Revenge

“Jedi don’t hold grudges” – Aurra Sing (Bounty Hunter)

Revenge is a recurring theme in the Star Wars saga. The Sith spent centuries seeking revenge against the Jedi in the old and the last Republic and finally succeed in the “Revenge of the Sith”. Boba Fett the clone son of the Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Jango Fett sought revenge against the Jedi Master Mace Windu for killing his Father during the Battle of Geonosis in “Attack of the Clones”.  Asajj Ventress, one of the most compelling and lethal characters in “The Clone Wars” is betrayed by her Master Count Dooku during the Battle of Sullust. The Dathomirian Assassin then attempts several times to exact her revenge and kill Dooku. Failing every time, Ventress finally decides to set aside her lust for revenge and seek a new life.

“A Season in Hell”

There is a Sicilian proverb which translates to “Revenge is a season in Hell”. The “Dish best served Cold” may seem satisfying when carried out for a perceived injustice but my experience has shown otherwise. Anger, resentment, hatred and a thirst for restitution and revenge are burdens on the mind and soul. In the end it achieves nothing and leaves an emptiness and a scar that runs deep.

Revenge has become confused at times with Justice. The complex issue of retaliating to terror attacks for example can often seem unclear and ill thought. Revenge leads to more violence and so on. During my time in the Army the desire to extract revenge for a comrade killed by an IED would lead us to do things that were ethically and morally questionable. We felt it was justified, it felt good and the brass mostly looked the other way. Our self righteousness and anger gave us the fuel we needed and you were either in or out. Whether it was a dead or wounded soldier or an affront to unit honor, we wanted “pay back”.

I still think about the violence and the anger which dominated my life for five years. The effect it had on all of us then remains in part today. Sometimes the regret of actions, the way we treated each other and especially people weaker than us is remembered. I was angry and wanted pay back for years. I would think of my childhood, my dead mother, my drunken father and his fists, the bullies at school, the Nuns and Priests who would abuse us physically and mentally in boarding school. There was the process of bastardization and dehumanization experienced in the Army. I was riddled with anger and resentment for years. I wanted revenge but there was no specific person I could exact it on, so I drank and decided one day I would make the world pay.

It is true, revenge is a season in Hell and I spent the better part of 25 years in my own self made Hell. I was no longer under the control of a parent, school, institution or government but I was completely owned by Booze. In that grey cold place between sanity and insanity and living and dying nothing seems real. We drink to make life bearable and we blame the world for our troubles. In the end there is only two choices; continue down the slippery slope or start forgiving and start the long road to recovery.

Forgiveness

I took Step 4 some time ago and wept like a child as I wrote my long discourse of misery. All of the anger, fear, resentment and revenge seeking that I had held had left me broken.  I forgave myself and I let all of it go, leaving it to the past and in the hands of whatever Higher Power I had conceived. By forgiving myself I was able to forgive the world. It felt as if the weight I’d carried for all those years fell away like some dark heavy cloak. The clouds parted and for once I felt real hope that the nightmare was over. I set out to list those I had harmed and started to make amends one by one.

In “The Clone Wars”, Bobba Fett infiltrates Geonosis and with the help of the Bounty Hunter Aurra Sing attempts to kill Mace Windu. The attempt fails and Boba is captured and imprisoned on Coruscant. Face to face with the man who killed his father Boba Fett vows he will one day have his revenge:

I see now I’ve done terrible things. But you started when you murdered my father! I’ll never forgive you.
Hmm. Well, you’re going to have to. Take him away.

Boba Fett and Mace Windu

In the end we never find out if Boba Fett forgave Mace Windu after the Jedi Master was killed by Darth Sidious. Asajj Ventress attempted one more time to kill Count Dooku, this time with the help of Jedi Master Quinlan Vos. The Jedi Council wanted Dooku dead to bring an end to the war and Ventress saw an opportunity. During the adventure Ventress fell in love with Vos and it is that love and the sacrifice of her life to save her lover that redeems her, not revenge.

Brother’s Keeper

You were my Brother Anakin, I loved you!” – Obi-wan Kenobi (The Revenge of the Sith).

