lethal Intent

I’ve often heard the statement that firearms kill people. A gun can be used to kill a person however it is not the weapon itself that decides its end use. The intent to kill resides with the wielder. A sword can just as easily be beaten in to a plow than used as a weapon depending on the intention of the user.

Intention is therefore everything in the “why and how” we conduct our life. I can choose to own a Light Saber, a Gun or a Pit Bull Terrier.  The Light Saber replica won’t have much use but how I choose to manifest my intent with a gun and an “aggressive” breed of dog is entirely up to me. I can keep the gun locked away and hopefully never ever have to use it and I can train the Dog to be a loving pet; gentle with people and other animals. There is still an element of uncertainty based on what I have control over and what I don’t. The Dog may unexpectedly bite a child and the gun might be stolen and used in a crime.

 

Reasoned Intent

With every decision we make there is always an intent, a purpose. Why do we make the choices that we do? What is our intent? When I left High School and presented to an Army recruiter the first thing he asked me was “Why do you want to join the Army”? He said my response was important and it had to be honest. The answer revealed my true intention and whether I was going to stick my contract or wash out.

Likewise when I first approached the Jedi community and revealed I wanted to train in Jedi philosophy I was asked to spend some time thinking about “Why Jedi”. What was the intent of my choice? Would it sustain my practice past a few weeks or months? Did I realize it was an internal path and one I would have to keep largely to myself? I found that being able to reason rather than rationalize my intent before doing something was more likely to align it to who I am and want to be.

 

First things First

One of the most important questions I had to ask myself when I was drinking to excess was “Why am I doing this? What is the purpose?” There was no reasoned or even rationalized response. In the beginning the intent of my drinking had been to feel better within my self, to fill some emptiness inside. I wanted to be accepted and loved like everyone else and drinking seemed to promise a way into fellowship, confidence and acceptance.

Drinking could make me feel part of something bigger than myself and to be somebody who could be respected, admired and sought out. Of course this was all a mirage and I fell in to the trap and it took me to a dark place after all the illusions I had created began to fall away.  Something entirely different was revealed. An image that was unbearable to confront.

In the end, the intent of drinking was to satiate a need that could not be satisfied and to keep the beast within fed. It had become a cage. Realizing true intent was like lifting the veil that had shrouded the truth for years. I began to understand the true nature of my disease.

 

Failed Intent

All the times I had tried to quit or at least control my drinking in the past had eventually ended in relapse. In going on the “wagon” I had had good intentions but I could not follow it up with meaningful actions. My intent was also conditional on certain loop holes in thinking. Like small cracks in a dyke they eventually split open and allowed the entire structure to collapse in a flood of booze. Intention was moderated by rationalization. I figured I could still achieve my goal of sobriety with the odd loosening of the belt. This of course was a form of “False Intent”.

 

A Daily Reprieve

Where do your priorities lay? What is important to you? What matters most of all? In the beginning my intent was to simply get through the day without taking a drink. The next day could look after itself and the next day after that. My commitment was for 24 hours.

I would renew my intent every morning and claim the strength from my Higher Power to achieve that. At the end of the day I would review how things had gone and on turning off the light thank my Higher Power for another sober day. My goal was sustained and long-term sobriety and my dream was to realize serenity.

My intent was simply to claim a daily reprieve and stay sober one day at a time through application of certain virtues and principles. This was a form of “Right Intent”.

 

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” – Alcoholics Anonymous p85.

 

Right Intent

The second step and virtue on the Eight fold path of Buddhism is “Right Intent”. Intention is more than resolve. Through resolve we decide to do something but it is not enough on its own. We must have “Right Intent” in order to stay the course. For example would anyone who resolves to marry another person bother if they did not intend to give the marriage their utmost for as long as possible?

Resolve and Intent are two different things and of course they work in tandem. Both must stay as strong as the day we set off for the duration of the journey. Yes there are days when we stagger and fall but intent keeps us moving forward even when resolve falters. We strive for outcomes but must also accept what is in our control as well as what is outside of it.

