Self Knowledge

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

 

There is no Ignorance; there is Knowledge” – Jedi Code

 

The underlying message of the mantra “There is no Ignorance; there is Knowledge” is humility. Through objectivity and rejection of illusion we see the world as it is. We recognise our delusions for what they are. We seek the truth and self-knowledge above all. In doing so we arrive at humility.

Pride and vanity cloud our judgement and obscure the truth and the antithesis of which is humility. We learn to accept that we do not know what we do not know and that the truth behind all things is hidden. We then leave ourselves open like a vessel to inquire, question, to acquire knowledge. Never stop learning.

 

Ignorance

Ignorance is bolstered by pride, but fear keeps us there. The truth is that no-one in this world knows everything and can ever know everything. To believe different would be arrogance in the extreme. To be arrogant is to be ignorant and to turn away from learning is to deny growth. The human spirit wants nothing more than to grow. Arrogance and ignorance are born of fear and it is fear that keeps us from growing to our full potential.

As an alcoholic I suffered ignorance to the extreme and was arrogant and full of self importance. I looked down on others as inferior and everyone but me had a problem. My fault was that I chose not to know myself and learn from what was painfully obvious; the inability to moderate and to be humble.

 

Falsehoods appearing real

They say that the definition of insanity is to “do the same thing continuously and expect different results”. That is how alcoholism works; “it will be different this time” and “I have it under control” or “what do they know, I’ll show them”.

If I had applied simple scientific method to my long list of problems I perceived to be caused by others I would quickly have come to realise that the above statements represented a false hypothesis.

The belief that I could control my drinking was continuously proven wrong with every bender and every hangover. Yet, the alcoholic will persist, often to his untimely end with this insanity. The only way I got out of this merry-go round was to admit that I did not know, that I was ignorant and all I had to do was open myself up to be ready to learn and embrace and explore, rather than reject without exploration.

 

The Brink

Human behaviour as a whole is no different. We are not much different you and I. We all now stands at a crossroad in its history. Society has harnessed the technological know-how to end all life on this planet as we know it. A mere virus of our own making can bring society to its knees. We are at the mercy of nature and worse, we are the victims of our own ignorance and hubris.

Humanity now stands on the brink and while the intellect exists to create technology and power, we also lack the wisdom to yield it for the benefit of all. It is ignorance and arrogance that will ultimately hold humanity back from achieving its higher purpose. It may also destroy all life on Earth. The Ego ultimately kills the Ego.

Society, this human species has been around for a quarter of a million years as a sentient being able to think, reason, contemplate, judge and make conscious decisions. We have free will and the ability to exercise it. One would think after so many thousands of generations we would have learned a thing or two and not be making the same mistakes, the lessons would be written in our DNA.

We have all the power to change but at this nexus of collective human history we stand at the edge of a chasm. Beyond that precipice resides eternal darkness. Conscious thought, at least on Earth, no longer exists. All knowledge ends when ignorance prevails. This should not be the future for humanity.

 

Transcend

Being alcoholic puts me in a special place. I know what it is to be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually sick. I also know what that self-knowledge was crucial in my recovery. If I had not had the courage to admit my addiction and face my demons I would probably not be writing this today. But for the grace of the Force I am here writing this. Each passing day a little more truth reveals itself to me.

Consciousness of self and the gift of self-knowledge is granted to each person. It is up to you to “know yourself”. Each must find the path that separates ignorance from knowledge and false ideas from facts. This is done by identifying values, defining principles, realising passions and interests, setting personal goals and understanding your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

You may arrive at each through a guide or make the journey alone. When you know your life goal and purpose, you have arrived at true knowledge of your place in this world. At this place you leave yourself open to self-actualisation, individuation and transcendence to a state of higher consciousness. You become who you truly are; Self.

The wonderful reality is that we can transcend to the next level of knowing, a place where science meets spirituality and where we no longer need to live as un-evolved beings. Knowledge of the truth reveals the beauty and order in the universe and the divinity within all life and the oneness of all things. This state is pure consciousness, knowledge and enlightenment. It is the essence of the line “there is no ignorance, there is knowledge”.

Equanimity

There is no Emotion; there is Peace” – Jedi Code

He who seeks to control fate shall never find peace.”Ghosts of Mortis (The Clone Wars)

 

The underlying message of the mantra “There is no Emotion; there is Peace” is Equanimity. Emotion is a part of being human and to fully experience life one must embrace the full spectrum of emotions whether perceived as negative or positive.

The Buddha said that in life “there will be 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows”, that everything in life is essentially impermanent and transient. To grasp to anything, to build attachment, leads only to suffering. This includes emotions.

Equanimity is being able to experience emotions fully but without forming attachment to them. Without giving emotions free rein we can experience acceptance and peace.

In order to achieve deep inner peace one must be able to allow emotions to be as they are. To fight emotions such as fear, anger or grief is to give it life. What you resist persists. By being able to observe our emotional state, being aware of it and not letting it dominate our lives or dictate how we react to situations is the key to achieving inner peace.

The image of a Jedi calm in the face of adversity and completely at peace as a storm of fear and violence rages around him is in essence what this line teaches us. Think of Qui-Gon Jinn facing Darth Maul in the final scenes of the “Phantom Menace”. Before the duel Qui-Gon Jinn meditates despite the danger he faces and finds inner peace. Decades later when Obi-Wan Kenobi met his former friend and apprentice on the Death Star he also confronted the peril with equanimity.

Right now the world faces peril in the form of a pandemic. There has been nothing like it for over a hundred years. How this one will play out no one really knows and much of it depends on the actions that each individual takes in the face of this global threat.

No one is immune and everyone will be affected in some way. It is a reminder that we live in a global community. The most unremarkable acts, far away, can have profound consequences for all.

Will you face the peril with fear, anger and denial? Will you act irrationally and irresponsibly or will you find calm and peace amidst the calamity? Jedi Training prepares us for times such as these so that we can face them with equanimity. We accept that it is happening, we respond rationally and use self discipline to do what is expected of us without complaint.

