Jedi Resilience

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things,” – Yoda

Over the last few weeks we have been looking at resilience. Ways in which we can build on our resilience have been explored. Strategies aimed at maintaining a level of emotional and spiritual resilience have been suggested. We have considered where we can help others achieve resilience in their own lives.

Anyone with a sustained level of sobriety after years of abuse and addiction has a high degree of resilience. Survivors by nature are resilient beings. They have endured life’s hardships and trials and grown because of it. Rather than allowing harsh experience and tragedy drag them down in to self-pity and despair they have emerged as stronger human beings.

Jedi are resilient. Like warriors they train themselves physically and mentally for combat. Jedi undergo trials that test them to the limits of their emotional, psychological and spiritual endurance. Strong in the Force they become resilient enough to serve others and fulfill their purpose in life. I have seen professional soldiers, paramedics and law enforcement officers who show a high degree of resilience for the same reason. Rigorous training, sacrifice, self-discipline and dedicated commitment to purpose.

 

Resilience Virtues

What are the marks of a resilient person? They are the same as someone with a high degree of emotional sobriety. Resilient people don’t pursue hardship but they are prepared for it. When faced with adversity they use the opportunity to improve themselves. Fear is conquered and transmuted to purpose and outcome. The resilient are not afraid of change and seek the “road less travelled” in their journeys.

Resilient people are realistic with themselves and with others. Self-honesty is seen as a high virtue. Resilient people understand and accept that the world owes them no favours. They make their own opportunities. As a result the resilient achieve a high degree of equanimity in life and a high level of awareness. They are prepared for almost anything and rarely taken by surprise. The resilient are equipped to help themselves and are prepared to help others where needed.

 

Practice make Progress

Patient practice leads to progress. Being aware that you only have what is within your control. You have reasoned choice and command of your rational mind. All is else that reside external to you may be your and then be taken away at any point. Use the tools provided. You will know you have made progress when all choices in life become either the preferred or the non-preferred indifferent. You accept what comes and goes with equanimity and grace.

The “eight worldly concerns” of desire and aversion no longer hold you. Material possessions no longer become a priority. The loss of wealth and possessions no longer upsets or angers. There is no delight in the praise of others or misery in their criticisms or condemnation. Reputation either good or bad is largely outside of your control as are your status and position. Fame and adulation do not concern us.

Happiness and sadness are transitory emotions that we accept as part of life. To fear the loss of happiness brings anxiety and suffering.  No amount of wishful thinking makes suffering go away. Practicing principles is the path to freedom from suffering. From principle springs virtue. The goals of the Jedi Code are realized; Serenity, peace, harmony, knowledge and the Force.

 

False Peaks

It’s not hard to imagine Jedi showing these traits.  Being Jedi is in fact all of these things. It is that simple. The example of the Jedi can provide an azimuth for us to follow. We can see the destination in the distance and move towards it.

Self-improvement however is like a mountain with many false peaks. We struggle up the slope, slipping backwards and stumbling forward sometimes. The peak appears before us and we haul ourselves toward it arriving in relief. With exasperation we realize that we have landed on a false peak and the slope continues before us climbing in to mist and the unknown.

I have climbed many mountains like that, literally and figuratively. The difference is that we only reach the summit of our mountain when we die. Self-improvement is a lifelong climb and at times a great struggle. Sometimes the path is easy and the sun shines through the clouds. At times the road is difficult with many slips, trips and falls.  Always be prepared for false peaks and never forget that life can sometimes resemble a game of chutes and ladders. We only truly arrive at the end of our life.

 

The Promises

When I first read the “Big Book” of AA I found a passage that spoke so loudly to me that I re-read it many times. The paragraph provides an image of what could be accomplished through living the 12 Steps and applying spiritual principles. I visualized myself being that person which the passage described. The description resembled something close to enlightenment. I searched further and found out that the passage is famous in the recovery community and is called the “12 Promises”.