Intent in Action

Intention is flawed if our intent is;

  • To draw something to ourselves for selfish gain; or
  • to force something away through ill will;
  • or to do harm to ourselves or others.

To counteract flawed intention one’s intention must;

  • Be based on renunciation. We must be willing to let go of the causes of our suffering. Desires and clinging attachments to people, places, things, circumstance and flawed ideas tightly held all lead to suffering as they are impermanent and transient. Addiction is a form of rampant attachment. Luke Skywalker casting his Light Saber aside was a renunciation of attachment to old strongly held beliefs.
  • derived from good will. When we do things we essentially seek to serve others before ourselves. In the recovery program personal benefit is derived by helping others struggling with their addictions. Caring for others is a corner stone of Faith and many philosophies including Jedi Philosophy.
  • inherently harmless. In the 12 Steps amends are sought to people whom we have harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. The Hippocratic Oath compels Doctors to “primum non nocere”, first do no harm. Compassion is a Jedi trait.

Right intent is expressed through thought, word and actions. Therefore being mindful of intention is important. We should consider the impact of our thoughts, words and actions on self and others.  The potential consequences either immediate or delayed should be considered. We may do something with the best of intentions but not realize the consequences of our actions until much later. By contemplating our actions and looking beyond outward far beyond ourselves we become more mindful of the reach of our intent.

Always ask what your intent is and whether it serves or not.

 

The Jedi Method

The Jedi Method is a formula used to apply mindfulness in our actions. Our desire is for an outcome which aligns with our values. The method states:

 

Intent + Action = Outcome

 

If our Intent is right and our actions follow suit than there is a high likelihood, while never guaranteed, that outcome will agree with action and intent. Action and Intent is applied in a world in which we do not exercise supreme control over all external factors. We cannot foresee the future or account for every single possible variable. We only have what we control (Intent and Action).

  1. Ask yourself before committing to an action “Could this action lead to suffering?” If the answer is “yes” reconsider it after applying ethics and your personal value system to a decision.
  2. During the action ask “Is this action causing suffering?” if so, then reconsider the need to continue or make adjustments that correct the error.
  3. After the action consider “Will this action lead to suffering?” if so, then seek to remedy, learn from it and avoid repetition in the future.

We live in an imperfect system and everyone makes mistakes. All that one can reasonably expect is that we take due diligence in our actions. We are accountable and responsible for the choices we make. If our intent is challenged we can defend our actions with conviction and without hesitation.

We take charge of the things that we can control, work with what we can influence  and we willingly surrender the things over which we have no control.

 

Surrender at Last

A Light Saber can be a weapon or a door stop depending on the intent of the user. Perhaps Luke Skywalker had learned towards the end of his physical existence that the mind is far more powerful than a weapon. The Last Jedi decided he no longer needed his Light Saber even for the purpose of protection.

On the Planet of Crait Skywalker faced his old apprentice and nephew, Kylo Ren, who was bent on killing him. Luke showed that one can still achieve an outcome without reaching for a Light Saber or without even being there. Victory can be won with the mind.

Across the Galaxy on the Island Jedi Refuge of Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker awoke from his Force projection and surrendered himself to the Force. As he met his destiny the twin suns set over the ocean.

Intent is the key.

Our Intention creates our reality” – Wayne Dyer

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.

Reliable

Reliability

Reliability is a word that is used in many different contexts. In engineering it can refer to the ability of a process, system or component to perform its required functions with little to no variability over a period of time. In research reliability can mean the quality and precision of data presented, the degree of certainty and variability derived from method used in an experiment.  Psychologists also use the word reliability to describe the validity of data measured from a population and the ability to replicate it in multiple tests.

Human reliability is the study of the capacity for human beings to perform without error in a particular role under different conditions. Pilots for example are screened for their ability to operate with reliability and without error. Reliability is also a word that we come to associate as a desirable trait in a person. Someone who is reliable is trustworthy, dependable and competent among other things.