Recovery means practicing our principles every day, not just when things are going well.

Use these times and every challenge you face to practice your principles. Embrace emotions as the divine gift that they are, but don’t let them rule you. Don’t give in to fear. Be “calm, at peace, passive”.

Diplomacy

Diplomatic mission over Naboo

 

You were right about one thing, Master. The negotiations were short.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

The Jedi were trained in diplomacy as much as in Lightsaber combat. Violence was a last resort. Physical force was used proportionate to the threat and only as far as necessary. In all cases a Jedi would seek diplomacy as a way of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome, if possible. Skills in negotiation and communication were paramount. The Lightsaber was only on hand if negotiations turned deadly.

 

Galactic Diplomats

The Republic was dependent on the Jedi being able to persuade allies and potential allies and build strong friendships. Jedi were often sent by the Republic Senate as diplomatic emissaries for this reason. Diplomacy was used to secure trade agreements, treaties, free hostages and avoid or resolve conflict. The Jedi recruited across the galaxy from all worlds and could easily bridge any cultural or linguistic divide by assigning the right team to engage in negotiations or provide a protocol Droid to provide impartial advice and assist. A Jedi could also be excused if they used subterfuge, half-truths or deceit in difficult or deadlocked negotiations. The “Jedi Mind Trick” was seen as a tool to achieving a desired goal without resorting to violence.

In many ways the Jedi resembled the professional diplomat of Earth, with one key difference. The Jedi only acted in the interests of the Republic and never for personal gain. Jedi were also warriors albeit “warriors for peace”. A Jedi who rushed blindly in to the fray with Lightsaber drawn was a liability. A Jedi who could not use diplomacy to talk himself out of a fight was a threat to peace and the Jedi Order.

This is not to say the Jedi were pacifists who objected to violence in all its forms. Violence when required was used without emotion or haste. A Lightsaber was never drawn in anger or used in hate or as a tool of revenge or murder. The Lightsaber was a symbol of control, purity in strength and the cutting edge of diplomacy. At least that was the intent and part of the Jedi Code.

 

You call this a diplomatic solution?” – Anakin

No I call it an aggressive negotiation” – Padmé Amidala

 

No People’s Person

Some of the Jedi were not the best diplomats and suffered the presence of others. Anakin was impatient and emotional, not the traits of a good negotiator. Anakin lacked the skills of a diplomat. Mace Windu could come across as inflexible and grim. The Jedi Master was a traditionalist and did not like the Jedi Order becoming intertwined with the Senate believing there was a conflict of interest at stake during the latter days of the Republic. This put him at odds with the political elite on Coruscant and other Jedi. Ultimately it led Mace Windu on a collision course.

No one is perfect. I would admit to being very brittle and aloof at times. I can also be rude and short with people. At times I have reduced people to tears in the way I have spoken to them. Most of the time I am oblivious that my tone, language and body language presents as defensive, aggressive or impatient and rude. This is the way I am and have always been. Alcoholics also have a penchant for getting people off side and otherwise offending those around them with skill. I used to joke that I not only burned bridges, I napalmed them.

One of the hardest things in recovery is learning how to treat people. We wish to acquire humility and patience so that we can achieve serenity. At the same time we want to be treated with kid gloves and tolerated. We are recovering alcoholics and want the world to be gentle with us. How often do we fail to give others the same tolerance, patience and gentle treatment that we expect for ourselves? How often do we fall back in to the old habits of resentment, anger, impatience and vindictiveness.

I don’t expect I will change any time soon. My character is so ingrained that I will never be completely cured of being an a-hole. What I can do is strive to be more diplomatic in my approach to people. I do not have to like everyone but being respectful and being tolerant is a start. When I fail, which I certainly will I must make amends as soon as I can. There is nothing worse than upsetting others through our words and actions and letting it go. Amends have to be made, our serenity and sobriety depends on it.

 

I am a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan” – Princess Leia

 

Common Past and Future

The 12 Steps recognises a number of truths. Firstly, it lays the blame of our insane behaviour directly on we who are alcoholic. We were insane and others suffered for it. Secondly, it is possible to make amends for our past mistakes and reset our lives so that we can find peace and serenity in the present and look forward to a better future. Thirdly, our character flaws and faults are not irredeemable. By willingly turning them over to a Higher Power and living by principle we experience a change in character. Despite our diversity and differences, we are not unique and we share commonalities with others who suffer, are recovered and those who were never alcoholic to begin with.

Its is understanding those differences and identifying where commonalities exist that is the key to getting out of self and learning diplomacy.

 

So how do we exercise diplomacy?

 

 

The Art of Diplomacy

Diplomacy is learned behaviour, a skill and an art. Learned because as children we observe our parents and peers and learn from their interactions. What is acceptable behaviour is adopted sometimes through trial and error and sometimes through guidance. The skill of diplomacy is using tact, reasoning, communication and negotiation in a manner that recognises one’s opinions, beliefs, ideas and biases as well as those of others. Challenges are skilfully navigated towards arriving at a desired outcome. The art of diplomacy is more refined. It is the mark of a true Jedi because it demonstrate effortless use of the Jedi Code in dealing with others.

 

Language is important.

The words that you choose and the way they are spoken can either persuade and influence or disillusion and alienate people. Be mindful of you language without surrender, use tact in your delivery. Always be clear and avoid ambiguity or misleading statements. Be sensitive to cultural mores around communication. For example, in some cultures yelling and being animated in negotiations is acceptable, in others it is frowned upon severely.

 

Patience is a virtue.

Never rush in to negotiations. Think things through before speaking or remain silent. If possible, have a plan on how to proceed with discussions.

 

Compromise, but never on principles.

Negotiations should never force you to compromise or betray your own principles regardless of the cost.

 

Be assertive yet agreeable.

Getting your way does not mean you need to force it. At the same time betraying weakness can quickly work against you. Hold on to your ground and only concede when it advantageous to do so. Just be nice while doing it. You can disagree without being disagreeable. Manners never cost anyone.