The Padawan – Master relationship as depicted in the Star Wars fiction was a special one. The bond that formed between Padawan and Master was more than professional; it was a strong and unbreakable partnership that transcended normal boundaries. The Padawan relied on the Master for mentorship and guidance on the Jedi Path but also in every aspect of living as a Jedi. The Master protected the Padawan to the risk of his own life and the Padawan did all she could to support her Master. Over time the bond became great and an affection and love evolved transcending even death.

When Yoda assigned Ahsoka Tano to Anakin he knew that the Jedi Knight would do all he could to resist being encumbered by a young Padawan. Yoda knew that Anakin needed to take on a Padawan to teach and mentor for his own good. By watching over someone with less experience than he, Anakin would learn patience, compassion and empathy. Anakin would also have to face attachment as Yoda knew that he would eventually grow fond of his Padawan and be reluctant to let her go.

Obi-wan Kenobi had watched Anakin grow and had taken him through the academy on Coruscant and then taught him to be a Jedi in the field. In that time, Obi-wan considered Anakin as a brother. Despite Jedi training in non-attachment, Obi-wan grew attached to Anakin. In time a similar relationship would grow between Ahsoka Tano and Anakin. The many differences, disagreements, competitive nature and strong personalities between the two ensured that a strong “Brother-Sister” bond would form.

Brother’s Keeper

In the Army I first learned the concept of “Brother’s Keeper”.  It is also a term I hear today out on the Rigs. In the Army, all of my buddies were “Brothers”. Some of us had come through boot camp together and had been posted to the same battalion. The others had arrived at different times. Some had been there for months, some for years.

In the beginning “F***n New Guys” were treated like crap. We got the short end of every situation and assigned the crappiest details. In the field we were given extra guard, got the latrine duties and were “volunteered” for the worst tasks. You cleaned your weapon and then got all the support weapons to clean too and maybe the NCO’s. You got extra guard duty and less sleep. At the end of the day you accepted it, the biggest mistake you could make was to shirk your duties or complain. You took it with a grin.

Months passed and something happened; new guys arrived to replace those who had moved on and the pressure dropped off. All of the sudden you start to get treated differently. They cut you slack at last, you began to feel accepted. You had started to prove your worth.

More time passes and you go out on long exercises and then you might deploy. The fragile bonds that had existed previously now get stronger. The shared experience of discomfort, pain, hunger, fatigue and fear create an indelible bond that transcends normal friendships.

You know the guy next to you more than your own brother back home. You call him all sorts of names and occasionally trade blows but you love him like a Brother and share everything. If you had to you would lay down your life for him and you know he would do the same. This is “Brother’s Keeper”. There is nothing like it in the “real” world that comes close outside of family with the exception of the Police and Emergency services.

“I watch you, you watch me”

On the Rigs “Brother’s Keeper” is a term they used for safety. There are three types of safety in the workplace. The first is “I expect you to look after me”, this is called dependence. The second is “I look after me”, this is independence, the most common form you see “safety is your responsibility”. The third and most mature evolution is “we look after each other”, I watch your back and everyone else. This is known as “Brother’s Keeper” and it is the norm in the highly dangerous environment of the industry. It is the closest thing I have found to the warrior-brother bond outside in the civilian world.

Survivors on a Life Raft

There is one exception where “Brother’s Keeper” applies and that is in the rooms and halls of recovery. In recovery we are not in isolation. There are millions of others who also suffer. Every time I meet an alcoholic in recovery, someone who has gone through the same wringer as me and hit “rock bottom” but found his or her way out, I feel a sense that this is my brother or sister. We are united by a common bond of shared experience, despair and hope. The relationship that exists between the Sponsor and Sponsee embarking on the 12 Steps can also be powerful. There is mutual trust, respect and need.

But there exists among us a fellowship, friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined” – The Big Book Chapter 2.

More than 25 years after leaving the Army I still feel a strong bond to my “Brothers in Arms”. It is unspoken and never celebrated openly but it is tangible during the rare times we reconnect. Years may have passed, people change but we remember what it was like and how we relied on each other to get through. I now rely on the recovery community for the inspiration and strength to help guide me through the high and lows of my journey to recovery. They are my “Brothers Keeper” and I am theirs.