 

A Reliable Mentor

If just one word can be used to describe a Jedi it would have to be reliable. Consider Obi-wan Kenobi or Yoda. Both Jedi Masters were loyal, dependable, trust worthy and committed to the Order and to their own values. Obi-wan was a reliable mentor to Anakin for years and then watched over Luke from his hideout on Tatooine. Obi-wan Kenobi’s reliability as a mentor extended beyond life as he continued to guide Luke after his transcendence to the Force.

Jedi could be agile and adaptable as the situation dictated but they were firm in their convictions and application of principle. They talked the talk and they walked the walk. The Jedi Code rejected killing for the sake of killing. A Jedi could not take another life unless it was in absolute necessity and in self defense. Being reliable also meant that the Jedi were predictable in their response. To the Sith this was a weakness and one which Darth Maul, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader all exploited in their individual battles with the Jedi.

 

No Reliance

Those that view reliability as a flaw are unlikely to follow through with commitments or be true to their word. Promises are broken, contracts are breached, debts are dishonored and decisions are changed on a whim without consideration of others. Lies are covered with lies and more lies to keep the ship afloat. I can describe the hallmarks of unreliability with some authority because they are those that denote an alcoholic personality. People in active alcoholic abuse are not only unreliable but they take advantage or exploit people that are reliable. The people who are the most trusted by the alcoholic are the people that are most harmed by his selfishness.

Over the years our actions reveal our twisted nature. People learn that they cannot rely on us any longer. We lose our jobs, friends start to abandon us and our partners leave with broken hearts.  Banks foreclose and debt collectors call in our debts. In the end we cannot not even rely on ourselves to manage our own lives any longer.

Through reliance in a Higher Power we begin to find our sanity. At some point we wake up and start to get honest with ourselves and regain our self respect. Gaining the confidence of others with time and effort we begin to appreciate the virtue of reliability in ourselves and in others. Our actions start to align with our values. We no longer view people’s trust as a weakness to be exploited or used but as a treasured gift.

 

 A Rare Virtue

Despite what the Sith thought, reliability is a virtue, not a weakness. Ralph Waldo Emerson lamented that to find a reliable friend was the hardest thing. Reliability seems to be the rarest of virtues. Perhaps that is why Obi-wan Kenobi is the archetype of the reliable mentor and guardian in the Star Wars saga. The lifelong commitment he puts in to protecting and teaching the “chosen one” marked him as the most reliable Jedi . In this universe and in this life how can we aspire to the same level of reliability as a person? What are the traits of a reliable person and what are the benefits?

  1. Commitment: Reliable people do what they say they will do.
  2. Honesty: Reliable people tell the truth, even when they would rather not. If we can’t deliver on a promise or commitment we should be upfront about it.
  3. Realistic: Reliable people don’t try to bend reality but tell it as it is. If a situation is bad, they call it bad but do not play the pessimist either.
  4. Humility: Reliable people don’t “big note” themselves nor do they put themselves down. Reliable people know where they stand in the world and do not need to be at the center of attention or above anyone.
  5. Team: Reliable people work as part of a team for a team rather than solely for their own personal advantage. They are ready to help.

What are the advantages of being reliable?

  1. Deeper relationships that are built on mutual trust and appreciation.
  2. Greater opportunities for work and business. Reliable people get known and are sought out by recruiters, employers and customers.
  3. More autonomy and independence in life as reliable people do not need to be constantly monitored and scrutinized by supervisors, partners and peers.
  4. More sleep. Being reliable means that we don’t have to lie awake at night in guilt or in worry about the things we did or said. Reliable people are more confident and happy as they know they have nothing to hide or excuse themselves for.
  5. Tolerance and simplicity because reliable people know that the world is a place of diverse views, opinions and people and they can live with that. Life becomes simpler and beset with less drama. Reliable people can achieve peace and equanimity that others only dream about.

Think of all the people you know who you would consider reliable and compare those to people you have known who were unreliable. The differences are pretty stark. To be Jedi is by nature to be reliable. By our very nature and through our conduct people will automatically see whether we are reliable or not. We may fool them once or twice, but I guarantee, you will not fool them for long.

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.