 

Face to Face.

Negotiation is best done person to person rather than remotely through email, messaging or phone. Much in communication is lost when facial expressions and body language is absent from negotiations. We are all guilty of over using email and texting to communicate and have probably been misunderstood more than once. Always insist on face to face negotiations and follow up with electronic communication.

 

Listen and Learn.

Active listening is essential to effective communication. Strive to listen, engage with questions to clarify and really try to understand what is being said. Show interest and avoid appearing absent or distracted. No one likes an incessant talker but everyone likes a good listener. Best of all a listener will learn something new while a talker will only repeat what is already known.

 

Empathy and understanding is the key.

Selfish motivations and biases will cloud negotiations. While we hear the concerns, demands or grievances of another party we are filtering them through the lens of our own needs. By understand where the other person is coming from and putting ourselves in to their shoes we can start to see the world and the issue through their eyes. With empathy comes arrival at a place of mutual understanding.

 

Open horizons.

Anyone who has worked as a Diplomat will reinforce the need to understand who sits at the other side of the table during negotiations. There exists cultural, religious, historic and linguistic differences between people and to bridge the gap it helps to understand them. Any smart Diplomat will study closely the culture of the country they are working in and make efforts to learn the rudiments of the language and otherwise seek the services of a local to act as adviser and interpreter.

 

You don’t have to like the guy, just work with him.

Rapport and honesty are important but not crucial. World leaders will meet and agree on crucial issues of national and global importance. They may not like each other but for the sake of diplomacy will find rapport to undertake productive negotiations. Honesty is a facet of trust which is requisite for agreements however an honest Diplomat will concede that the real world is more complicated than that. In the real world we are no different. One must use their discretion. Every day we must negotiate with people whom we love, like and dislike including family, friends, work colleagues, clients and random people we meet. If you deal honestly and have rapport you are likely to run into less problems getting your way however you should be mindful that being overly honest can also come with a price.

 

Diplomacy can appear to be a hard to acquire skill but it need not be. The four golden rules to remember are listen actively, respond respectfully, make your case clear, apply your principles. The art of diplomacy is understanding the differences around you and finding the commonalities that exist between them.

 

Blue Shadow

Patience. They’ll be here in a moment. You seem a bit on edge.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

There’s a good chance we’re about to destroy all life on this planet, including ours, and the senator’s. So yes, I’m a little on edge. Why aren’t you?” – Anakin Skywalker

I’m just better at hiding it.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi  (Blue Shadow Virus, S1, EP17 The Clone Wars)

 

The Blue Shadow Virus was a biological weapon that was developed by a mad scientist in the employ of the Separatist confederacy for use in the Clone Wars. The strain of virus was extremely deadly and quickly killed any living thing it encountered. As a result the Republic treated the virus very seriously and mobilised the Jedi to counter and eliminate the threat at all costs.

 

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were sent to Naboo to deal with the threat and succeeded however some of the virus was released in an underground laboratory infecting Ahsoka Tano, Padmé Amidala and several Clone Troopers. The race was on to find a cure. At the outset Obi-Wan Kenobi kept his calm while Anakin fearing for the safety of Padmé and his Padawan,  panicked.  The two characters reactions to the Blue Shadow virus typified human nature when presented with a crisis.

 

Two days ago I observed a type of panic which would not have been so unusual if it had not involved people frantically buying rolls of toilet paper in bulk quantities. There was something hilarious but also deeply disconcerting about it. Adults were fighting over large packets of toilet roll and filling their shopping trolleys until the bundles started to topple out in a mad confusion of toilet paper. A roll that had escaped from its packaging unwound itself down an aisle, disappearing under a shelving rack. The sight was comical yet bizarre. What struck me about this scene was the symbolism and my own creeping panic which I struggled to suppress.

 

Three ply scented toilet paper is the mark of an advanced industrial society seemingly under threat. Fifty years ago it was seen as a luxury, whereas today it is seen as the symbol of human dependence on what is safe, familiar and expedient. What I was observing in that store was a type of mass irrational fear in action. Fear for the safety of ourselves and those close to us can drive us to desperate, even insane measures. My mind began to race, should I grab as many rolls as I could before the last one vanished from the supermarket aisles forever? I suddenly realised, this was the type of moral panic Douglas Adams would’ve parodied, holding a mirror up to society. Obi-Wan’s words came in my head and my inner Jedi was restored. Things returned to their normal perspective. The melee over toilet paper continued behind me as I walked away.

 

Over the next 48 hours approximately 3,000 people died of cancer in the US alone. Another 17,000 mostly children had died of malnutrition worldwide. Malaria had killed 2,400 people and the common flu had taken the lives of over 2,000 worldwide without counting the new strain of coronavirus.

 

Two days later I am at work and the company has admitted that the economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak may end up costing us jobs. The reason? Market jitters and falling share prices due to lowered confidence and trading panic at the stock exchange. Commodity prices are beginning to falter. Fear and moral panic were to blame, not sick and dying people affected by a virus from China which had gripped the headlines and people’s minds since the beginning of the year. I don’t know how I will cope when its time to let people go because the business is no longer profitable.

 

Fear of the unknown can be crippling. When the unknown is invisible the fear is compounded. Ignorance is the ultimate multiplier as it always has been. The natural reaction is to imagine the worst possible outcomes which often leads to actions that make the situation worse not better. Irrational fear seems to be commonplace today. Moral panic pervades societal reactions to threats, real and imagined. We are driven to fear by our exposure to news headlines, instant messaging and social media posts. The source of our anxieties has evolved but the mechanics have remained unchanged. Humans remain a species that lives in perpetual fear of shadows and the dark imaginings of things beyond the recesses of our mind.

 

Being alcoholic I am still prone to catastrophic thinking and reacting without thinking things through. My decisions can be driven by emotions not reason. I awake at night from dreams that stir my anxiety. News reports will trigger an adrenal response. I will in turn be angry then fearful at something which I have no control over. During my years of active drinking I would rush out and stockpile booze not toilet paper when beset with moral panic. I came in to recovery recognising that this sort of reaction to the world was a mere symptom of the insanity of alcoholism.