Ego

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

The ego is all that separates us from knowledge of who we truly are. I have heard something along these lines many times; it is the nature of duality, the illusion of separation of self from the source. As a Jedi I view it as the perceived separation from the Force, we believe ourselves to be separate egos and the fear, anger and chaos that the illusion of separation engenders leads to conflict and competition.

Yoda said “Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter”, although a fictional line in a movie it contains the very essence of the idea of the illusory nature of separation and our material existence. We are more magnificent than can be imagined, we have simply forgotten who and what we are in this grand cosmic game and are ruled by the Ego. The Ego is only an illusion, a construct that arises from the confusion as to who and what we truly are.

Many traditions and religions teach that death leads to the end of the Ego and transcendence of the soul to unity with the spiritual source. While the spiritual dimension of Jedi philosophy is best left to be resolved by each practitioner at the personal level, the concept of Ego and the Force as it relates to our time on this plane is central to Jedi Philosophy.  In order to be Jedi one must confront the Ego and push it to the background rather than letting it dictate thoughts, words and actions.

Imagine no Ego

If the Ego is simply a mask, a veil against our divine nature and a filter through which intent, thoughts, decision, words and actions are made then it makes sense that the Ego can be pushed back and even made irrelevant in our lives. Imagine a life without the influence of the Ego? For me there would be no more selfish decisions that centered on what was right for me. I would be more inclined to do what is in the benefit for everyone.

There would be no more need for conflict as I would be able to make greater concessions and negotiate outcomes without feeling cheated or short changed. My relationships would be better and I would be happier in being of greater service to everyone. My life would be about service and sharing for the sake of it, not for some tangible return although I would be richly rewarded in the pleasure that would bring.

I would not need to lie, cheat, avoid situations, hide facts, fear the future or regret the past I would be able to live in complete serenity and equanimity from moment to moment accepting life on life’s terms and being able to forgive and let go of any residual pain. This all sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

Deflation of Ego

In the program one often hears the term “deflation of ego” as being a vital spiritual experience often had by hopeless alcoholics who have hit “rock bottom”. The outcome is they suddenly and inexplicably never drink again and nothing but a spiritual experience can explain it. These are people who have previously tried everything to stop drinking and failed. When an alcoholic or an addict becomes so morally and spirituality bankrupt and effectively hit “rock bottom” they have nothing left and descended to a very dark place emotionally and spiritually.

I have been there and I can attest that it is the closest metaphor for hell that I can think of. Ekhart Tolle describes it in his book “Power of Now” as a place beyond time and place from which he awoke with a new vision of what life really is and a message for the world. Bill W too experienced the moment before he found his spiritual source and regained his life from hopeless alcoholism. Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi and the Buddha all experienced this “deflation of ego” at their worst moments and emerged enlightened.

In Star Wars, Anakin hit “rock bottom” in the “Revenge of the Sith” as he turned to the dark side and service to Darth Sidious. The light saber duel on Mustafar between Anakin and Obi wan-Kenobi and his horrific and painful defeat in the lava flows was a parable for the final descent in to a personal hell. Unlike the others though, Anakin did not ascend from his personal hell but went further and completely embraced the dark side becoming Darth Vader.  Anakin did not experience a “deflation of ego”

Service is the key

Service is a big part of the 12 Step Program because serving others gets us out of ourselves. We no longer focus on our own problems but seek to help others with theirs. Sincere and genuine service, selfless actions of love and compassion are the key to connecting with who you truly are.

We all live busy lives. Some of us volunteers our time to causes or seek work where “giving back” is a big part of it. Many of us are busy trying to live from day to day and just get by. For me, service starts at home with taking care of my family and doing the best I can in my work. In the program, service can be as simple as sharing a personal story with a newbie starting off in recovery or volunteering to keep meetings going. Just showing up is service.

People are happier when they feel validated and part of a community. When they have a chance to help others and feel valued. I believe that’s what we truly are. We are more than “crude matter”, we are more than just Ego.

Friend and Foe

“Things are changing and sometimes the line between friend and foe is blurred” – Obi-wan Kenobi

This was a pivotal moment in “The Clone Wars” as Obi-wan Kenobi uncovers a sinister plot to force the neutral Mandalorians to enter the war. Obi-wan realizes that the war has become confused and that the lines drawn between the Republic and the Separatists as well as friend and foe are anything but clear cut.