Virtue

The Stoics believed that the only thing of real worth in life was to live with virtue. Everything else was secondary and ultimately decided by the consistent application of virtue. Family and friends could be of high importance as well as career, position and standing among peers but these things were seen as a consequence of one’s virtues and not mutually exclusive. Material possessions, property, fame and money were also seen as “indifferent preferred” meaning that while they can be pursued and enjoyed they should never compromise one’s integrity or goal to live a virtuous life.

 

The Primary Purpose

The primary virtues  valued by the Stoics were wisdom, courage, justice temperance and discipline. All virtues were seen as stemming from wisdom, the root of virtue. The very nature of humanity was to reconcile a person’s words, thoughts and actions with the virtues that were inherent within their nature. To live contrary to virtue led to a mismatch between a person and her nature. To live in accordance with virtue was to live in accordance with one’s nature. The purpose of virtue in the human condition is to allow people to live and work together for the common good. Without virtue there is no civilisation and society cannot exist. According to the Stoics people are made and intended to work together for mutual benefit. That is our primary purpose as citizens of the world.

 

The Path to Virtue

The Stoics understood that people could be swayed and corrupted. While virtue is part of nature forces act against it and free will can pull a person away from virtue. The outcome is selfishness and greed, violence and war and wholesale suffering and a dysfunctional society. Training and application in philosophy was seen as the way to guide people to a path of virtue.

The Jedi trained hard. The Jedi Code provided a moral and ethical compass which the Jedi followed. This training and lifestyle committed them to the same virtues that the Stoics valued. Take the Jedi Masters Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu for example each clearly demonstrated time and again the virtues of wisdom, temperance, Justice, courage and self discipline.

The Jedi Master were like Stoic sages. They had mastered these virtues through a lifetime of rigorous practice and dedication. The Jedi existed in a structured and monastic order that that took these values beyond the limits of what we might consider practical for ourselves. Likewise the Stoics lived in ancient times in a very different world to our own and were committed to their school of philosophy as a chosen life path. Nevertheless there is no reason why we cannot emulate both Jedi and Stoic in the pursuit of a virtuous life. In our own individual ways we can decide what our core values are and determine how to commit to them in our daily lives. We can all demonstrate virtues that are consistent with our values.

 

Consistent and True

To be Jedi is to demonstrate all typical virtues consistently. If we decide to practice justice as a virtue but fail to be fair and reasonable in the treatment of others, we would fail to be Jedi. We may demonstrate temperance and courage in our daily lives, all being virtues consistent with Jedi practice but our failure to demonstrate justice puts us at odds with our stated values.

Sustained and powerful recovery and ultimately contended sobriety is built on a foundation of virtues. The virtues we apply demonstrate our own internal values. Many of us learn that honesty, humility, gratitude, selflessness and faith are fundamental to the 12 steps but at the outset many of these concepts are foreign to us. Alcoholism is a disease which undermines and then extinguishes honesty, humility and selflessness. We actually believe in nothing and don’t know the meaning of moderation. Our behaviors are consistently dishonest and selfish where alcohol is concerned.

 

The Force of Faith

Through deflation of the ego during the early stages of recovery we begin to learn the meaning of Faith. Many people scoff at this word but when we have lost all dignity and self respect and are facing the loss of everything that matters including our home, livelihood, family and friends not to mention our health and possibly our life, Faith is all that’s left.

Through Faith we turn our problems and our lives over to a Higher Power. That Higher Power can be anything we choose. We just accept that we are powerless on our own and need help to overcome our addiction. Being a skeptical agnostic this was hard but I managed to conceive of a power greater than myself which I now call the Force. The effect was all encompassing. I no longer considered myself the center of the universe and started to learn the meaning of the words honesty, humility, gratitude and selflessness. People and their problems started to become more important than my own. Temperance became a constant in all aspects of my life not just alcohol. Resentment, anger, self pity, fear and depression started to fade and my character changed. Problems started to vanish.

 

Clarify Values

Getting sober and staying that way was the most important thing for me. Sobriety was the foundation upon which the rest of my life was built. Having a concept of the person we want to be and what we want to stand for helps shape our values and guiding principles. If we decide to be a better person we choose the values and act on the virtues that best represent that. First we need to clarify what those personal values are. Only you can do that.