  1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
  2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
  3. We will comprehend the word “serenity”.
  4. We will know peace.
  5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
  6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
  7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
  8. Self-seeking shall slip away.
  9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.
  10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.
  11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
  12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

(Alcoholics Anonymous pg83-84)

Jedi serve the Living Force

Trait 3/33

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

(The 33 Jedi Traits)

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

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

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

 

The Noble Way

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

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

 

The Road Map

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

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

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

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

 

An endless Journey

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

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

 

Keep at it

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

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

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

Redemption

When Anakin had succumbed to his fears, anger and hate and fallen to the dark side the person that he was died. In his place rose Darth Vader, a dark shadow of his former self and a slave to the Dark Lord. In “Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi”, Darth Vader finally realizes who he truly is and finding the love for his son Luke, he turns on his Master, Darth Sidious. The redemption of Anakin was the final end of Darth Vader.

I’ll not leave you now. I’ve got to save you.” – Luke Skywalker

You already have.” – Anakin Skywalker

The Chains of Addiction

The fall of Anakin and the emergence of a twisted and tormented Darth Vader in the same body can be viewed as a metaphor for suffering and the slavery of addiction. How many people have we encountered in our lives who changed so utterly through addiction that they were barely recognizable? Family and friends no longer knew them and they no longer knew themselves.

The effects of drug and alcohol addiction carries an insidious toll on a person’s life and on their psyche. I became morally compromised and spiritually bankrupt through alcoholism though I did not see it at the time. The difference between who I had been and who I became was stark.

By destroying Darth Sidious and saving his son, the chains that had held Anakin in the form of Darth Vader finally came off. He  emerges from the dark place where he had been imprisoned and tortured for decades as a mere slave to fear, anger and hatred. As Anakin lies dying he atones for the past. He forgives and is forgiven and finds redemption at last. Anakin is set free and is reunited with the Force.

Inventory

Realizing the truth of who we are and what we have done through our alcoholism can be painful but it is also liberating. I remember one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had was completing my inventory in Step 4.  Admitting it to my Higher Power and sharing it with another in Step 5 was to finally free myself from the bondage of the past. I saw at last who I had been and the damage I had done to myself and others. There was another way and I could forgive myself and build a new life.

“Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

“Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

After sharing my story I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off. I was ready to change and I wanted to right the wrongs of the past. Filled with hope for the future I looked forward to making amends and claiming a sober life. The clouds parted and at last it felt as if a door had opened and I had passed through to a new dimension a free man.

Amends

Several years ago when I was still drinking I learned that my Father had passed away as a skid row drunk. He had been dry when I had last seen him 25 years earlier but we became estranged and I never spoke to him again. In time he became little more than a rumor. The news was that he moved around a lot and was back “on the sauce”.

Over the years I often wondered what I would say if we met again and whether I could forgive him. There had been anger for years for a miserable childhood. I  blamed my drinking and many of my troubles on him. There were so many faults I so despised in him that I had revealed in myself. Like Luke Skywalker I was in danger of falling to the Dark Side, like his Father and indeed in the end it had me.

When I learned that my Father had died my feelings were mixed. Part of me did not care, another part was sad and the last part was angry I had been robbed of an opportunity to tell him how he had ruined so many lives including my own. My reaction was to simply get drunk in response to the news. I was more like him than I dared admit.

Forgive

When I compiled my list of amends in Step 8 I placed my Father near the top of the list. The predicament of course was that he had died the previous year. I said a prayer and Forgave him and asked for forgiveness in return. With that I blessed his memory and made peace at last with a painful part of my life. Perhaps someday we will meet again on the other side of the veil where these things will no longer matter.

Forgiveness and making amends is one of the most powerful experiences that anyone in recovery can experience. The humility and compassion that we discover during the inventory and disclosure of our faults is further cultivated as we put aside resentment and pride and seek to atone for the past. We also begin to find redemption as Anakin did by seeking forgiveness and by forgiving others. Most of all we find the power to forgive ourselves and move on.

MTFBWY

Ben Kenobi, Buddha and Bill W

For over 40 years Star Wars has inspired and fired the imagination of millions of people around the world. The Jedi Order and the Force have given Star Wars fans the inspiration to create something that became bigger than themselves and enduring; a philosophy based on the Jedi.

A symbol of honor, dignity, wisdom, strength, humility, service and sacrifice, the Jedi represents to many a role model for how one can strive to live and achieve personal and spiritual growth. From its origins as a fan base and in role playing games the Jedi movement has evolved for over two decades into a spectrum of thoughts and beliefs that range from a modern philosophy to a neo-religion complete with dogma, ritual and rules.

The Philosophy

Today Jedi Philosophy provides the mainstream a way of thinking and living that respects personal beliefs and provides a path to world betterment through self betterment. Fiction has in this process inspired real action and change in people through a philosophy that draws on eastern and western traditions but is completely unique and requires no dogma, oaths or wearing of robes and demonstration of metaphysical powers or skill in light sabres. Anyone can be Jedi if they are willing to commit to action. The Jedi Philosophy has provided a connected and on-line generation an alternative to conventional religion.

Over the course of two decades the real life Jedi has been guided by the Jedi Code, five simple lines inspired by the Star Wars movies and books and then adapted by the modern Jedi Philosophy as described by Kevin Trout (2013):

There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity
There is no chaos; there is harmony
There is no death; there is the force

The Jedi Code

The Jedi Code is the core of the Jedi Philosophy and the foundation for the Jedi Path as formed by the Jedi Circle. The code is a simple guide on how to view life and conduct one’s self on a daily basis in achieving one’s personal goals. Whether it is to perform better in academic, professional or sporting endeavours or even to achieve spiritual enlightenment, Jedi Philosophy can be used as a tool to achieve goals.

The Jedi Way is about letting go of one’s attachments and delusions and embracing reality and one’s true potential. The Jedi Code can inspire one to act in accordance with his or her values and principles and be one’s own judge on whether personal choices made and their outcomes reflect the Jedi goals of world betterment through self betterment, that is, helping others by helping one’s self, making a positive difference whatever it is and seeking a purpose greater than one’s self. For this reason Jedi Philosophy is all inclusive and can benefit anyone not just people in recovery or Star Wars fans.

The full article  “Ben Kenobi, Buddha and Bill W: 12 Step Jedi” can be read here.

 

Jedi for Life

A Practical Philosophy

Many people today are finding meaning and purpose in attaining a philosophy for life which is both practical and applicable to living in the modern world. Whether that philosophy is taken from the eastern traditions of Zen Buddhism or Taoism or is drawn from the ancient schools of Philosophy such as Stoicism or Epicureanism, people are finding benefit in applying their chosen philosophy through daily practices and principles that improve their lives and allow them to meet and overcome daily challenges.

Psychologists have demonstrated that people who commit to a personal philosophy of life consistently practice principles and demonstrate virtues that lead to personal satisfaction and physical and emotional well-being compared to people that have  no philosophy of life at all. The revolutionary psychologist Albert Ellis was inspired by classical Eastern and Western philosophies in developing rational emotive behavior therapy to help people with depression and addiction issues (Ellis, 2001).

Depression, anxiety, anger, fear and conflict are many of the common problems that we see in society today and often we suffer them ourselves much of it through our own fault. We would prefer to blame others, our circumstances, bad luck and society for our problems without looking at our own part in the mess we find ourselves in. Through rigorous self-honesty, acceptance and commitment, each of us can choose how we respond to our negative emotions and thereby how we empower them or not and the degree to which they afflict our lives. Each of us can decide how we want to live our lives and what virtues we wish to cultivate and how we choose to respond to life moment to moment. Training in a real world Philosophy can provide us with the knowledge and skills to achieve equanimity, objectivity and harmony with self and others.

Many people also find a sense of spirituality through their Philosophy and a realization of a higher purpose in their lives than simply living to achieve instant gratification, material gains, status and fame. They realize they are part of something greater than themselves and become aware of their connectivity to other human beings, to nature and the universe and life becomes more meaningful and joyful than they ever realized before. They realize their place in the world and the impermanent and transitory nature of life.

Without embracing the doctrines and dogma of organized religion, one can achieve a good life that is spiritual, meaningful and powerful through training in a Philosophy of Life. One can live each day mindfully and spend their life in the moment rather than in regret of the past or fear of the future. You can be emotionally resilient, physically fitter, more aware of your own needs and the needs of others and ultimately more contented and happy in your existence than you ever felt possible. Once you change yourself for the better you will find that people treat you better and so does life, the clouds part and you have the power and confidence to deal with life on life’s terms. You also become an inspiration to others and in some small way you make the world a better place.

I practice Jedi Philosophy as a Philosophy for Life, in other words I am not satisfied to simply cite the tenets and take an academic approach as many students of Philosophy do. To be Jedi is to live the Philosophy because it provides the answers and a formula for living that works for me. This does not mean that I consider myself a Jedi Knight or Master of the Star Wars fictional universe and wear robes and carry a Light Sabre, far from it. I am a regular guy and today enjoy Star Wars as much as the next guy but I do not consider myself a Star Wars Geek. Yet I am inspired by the virtues that mark a Jedi and I emulate them in my life.

My Story

I grew up with Star Wars from the age of ten when “The New Hope” hit cinemas exactly 40 years ago today on May 24, 1977. Like many other children growing up in that time I saw the epic as more than a movie, it was something more powerful. Luke Skywalker was a kid who like me seemed to have been given a rough hand in life but yet  had managed to overcome that and find within himself an incredible power to change not just his own destiny but the fate of an entire galaxy! Living in State and Foster Care at that time and coming from a broken home rife with abuse and alcoholism, Star Wars gave me a sense of hope and a place to escape. The Jedi also captured the imagination of an entire generation and continues to inspire a growing global community of fans and real world Jedi.

While much of Jedi Philosophy is inspired by the fictional Jedi I still live in the real world and deal with real world problems. I apply many of the virtues and traits that a fictional Jedi demonstrate to help me achieve my goals and overcome problems, but that is not the whole story. From this point I want to stress that I use the word Jedi as a verb, not a noun, therefore the goal is to be Jedi and to act as if not to necessarily become a Jedi Knight or to follow the Jedi Religion known as Jediism unless that happens to be your personal goal.

Jedi Philosophy is a practical way of life in which we apply effort and aim to improve every day through daily practices and study. I train myself mentally, physically and emotionally and through study; I practice meditation everyday in addition to applying mindfulness to everyday actions. Although not a prerequisite I train in a martial arts and foreign languages and treat everyday as an opportunity to learn new things.

Five years ago I was staring into a chasm, a void of my own making through years of alcohol abuse, dishonesty, resentment, selfishness and fear. I had hit rock bottom and knew that before me was death or insanity or both. At that moment I realized that I did have a choice, inside of me resided a Force, a light that had been all but extinguished. I chose to surrender to that Force and to admit and accept my addiction and then to turn it over and let it go.

I knew at that moment my problem with alcohol was gone, I was pulled back into the light by some unseen power. A peace and serenity I had never known before fell on me. I embarked on a life journey of self-discovery and growth laying all of my short comings and failings bare, I resolved to overcome them. Putting the past behind me, I chose to forgive myself and others and to let go of the past and to make amends where I had caused harm to others. I knew that humility and rigorous honesty were virtues to be embraced. In time as I progressed in my recovery, I felt my anger, resentment, fear, anxiety and selfishness fall away.

There were days when I faltered and nearly relapsed. At two years my recovery hit a rut which I could not seem to get past. I rediscovered Jedi Philosophy.  Jedi Philosophy breathed life into my recovery program and it has become my personal philosophy for life, through it I aim for progress, not perfection in all aspects of my life and choose to be a better version of myself every day.

The purpose of this Blog is to tell a story but also to share how I choose to be Jedi and how doing so has helped me achieve recovery from alcoholism and depression, rebuild my relationships, improve my self-esteem, advance my career, become a better husband, parent, friend and boss, achieve the highest level of physical fitness of my life and cultivate a true personal spiritual foundation that far transcends any religious training of my upbringing.

This is not a Star Wars fan web site or even a voice for the online Jedi community, this is simply a blog by someone who has adopted Jedi Philosophy as a way of life, in all aspects of his life and wishes to share that journey and what I have learned along the way. I hope that my story may help anyone, especially those that are seeking their own path or struggling with a childhood trauma and abuse, depression and substance abuse as I have. I invite you to consider a Philosophy for Life and to explore the merits of Jedi Philosophy as it applies to your life.

References:

  1. Ellis, Albert (2001). Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Prometheus Books.