Obi wan-Kenobi was beginning to understand that a “Third Force”, a mysterious and shadowy power was working in the background to undermine the war effort. Manipulating events and key players as he had witnessed on Mandalore with the rise of the “Death Watch”. For myself “The Clone Wars” begins to get really interesting at this point as the intrigue and mystery starts to mounts. The series begins to realize a darker theme challenging many of the ideas we had already formed about the main characters. We all know where the inner conflict that assailed Anakin would eventually take him and how things would turn out for the Republic.

Besides being a metaphor for many world events that have occurred in the last few years the Mandalore story provides two clear lessons;

Firstly, while you know yourself better than anyone else you don’t know yourself completely. You don’t know what you are capable of when pushed to the extremes or forced to make a choice and you don’t know the full extent of your better side let alone your dark side. You may trust yourself to a degree, but not explicitly.

Secondly do not assume to know everything about other people including your closest friends and family members, you don’t know all and you never will. That is not to say that they will turn on you, betray you or disappoint you in some grave way, however we cannot over build expectations on others and raise them to a pedestal only to become disillusioned when you see them unable or unwilling to meet those standards. They, like you are only human and like you they have faults, make mistakes and believe it or not they also have weaknesses. All humans do.

The Sponsor

In AA the concept of the “Sponsor” is used to assist the recovering alcoholic. The Sponsor is a person that helps mentor a fellow Alcoholic in his or her recovery. The reason is simple, it helps the Sponsee (the person being sponsored) navigate the 12 Steps. It also helps the Sponsor as service to others is seen as integral in removing selfishness. The mental and emotional load is shared and Sponsor and Sponsee help each other keep on track and avoid relapse.

The main issue with the Sponsor-Sponsee relationship is that if a Sponsor falters and relapses back in to their addiction it can often cause the Sponsee to become disillusioned and also relapse. The problem most often arises when the Sponsor has built up an image of being a “Big Shot” in the recovery program and bullet proof from relapse rather than humble and grateful. The Sponsee raises the Sponsor on a pedestal and draws inspiration from that person the same way a follower looks up to a Guru.

When the Sponsor fails the disappointment and disillusionment is often enough to push the Sponsee to relapse. They say in the program that there are no Gurus, just alcoholics who still suffer but find strength in each other, in themselves and through their chosen concept of a Higher Power.

A good example of the dangers of strong attachment to a personality is presented in the story of Anakin’s Padawan Ahsako Tano. Ahsako Tano was devastated when she learned that her Master and Mentor Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side. It is a wonder that she did not completely abandon the cause or also fall to the Dark Side.

Be on Guard

I don’t have a Sponsor but there are people that I look up to as a role model. It works to be realistic in my expectations of what people can achieve and what they may deliver. I never elevate anyone up to the rank of a Guru and at the same time I never get so self-confident that I start getting cocky. Getting in my own way and trying to run the show usually ends badly for me. Times like those are a reminder for me to re-calibrate and find humility again.

Don’t get cocky” – Han Solo

The short end is that I still don’t really know myself but I am learning more and more every day. I still have to be on guard especially against my “Dark Side”. Like the situation Obi-wan Kenobi found himself in when he saw a Mandlorian friend betrayed time and time again by trusted friends and allies. I must ask what is real and what might be less than real and accept that lines in the sand can shift or vanish. It is better not to become attached too greatly to an illusion of one’s perceived self or to another that we hold in high esteem.

May the Force be With You

Learn Humility

“You must unlearn what you have learned” – Yoda

The words by Yoda to Luke Skywalker on Dagobah pretty well summed up the Jedi Masters assessment of the young Padawan Luke. Yoda recognized so many faults and shortcomings in Luke but also much hope. The main fear was that Luke would fall in to the same emotional traps that his father Anakin displayed such as impatience, impulsiveness, fear, anger, uncontrolled rage and finally a fall to the dark side. Humility conquers pride.

Yoda knew that Luke needed to be trained from zero as a Jedi ,as Obi-wan Kenobi had not had enough time to coach Luke. Yoda also realized that all of Luke’s perceptions, his biases and beliefs needed to be challenged and ultimately replaced with those that served him better as a Jedi.

Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows” – Epictetus – Discourses.