Identifying and committing to our personal system of values leads to a virtuous life as we feel more authentic and in touch with who we truly are. We can accept that life can be complicated and difficult. Some things are out of our control and we must let go. We learn to confront our fears and overcome challenges as they arise. Virtue becomes second nature and define our lives and relationships. Every day we can ask “have I been true to my values?” If we know what matters to us most, we should be easily able to answer that question.

Self Discipline

Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda

Self Discipline is often the one single element that determines success in life. The act of self control is the ability to move in a direction despite internal resistance. Self discipline provides the momentum and drive to keep going and to follow through in the promises that we make to ourselves and others. When others are not looking or directing us to do something it is self discipline that we draw on.  We may not want to get out of bed in the morning to shiver in the cold, the thought of working when we could be resting might not appeal yet we do it.  The only thing preventing us from making the wrong or most preferred decisions and taking the easy option is Self Discipline.

 

“With self discipline almost anything is possible” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Hard Benefits

The benefits of self discipline extend in to all aspects of our lives and lead to success in virtually every endeavor. Self disciplined individuals are more focused on their task. They are committed to achieving desired outcomes and will stick with a task to the end. Being driven they will often lead from the front. Self disciplined people are less impulsive and more in tune with their emotions, they are less likely to lose their temper or panic. Being motivated and mission orientated means more efficiency and productivity; time wastage is reduced. The self disciplined often seem to have more free time and are less stressed and more in control of their lives than those that are ill disciplined. Besides being successful, those with self discipline are also happier.

Self Discipline is the ability to conquer one’s self and to hold that fort indefinitely. It is about owning ourselves and taking charge of our thoughts, words and actions.

 

In reading the lives of great me, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…self discipline with all of them came first” – Harry S Truman

 

Taught not enforced

Self Discipline is a key Jedi Trait. Without it a prospective Jedi would be unable to complete the rigorous training and character formation required to be a Jedi Knight. Luke Skywalker lacked self discipline when he first met Obi-wan Kenobi on Tatoouine. He was impatient and impulsive and highly idealistic.

By the time Luke met Yoda on Dagobah he was no longer a young and inexperienced farm-hand but he still required training in self discipline. Luke had been through some adventures and had lived through some close calls. Among other things Luke had destroyed the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin. Quickly ascending the ranks of the Rebel alliance Skywalker continued to see action including a decisive battle on the frozen planet of Hoth. Despite his military rank and  war experience, Luke still lacked self discipline until Yoda began to train him on Dagobah.

Although some people have inherent self control, self discipline is generally inspired and taught by others. We see the benefits through positive example and with guidance from good mentors we learn the art and skill of self discipline. A Karate instructor  for example will teach his students self discipline through constant positive reinforcement, mentoring and instruction. The students observe the instructor and through example and encouragement begin to apply the skill in their training. With time and practice the skill translates in to other areas of life such as study, work and relationships.

 

I think self discipline is something, it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets” – Daniel Goldstein

 

 

“Disciplined”

When I was young I was impatient and ill disciplined. I also had beliefs and opinions on things I largely knew little about. Schooling was disciplined. Corporal punishment was still used then and I was no stranger to the cane. My father also had very strict rules and did not hesitate to enforce them with a heavy hand. In the Army the practice of “hazing”, “blanket bashing” and physical punishments from NCO’s including beatings was still common practice. The culture still a few years from being pushed in to the shadows. As in school I continued to learn lessons the “hard” way and after a while became numb to the abuse.

In order to function I turned to booze. Alcohol became a readily available means of blocking out the world; I could care less when I was drunk. My mind would no longer torment me and I neither could the world. This was not an environment for self discipline. I was bent till I snapped.

 

Tenacity

Despite being served up plenty of discipline I was never taught self discipline. Many years later I came to realize that even as a mature adult I was completely devoid of self discipline, it had never been instilled in me. Not by teachers, parents or my superiors in the military. Yes, I could get out of bed in the morning and go to work, even inebriated from the night before, but that was fear in action, not self discipline. I could take order begrudgingly but that was because I had to, not because I wanted to. Making my bed every day and having a “clean cut” appearance despite hangovers was not self discipline it was habit.