 

Disproportionate response and irrationality is really just another way of saying we can’t handle what we can’t control. I do not belittle people who feel the compulsion to stockpile sanitary products when the world seems to be falling apart, I feel sorry for them. The behaviour is obviously a reaction to a deep seated fear of the unknown and impending change. Rather than sit around and do nothing, they observe what others are doing and mimic that behaviour. If people are stockpiling food or toilet paper, so will they. If people start to panic and loot they will likely follow suit.

 

No one can say where the current pandemic sweeping the world will lead. We can imagine that it could be as bad as the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. The virus spread to all corners of the world and killed more people in a single year than died during the First World War. I somehow doubt it will come to that, we live in different times. At the time of writing less than 100,000 people have been infected although the number of unreported cases is likely far higher, the world is not falling apart, not yet at least. Compared to the Blue Shadow Virus, SARs COVID-19 appears like a particularly nasty strain of the flu, not an existential threat that will kill everything it touches.

 

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano were able to retain their composure and focus on the things they could control when confronted with the deadly threat of the Blue Shadow Virus. When Padmé was infected she showed true courage, dignity and decorum in knowing that she would die and remain entombed forever in isolation to prevent the disease breaking out. Anakin Skywalker had surrendered to panic and was quickly bought back to his right mind by Kenobi before he reacted impulsively and put more lives at risk. At the last moment the threat was contained by clear thinking and a vaccine appeared saving the galaxy.

 

None of this is to say that the coronavirus is not serious. There is no intent to try to diminish the pain and anguish that people have experienced at the loss of loved ones. It may turn out to be very bad with millions of fatalities. Conversely it could be resolved within months. Humans are resilient and reason can prevail. Fear and panic will not resolve the issue or make it better it will only make it worse.

 

Keep it simple. One day at a time. Inform yourself from reliable sources, not click bait and rumour. Wash your hands and maintain good hygiene. Exercise normal every day caution. Focus on the things you can control which are ultimately your own impressions, choices and actions.


 

Awareness

You will know when you are at peace, calm, passive…” – Yoda

 

Mindfulness is defined as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the here and now. In other words being mentally right here in this present moment as you read these words.

The journey into a philosophy for life begins with awareness of the ability to analyze our own existence. Awareness is nothing more than knowledge and mindfulness of ones personal thoughts, biases, beliefs, feelings and place in time and space. Consciousness of self is awareness of ones inner existence and the effect the self exerts on the world.

A Jedi has acute awareness. She will sense every quiver, every sensation and emotion in her body without reacting to it. She will allow distracting thoughts to pass like clouds without engaging them. A Jedi is completely aware of what is happening inside and outside of her with each passing breath. The Jedi is aware and focused in the present moment without concern for the past or future. A Jedi uses observation, reason and objectivity in becoming aware of a situation and determining a course of action and when making a judgement.

When Obi-Wan Kenobi sat meditating before he fought Darth Maul he was clearing his mind of all distracting thoughts and emotions. Luke cleared his mind of all doubts and fears before taking the fatal shot that destroyed the Death Star.  The Jedi relied on awareness to connect with the Force and harness the presence and power to accomplish their goals.

Awareness practiced as mindfulness is no mystery. In fact it is part of our natural makeup. The Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual traditions have advocated mindfulness and the power of living in the Now for millennia. Despite this we are led to believe that we require rigorous mental training with the aid of instructors, gurus, books and apps.  Nothing could be further from the truth. All you need to do is start.

Being aware is being fully engaged in life. It is taking time to smell the roses, appreciate the sun on your face, the wind in your hair. It is stopping to pet the cat you encounter on the street. Being aware is acknowledging your thoughts and emotions but allowing neither to dictate your reasoned actions.

Meditation is a mindfulness exercise. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime. Being fully aware while driving a car, brushing the dog, washing the dishes, listening to music, playing with the kids and in fact doing just about any activity is an exercise in mindfulness. It is simply paying attention to what you are doing.

Commit your mind to the task with intent. If you are washing the dishes you are only washing the dishes and nothing else. Feel the water on your hands, the hardness of the porcelain and cutlery. Hear the sounds it makes. Use all of your senses. When you eat an apple experience the apple, observe its shape and color, notice the taste and texture as you bite in to it.

When you enter a room stop to look around. If there are people in the room take the time to notice them. Form a general impression from your surroundings wherever you go. Never blunder along with your face buried in a smart phone oblivious to what is happening around you. This is an all too common sight in society today. People are barely aware they are alive.

When you sit, allow mental intrusions to pass without engaging them. You can focus on the breath, the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If thoughts distract you, simply return to the breath.

There is a saying that when an old man sits, he only sits, there is nothing else going on; this is the essence of mindfulness.

Routine

So you want to be a Jedi” – Yoda

Do. Or do not. There is not try” – Yoda

 

So you want to be a Jedi?

Life is hard and so is being Jedi. The Jedi Code, doing daily practices, applying principles and proactively working on self-improvement all take effort. Change was never meant to be easy. It can be damn hard. Sometimes it can take everything you have.

 

But he still has much to learn. And his abilities have made him…well… arrogant. I realise now what you and Master Yoda knew from the beginning… the boy was to old to start the training” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

The Jedi had a training program which included years of Temple Study in Lore, Ethics, History and Diplomacy as well as intense physical and martial arts training. There were long hours of meditation and Lightsaber practice. The Jedi student was assigned to a Jedi Knight who acted as mentor and teacher. The apprenticeship lasted until the Padawan was ready to be a Jedi.

There were dangerous trials the Jedi student had to pass. Rigorous training then continued between missions. The Jedi rose in rank as they demonstrated mastery and skill. A Jedi also knew that despite years of dedicated training they had not learned everything there was to know.