As an alcoholic I am a painfully slow learner and when I do decide to listen my ego will demand resistance. This is the very nature of denial. For decades I could see the damage that my selfish lifestyle was doing to myself and others but I chose to ignore it rationalizing that I had my drinking under control, that I was not an alcoholic. I chose to believe that I was like any other regular guy trying to have a good time.

Over the years I became convinced that the cost of drinking was less than the pleasure I derived from it despite the constant reminders to the contrary. In the end as the truth became painfully apparent I realized I had been living a lie for a quarter of a century and I needed to relearn everything that I thought I knew, not just about my drinking, but also my life and my very being.

unlearning everything I thought I knew about myself became a matter of life and death.

I had become a stranger to myself, I was angry and disgusted with myself while I hated the world and riled that it was the fault of others not me that I had descended to such a pitiful state. Hitting rock bottom made me realize that the answer lay in complete rejection of self denial, in the admission of my condition as a spiritually and morally bankrupt person. Acceptance of thorough and total honesty and complete and humble surrender to a power greater than myself was the answer.

I was facing a complete transformation, the old “me” died, what old timers call “ego deflation.” I was empty enough to start learning what I needed to learn to start recovery and stay sober. For me unlearning everything I thought I knew about myself became a matter of life and death.

Unlearn to Learn

For most addicts the key to recovery is self-honesty and humility. Those two virtues are essential if they are to admit their disease and start the slow march to recovery. The only way to be open enough to learn is to finally admit that we are wrong in the first place or that we don’t know. You cannot teach someone who thinks they already have the answers any more than you can instruct a rock.

As long as you live, keep learning to live” – Seneca

No matter how hard you try they will resist what seems plain to the rest of us. It is only through adopting an open mind and a humble approach that the “unconscious incompetent” starts to “get it” and begin to learn.

In the Army I experienced the process first hand. Over the span of 140 days Drill Instructors will meticulously and expertly identify character flaws and faults that require removal and through discipline encourage the traits and behaviors that are useful to the recruit. At first the body is motivated by fear and the “shock of capture”, while the mind may be less convinced, but in time the correct mindset is achieved and a soldier is produced. This is not called brain washing, this is called mental training which is pretty well what Luke got in Dagobah from Yoga.

Adopting another view point in life can be hard if we are stuck in our old ways of thinking. Anyone can pick up a book on Philosophy and read it, understand it and think they have “got it”. The reality is most will refer to their default point of view in no time despite a conscious decisions made to change. The same applied to me in the past, I would adopt an approach, believe I had overcome my addiction and return to drinking with renewed confidence only to be completely humiliated once again. Insanity.

Humans are often not adept at learning and very often a “deflation in ego” is required as Yoda revealed to Luke and as I learned when I hit rock bottom. In order to be Jedi and find your Jedi Spirit you must review your beliefs and values and cast aside that which no longer serves you as a person and as a Jedi. Very often this will be difficult and perhaps even confronting or painful but once you do you will never look back with regret.

Mindfulness in Action

‘You will know good from bad when you are calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

These words follow from Yoda admonishing Luke Skywalker to “unlearn what you have learned”. The essence of the words are mindfulness. To be free of the noise and turmoil that often hijacks our minds and derails our better judgment. How often have you been pressed to act on a hasty decision or an emotional response rather than take a deep breath and reserve the right to act or respond later?

I know some of the best speeches I ever made were the ones I later regretted. They were full of passion or venom and self-righteous anger and while my words got all the attention they deserved the reaction and consequences were not intended.  Perhaps if I had bit my tongue, gone for a walk or simply decided to remain silent things may have been different and worked out better. I would not have found myself in a position where I needed to apologize and make amends later.

Being “calm, at peace, passive” describes a state of equanimity where emotions are calmed, passions are absent and thoughts, words and actions are considered mindfully and with full awareness of their impacts now and in the future. In this state the mind is also clear of clutter and judgment and more likely to objectively respond to circumstances that may appear undesirable.

Having a clear mind also allows one to better receive knowledge and to learn from a teacher. Yoda was making an observation of Luke’s state of mind and lack of experience and giving him the key to progressing as a Jedi. He was challenging Luke to “empty his cup and return with an empty mind” in the spirit of the Zen Teacher. I don’t know about you but I was never a good student if I felt like I knew it all already and went in to a class with a negative attitude. The truth is, we never stop learning and there is no harm in being taught the same thing a second, third or fourth time, you may actually learn something new!