Being able to have the self control to drink in moderation and go to bed early enough to wake up in a condition “fit for work” is “self discipline”. I failed there many times and eventually ran out of chances with frustrated and exasperated employers who had given me many chances. Allocating time and setting priorities to ensure assignments were submitted on time and being fully prepared for exams at University is self discipline. Procrastinating until the last minute and then cursing my stupidity through the fog and misery of a hangover was not. By some miracle I was able to complete my studies and earn a degree. Tenacity is also trait common in Alcoholics.

 

Self disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can control what you do. Simply, self discipline enables you to think first and act afterwards” – Napoleon Hill

 

Will Power

Trying to get sober on will power alone taught me an important lesson; self discipline is not enough especially when you don’t have any. Where alcohol is concerned, the moral and intellectual will power that is required for self discipline is often missing. Alcohol tends to short fuse that part of our brain. Every good intent is thrown out of the window for no rational reason. It just does, we cannot explain it.  We can have the most important day of our life planned and prepared for and then someone hands us a drink and we fail to show up.

On the night before my wedding, my best man was wise enough to cut my supply of booze and insist I get to bed early. I never realized it at the time but he knew that he would have had hell to pay if I’d missed the ceremony or arrived red eyed and stinking. Compliance was granted because I could follow orders easily when they made sense, I was lousy at regulating myself if left alone without someone telling me what to do.

It was not my fault, I just didn’t know. People would say “you were a professional soldier, didn’t they teach you discipline?” If that meant blind obedience to orders, then yes; the Army wants people who unquestioningly follow orders especially when instinct is screaming no. For a start, pointing a rifle at another human and firing “center of body mass” is not a natural thing for most people. Self discipline is different and based on what we want to do, not what we are forced or compelled to do due to fear or blind obedience. One cannot have self discipline forced on or beaten in to them. Even the indoctrinated can eventually see through falsehoods.

Being self disciplined is being able to self regulate. No one need look over our shoulder or check what we are doing. The assumption is that a person with self discipline and integrity can be left alone to do their task or fulfill a promise. With recovery we start to learn the benefits of self discipline. Like any skill it takes time and practice to become second nature. Once we develop self discipline we find we are able to do things that previously we were unable or unwilling to do without being pushed or forced to do. The mental barriers that prevent us from our goals start to fall down as we apply ourselves and follow through with our commitments. Self discipline becomes the engine for positive and continuous change in our lives. Self discipline then equals success.

 

“Whether you call it Buddhism of another religion, self discipline,  that’s important. Self discipline with awareness of consequences” – Dalai Lama

 

Try it

Challenge yourself to being more self disciplined. Even for a few days try one or some of the following if it is not already part of your routine. See if you can make it a habit. These are daily activities that I started and stuck with applying the Jedi principle of Self Discipline:

  1. Exercise daily: Do 30 minutes or more of exercise within your physical limitations. This might be a brisk walk, a jog, a fast paced run or a strength or endurance based activity in the gym or at the park. You decide, the key is to get moving especially when you don’t feel like it. Just Do it.
  2. Meditate: Sit for 15 minutes or more. Focus on the breath. If your mind wanders to stray thoughts or you are distracted gently return to the breath and continue. There are free meditation apps and podcasts as well as guided meditations on Youtube* to assist. It take self control to sit for more than 5 minutes without being distracted by the “monkey mind”.
  3. Fast: Cut one temptation from your life for a period of a week. It may be junk food, soda, alcohol or tobacco or another food item you have been wanting to cut back on. A week long sugar fast may be one that will challenge you. Try extending it longer. Intermittent fasting also takes self discipline however before you start fasting a day or two a week or change your diet speak to a health professional and listen to your body. Health and Safety first.
  4. Shut it Down: Social Media (Face Book, Twitter, Instagram) is distracting and can be a huge time waster as well as introduce toxic energy in to your day. The news media is another source of negativity that demands our attention and emotional response. I find taking time out from Face Book and switching off the news when it comes on spares me potential anxiety or anger. Leave the TV switched off and leave your cell phone on silent for a day. The world can function without us being tuned in 24 hours. You won’t miss much if you media-fast for a week.
  5. Don’t Wait: Have you been putting off a health kick for a while waiting for the right time? Are you thinking about starting martial arts but have been making excuses and keep passing up the “try before you buy: three free lessons” offer at the local Krav Maga class or Karate Dojo? You bought a guitar but don’t seem to ever be in the mood to pick it up and start learning? Well, just start, stop procrastinating and do it. These things will not happen by themselves, you have to decide and act accordingly.

 

“Do or Do Not, There is no Try”

Yoda reminded Luke Skywalker that it was entirely up to him whether he chose to succeed or fail as a Jedi. Luke had been taught much by the Jedi Master and was shown the path that he needed to take to fulfill his destiny. It was now all up to Luke what to decide and how to act. Self discipline was going to be the virtue that took him there.

What will you do?

 

 “No person is free who is not master of themselves.” – Epictetus

Jedi have a sense of Humor

33. Jedi have a keen sense of humor

Jedi are serious people, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Jedi like to make people smile and laugh, especially in bad situations.

(33 Jedi Traits)

When we Laugh

There is a saying that goes if we are laughing we cannot have our mind in a dark place. Much of our life is spent ruminating on the past with all its regrets or projected into the future with all of its fears and hopes. Laughter puts us in to the present moment. When we laugh can not be anywhere but in the here and now.

“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly” – GK Chesterton

Nothing seems more unfettered than the raucous laughter of children at play. As we grow older and lose our innocence that capacity for spontaneous joy seems to diminish. The inner child remains but is silent and suppressed much of the time. The times we find our sense of humor and laugh  it feels like we are inviting that inner child out to play. The world appears brighter when we do.

 

“We should take a lighter view of things and bear them with an easy spirit, for it is more human to laugh at life than to lament it” – Seneca

Humor is a Treasure

The Jedi knew the value of humor. Obi-wan Kenobi was one to often use irony and wit to refocus Anakin or defuse a situation from turning violent. Yoda often turned to humor and playfulness to make light of a situation or to disarm opposing opponents even at their own expense.

 

“When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not” – Yoda

Humor is one of our greatest assets. Those in recovery know its value. We can laugh about past tragedies and misfortune. Life has played a merry game with us and we can see that the last laugh is on us. So why shouldn’t we laugh? We are recovered.

“A happy heart is good medicine” – Proverbs 17:22

Needed Armor

Its easier said than done but always try to see the funny side. Sometimes cruel irony in its own way is funny if you think about it. The Stoics believed that to re-frame misfortune as comedy and find wit in the most inappropriate circumstances was like wearing an extra layer of armor. Someone can insult us or beat us to the ground but if we laugh at them and counter their insult with a joke they have failed to harm us.

One of the greatest assets of an Infantryman is a sense of humor. Without it he is virtually guaranteed misery in service. The spontaneous hilarity, the endless practical jokes and good natured ribbing kept many of us from going insane and brought us closer together. So it is with any family; those that laugh together stay together.

 

Laugh it Off

Learn to laugh again if you think you’ve forgotten how, you are wrong. There were many times in my depression and alcoholism that I no longer saw the lighter side and then I would surprise myself. A sense of humor can sometimes get us into trouble. Regardless so can a serious disposition or a sour attitude, so better to laugh. Good humor used well can be infectious, so spread it around and most of all remember to laugh at yourself.

Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously but not themselves” – General Colin Powell (ret)

How humor heals

1.  Fear and depression are disarmed as laughter reminds us they are impermanent. We do get through them, “this too shall pass”.
2.  Humor releases endorphins and relaxes tension. Laughter feels good.
3.  Dr. Patch Adams used laughter as medicine to treat pain and promote recovery.
4.  Humor increases immunity by promoting immunoglobulin.
5.  Stress hormones are reduced through laughter.
6.  Humor cultivates optimism. If we can laugh something off we suddenly feel positive in the face of adversity.
7.  Humor deescalates tension and conflict. Ive been in some very tense moments when a joke said by someone at exactly the right time or even a dropped fart has resulted in fits of laughter, insults and oaths are forgotten.