 

I’m ready for the trials. I know I am! He knows it too. He believes I’m too unpredictable…Other Jedi my age have gone through the trials and made it..I know I started my training late… but he won’t let me move on.” – Anakin

 

Master self first..

Sometime we get ahead of ourselves and claim full knowledge and mastery before we are ready. We don’t know everything, and we never will. There is always more to learn, even the wisest and most experienced Jedi Master never stops learning. To claim “complete mastery” over any subject and announce that there is nothing more to learn is fool hardy at best, dangerous at worst.

So how do we approach our training? A good first step is to create and maintain a routine which will ensure that you stay on path in your journey to competency and after many decades, perhaps mastery.

 

Form Habits

This journal can serve as one small act done daily forming a routine and a habit. As a Jedi we should be doing our daily practices daily. This means every day, without fail, no excuses (unless you are too ill to move). We exercise, meditate, apply mindfulness in our interactions with the world, practice diplomacy and demonstrate self-discipline every day. Unless you incorporate the practices into some sort of routine you will fall well short of the mark.

Former US Navy SEAL Jocko Willinck has a daily routine that most people would find insane if not impossible. It  starts at 04:30 usually with a run and an intense workout. Willinck posts a photo of his watch to Instagram when he gets out of bed then sometime later there will be a photo of gym equipment or a sweat puddle on the floor.

“Real life Jedi” like Jocko Willink and David Goggins have realised that the secret to success and achieving goals is creating a routine and sticking to it no matter what. This take commitment, sacrifice and self discipline.  Hard work and an unbeatable mindset is built on a solid routine.

 

Routines

My daily routine is nothing like Jocko Willicks, its a simple one, but it does take effort. The benefits cannot be understated. Very often what we most need is a routine and a set of goals to work towards. The best way to set goals is to break them down. With simple and achievable targets that challenge you, you will progress. Over time you ratchet up the effort a little. Always start slow but be consistent and work to improve.

My daily routine comprises of practices I have adopted from the Jedi Path and the Stoics and adapted to my needs. Feel free to come up with your own program and stick to it for a while, then modify if required to suit your lifestyle, limitations and needs.

 

Morning

On rising, practice a short period of gratitude. Remind yourself of one or two or more things you are grateful for as you come into this day. Record them in the journal. This will put you on a good grounding. Avoid jumping straight on to your social media account to check missed posts and likes. Start with a fresh mind.

Welcome the day. A new day means new opportunity. Be thankful for it. Every morning try to greet the sunrise in its splendour. Otherwise take a quiet moment and imagine the sun coming up over the horizon. Take a moment to contemplate the grand scale of the cosmos and infinite time. Try to remember that this day is unique and will never be repeated. You only get one shot at it. You can take this time to meditate for 15-30 minutes if you prefer to meditate in the morning.

Spend a moment in contemplation. You can journal your thoughts on any topic or on the Jedi quote provided for the day. Grab a mental theme for the day. It can be anything taken from a quote, a line from a book or your own inspiration. Set in your mind or on paper three things you aim to achieve today and work towards it.

Consider the things that may go wrong. Remind yourself that through the day you will encounter people who are rude and obstinate, that your plans may get derailed. Tell yourself you will face obstacles and difficulties and how you react will reflect on you. Resolve not to let the things you cannot control affect you in negative ways.

 

During the Day

You will apply diplomacy and mindfulness throughout the day frequently checking in your inner world by simply asking yourself “How am I feeling right now? What am I thinking about?”.

Take time out from your responsibilities to simply focus on the breath. Go for a walk and notice things around you, the sky, trees, birds and people. Take the time to really notice the taste of your food and drink rather than scoffing it down mindlessly. Spend some time surrounded by nature each day, even its it’s only the local park. Enjoy a moment of solitude and silence if you can find it.

Do one act of kindness, a service, every day for someone. It can be anything, random or predetermined; an offer of assistance or help to someone struggling with a load, giving up your seat on the bus to someone who needs it more, a simple courtesy such as opening the door. A smile or kind word or an act of charity.

Deny yourself something nice or practice some form of denial to remind myself not to get too attached to comforts and ease. I practice periodic intermittent fasting on occasion. In addition to reminding myself that food is a precious resource not to be taken for granted I find that occasional fasting makes me feel better (Check with your Doctor before intermittent fasting). I may decide to leave my jacket at home on a cold day. Run the occasional cold shower! Sleep on the floor occasionally if you are adventurous.

Take a moment to undertake negative visualisation. Consider a realistic scenario that might occur which could ultimately change your life or at least make it unpleasant. This could include ill health, unemployment, poverty, ridicule or hate from others, betrayal by friends or colleagues. This should be done without attaching emotion. Imagine you are watching it play out in a movie. See yourself dealing with the situation and overcoming it; visualise yourself practising acceptance and equanimity.

Do at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical training (this can also be in the morning or evening). The type of physical training you do will vary and depend on your own preference and limitations. You may practice martial arts, play sports, hit the gym or CrossFit Box, swim, surf or run. Remember to have rest days to avoid over training (Stretch / Yoga on off days). However, do some form of physical activity every day even if it is only a short walk or some light stretching.

 

Evening

Spend at least 20 minutes in meditation (this can also be during the day or in the morning). Review the day, what went right, what went wrong and consider how you can improve. Journal your thoughts. Take some quiet time to relax and enjoy your free time any way you like. Thank the Force for another day.

 

I want to be a Jedi, like my Father” – Luke Skywalker

 

Do you still want to be a Jedi?

Self Discipline is the key to a healthy and productive routine that achieves outcomes. The only person who is accountable to it is you. No one is going to force you to do this. There is no Jedi Knight pushing you to excel yourself. Yoda is not admonishing you to “Do. Or do not. There is no try“. You will have to be the one who does that.

When Jocko Willink would enter a debrief room to give orders for a mission his Team Members would hum the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. They knew the more satisfied Jocko looked  the tougher the mission was going to be. You wouldn’t want someone like Jocko Willink getting you out of bed to run 10 miles every at 04:30 every morning before a gruelling workout in the grinder would you? You know its going to hurt real bad. The next less painful way is for you to do it yourself.