Coming in to recovery I had to calm down and embrace the “easy does it” approach. I had to learn to take things as they came without judgment, to recognize that my inner turmoil was nothing more than a mental projection manifesting as a set of emotions. Much of what I was sensing as I “came to know sanity” was not real, I had to simply acknowledge, accept and let these emotions go. In  time through applying mindfulness and meditation I began to be more calm and truly live “one day at a time” seeking to be more present and in the moment.

The brain does change with time through neuroplasticity and over a span of months I found that I changed gradually, at first I didn’t notice but people remarked that I seemed “different”, more calm. Progress can takes months and years, the important thing to remember is that recovery and personal growth is a metaphor for a life journey, one never reaches perfection and the end of the road is the day we die. You may falter and fall along the way but get up and keep going, you may never be completely free of your inner Demons but it does get better.

Mindfulness – Spot Meditation

Take a minute now and then through the day to simply breathe and follow the rise and fall of your diaphragm as you inhale and exhale.

Close your eyes if you need to and quietly say “Calm”, breath in and say “At Peace”, breath in again deeply and say “Passive”.

Slowly exhale on every out breath and let your body relax. Take a moment to scan your body for any obvious tension and let it go.

Now observe without total judgment what is going on inside your mind, throw a beam of light on it. Any negative thoughts will flight when observed, let them Go without judgment.

Now do the same and impartially observe any emotions inside you, focus on the center of your core just below the solar plexus.

Feel any tightness or tension there, explore it without judgment and finally let it go imagining the space is filled with a Golden Light.

Now breathe in again deeply three or four more times, open your eyes if they are closed and look around the room.

Notice how you feel different and everything looks a little sharper? That is mindfulness in action.

Lower your expectations

I seek a great warrior” – Luke Skywalker

Expectations can often be our worst enemy. When Luke Skywalker crash lands on to Dagobah he seeks out a great warrior, a Jedi Master who will teach him how to be a Jedi. When he encounters Yoda he becomes impatient, brash and rude and eventually it dawns on him that this little annoying old Goblin like creature is indeed the Jedi Master he seeks.

Luke had an expectation, an idea of what a Jedi Master should look like and that prejudice blinded him from reality. Often reality does not meet our expectations, we hold a certain perception of how others should act or appear, how things should be and are disappointed when they don’t make the grade we expect. Very often it is not what is that is the problem but simply our perception of it, in turn our expectations are incorrect.

When I joined the Army I had a certain illusion of what it would be like and imagined that my expectations would be met. I imagined I would become a member of an elite and a “man among men”. The reality sort of fell short of the mark mainly because of my own poor choices but because the reality of service is different to what I thought it would be. I became disillusioned. One of the most common reasons many choose not to re-enlist was because service and deployment was not what they had expected. Many feel conned. What were they expecting?

As an alcoholic I always expected that one day I could get a handle on my drinking and control it. I had began drinking because I expected it would make me more fun, likable, sociable, one of the guys and attractive to the opposite sex. The reality again was much different and I wore the consequences of my drunken sprees like medals of shame.

When I got sober I also thought that all my problems in life would be miraculously resolved and then I realized that not drinking was only part of the solution. I also had to identify my faults and personal flaws, confront the past and make amends. I had to stop feeling like the world owed me and should treat me better because I was sober and accept that life was going to treat me like any other normal person. My expectations of sobriety were skewed and prejudiced by my own false perceptions of self and others. After some insight and rude reminders of my many character faults, I learned to adjust my expectations and start being realistic.

Ask yourself, what are your expectations at this moment? Consider everything, your job, relationships, health, finances and plans in general. Are they realistic? What influence do you have on others, potential external influence and ultimately outcomes? Identify what is in and outside of your control. Does it really matter if your expectations are not met?

The rule is to be objective and to make plans but never project outcomes. Very often our expectations get ahead of us and we end up disappointed in the outcomes therefore perspectives need to be adjusted if we are to have realistic expectations.