Jedi have Foresight

Jedi can see the future through the Force

Through the Force, Jedi can see both near term and long-term future events. Future seeing abilities are sometimes a result of meditation.

(33 Jedi Traits)

 

Can we predict the Future? If we could, who would want to carry the burden of knowing their fortune and the future of all? Who could honestly feel blessed in having the ability to predict future events? It could be said that knowing the future would give one the power to change some unfortunate event. That would be true to some extent but in the vast majority of cases you would still be powerless to change predetermined events. People would still die, bad things would still occur and you would still have to carry the burden of knowing beforehand.

The Jedi had some ability to foresee future events. Yoda for example had visions of the fall of the Jedi Order. Even in the fiction however the Jedi only had a glimpse of the future. Anakin did not see his own fall or the tragic end of his wife, Padmé Amidala. In fact Anakin created his own destiny by falling to fear, anger and hate. In the real world there are people who have some sort of psychic ability to predict with clarity future events. Others use basic logic, reasoning and probability.

 

Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future..” – Yoda

 

Crystal Ball Gazing

While most of us can barely foresee future like a fortune teller, alcoholism has taught me that the future can be anticipated. I have no doubt that certain actions lead to typical outcomes. It does not take a crystal ball to realize what would transpire if I had a drink or two. Armed with experience and self knowledge I know that certain triggers can lead to certain outcomes. Those outcomes carry consequences.

Scientists have shown that the human mind is capable of using logic, probability and patterns drawn from past events to predict the future. My History teacher said “We study dead people so that we can appreciate the past, understand the present and predict the future”. He was right. It does not take a Jedi to predict the Future, just a rational human being.

 

The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present” – Eckhart Tolle

 

The Rational View

Being a rational human being, being Jedi is about having foresight. It is about taking a “Future View” of our actions. In active alcoholism I never considered consequences for my actions but I feared the Future. Life was lived for the moment on some sort of hedonistic merry go round that only led to suffering. The future appeared dark and desperate. A form of insanity existed where I thought that if I kept trying the same thing over and over again I would eventually end up with a different and better outcome. Reality suggested the opposite.

 

The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the light, the future is.” – Yoda

 

We may have plans but so does the Future. The truth is we have no idea what is coming around the bend. To worry about a future that has no come to pass does little more than take us away from when life happens; in the Now.

 

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”. Buddha

 

 

Future View

These days I take a “Future View” when making decisions. This is simply considering the long and short term consequences of a decision and weighing them rationally against perceived immediate benefits. Resisting impulses is a form of self discipline that leads us to consider the near and long term impacts of making a decision that appears to have short lived benefits.

 

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

We make decisions that discount the future all of the time and potentially lead to poor outcomes. For example, we choose to speed while driving. Do we consider thinking that gaining five minutes on the road carries a risk of getting a fine or having an accident that could potentially devastate not just one life but many?

We spend money on frivolous purchases rather than saving for something important. Words leave our worth which we later regret saying but which gave us satisfaction at the time. Important assignments and preparation for exams are delayed until the last moment knowing full well the consequences in advance. Actions lead to predictable outcomes which we can visualize clearly in our minds eye, yet we make the same errors over and over again. Taking a “Future View” allows us to avoid these traps.

 

Change the Future

A “Future View” carries no guarantees but as a virtue it is up there with patience, honesty, humility, courage and self discipline. Jedi are familiar with these virtues. We alcoholics know that the decisions we make today can ultimately decide the rest of our lives. The power of foresight is used to avoid a future we would rather not have.

One can Meditate on their decisions and use their intuition and common sense. Your heart will show the way. As long as we stay on the path we no longer need fear the future. We do what we need to do today, living one day at a time. We turn the outcomes over to a Higher Power. Things do turn out OK.

 

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.” – Seneca