 

 

Not every one can be as hard core as Willink or become a Jedi. You can still aim high but forget about achieving perfect practice. Perfection is an ideal. In the real world we can only do our best. There will be days you will skip the routine, days when you are too tired or don’t feel like it. These are the days that will best demonstrate where your commitment is and how far you have come on the journey. Every moment you have a choice. Keep Yoda on your back and the mantra “Do. Or do not. There is no try” in your head, it’ll help. I guarantee it.

 

Further Reading

A day in the life of a retired Navy SEAL commander, MMA coach, podcaster, author , success coach and entrepreneur Jocko Willink:

Jocko Daily Schedule

Jocko Workout Philosophy

 

Journeys

On many long journeys have I gone. And waited, too, for others to return from journeys of their own. Some return; some are broken; some come back so different only their names remain.” – Yoda

 

The biggest party in the galaxy was the victory celebrations after the Battle of Endor. Darth Sidious had fallen, the Sith was vanquished and Anakin was redeemed. There was a wave of optimism that peace would descend on the galaxy and that the New Republic would bring justice and prosperity to all. On Endor, Han and Leia declare their love for each other, Luke celebrates with his friends as the Force Ghosts of his Father and Mentors look on approvingly.  Luke has arrived at the end of the Heroes Journey. The Ewoks dance and the music plays long in to the night. We can assume that celebrations erupted across the galaxy as the news spreads. “They all lived happily after” and the curtain closes on “Return of the Jedi”, the last Star Wars movie.

 

Then What?

 

Life continued and so did the challenges that life brings, even in fiction. The sun rose to another day on Endor. Everyone went back to their lives. Han and Leia married and had a child, Ben Solo. Eventually their marriage fell apart as their personalities clashed and the conflicting demands of their respective roles drove them apart and away from their only child. Ben Solo grew up in the New Republic in the shadow of his famous parents and his heroic uncle Luke Skywalker. A dark shadow also grew inside of Ben.

 

We can assume that Luke Skywalker resurrected the Jedi Order and rebuilt the Temple once Coruscant was liberated. The democratically elected Galactic Senate was also restored. At some point in the period of recovery and renewal ended. Eventually problems arose and new challenges emerged that threatened the hope promised on Endor. Ben chose the path of the Dark Side and joined the First Order. Luke exiled himself, Leia joined a resistance movement and Han returned to smuggling. The galaxy became rife with corruption and internal conflict. Once again the galaxy faced a nefarious threat.

 

In the final chapter, Rey has returned and confronted an evil force which has re-emerged from the shadows to threaten the entire galaxy with tyranny. An epic battle between good and evil takes place and the evil is once again vanquished, for good this time. Ben Solo is redeemed. The order of things is restored and peace settles over the galaxy. The Force is in balance once again. Our heroes return to where it all began decades ago on Tatooine. In the final scene Rey responds to a stranger that she is a “Skywalker”. So ends the final instalment of the final trilogy of Star Wars.

 

Then What?

 

I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become” – Carl Jung

 

There is no such thing as a “Happily Ever After” in real life. The journey never ends. No  matter how well we think things are going or not, the situation will always change. Everything is transient, nothing comes to rest for long. We may come to the end of a novel or a movie but that is the end of the story as told and known to us. Our story never ends. It continues throughout life and in one form or another long after we are gone.

 

In my more than half a century on this world I have started and ended many journeys. I used to think that these chapters were part of some cosmic joke. After all my life had not exactly been a resounding success or anything to be proud of. I always thought that if I fulfilled the expectations of others by settling down, attaining a respectable profession, a fulfilling relationship, meaningful job and the financial security required to live a materially comfortable life I would not only be successful but also happy. On arriving at a measure of each I soon realized that there is always more to be had and that true fulfilment is not wholly dependent on externals that are out of my control. Happiness is not a benchmark set by the standards of others. My alcoholism proved that there was an important spiritual element missing in my life that barred me from ever being “Happy”.

 

The Cave You Fear to Enter Holds the Treasure You Seek” – Joseph Campbell

 

I have learned that each event in my life and every person I had met played some part in my life Journey. I look back at my life and see my own trilogy unfold as a personal heroes journey of a life before, during and after active alcoholism. At the final turn of events that led to the end of each story within that trilogy I had to confront myself and arrive at some deep personal insight, some meaning. I was forced to stare hard in the mirror and confront myself. I was certainly not a hero but perhaps the journey was heroic. The journey had taught me things about myself, many which I did not want to know or accept but had to in order to move on.

 

When I hit my personal rock bottom I saw my entire life laid out before me, past, present and future. I came face to face with the person I was and was presented with a choice to fall or rise. My ego died that day, for a short moment at least.  I transcended self and saw who I truly was. I knew myself then, I had risen.

 

Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves” – Carol Pearson

 

When I sobered up I realised I would never drink again. It felt as if the door to that dark life had closed behind me and before me lay a wide world bathed in the light of a new dawn. I walked out, as if naked in to that world, unsure of what was going to happen next but certain that it would never be easy. Life did not magically become a blissful utopia, I did not transcend in to the Force like Luke or Yoda. This was no spiritual end to a journey but only a beginning. I soon found out that life still had its dramas, disappointments and demands. Life was simply moving from one chapter to another in my own Heroes Journey.

 

If we reach enlightenment is there still a “Then What”? Does everything end? The Buddha said that in life we experience the tears of ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. We would not learn, grow and improve without those tears. Adversities are opportunities in disguise. Faults are opportunities for improvement. Recovery is a work in progress. Enlightenment is then not freedom from suffering but the arrival at understanding of the meaning of suffering and knowledge of one’s true self. Enlightenment is not an ending but the beginning of a new story.

 

The hero’s achievement, in short, is to affirm life.”– Carol Pearson

 

Every story’s end heralds a new beginning. From death life springs. The sun sometimes rises behind clouds and sometimes in full glory, but it does rise to a new day. There is no ending, there is always a “Then What”. The goal of life is only to know thyself and in the end only our names remain.