We also need to be agile and flexible enough to absorb the unexpected and often difficult moments in our lives with poise and equanimity. We must also be realistic with ourselves as well as others and accept that mistakes will be made despite the best laid plans. The challenge is to learn from those mistakes and improve. Use stumbling blocks as steps. Be gentle with yourself and with others.

Conflict

“In peace are we warriors or keepers of the peace”? – Ahsako Tano

The Jedi are essentially depicted in the fiction as warriors. In a sense they are a version of the warrior-monk tradition of the East and West but without the religious fervor, cloistered monasteries and secret ceremonies and rituals. Conflict is still a part of the Jedi.

War is very much part of the Jedi mythos and while the Jedi had strong views around resorting to violence and the taking of life, they were not immune from fighting and killing if duty required it. Unlike some “warrior-monks” or religious fanatics in history, the Jedi did not relish violence and in fact they abhorred it and the act of killing. Never the less, Jedi trained to go to war, they kept themselves physically fit and mentally ready and trained in combat skills. Emotions and personal biases were set aside when duty called and mission success was paramount.

As a former “Grunt”  (Infantryman) I can understand the need for following orders, for self-discipline, training and physical fitness. I am well familiar with the vital importance of “operational readiness” and “mission focus”. The Jedi were a pseudo military order and were integrated within the Republic Forces as senior ranks, making strategic decisions while advancing to the front to lead their troops in to battle. Jedi did not hide in the rear, they led the assaults on enemy positions or undertook secret and daring missions in to the heart of enemy territory often at great personal risk. They did not rush in “Light Saber” happy, they simply used their weapons to carry out their tasks without hatred, fear or lust.

During an episode of Season 2 of “The Clone Wars”, Ahsako Tano reflects that after so much combat she feels ill at ease in peace and cannot sit still. As a veteran I can appreciate this; many friends of mine who have gone to war and seen combat never really settled down afterwards. A part of them still craves the adrenaline, the camaraderie and the momentary feeling of being “completely alive in the moment”, something that only comes during the intensity of combat.

A part of all of us wants to go back and do it again even though we know that when we were “over there” most of us wanted nothing more than to be back home. Ahsako -Tano asks “In peace are we warriors or keepers of the peace”? This is a compelling question as it is one that every veteran asks when they return to civilian life from an operational environment. Some never really find the peace they deserve as war takes a part of you that you never get back. In life Veterans and survivors of trauma may appear reasonably successful and normal and fully integrated into society however war and tragedy marks every person that experiences it and in some way it never leaves you.

Our Inner Conflict

Fortunately most people will not have to experience war, however within each of us resides an internal conflict; we are at war with ourselves. Our wants and desires often conflict with where we want to go and at times we are torn between one thing and another.

We feel it is our duty to be a certain type of person or act in a certain way but within ourselves we know that it conflicts with who we truly are. As a result many of us live in imbalance. Being an alcoholic I struggled with an inner conflict for decades and finally came out the winner as I realized what I needed to do to recover from my addiction.

I have discovered a sense of peace in my life but I know that the shadow of addiction is always there and that I must remain vigilante, honest and humble if I am to stay sober. I never drop my guard or grow conceited in my sobriety and when I feel myself sliding backwards I double my efforts and apply my principles. Seeking balance, I have stopped fighting people, places and things, shifting the focus inward.

How do you deal with your own conflicts both inner and outer? Remember that the world that we perceive is largely of our own making. Often where we think conflict exists in our world there is only inner turmoil at play. The important question is how do you deal with peace? How do you keep the peace as a warrior and rise over the urge to find and engage in conflict? The choice of how you do so is entirely up to you. You can also practice the Jedi Code and be objective, remain calm, be present in the moment. Adjust your expectations and your perspective.

Always Have a Plan

Sunset

“I have a Plan” – Anakin

“Oh Really?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi were very different in their approach to carrying out an assigned task. Obi- wan Kenobi insisted on strategy and planning his actions and holding back to ascertain the situation before deciding. Anakin Skywalker on the other hand was far more impulsive and relied on his instinct and force sensing abilities to help him quickly decide on what required to be done. In most cases Anakin was able to achieve his mission but the methods were often described as unconventional or reckless. For Anakin the ends were more important than the means even if it meant stretching the ethical and moral boundaries of his Jedi training.

Where do you reside in Life? What is your habit to approaching and completing a task? Are you more likely to jump in without hesitation or do you plan your approach and consider scenarios? Are you a risk taker or risk averse? Or are you a bit of both?

I know some people who are very careful with their financial affairs and far from impulsive with their spending but in other areas they lack all wisdom and forethought. Some people in life will plan their day, month and life to the finest detail but will not hesitate to dash across the street through traffic rather than walk the extra hundred yards to a cross walk.

My life was like that for a very long time. I lacked wisdom as well as foresight. In some areas I was well organized and intelligent, my organizational skills at work being an example. In other areas I was completely reckless, without direction and no plan. Alcohol was one area where I lacked complete reason. I could step in to a bar with the fullest intention of having single drink before heading home to work on an assignment that was due the next day and still find myself at the bar at closing time pondering where I could go next to continue drinking. People were baffled how I could lack total self-control and good judgment. I had no plan, not for life or for one day to the next. I was simply rushing mindlessly through life in a downward spiral.

Make Plans but avoid projecting outcomes

That is why you should always have a plan and all plans should lead to one goal. Everything I do now is geared towards my recovery and self-betterment. I plan each day to be part of a grander plan for life. I train, meditate, work and write as part of a plan towards progression. Along the way I collect wisdom; one peal of wisdom to remember is to make plans but avoid projecting outcomes. Do what you can do to the best of your capacity and what is under your control. Leave the outcomes to that.

Take a few minutes every morning to plan your day, no matter how mundane it may seem, step in to the day with purpose and realistic goals whether it is to complete a major assignment or simply do the laundry. List them in your daily journal if you keep one. I keep a list of my daily tasks and check them off as I complete them one by one adding a sense of achievement even if the tasks seems insignificant. I also keep a training dairy which records my completed works outs and shows my progressions over time. Benjamin Franklin wrote “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Jump in to life but plan your journey ahead without projecting the outcomes.

You are greater than you know.

 

“You don’t have to look tough to be tough”. – Ahsoka Tano

In “The Clone Wars” episode “Bounty Hunters” Ahsoka Tano reassures a Felucian Farmer who is threatened by a group of Pirates seeking to steal their crop. The Felucians are far too timid to defend themselves and have recruited a small band of mercenaries as protection. Outnumbered the Jedi begin to train the Felucians to fight and they soon discover that despite their small stature they are not weak and have more courage than they know.  Sometimes the smallest and meekest creature has an inner strength and courage that belies its size.

Always believe that you are far more than you believe yourself to be and you will surprise yourself at your inherent ability to exceed your expectations consistently. You will bear far more than you give yourself credit for.

We always expect the worst and we always assume that we lack the courage and fortitude to face the future when hope seems bleak. We tend to forget that the combined weight of the years can seem insurmountable when we are faced with life challenges such as an illness, unemployment, financial difficulties or a relationship break up. But we can and we do survive and we carry and can come out stronger than ever before if we simply live one day at a time and embrace our ability to shine through.

When I was drinking I had given up that I would ever amount to much. I believed that I could never quit drinking. On many occasions I had tried and failed and every time I returned to drinking I seemed worse. The blow to my self-esteem and confidence was great.

I could not understand how I had managed to achieve many goals in life; there was University degrees earned with distinction and a decent career in my profession. I had served in the military and had been deployed and served well.  Not to mention my family; married to a wonderful woman and blessed with beautiful kids. In my years I had faced many challenges and overcome them but with alcohol I was completely and utterly powerless.

Once I finally admitted my powerlessness and surrendered my problems to a Higher Power I called the Force my addiction melted away. I was free of my compulsion to drink. Eventually many of my perceived problems also melted away as I started to see things clearly. I discovered I had more power and courage than I knew. This Force had resided in me all along, I simply did not choose to see it and if I ever suspected I had the potential, I lacked the willingness and the honesty to take the first step and claim that power. From that day on I never doubted myself again.

“You are greater than you know” – Mother Teresa

Remind yourself every day that you are more powerful than you know, that even if you don’t look “tough” you have an inner fire waiting to be unleashed. Never be afraid, never doubt yourself. You can be the person you are meant to be. Strive to be a better version of yourself every day, never let anyone convince you otherwise. You are greater than you know.