‘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.