 

Perhaps, in the final scene, when Rey called herself a “Skywalker”, that was the whole point of “The Rise of Skywalker”. Rey had risen beyond herself and knew at last who she truly was.

 

To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

 

Further Reading

 

Resolve

Credit: Lucas Films Ltd

 

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker ( A New Hope)

 

In a tragic scene which has become one of the most iconic in cinematic history Luke discovers his Uncle and Aunt murdered by the Empire, their bodies outside the ruins of their homestead. Grief quickly turns to fear and hate and in that dark place he finds his resolve and answers the call to adventure.

 

In order to change we must have resolve. We cannot rely solely on others and must be active in our own transformation. Others can act as guides, mentor or coaches but you are the author of your own change. You are the protagonist in your own “Hero’s Journey”.

 

Once you have decided to do something it is important to clarify in your mind why you are doing it. We are often tempted to pursue a new goal and set off before we are prepared or even willing. New year’s resolutions are an example. We give ourselves an ultimatum to change and improve our lives but fail to commit. We lack resolve. As a result we stumble aimlessly forward without a well-defined plan or even any objective. We then falter and abandon the prize we had set ourselves. A goal should always be articulated in a way that it defines the “why” and “what” you are trying to achieve before racing off to achieve it.

 

A study conducted through Scranton University and reported in the Journal of Substance Abuse found that only 19 percent of individuals follow through with New Year’s Resolutions. The main reason is resolutions fail is because they lack the resolve, the commitment and the “why”.  The main reasons alcoholics and other addicts fail to recover is because they fail to admit they have a problem in the first place. Change is the desire but desire alone is not usually going to get you far. Resolve and commitment will.

 

The transtheoretical model of behaviour change states here are six stages people go through on their journey to recovery. This is equally applied to any change in pattern or behaviour that requires concerted effort and commitment.

 

  1. Precontemplation: Denial of a problem contrary to the opinion of others and apparent evidence.
  2. Contemplation: Admission of a problem. Exploration of the costs and benefits of change.
  3. Preparation: You become mentally prepared to change through acceptance.  Surrendering to the process.
  4. Action: Doing the Work. Demonstrating the change you wish to see  even if you have to “fake it till you make it”.
  5. Maintenance: Taking steps every day to ensure that the change becomes embedded over time.

 

Relapse is the sixth stage. Almost everyone who has attempted a change has slipped in to old habits or suffered a setback.  True failure is quitting while there is still the chance to continue on the journey. On the path to being Jedi you will meet many obstacles and challenges. The temptation to fall off the path and quit will sometimes be greater than the effort required to pick yourself up and stay the course. Relapse should not be seen as a failure unless it is terminal.

 

If you had zero problems in your life and everything was perfect there would have no reason to change anything and no point in being here. Likewise if you are not ready to admit you have a problem or are not fully prepared and committed to change then the change you seek will not happen. No magical date will change that. Whether you start on January 1 or any other day makes no difference if you do not have the resolve to start with.

 

So why are you here? Why Jedi Philosophy? What are you seeking to change or improve about yourself? Do you really want to change or does the idea appeal to you more than the work? If you can arrive at answers to these questions then you admit you have a problem and are willing to change. You resolve to improve. Preparation and action usually follows.  For some people this may be self-evident, for others it may be harder to define or articulate. Often it’s easier to keep it simple.

 

Write down one thing you would change about yourself this very moment. Then ask yourself “Why” five times writing down the answer that comes to mind under each line. Dig deep to get to the “Why” to uncover hidden emotions and motivations and become more self-aware. I had a deep seated habit of catastrophic thinking. This affected my relationships and I needed to address it. In the end I had to confront that the way I reacted to adversity was essentially based on fear of punishment or loss that stemmed from a traumatic childhood.

 

What do I want to change?

I want to stop over reacting

Why?

Because it makes me anxious and upset.

Why?

Because I think the worst possible outcome.

Why?

Because I have no control.

Why?

Because I let the fear and anger dictate my reactions.

 

What upset me was not the problems I faced but how I perceived them. I can choose to allow every single bump on the road trip me up or I can accept that things will not always go as I plan. I can decide not to let it affect me that way. The reason I needed to change was because my behaviour was affecting my relationships. I wanted to achieve a higher degree of peace and serenity responding to life in a mindful way rather than reacting to it. By conceptualising it that way I became more invested in addressing that fault and more willing to change.

 

Without having resolve, change is unlikely to be enduring or meaningful, “half measures avail us nothing”. You need to care passionately about the goal and be single-minded about it giving it the focus it deserves. Accept the odds and don’t let people dictate them to you. Have a plan in mind and a destination but do not cling to either as plans change and goals may be unattainable. You need to accept that change is not easy and must be prepared to endure the obstacles, challenges and setbacks that will get in your way.

 

In order to start on the Hero’s Journey, you need to accept your call to adventure. You need to leave the “Ordinary World” behind. To do that you need a reason to be here. You need to answer with full conviction the “Why”. You need to have Jedi Resolve and be prepared to change despite the part of you that fears change and resists. This is your “call to adventure”. Do you answer that call as Luke did?

No Guru

I am neither a scientist nor a philosopher. I’m a Jedi. I don’t have to explain reality. I just have to deal with it.” – Mace Windu

 

People sometimes ask “why Jedi” and I sometimes see people in the Jedi community online debate strongly the qualities and virtues of a “Jedi of quality”. Likewise in the recovery community we often disagree on what constitutes contented sobriety and perfect recovery. Alcoholics in the 12 Step community cannot even agree on whether one can call themselves “recovered” or not. We are left wondering if we are good enough and whether we can arrive at the standard others expect. There are no Gurus here,  your inner voice is the true guide on this path.

 

The point of recovery  is not to reach a state of perfection or even reach some arbitrary standard set by others. Being sober is often enough. Being Jedi is no guarantee of achieving the rank of a Master. Demonstrating the virtues of courage, wisdom, moderation and justice and maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul is often enough.

 

The goal of anything is to improve incrementally over time and hopefully make some difference along the way. There are no Gurus in the recovery program and no true “Jedi Masters” exist in the real world. There are only people doing the best they can for themselves and those close to them. We all want to live a good and meaningful life. We all want to make some positive difference in the world. True heroes are normal, everyday people getting on with life and overcoming obstacles along the way. They are not fictional characters achieving impossible and daring feats.

 

Buddhism has its Bodhisattvas, those who approach enlightenment through dedicated practice but never achieve it in a life time. The Bodhisattvas cultivate good karma for the benefit of all living things on their life journey. Enlightenment, the achievement of “nothingness” may take countless lives to achieve. In the Vedic tradition Gurus also accumulate wisdom and knowledge in the divine. A life time of practice and application may lead to a state of spiritual bliss but enlightenment occurs once in a hundred generations.

 

In the west, Christianity has its rare saints who have achieved oneness with the holy spirit through a life time of dedication, self-sacrifice and piety. Islam and Judaism also have a spiritual ideal that equates to enlightenment.  the Socratic philosophies speak of the Sage who has lived a life unblemished by the concerns and distractions of mere mortals. The Stoic Sage perfected the virtues of courage, justice, moderation and reason in every aspect of life. The state of perfection was known to be unattainable however this did not prevent the Stoic from living those virtues to the highest standards possible. The end result was the attainment of a “good life” through compassion and service to others.

 

Failing to achieve  enlightenment in a lifetime does not make one a bad Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim or Jew. If a person works hard to make life more fulfilling for themselves and others in a meaningful way, regardless of their religion or school of philosophy, they are a being a good human. They are living a good and meaningful life. The saints, prophets, prophets, gurus and sages provide a sign post and a platonic ideal we can all aspire to.

 

Mythology also inspires. Stories describe the human experience as one in which the Hero will pursue some holy pursuit in order to transcend himself and benefit the world in some way.   The Star Wars mythology is no different. All of the main characters are involved in a journey of self-discovery and self realisation. Their actions somehow lead to a better state for themselves and others. The consequence of those actions ripple out across the galaxy. On rare occasions our Jedi hero achieves enlightenment and transcends to the Force. Their journeys inspire us through the medium of fantasy.

 

The goal of the fictional Jedi is to become one with the living Force. In doing so the Jedi arrives at the perfect states of serenity, peace, harmony, knowledge and unity with the Force. In the real world we can only hope to work towards this platonic ideal. The reward is in the work we do to progress down the path. Helping others, becoming better versions of ourselves and in some way making the world a better place, not enlightenment, are the desired outcomes. The goal of the 12 Steps is to stay sober and live a measure of contended sobriety, to grow spiritually and help others on their journey. The common theme is to improve, grow and serve not to become a Guru to others.

 

Philosophy is not about accumulating fancy quotes and devouring literature to satisfy our thirst for knowledge. The point of philosophy is to learn what is useful and apply the knowledge, skills and tools required to improve our lives and the lives of others. We are not here to be “philosophers or scientists”, but to deal with reality and be better versions of ourselves every day. That’s what being Jedi is.

 

Every day is a new chance to rise up and step forward, one foot at a time on this life journey. Eventually we will come to the end of the road and look back on a life that is spent. The question is will you look back at a life lived well? If you do you will have realised your purpose and come to know yourself. That’s more than most people can lay claim to.

 

As we come to the end of another year, ask yourself “Why am I on this journey?”, “Where do I want to go?”, “How can I be the best version of myself?” and “What do I need to do to achieve my goals?”. When you can answer those questions, get to Work.

Thanksgiving

 

(Credit: Lucas Films, Disney)

 

I’m thinking – I owe you one” – Han Solo (deleted scene, “Return of the Jedi”)

 

In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt and his Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Bobba Fett. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations.  In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends and it is a shame they removed it. Han needed to say Thank you more than anything to his friend and the reaction from Luke said it all. Thanksgiving is a spiritual act, it is nourishment for the soul.

 

This Thanksgiving what do you have to be grateful for? Often we find it hard to be thankful. Life can constantly throw up disappointment and frustration. We seem to resolve one problem only to be beset with another. We deal with issues at work, our relationships, finances and health. The list seems endless.

 

We can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough.

 

Meditate

Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?

 

Accept

Acceptance is a key way to resolve our issues. We have a choice, we can either do something about them or not. Sometimes it is better to act, sometimes it is better to wait and at times, no action is the answer. Denying that the problem exists is no solution as eventually it will force us to face it, possibly under worse conditions.

 

Commitment

Once we have accepted our problems we need to commit to doing something about them now, later or never. Make a decision and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out.

 

Act

Take action, whatever it is to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.

 

Reflect

At the end of Thanksgiving reflect on the positives in your life. List five things you have to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there is always five things you can name which you are grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.  I’m sure you can if you try. Some days you will surprise yourself that are more things to be grateful of than you can count on one hand.

 

Journal

If you keep a journal take time to write your list of gratitude down regularly to remind yourself. You can also keep a gratitude diary. Thanksgiving should be every day.

 

When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection… every time we remember to say ‘thank you’ we experience nothing less than Heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach.

 

Simple Abundance

Han Solo had little to be really grateful for when he met Luke and Ben Kenobi at the  Mos Eisley cantina. The Smuggler was sought out by the Empire and Jabba the Hutt. Han Solo had run out places to run and hide. He had a loyal ally in Chewbacca but no other friends. Over time and through many adventures Han come to know the value of friends and family that he could depend on. He had the undying loyalty and love of his closest friends around him. Solo was not so solo after all. Despite all his losses he had the greatest gift a man could wish for.

 

Today I have a purpose and meaning in my existence, I have a family to care for, a job to do, the sun is shining, more is going well in my life than not and I am sober and there is always hope for a better future.

 

Be grateful every day for what you have. Spend less time on what you don’t.

 

You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach