Resilience

Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem” – The Clone Wars Season 5 “The Wrong Jedi”.

 

Have you ever seen resilience in nature? Have you ever been in an extreme environment? The scorching heat and aridity of a desert at the peak of summer or the frozen wastes of tundra in winter are places that are hostile for life. Yet return to the desert after a heavy rain has soaked the ground and filled the wadis and salt pans and you will see an explosion of life. Wild flowers appear and come in to bloom and carpet the land. Life emerges from dormant hiding and seeks out water leaving tracks in the sand. Flocks of birds show the way to vast inland lakes teeming with life. In time the heat will evaporate the water and life retreats once again in to hiding. The tundra also shows life’s resilience as the snow and ice melts with the return of the sun. Life endures on this Earth floating in a cold and indifferent space because Life is resilient.

 

Down but not Out

People too are resilient. How we bounce back from life’s disappointments and tragedies reveals just how resilient we are. Like a fighter in the ring we are pummeled and beaten down. We rise and fight back and despite the set backs we somehow emerge at the other end. Beaten and bloodied we may not have won the bout but we are still in the fight for another day.

 

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Life often does seem like a struggle. The less prepared we are to face the “accidental and the unforeseen” the harder it seems and the longer it takes us to recover. Sometimes life hits us in unexpected ways and we do not always respond in the way we or others expect.

 

Calamity

Jedi are resilient aren’t they? Luke Skywalker condemned himself to self-exile on Ahch-To where he passed the years in remorse and regret. It seems surprising. The hero of Yavin 4, the Master Jedi, takes the “accidental and the unforeseen” so badly that he preferred to isolate himself and ignore those that come seeking his help. It seemed unfathomable that a Jedi Master could lose his resilience. He must have suffered a terrible calamity for that to happen.

I’ve met and spoken to Farmers who have seen their life savings whittled away as one season after another brings drought and a meager harvest. Then a year comes and so do the rains. The heavens open up and the parched earth is soaked. Joy returns at last. The seed plowed in to the dry ground germinates and soon a blanket of fine green shoots covers the land to the horizon. The relief is palpable and once again the loan collectors are kept at bay. Then the unthinkable happens just before a rich harvest. A cold front forms and temperatures plummet. Frost strikes and blights the crop. All is lost and lives are ruined as farms are sold and families dissolved through separation, divorce and even suicide.

I have also seen Farmers who have met ruin pick up their “worn out” tools and their devastated lives and start from scratch. Hope never dies.

 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill

 

Nothings Final

Who can predict what will happen tomorrow? We like to think that our health, livelihood, relationships and life is secure and bullet proof from “accidental and the unforeseen” of Marcus Aurelius. Yet we know deep down that everything we possess, our health, jobs, status and the people in our lives can leave us in an instant. The only thing that remains is how we deal with the loss when it happens. How do we respond and then recover? What do we do when life has us in a chokehold and we are gasping for life?

Most alcoholics who have been through the wringer of alcoholism will understand how badly things can turn out. At the time few of us realized let alone were ready to place the blame at our own feet. Some of us continue on the downward spiral and never recover. Those of us that crawl ourselves out of rock bottom and begin to claim sobriety claim a new type of resilience. This resilience keeps us “on the beam” regardless of what life throws at us. Yes, we may stumble at times but what is important is we get up and keep trudging forward.

 

“God grant me the serenity”

 

A Spiritual Resilience

We who have recovered through the grace of a Higher Power recognize that our first priority in life is to remain sober one day at a time. We place our problems in the hands of a Higher Power and leave it there. Instead of struggling with the things we cannot control we learn to deal with life by having the “serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can”. We learn what is in our control and what is not. Then we get to work and make the change in ourselves.

 

“There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.” – Epictetus “Enchidrion”.

 

Dichotomy of Control

With recovery comes resilience in dealing with the “accidental and the unforeseen”. We learn that life is made up of preferred and in-preferred indifference’s that are largely out of our control. Good health, a meaningful job, money and nice possessions and a loving partner are things we graciously accept in to our lives. But we learn to loosen our attachments. All things are transitory and fortunes change. We do not wish ill health, unemployment and poverty, loss and failure on ourselves or invite these things in to our lives but we recognize that they can happen.

No matter what happens we are resilient enough that nothing can force us to lose faith and drink again. We may end up with nothing but we always have our opinions and reasoned choices in how we think and respond. Our perception dictates the strength of our resilience and thereby our sobriety. Like the Farmer who rebuilds we pick up our “worn out” tools and keep working. We never lose Faith.

 

Change your Thoughts

Star Wars provides a lesson in the power of resilience and also the power of Faith. Resilience kept Ahsoka Tano fighting to prove her innocence to the Jedi Order. Faith kept the Rebellion fighting for decades for a cause. Resilience saw the Rebels rise up again and again after every set back and defeat against the Empire. Luke Skywalker stood alone against the Emperor and Darth Vader and he prevailed  because he was resilient and he had faith.

Alone and embittered decades later on Ahch-To Luke faced a moral and spiritual crisis. In the end something drew The Last Jedi back from the shadow of despair and apathy. Luke changed his perception at last and remembered that Jedi are resilient against all adversity. He changed his thoughts and the rest followed.

 

Be Resilient

There is a barren landscape. Nothing grows there. All is dead and gone. A lone tree on a rocky outcrop sways in the passing cold wind. A blizzard is coming. The tree is stunted and gnarled. The harsh environment has made it so. The Tree is also flexible and it will bend in the gale. It will not break. It will survive. Someday the sun will return and it will blossom and flower and grow. The desert around it will return to life because life is resilient. So are we.

Abundance

 

“The Force may not have a Light or Dark Side, but we do… and we must choose.” – Luke Skywalker

 

That Crait Scene

Over the last year of writing “The Daily Jedi” the concepts of acceptance, gratitude and surrender have been recurring themes.  In the Star Wars mythology we often see all three played out in the same scene.

Obi-wan Kenobi raising his lightsabre in a final move which had him cut down by Darth Vader was not an act of defiance or suicide but an enlightened gesture of acceptance, gratitude and surrender to the Force.

When Luke Skywalker appeared in “The Last Jedi” as a Force projection on the salt flat of Crait and challenged his former Padawan in a game of “Cat and Mouse” it was not a just a ruse to delay the First Order and give the Resistance a chance to escape it was an enlightened act using non-violence over brute force.  Luke Skywalker was emulating the philosophy of Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Luke accepted his fate without struggle and with gratitude and surrendered to the Force with complete trust. Meditating far away on Ahch-To, Luke was then able to transcend in to the Force and leave the physical realm behind. One can only imagine the implications of his transcendence in the coming final struggle. A great paradox was proven, there is great power in acceptance, gratitude and surrender and that power is called Abundance.

Luke said “The Force is neither Light or Dark”. The Force simply is. The Dark and Light that exists resides within us. We have a choice. You can also call it a choice between scarcity or abundance.

 

Pause

Look around you. What do you see? Are you surrounded by the trappings of modern living? Does your work and making money take priority in your life? Do you often stop to reflect that the days and months are flying past and the years growing shorter? Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” type of person? Do you regret the lack or scarcity in your life or do you appreciate and enjoy what you have? One type of person has a “Scarcity Mentality”, the other person has an “Abundance Mindset”.

 

Glass Half Empty

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is the person you meet who is always complaining. There is never enough or things are just not good enough. They bemoan the lack of opportunity in their life and recite one regret after the other. Blame is seldom placed on themselves but on others. The World and life seems to have played them a rough hand and let them down. They always have excuses to explain their misfortune. Rather than seek opportunity they wait for it to come beating down their door.

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is never happy, even in the midst of abundance. They may be financially well off, even wealthy and own all the material possessions most could only dream of. It’s never enough. They may have a nice house, several cars, a great career and a loving circle of friends and family around them but they see fault and lack. We see example of it all the time. The glossy tabloids are full of the “rich and famous” miserable in their existence. No amount of material possessions or money can fill the vast spiritual hole in their life. We shake our heads in disbelief and wonder how someone who is so rich, so famous and popular could be so unhappy. The person with a “Scarcity Mentality” has a “glass half empty” view on life.

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Buddha

 

Glass Half Full

“Abundance Mindset” is the opposite to a “Scarcity Mentality”. The person who has claimed an “Abundance Mindset” is willing to accept the fortunes of life with gratitude but also accepts with equanimity that everything may be taken away in an instant.  As a result this person is perpetually grateful for what she has and will spend more time appreciating her blessings rather than focusing on the scarcity in her life. These people do not worry so much about what they don’t own.

The person with an “Abundance Mindset” accepts that all things are transient and by nature impermanent. We do not get to keep our possessions, our family and friends for ever. Our health will fade and eventually everyone will surrender to nature and the Force. This is the natural cycle of life and death. Rather than waste life regretting the things that were lost or opportunities missed or squandered focus is placed on being grateful for what was given and making the most out of what is on offer. Abundance Mentality people don’t mind sharing or giving credit to others and see opportunity everywhere.

Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance. – Epicuros

 

Peering in to the Glass

Alcoholism, like any addiction is a form of “grasping attachment” gone mad. All people grasp at things and seek attachment. It is the nature of suffering to do so. The human condition. Few learn to truly surrender themselves and let go of all of their attachments and in particular in life itself. Addicts are an extreme example because personal health, security and mental and spiritual well-being, relationships, career and money are all dispensable when it comes to getting the next drink, fix or hit. We Alcoholics did not care who we hurt or what we did to get drunk and keep drinking.

The “Scarcity Mentality” of the Alcoholic dictates that there is never enough. The old adage “one drink too many and a thousand not enough” comes to mind. Our dissatisfaction also extends to other areas of our lives. We see scarcity everywhere. Our jobs are not good enough, we don’t make enough money. All the people in our lives have glaring faults while we have none. People are not to be trusted and only used. There is fault in everything. Eventually we see the glaring truth in ourselves and rather than confront it we commit ourselves to the abyss.

 

“The Fall”

Think “Sith” and you have a good example of the “Scarcity Mentality”. The “Sith” sought only power and were addicted to it. They craved it above all else. The complete domination of others was an exercise in power. Having the power of life and death over entire planetary systems was ultimate power. Absolute power is addictive. Ascendancy was the ultimate objective to the Sith. A Sith apprentice would serve his Master and then at the right opportunity would seek to usurp him. If the Master was wise he would kill his Apprentice before his Apprentice killed him.  The Sith played a cyclical Zero Sum game where only one could assume ultimate power at the expense of all others.

The fall of Anakin was the tale of a man with a “Scarcity Mentality”. The desire to excel as a Jedi and bring order to the Galaxy and balance to the Force dominated Anakin’s life. Anakin only wanted to do good but Inwardly Anakin was a mess. There was a gaping hole within him. The tragedy of his childhood and the death of his Mother affected him deeply. The Clone Wars also left deep scars, not all of them visible. Many of his friends had been killed in the fighting or betrayed by the Republic. The Jedi Order had evolved in to something that was no longer true to itself. Fear and anger began to consume Anakin. Obsessed by visions of the death of his forbidden love and wife Padme he sought ways to control the Force. Driven by hate he was finally driven to the Dark Side and became a Sith. The Fall led him to nowhere but a life of suffering and servitude to an unforgiving Master.

You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life – for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won’t ask for more” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Abundance Mindset”

The Jedi Path is one where an “Abundance Mindset” is necessary to succeed as a Jedi. Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda and finally Anakin and later Luke Skywalker learned to deal with life and tragedy with acceptance, gratitude and surrender. Through pain and suffering they found a way out and the door led them to enlightenment and unity with the Force. As Sages they learned that life is a gift to live and finally surrender with equanimity and complete acceptance.

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

Being a real world Jedi does not mean we will achieve enlightenment in our life time. Some of us may have the potential but few will ever reach the spiritual, mental and physical level of a Jedi Master let alone a Sage. We can try however and having an “Abundance Mindset” of acceptance, gratitude and surrender is a start.

An “Abundance Mentality” is also a virtue and an asset in recovery. In fact it is necessary for our sustained sobriety as it throws a light on the fear, regret  and anger inherent in a “Scarcity Mentality”.  Our goal is to find no use for these destructive emotions. Psychology Today lists a number of ways we can cultivate an “Abundance Mindset”:

  • Every blessing is a gift. We can take them for granted but small acts such as walking the dog, playing with the kids, spending time with family and friends, helping someone out are all moments that will never be repeated the same way. Each of these moments is a gift so give them the mindfulness they deserve.
  • Practice equanimity. Being mindful also mean practicing equanimity. With self-awareness it is possible to remain composed and calm even in the midst of chaos. This means keeping an even keel and not getting carried with emotional impulses whether “positive” or “negative”. This does not mean forcing control, shutting down emotionally or turning in to a Robot. The goal is to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and body on a moment to moment basis. This can be achieved by simply observing ourselves and by asking “What am I thinking and feeling right now”. Acknowledge, accept and let go of those thoughts, emotions and feelings that do not serve. By casting a light on runaway thoughts and emotions we can calm the inner storm and be measured in our responses.
  • Be prepared to share. Sharing allows life as energy to flow like a river instead of becoming stagnant. Whether it is food, time or something else that is scarce be prepared to share. Sharing is an important part of the 12 Steps. By sharing our stories we are helping the person who is struggling and helping ourselves at the same time. It sounds counterintuitive but you get to keep what you give away.
  • Try reframing a situation. Instead of saying “there is not enough” try “there is enough to get by”. You will surprise yourself with what you can achieve even with far less than you thought you would need. Avoid comparing yourself to others, only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  • Turn obstacles in to opportunities. The Stoics say “The obstacle is the way”. They sought adversity and challenge to better themselves. If life was easy and presented no challenges we would barely be able to learn, progress and improve. Use obstacles and problems as an opportunity to practice principles that overcome them.
  • Show gratitude. Thankyou is a word seldom heard these days. It costs nothing and can make all the difference in a person’s day. If a Waitress did a good job getting you coffee, thank her and leave a tip if appropriate. Show those around you that you value their contributions. Offer words of encouragement. Politeness even to rude and obnoxious people is a virtue worth having.
  • Choose your company wisely. “Scarcity Mentality” people rub off on others as do those with an “Abundance Mindset”. Surround yourself with the latter and avoid people who have a toxic view on life.
  • Letting Go. Sometimes life does not go the way we planned. We can find ourselves out of work, or a relationship in an instant. Bad things happen. Fortunes will turn suddenly. How we respond to these events is important. We can wallow in self-pity or take the time to grieve the loss mindfully and then move on with life. Surrendering to the flow of life and letting go keeps us moving forward.
  • Reflect and Meditate. Daily reflection is important as is daily meditation. Try a meditations of gratitude or loving kindness. This opens the heart to the beauty of existence and abundance. It connect us to the Force. Journaling (or Blogging) is a great way to put your thoughts down and make sense of life. Consider how far you have come on your journey. Rather than ruminate on mistakes, resolve to correct them and improve on a daily basis. Never stop learning.

 

You Choose

Remember that people with a “Scarcity Mentality” have a Zero-Sum view of life. They are like the Sith. In Star Wars we see Anakin and Luke Skywalker both grappled with attachments and emotions to their detriment. They wanted to control and possess. As an alcoholic I suffered the same way. An abundance mindset based on gratitude, acceptance and surrender means ridding yourself of the grasping attachment of a “Scarcity Mindset” and setting yourself free. Choose now. Will your glass (of a non-alcoholic beverage) be “half full” or “half empty”?

Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.– Wayne Dyer

Decisions

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose.” – Yoda

 

A process

In previous posts the mental processes at arriving at a decision were discussed in the context of Jedi Philosophy. Arriving at a decision is a multi-step process. We looked at the need for inner reflection to realize the truth and need for change. Resolutions were considered as an affirmation of that shift in thinking. Making a resolution is creating a broad determination to do something or be someone.

Right View was framed as the wisdom and attitude that drives that desire for change and realization of the truth. Before making a decision we must undertake an acid test to determine if an action is consistent with our value system and the principles we live by.

Finally, we had to ask ourselves “why”. The intent of our desired action and outcomes had to be defined and flow from the process. At this point we are ready to actually make a decision and commit to it with action.

People go through a great degree of preparation and work to get somewhere and when the time comes to launch they balk. They face the agony and terror of actually deciding to go ahead with affirmative action.

Making a decision is akin to throwing our selves down the Rabbit Hole. We have pushed the “Go” button and now committed through thought, word and action. Everything to that point was getting the stage set up and rehearsing for the show. When the time comes to step out on to the stage and perform we either go ahead with it or we don’t.

 

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

The Rabbit Hole

I recall when I joined the Army there were a number of other men who had spent their lives wanting to be a soldier and working towards that goal. It was their decision to be there. I’d basically run away from home and had fewer choices. The Military seemed like a viable option in keeping me as far away from my home as possible. I didn’t have a clue of what to expect.

During selection we were put through  physical and medical, psychological and psychometric assessments, a security screening and a final interview. All of these I passed. We were told repeatedly that we could resign at any point during the six months of basic training.  Once we signed the interim contract we were on probation before being offered a definitive contract. This meant we had six months to decide if we wanted “in” or “out”. The Corps also had that time to assess our suitability or not and send us home in the latter case. I was going to make they didn’t send me home.

At the recruiting station I met a guy named Jack who was around 23 and had finished college. Most of the other guys in the Platoon were between 17 to 21 and were out of High School or avoiding jail or the dole. Jack was different; he looked like a soldier; he was fit, tall and tanned and had all the quiet charisma and presence which commands admiration from other men. It turned out he had been preparing for months for training and planned to get in to Special Operations. The Army was a dream of his since he was a child and he had passed up an opportunity to become an Officer preferring instead to start at the bottom.

Opting Out

Six months later there remained 16 of the original 30 intakes. A number of men had been put back farther in their training for failing tests or for minor injuries. A few had left due to injuries or psychological concerns. One recruit had gone so far as to leave one night and become AWOL. The rest of us stood in parade uniform waiting to be interviewed by the Platoon “Boss” who would provide a final appraisal and tender our final contracts for signing. This would be the moment of decision for each of us. After that we would belong to the Army for a minimum of three years.

Jack was ranked top in the platoon and had been an extraordinary recruit. He excelled at everything, drill, battle drills, navigation, first aid, range shoots, physical training, military ethos and doctrine. You name it he came first at everything. Jack also had the right attitude and was squared away all of the time. You could not fault him and he helped others get through basic training. We thought for sure he would be offered a place in Special Forces and have a career the rest of us could only dream about.

The door opened and the Platoon sergeant called up Jack. Crisply marching forward he knocked on the door frame three times and stepped in to the office, saluted and presented himself to the Boss. The door closed and we assumed he was in there to get his accolades while the rest of us waited in the hallway wondering what bits of flesh were going to be torn off us.

A few minutes passed and we wondered if he wasn’t being entertained by the attending Staff with brandy and cigars. A few minutes later Jack emerged with the Platoon Sergeant who was looking a little red faced. Jack looked his usual cool and composed self and passed us in the hallway and whispered with a grin and a wink “Cheers Lads”. That was the last time we saw him.  Later we learned that after being given a glowing report he was presented with his contract but had flatly turned it down. They had gone so far as to promise him a rapid transfer to Special Forces and even a pathway to becoming an Officer but still he turned them down and requested to leave immediately to resume his life as a civilian.

 

Waste no more time arguing about a real man should be. Be one” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

The Red Pill

At the final moment when presented with a piece of paper Jack had made his decision. Everything had culminated to that point and he chose out. None of us had before then heard him voice any doubt at his being in the Army and he had never complained. If anything he  seemed to enjoy the rigors, discipline and deprivations of barrack and field life. Jack’s departure was as much a shock for the platoon instructors as it was for the rest of us. For many, it planted a seed of doubt in their minds. Jack had decided the Army was not for him after all and that was that. What did he see that the rest of us did not?

A few years later as a civilian I reflected on what Jack had done and realized he had been more exceptional than any of us had realized. Not only did Jack do everything to 110% when he did he also refused to compromise his principles and mislead the Army and his mates by signing a contract once he decided it was the wrong decision. Jack had decided he could not commit himself to the path and decided to step away before he regretted his decision. He left without regrets.

The manner in which Jack did this was honorable. Jack had nevertheless taken the Red Pill and realized that his path lay elsewhere. It taught me an important lesson in being true to oneself without fear. Of being able to make the hard decisions in life even when they go against the grain but you know they are right regardless of what people think.

 

Principles

Ironically Jack had displayed exactly the types of virtues valued by the Army; integrity, honesty, sincerity, courage and unwavering commitment to principles. Signing a contract without being absolutely committed did not enter in to his way of thinking as it did mine.

I signed my contract because I felt pressured and was not wholly committed. This was a pattern that persisted throughout my entire life. Making a decision that I knew deep down was not the right one; never committing to my word.

Eventually life has a way of adjusting misalignment. Someone I never met made a decision and I was  thrown out of the Army for various sins. I bounced about aimlessly through life for many years. I submitted to the will of others and accepted the decisions they made for me with later regret. Girlfriends ended relationships and employers terminated me. Rejection became the norm.

As an alcoholic I had surrendered all power to make decisions that were reasoned and reinforced with commitment. Others made them for me. The only decision I made that stuck was to be committed to my drinking.

 

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” – Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

 

Made a Decision

In seeking recovery through the 12 Steps the most important decision I ever made was to turn my life over to a Higher Power. The decision was definitive and complete. I could attempt to articulate the feeling of control and power that gave me but I would not do it justice. Suddenly the compulsion to drink was lifted and I never drunk again. I had taken the Red Pill.

By turning my life and will over to the Force I had in effect handed my problems over to that power. I now carried that power with me to make any inner change I wanted. With time that inner change would begin to reflect in my outer world. Relationships improved, life became easier and more purposeful and my health also improved. I began to live the philosophy. All of this was based on one single decision.

If you are reading this because you want guidance on being Jedi or are struggling with personal issues including addiction and want to improve your life ask yourself “What is my decision”. Intent is meaningless without action. Without a final decision to jump down the Rabbit Hole and commit ourselves to change completely we remain in a netherworld between action and inaction. We become impeded by lack of momentum. We hesitate at the precipice and while we test the water we refuse to jump in. The curtain has gone up and we must decide; do we step forward and play our part on the stage of life or do we hold back.

 

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision” – Maimonides

 

The Choice is Yours Alone

The agony of decision making is a choice. Finding a quiet place to reflect or seeking the advice of others helps to some extent but a decision must still be made. We can postpone the inevitable determining that the time is not right. That will depend on whether the decision is still available for us to make further down the track. The opportunity may vanish leaving us wondering.

We can weigh the cost, benefits and risks ad infinitum but there will always be a cost and a risk of making a decision. Despite the best knowledge available we could still regret the decision later on. A decision may be a pragmatic choice or an intuitive one. Believe me I have made both and not all of them take us where we thought they would.

 

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato

 

To thine own self be true

Being true to yourself is also a choice. No one can force you to be someone you are not. Anakin in “The Revenge of the Sith” made his choice and committed to the servitude in the Dark Side and not even Obi-wan Kenobi or Padme could save him. In the “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker turned the tables on the Emperor by deciding to spare Vader. Kylo-Ren extended his hand to Rey to join him in uniting Dark and Light, a new order. Rey refused and in making her decision chose her destiny. Those decisions ultimately reflected who these characters were at that point in their lives.

Life is full of decisions. The agony of decisions, even minor can leave us confused, immobile and uncertain and it takes courage to decide. We are all confronted with choices that will be transformative  and some may come at a heavy cost. Decisions are made that will change life forever.

Your decision may be to change a career, get married, have children, embark on a lifestyle change, or commit to a philosophy. Each is an adventure that comes with opportunity, pain, disappointment, joy and most of all learning. The decision to take the plunge is yours. “Do. Or do not, there is no try” as Yoda would say.  Decide you must and do so with conviction and commitment. Once the decision is made be at peace with it.

 

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

Twilight

Twilight is upon me, and soon, night must fall. That is the way of things. The way of the Force.” Yoda

 

If you know someone close who is given weeks or months to live because of an illness like cancer the pain and helplessness you feel is like no other. Your view of life can be altered drastically. You will put on a brave face and carry on with your day. At times you will dare to imagine that the Doctors have it wrong but deep inside you know they are right. All of the sudden trivial concerns no longer seem to matter. Our desire is to spend us much time with our loved one as possible. We dread the day that we know will come.

 

While we are tearing up inside and inwardly grieving the very person we grieve will surprise us with their dignity and humor. They seem accept their fate more than we do. Rather than feel sorry for themselves they only regret that they cannot be here for us. They think only of others and apologize to their loved ones with tear felt sincerity as if their own mortality was somehow their fault.

 

I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Death is not something we like to think about. When we are confronted by death and reminded of the impermanence and fragility of life we must also consider our own mortality.  We know that we cannot live forever but put the thought of our physical demise out of our minds. Out ego needs a body and functioning brain to exist. The inner pilot, our higher self does not. Regardless we fear death and prefer to bury our head in the sand. We work hard at extending the time we have on this plane knowing full well that we can only cheat death for so long.

 

“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever. What’s fated hangs over you. As long as you live and while you can, become good now” – Marcus Aurelius

 

I have been privileged to be at the sacred moments of birth and death. Each of us is born into this world with a right to live and a right to die well. Being alive carries a precondition that life must some day end. We all come from the same place and we all meet the same fate. We belong to the Force and must ultimately return to it.

 

“Both Alexander the Great and his mule keeper were both brought to the same place by death” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Accepting the fate of others and accepting our own fate need not be morbid. The circle of life touches all living things. Death does not discriminate between the poor or the rich and powerful. All Emperors and mortal Gods die and eventually all they created and built withers to dust until the memory of them and all who knew them is utterly gone. In the end all of us go to the same end. Our fates are united.

 

“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Time and choice is all we have. To regret the past, fear the future and neglect the present is a waste of life. To deny the natural cycle of life and death is to live in delusion.

We must only decide how to spend our days as long as we live. Life can be lived in a way that when you face the final day others may weep but you can rejoice a life well lived.

Our memory may not endure after we die but acts of love and kindness to others do extend well past our lives. The small things we do today do make a difference. Choose them well and live each moment.

 

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.” – Yoda

 

Thank you for showing me how to live and how to face the end of life, dear Friend, patient Mentor and loving Father.

Do these things

Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

Try Hard

In the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” on Dagobah, Yoda admonishes Luke for stating that he would “try” to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp. The audience is given the impression that “trying” is not good enough and Yoda expects nothing less than a winning performance from Luke. This is not entirely the case. Yoda is teaching Luke a lesson about “right effort”.

Yoda was not admonishing or challenging Luke Skywalker. He was showing him that the Force did not require effort and anger to be harnessed. A small amount of focus and concentration could direct the Force to do anything Yoda desired including moving an X-wing out of the swamp. Luke was trying too hard and getting flustered and frustrated before giving in.

Anakin had used anger to direct the force but it was clumsy and ugly. There was no need to “force” the Force. All Anakin and Luke had to do was relax and just do it.

Yoda was not a perfectionist. Unlike Anakin and Luke he had reasonable expectations of himself and others. Yoda saw no point in forcing things. Yoda knew that slow and steady wins the race. Living by a philosophy of life is like that. It is easier than we realize. We just have to do it and do it easy.

 

Do it Easy

Having a philosophy for life need not be hard or even complicated. When we embark on a journey of self improvement we often want to change everything about ourselves. We throw ourselves in to the work and try our hardest to put in to practice the things that we have learned. It becomes difficult to keep a track of all the precepts, principles and rules that we set for ourselves. As we stumble and fail we get frustrated and start to force change, making things only worse.

“What” you say, “but I thought right effort was everything”. Right effort need not be over-effort or making earth shattering changes. Let us not forget that none of this is about trying to save the world or changing others. We are only improving ourselves so that perhaps we can in some small way make a positive difference in the lives of others. Through self betterment we lead to world betterment. There is no need to break ourselves getting there. We should apply the “easy does it” or rather the Pareto principle in our lives.

Sometimes  just doing a few things well makes all the difference. Not just in our own progress but also in positive outcomes for others. Applying the Pareto Principle often works in our favor.

 

Pareto

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output or success from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input. The idea was proposed by an Italian economist who noticed that 80% of property was owned by 20% of the population. People started to notice the same 80/20 rule appearing everywhere.

If we apply approximately 20% of the effort towards change we will get 80% of the way there. The Pareto principle works everywhere, in business, physical training, study and nature. For example:

  • 20% of clients produce 80% of a companies turnaround
  • 20% of effort produce 80% of a target output
  • 20% of exercises and habits produce 80% outcomes in physical training
  • Natural systems are efficient with energy and default along a line of “least resistance” effectively the Pareto principle demonstrated in ecology
  • Going over the key points in a subject (20% of the volume) will cover 80% of the material required to pass an exam
  • Trying too hard when attempting to attract the opposite sex ends in them losing interest resulting in a 80% strike out rate.
  • 80% of mistakes are caused by 20% errors. 80% of accidents are the result of 20% hazards.

 

Work Smart

What all this means is that we should strive to work smart not hard for change.  We can get by with little. Yes change can be difficult but we do not need to hang ourselves on a cross to get the optimal results that we seek. Instead of going over the mountain we can sometimes go around it or through it. 20% of the effort will get us 80% of the way there so there is really no excuse for not doing something. We don’t try, we do, but we do it easy not hard.

 

Low Fruit

Having a philosophy for life by definition means we want it to serve us in some tangible and practical way. Jedi philosophy like the 12 Steps is not meant to be something that we memorize and commit to in such a way that it makes our lives inflexible, difficult or complicated. It is not a book on the shelf outlining unreachable goals that we exhaust ourselves trying to reach. A practical philosophy for life can be applied without much effort if we are willing to do the work. The benefits of doing so can be immediate and significant.

The idea is to harvest the low hanging fruits. Take away the key ideas and points of our chosen philosophy that are easy to remember. Use them in such a way that they accord with your internal value system and set of personal principles. Nothing could be easier than that.

 

Take Homes

Let’s break it down. What are the few things that we should strive to do? What are the take home jewels that stem from all this talk and contemplation of philosophy? I have boiled it down to five key areas for consideration:

  1. Treat your body like a temple; it’s the only one you have and you need it to function on this plane. Science has not yet offered replacement bodies that you can trade in your old one for in order to keep living indefinitely. In practical terms this means being mindful of what you put in to your body. It also means we should exercise regularly, meditate and rest when we need to.
  2. Respect your self and others; treat others as you would want to be treated with respect and dignity. Give others the love and compassion that they deserve. Work for the common good. Strive for synergy and cooperation.
  3. Be objective and rational in all things; defer to reason where opinions differ. The truth may be a matter of opinion but accept only what is true as you believe it. Accept that the truth can change and we must change too. Don’t hold on to ideas or beliefs so tight that you can’t let them go when they are proven wrong.
  4. Embrace your full spectrum of emotions as they make you fully human; but take charge of how you respond to your emotions moment to moment. Let emotions go that do not serve you.
  5. Learn what is in your control and what is not; align your wants and needs to that. Be ready to accept the things you cannot change and learn to let go of attachments including people, things and circumstances. All things eventually return to the Force. Embrace change, do not fear it.

 

Progress not Perfection

Remember we are not here to be perfect people or perfect Jedi or to achieve a level of spiritual perfection. We want continuous and incremental progress that never ends. Aiming for perfection is likely to lead to disappointment while deciding to coast along will ultimately see us regress and slide backwards. The objective is to trudge slowly uphill but without getting worn out. There should always be enough gas in the tank and fire in the belly to keep going.

 

A Journey

Follow your heart and whatever code you call your own, be it the Jedi Code or 12 Steps or anything else. This is your journey and no one else. We all have free will and we make of our lives as we see fit. There is nothing we have to do. No one is judging you but you and if there is a God it does not mind. You are already forgiven, you were never not.

You accept the consequences of our decisions as the natural order of things determine. By learning from our mistakes, we can only resolve to do better and not repeat or regret them. The ball is in our court and it is our game till the day we die. So let’s make the most of it and enjoy this grand adventure of life. We really only do get one shot at it so don’t waste 80% of your time when 20% will do. Do not “try”, just do it but do it easy.

Change

Change is never easy. For some of us it is traumatic and frightening. Most people are creatures of habit and want life to be static. The person that we are today was not constructed over night but over a life time. We get used to who we think we are and what we have. Our thoughts, words and actions are usually the product of established patterns. Many of us don’t realize it but we are actually predictable. People correctly anticipate our reactions once they get to know us. Yet at the same time we act as if we are dynamic and mysterious or spontaneous in some special way. Usually the opposite is true. We don’t like surprises and we don’t want to change unless we absolutely have to.

 

The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Despite our reticence to change the world changes around us. Sometimes it changes faster than we can keep up. The older I get the less familiar the world seems to be and the more set in my ways I become. Yet there is no denying it, the world constantly changes and we must change with it. Old ideas and beliefs must be questioned and possibly put aside and replaced with new ones.

The 12 Steps is a program of change. Sometimes it is like ripping a band-aid off an old wound. We don’t want to do it but we know we must and with courage and fortitude we do. It hurts but the pain and the immediate relief felt when it’s done is worth it. With every change we make in or lives we evolve. With small and incremental changes made over time the people around is start to notice a difference and then after some self reflection we notice it too. We have grown and become a better person. No change worth having was ever easy. Remember that.

 

What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” – Plutarch

Drop the Rock

In the program they say we have to “drop the rock”. At first we are left wondering what this means. We inventory our faults and flaws and reveal to ourselves, to another and our Higher Power the full extent of the mess we have created. By bringing up what we would rather leave buried we come face to face with who we are and what we have done. Our true reflection stares back at us in the mirror. Illusions are dispelled; the fog has lifted from our eyes.

Knowing who we are gives us the opportunity to change. There can be no rectification of a problem if we don’t know what it is. In our case self honesty is the key to the change process. We can try to lie to other people but we find it is hard, lying to ourselves on the other hand becomes almost impossible when we know who we are. Once we have a “hit list” of changes that are needed to be made to support our recovery and demonstrate our new found principles we must find the courage and the strength to “drop the rock” that is holding us back.

 

Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on” – Eckhart Tolle

To “drop the rock” means to “Let Go” of our old habits, negative patterns of thoughts and self defeating attitudes. This means that if there is something about ourselves that we want to change, we simply stop doing it. Whatever the flaw we simply drop it from our lives. This can seem hard at times. For example if we are in the habit of getting angry every time we don’t get our way, it may take some time before we go some time without acting out that anger. I had the habit of quickly jumping to conclusions about people and always expecting the worst. My pessimism was holding me back from growing in recovery. By being able to identify the habit and resolving to stop it, I have become more mindful about my “instincts” and less likely to make up my mind before I have all the facts.  The trick is to simply decide to make the change and “act as if”. We can  “fake it till we make it”; often this is enough to eventually get there.

 

Reflect

We never reflect how pleasant it is to ask for nothing.” – Seneca

 

Self reflection is an important part of this process and the evening review helps us in assessing our conduct during the day. We can visualize out interactions with people and our thought patterns and behaviors. Did we allow emotions to cloud our judgement or influence our decisions and actions? How did we handle difficult situations? Did stress make us do or say things we regretted? Was the source of much of our frustration other people? Did they do or say things that upset us? Why? What was our part in all of this?

Every day is an opportunity to learn new lessons and the evening review is that time when we can convert those lessons in to experience and wisdom. If something did not work today and we made an idiot of ourselves or messed things up, that’s OK. The trick is to realize where we went wrong and figure out what to do about it. Where we identify change is required we consider where and how to make the necessary adjustments and resolve to try again.

We should always remember that life does not happen to us. Generally most things that we perceive as “bad” are in fact “indifferences”. We simply judge them as “bad” because they are least preferred. Knowing that it is our impression and not the thing, we could just as easily be indifferent about whatever vexes us. The important thing to consider is what resides within our control and what is outside out our control. There are also those things which are partially in our control to act upon and influence to some degree.

 

Change yourself

The change that we affect in our lives is predominately in the area that we have control. This includes our behaviors and conduct, our thoughts and reactions to emotions. The attitude that we bring to any situation and our own resolve. We are responsible for these things as they are within our control. This is where we can make our changes.

 

Change your thoughts, transform your life

Strangely enough we tend to invest more energy in trying to exert our control where it is limited. We lose our minds when people, places and things do not change and conform to our expectations. Consider that the President of the United States appears to wield an incredible amount of control and power. The reality is he is dependent on others.

Like the rest of us, the President does not always get his way and planned policies never see the light of day because they get voted down or his supporters drop support. For someone who is used to being in control of others all of the time and being able to effect rapid and sweeping changes with the snap of his fingers, being POTUS must be a very limiting and very frustrating job.

 

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

Slave not Master

The Sith were dedicated in forcing change not only on others but on natural and metaphysical laws. Forcing others to conform rather than adapting and changing to their environment was the Sith approach. The Jedi on the other hand had a code which they followed as a guiding principle and otherwise sought to change their selves first. They used logic and reasoning through negotiation and consensus to change others and influence an outcome.

The Jedi focused on what they were able to achieve rather than trying to force a solution that was inconsistent with their principles. Anakin Skywalker on the other hand felt that it was his duty to make the changes he believed were needed even if he had to use force. When others failed to conform to his plans he would grow resentful and resort to any means necessary.

 

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality” – Yoda

 

The Sith took advantage of Anakin’s desire to change the laws of nature. Darth Sidious realized that they could control Anakin by giving him the illusion of control. By becoming Darth Vader, Anakin became nothing but a servant. Worse he was demented and existed in an illusion of power believing that the fate of the Galaxy resided within his hands while doing little more than a pawn in his Master’s bidding.

Being alcoholic is like being a slave. We believe we have mastery over our own lives and control over others. We elevate ourselves to “big shots”. When reality bites and it always does we find don’t even have control over ourselves. We barely function as human beings. Alcohol is our Master. At this point we must first change ourselves before we can get control of our own lives back.

 

Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda

 

Rule of Fives

Five approaches to making changes in your life:

    1. Break it down: A major overhaul is done in small and incremental steps. Change takes time. By making small changes successfully you increase your confidence and minor failures and disappointments are less likely to unhinge you.
    2. Weigh it up: Some desired changes produce beneficial outcomes. Others are less beneficial. Decide whether the change you want is worth it the consequences. In the Army I one day decided to stop being the “reserved grey man” and changed my behaviour to “big mouthed trouble maker” in order to be assertive, not a smart move. Not all change is wise.
    3. Keep it Positive: Carries on from the last point. Being polite and courteous instead of arrogant and rude would be a positive change in almost every circumstance.
    4. Keep it Simple: Try not to complicate things or make it hard. Be very clear about the changes you want to make it your life. You may decide you need to a change of scenery and decide to move to the mountains to achieve a calm and passive mind. In reality you can achieve this almost anywhere.
    5. Practice and Protect: If you don’t use it you lose it. If we want to be more mindful we need to practice mindfulness. It is a skill that becomes a habit with time and practice. If we never apply the change that we seek we will never own it. Saying, I want to be more self aware and calm is fine but you have to start being it.

Codependency

Codependency is often described as a dysfunctional relationship that exists between two persons one or both of which may be in addiction such as alcoholism. The other person tolerates and facilitates that behaviour by remaining within the relationship despite the emotional, mental and even physical abuse that they suffer. Both participants in the relationship believe that they cannot live without the other. Both condemn themselves to a partnership that is built on anything but true love.

In reality Codependency is much more. A relationship that is held together out of fear or loss is a form of codependency. One person may lean on another person emotionally and be unable to validate themselves without the person. This is compounded if the other person also has emotional or psychological issues which compliment those of her partner.

Two damaged people bought together do not necessarily provide a solution or salvation. One of two things may happen; one of the individuals may grow emotionally and awaken to the fact that they are in an unhealthy codependent relationship that does not allow them to flourish. Otherwise the relationship may endure but simply out of a fear of being “alone”. The opportunity to find true love and to live a free and fulfilling life is compromised. This is not love but a form of bondage that ends in regret.

 

A Painful Truth

Some years ago I realized I am in a codependent relationship with my partner. I thought couples just had their disagreements and got over them. During my drinking these disagreements were fairly often but then I was very selfish and obstinate and only saw my side. Despite getting sober and working the steps I found I could not break this cycle of codependency. The relationship remains dysfunctional.

I found that despite the decades I spent being on my own I was now a virtual prisoner to my need to belong. I now find myself questioning the authenticity and honesty of the relationship but uncertain on  how to act. Is it fair to be in a relationship where deep within our own heart we know that whatever true affection and love existed has long been replaced with a mutual need for stability, security and familiarity? Is not being in the world alone more important than being in a true and nourishing relationship?

 

Emotional Maturity

There is nothing wrong with stability, security and familiarity. All of these are important in a healthy relationship. However a codependent relationship is categorized by an imbalance between two people. There are power struggles and each attempt to assert their control over the other. Disagreements occur and concessions are made by one side or another in order to maintain the peace. The result is resentment and anxiety. Open and honest communication breaks down. Couples become distant harboring private resentment for the failings they perceive in their partner. They blame each other for the unhappiness in their lives but they are unwilling to do anything. Despite all the ill feeling and pain both know that they cannot function alone. Freedom and happiness is traded in for stability, security and familiarity.

Emotional maturity was not a part of my sobriety in the beginning. I am still growing up. In other words I had not matured as an emotional person during my decades of alcoholism. I still had all the emotional maturity of a traumatized teenager and a lost young man trying to make sense of the world. Much to my surprise I realized not long ago that everything decent I had ever done was to get approval and love from others. To be accepted. Every spiteful or indecent act I had ever committed was to get back at them or others for perceived wrongs. This included getting drunk.

 

Child

Codependency in my case did not just happen later in life. I grew up with an alcoholic Father who himself had all the emotional maturity of a deprived child. Without another role model to learn from and no outside support becoming an accepting and active participant in the abuse was assured. A child will adapt quickly and learn to survive. As a child I begged my Father to be reasonable, sane and sober. I would put him to bed in the dead of night when he stumbled in to whatever doss house we lived in and pull off his boots. In the morning I woke him up and pressed him to go to work as he swore at me through a hangover. I hated him but he was still my Father and as such I needed him.

Natural emotions such as empathy and joy were dulled and replaced with fear, then anger and finally apathy. With apathy and time people start to identify with the negative influences in their lives and also begin to act them out. Emotional abuse, violence and cruelty become a part of who we are. I remember the cruelty I afflicted on my siblings as a child and on hapless victims in the school yard. I suffered at home and others had to suffer. Bullies beat me so I had to bully those that were weaker than me. The bullied often become the bullies. This still wears down on me heavily at times.

Growing up without a Mother and in the care of an abusive alcoholic Father had left me angry and vulnerable as a kid. We were thrown in to the State Care system as the Child Welfare people intervened. My sullen disposition attracted the wolves at school and being small in stature I was an easy target for bullying. I fought regularly and was in trouble often. I shoplifted and was smoking and drinking by age 11. The world looked like a hostile place to me and I was out in the cold. Desperate to find a place I could call home, I ran away and joined the Army as soon as I finished High School.

 

A Home

I took that anger in to the Army and they molded it and beat my vulnerability out of me. My weaknesses were removed and they built me up in to something useful. I cut all contact with my Father and never spoke to him again. The Army gave me a roof over my head, three meals a day, medical and dental, training and told me what I had to do and when to do it. It was simple and structured. For a long time I felt empowered and protected. I also felt like a bad ass. I was extremely fit, tanned and trained. Being part of something bigger than oneself does that. So does extra muscle mass and being trained in unarmed combat and Infantry skills. But it was shallow; there was a gaping hole there. I knew I didn’t belong in that world and rebelled. I found alcohol.

After an ignoble and unceremonious discharge from the Army a few years later I was back out on the street and completely alone. The Army had probably saved me from destitution and a hopeless future but I had barely matured in to an adult. I was dependent on the system to support me. I felt like an important part of me was torn away when I stepped outside the gates for the last time and the cord was cut. They had taught me to be a Soldier but not a functional and mature adult fit for normal life. I had entered barely 18 and at 23 I was on the street while many of my High School Friends were graduated from University and already in professional careers earning close to 6 figure salaries. I had no transferable qualifications other than in heavy drinking.

 

Barely Functional

Functioning and surviving in civilian life alone was an enormous challenge. People around me were phony and shallow. Their concerns and priorities were petty and made little sense. Employers seemed only to use and exploit young employees. The Jobs I took were mind numbing and low paid and I soon made enemies. There was no comradeship or mutual benefit. It was a dog eat dog world and I felt completely maladapted to it.

My anger and frustration would boil over and I quickly alienated and scared off people. Friends and acquaintances distanced themselves. I could not re-enter the Army, I had well and truly burned my bridges there. The answer was to move around a lot and get drunk as often as possible. I tried the Geographic solution and drowned it in alcohol. In order to eliminate any reliance on others and be completely independent I vanished overseas taking my problems with me as far as I could take them.

 

A Wife to the Grave

My relationship with booze took a new turn in civilian life. For a start I didn’t have to worry about trying to fit drinking around the Army. I learned I could arrange life to suit my drinking. As I did so I found myself becoming more dependent and less flexible with people, places and circumstances that got in the way of that relationship.

Alcohol is cunning and has a way of intruding in every aspect of life like a demented and obsessive lover. We know that the relationship is doing us harm but we remember the good times too. We cannot imagine being separated from alcohol. Our disease adopts a persona that is omnipresent and absolute in our lives. She is like a Succubus, a lover turned Demon who will not let us go. The relationship becomes entirely one sided. Alcohol will eventually take everything unless we break that hold first.

 

Emotional Sobriety

Recovery of course is breaking that dependence. The 12 Steps provided the pathway for me to do that. As my sobriety strengthened my personality began to change. Self honesty and humility allows us to review our actions in life and identify where we have been lacking. This provides the impetus to start maturing as a person. Emotional sobriety is the eventual outcome of practicing principles and working the steps.

Along the way we begin to review our relationships. Some of them present themselves as being dysfunctional or toxic and are ended. In my case my sobriety began to reveal dimensions and aspects of my relationship with my partner that I had never considered before. In our journey we take an honest view of our life and question where authenticity is lacking and where fear or resentment resides. We make amends for the harm we caused where we can.

Every major change in life comes with costs and benefits and recovery is no different. I began to realize that I had been in a relationship simply because I needed it when I was drinking and alone. The need to fulfill the need for a place to finally call home and to find someone was a way of addressing the void that had existed in me my entire life. It’s a trap many of us fall into, we think that others will complete us and we rely on them to carry us when we can’t carry ourselves. Once we get sober and sane the world becomes a different place and so do we. The illusions that we created for ourselves start to fall away and we see life in plain view.

Having emotional sobriety is realizing that only we can fill the void that resides within us with something deep and spiritual. We look at ourselves and realize we no longer need anyone. We may want them, but we no longer need them. It can come as a bit of a shock to realize that a long term relationship is built on the shifting sands of codependency. The sands are slipping away, being eroded with time. The trick of course is what to do about it. Do we let it go or start sand bagging?

 

Interdependency

I have a friend who is also sober and in a relationship that is interdependent, that is the opposite of codependent. I envy them. The couple compliment each other perfectly and neither is dependent on the other to be the person they want them to be. They support each other and understand each others needs. They are together because they want to be, not because they have to be or need to be. Both are free to express their own individual qualities in the way that best defines them.

The outcome is a trusting and mutually beneficial partnership built on mutual love and respect. Both are empowered, self sufficient and self determinant because the nature of their relationship encourages it. Communication is open and honest; laughter is a daily part of their lives. The relationship is vital like a breath of fresh ocean air.

 

Accept the things

I don’t have a definitive solution for my situation. My strategy is acceptance and to take the view “this too shall pass and better times shall come”. I keep my side of the street clean and live in accordance with my principles. Realizing that one’s relationship is in trouble is a good start but knowing is not doing. Being unable to do much about it without the willingness of the other person is a problem. Then things could always be much worse.  Things can seem bad and cause us pain but actually it is not the thing that does us harm but our reaction to it.

Being Jedi as well as being sober has taught me that we cannot force people to be one thing or another. They will decide for themselves and so should we for our own selves. We can try to improve situations through our own choices. If we are separated or divorced we can choose to be polite and civil to our estranged partner. There is no reason to answer one person’s bad behaviour or harsh words with more of the same. Promises should be kept and obligations met even if we would rather not comply. If someone lies to us we should not use it as an excuse to be dishonest in return. Children should never be used as a bargaining chip or held for ransom; they are innocent parties.

We may be stuck in a relationship that is dysfunctional and even terminal but we can still treat the other person with care, dignity and respect. Han Solo and Princess Leia set a good example. Married at the end of one war, separated decades later at the start of another. There was no animosity or blame between them. The fortunes of war and a shared love and concern for a very troubled son reunited them for a brief time. No matter what circumstance we find ourselves in our relationships, we still have a choice to be a good person.

 

Things could still be worse

The State of the World

If you follow the news every day you are probably of the view that the world is in serious trouble. It seems that every day we are bombarded with more terrible news from around the world. Some of it affects us directly or we know people involved. News from further afield also touches us. We feel for the people that are caught up in a tragedy, their plight streamed to our computer or television. Their suffering becomes our suffering.

The world seems like a smaller place than it ever did. We are connected through the power of the internet and comprehensive news coverage. If something terrible happens in our town, city, state, country or on the other side of the planet we soon hear about it. Right now there are mass murders, genocide, environmental destruction, natural disasters and famine happening around the world in plain view. The world stands on the precipice of a nuclear disaster, war appears to be looming large as does an array of other global catastrophes. We feel helpless to do anything. Despite all of this, things could still be worse.

 

Reasonable to Good

Despite all the tragedy and calamity in the world we also get caught up in our own personal dramas. Our wants and needs still preoccupy our thoughts. Simple and day to day problems still arise. The car still breaks down, we have crappy days and nothing seems to go right. Except when it does, bad things usually happen to other people. Most of the time they happen to people we don’t know and believe it or not, the news does not cover every instance of bad news. Terrible things are happening right now that will never be reported, that we will never hear about.

That does not mean the world is falling apart around us. The chances of being assaulted, robbed or murdered remain low. Most of us will never be caught up in a natural disaster or a major accident such as a fatal car accident, train derailment or a plane crash. Hopefully, even less of us will be visited by war. Diseases such as cancer may happen but the odds might still be in our favor. Overall the outlook for a positive future seem reasonable to good. The world still has much beauty and peace.

 

Not the End

So why does it seem that things could not get any worse right now? Well they could. It’s simply a matter of perception. Things do not hurt us, only our perception and view of them does. I have heard people, myself included, declare “that’s it, it’s over, my life is finished!”. The reality is it’s not. We could lose our job, our house, our partner could abandon us, loved one’s could die but we are still here.

The sense of loss and grief that is felt does not mean that the world has ended or that we won’t see better days. The sun will rise again in the morning and the Earth will continue to turn on its axis. What assaults and bereaves us today will pass. It may seem hard to accept but it is true. Hurricanes and earth quakes destroy cities and wars upend entire countries, yet people still emerge and rebuild brick by brick. Soon enough children’s laughter can be heard and life goes on.

 

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Life Goes On

The power of perception and gratitude kept James Stockdale alive in a North Vietnamese prison and it kept Viktor Frankl’s hopes and dreams alive in Auschwitz. Both of these men knew things could be worse. They were still alive and they owned their minds. The power of choice over whether to allow themselves to give in was theirs alone.

There are times when fate hands people a cruel and heavy burden. I could not think anything worse than the loss of a child. Yet I know people who have suffered that tragedy and who have come out the other side of hell more appreciative of life and love. They are more grateful for the things that they still have and grateful the for time they were blessed to have spent with their loved one. Life does still go on.

Putting things in to perspective allows us to find our balance. We can grieve and process our loss in a mindful way while appreciating what has been taken away. Loss is a reminder that all things are impermanent and transitory. Gratitude reminds us to value what we have more than what we expect or want. By accepting that life could still be worse we are in a way acknowledging that and letting go of our attachments without devaluing their importance in our lives.

 

Grace of God

A decade ago I was diagnosed with a tumor that resided within my skull. Unlike a brain tumor it was a mass that was non-malignant and could be surgically removed before it did any damage to my brain. At first I thought I had a brain tumor and panicked until the Doctor reassured me that my prognosis was good as it had been found before it could interrupt the blood supply to my brain. So I asked “it could’ve been worse?”, the Doctor replied that indeed I could have had a stroke at any time and lost a great deal of function if not my life, so yes “it could have been far worse”. That experience taught me a lesson. It gave me a new lease on life and a grateful appreciation for everything in it. Unfortunately I forgot that I was alcoholic and soon started the spiral downwards.

Recovered Alcoholic often surprise people with their spontaneity, humor and positivity. Some of them have been through the wringer, they have estranged or lost friends and family members, ruined their careers and lost everything they ever owned and suffered terrible health problems. Yet here they are, laughing and joking and enjoying life to the full. Even bad news seems not to unsettle them. They accept what comes with equanimity and peace. They realize that the only reason they are sitting there is because of the “Grace of God”.

My personal descent in to a hell I call “rock bottom” put me in an emotional and spiritual place I thought could not possibly be worse. The reality was, I was lucky; I found a Higher Power and made my way out. With renewed faith I started to clean myself up and begin recovery by taking the steps. I admitted my powerlessness to act against a disease and I surrendered my problem over to a Higher Power. By surrendering my life to the Force I was able to start putting my life in to perspective and finding that I still had a lot to be grateful for. I realized that things could have been far worse. Compared to others I got off lightly; I still had a family, my job and my health.

 

Leia

Leia Organa is very much the symbol of strength, pride and steely determination in the Star Wars saga. Leia suffered loss in her roles as a Princess, Diplomat, Rebel Leader, Jedi, General and Mother. Her life had been full of personal tragedies and bitter betrayals. Besides the loss of her biological parents at birth she endured decades of hardship in peace and in war. Whether you read Canon or Legends they included the death of her son Anakin and the loss of her Ben Solo to the First Order. She married and separated from Han Solo and then in “The Force Awakens” learned that he had been brutally executed by their own child. Despite all of this Leia never buckled, she never gave in.

In real life Carrie Fisher also dealt with personal hardships and tragedies that most people were unaware of. From an early age she was thrust in to the lime light due to her high profile parents. Star Wars launched her career and earned her unimaginable fame. That global recognition came at a price. Still a teenager Carrie Fisher was in an affair with her co-star Harrison Ford. The relationship was one sided, he a distant lover and she a an impressionable young girl who was infatuated yet awkward about her feelings and embarrassed about her body. She fell in to addiction and depression and struggled with the pain and self loathing that it bought on. The separation of her parents and death of her Father also had a heavy toll on her.

Despite all of the hardship and tragedy Carrie Fisher never wallowed in self pity. Although she had low self esteem she also had the tenacity, strength and courage to overcome her demons and emerge as a confident writer and spokesperson for mental health. She became like General Organa, tough and frank yet approachable and funny. Carrie Fisher had a common touch which connected with ordinary people. She had been through the wringer and like many recovered Alcoholics had a ferocious love for life and a healthy sense of humor born of humble irreverence for one’s own flaws.

The shared beauty of Carrie Fisher and Leia Organa was the knowledge that life is tough and it will get you down. Life can pick you up and throw you down again and again but it can always be worse. How we get through it and come out the other end largely depends on us. We can give up and weep bitterly in the dark or we can stand up and keep going one day at a time, one step at a time.

Despite all the tragedy and evil in the world it is still a wonderful place. There is more good in people than bad.

Jedi trust their feelings or intuitions

Jedi are a ‘feeling people’ and believe in using and trusting their feelings and intuition. Jedi are intuitive and are in touch with the core of their being.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Who am I?

A decade or more ago I took a personality evaluation test called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). My Employer’s HR executive had decided it would be a good idea if everyone took the test and shared with everyone else their traits. The rationale was that people are different and they react differently to things. Their personality type will determine many of the traits we observe that either inspire or annoy us.

For supervisors like myself it was explained I had to map the personalities of my subordinates in order to manage them better. If I know my tools, the psychologist explained, I can use them more effectively. The results for supervisors would also be used to help determine advancement through the ranks of the company to higher level positions.

My results were disappointing and inconsistent with the companies profile for advancement to middle management and beyond. Based on my personality type I was to advance no further than frontline supervisor. I was stuck. This was disappointing but I also felt intuitively that it was for the best. I liked being in the field, interacting with people and getting my hands dirty. The sterile world of “brown nosing” and office politics was not for me. Besides, I figured that eventually my drinking would mess things up so why climb the lofty heights only to be unceremoniously thrown back down.

INFJ

What was my fatal flaw? The MBTI revealed my personality type to be INFJ. My chosen profession should have been an artist, poet, monk, philosopher, aid worker, teacher or child care worker. I was a bit shocked because I always thought I was a bit of a rough diamond he-man sort of guy. To be told I was more of a quiet “sharing and caring” kind of guy was not what I was expecting. I sought to hide the results. The lads at the pub and the guys in my Army Reserve unit must not know about this. I started to feel I didn’t know myself. I didn’t.

For years booze had obscured my true nature from myself. From the age of 18 I had tried hard to be someone else. My real personality had been eclipsed by a false persona that was not the real me. Alcohol had kept me in denial and now some psychologists test had just held up a mirror that showed me who I was beneath my fake exterior. It was a revelation but intuitively I knew I had been suppressing my true self for decades in order to be accepted. Alcoholics tend to do this and it causes an inner tension. We eventually face a psychic crisis as the real person we are catches up with us.

Introversion

The MBTI test revealed that a strong “I” meant introvert. This surprised everyone as I always played the extrovert but it was show. I never felt comfortable around people or crowds. The Psychologist revealed that “I”’s have a “party going on inside” but when forced in to social situations could would tire easily. She reassured me I was no social leper, we just don’t need others to draw energy from. We get it from ourselves. “E” suck energy out of others. It sort of made sense; I had to drink to feel comfortable in a crowd.

Intuition

For some reason “N” means “Intuition”. I didn’t know much about the word “Intuition” other than the racy video clip by the singer Jewel. I also thought intuition was something to do with stopping at three beers, something I was never good at so I thought my intuition must be poor. Apparently it was also off the scales. This fortunately was good, if I were a CEO, but not so good so far down the ladder. She had to interrupt me as I drifted off a bit and thought about Jewel. “Intuitors”, she told me tend to be dreamers.

Feeling

“F” was for feeling. F meant I tend to listen to my heart more than my head. If I feel something is not right I’m usually on the mark. The problem of course is that emotions can get away from strong “Feelers”. Otherwise she said “F”s are sensitive to other people and can be empathetic.  I wear my heart on a sleeve is what the shrink said and I protested in indignation. This was a problem for the company as my “F” was off the charts. Being an “F” meant I was liable to have principles that would extend beyond share holder value. I could turn in to a “whistle blower” or worse, a unionist. The blood drained from my face. I started to remember the trouble I had caused in the Army because of principle and wanting to defend others. “F” meant “Fail”.

Judging

My “J” was not as strong but still significant. “J” is for Judging. Not to be confused with the judgemental type. This was a redeeming feature as it indicated I am task orientated and plan work. Unfortunately I can get so focused on one task I forget others or miss information. It seemed to me I would now spend the rest of my career doing data entry. Why couldn’t I have been an ESTJ like Darth Vader? Those guys made it far in the company. The CEO was an ESTJ.

Be Yourself

The final report went to my boss sealing my career trajectory. I was sort of relieved but still hated myself for being an INFJ. Who should I blame? Parents, God, the English teacher who had told me to be a writer some day. I had often looked in the mirror and asked “Who am I?”, this test revealed my personality. I saw the result as a flaw not realizing it was actually a good thing. My real character flaws were obstinacy, belligerency, resentment, apathy, anger, dishonesty, self pity and selfishness all alcoholic tendencies. Not the real me.

I often wonder how the test would have gone if I had arrived at work drunk and fresh out of a Night Club. Before the morning blues and dry horrors had set in. I could have sat the test and got a completely different score. The Psychologist told me the test was very hard to fool. I have sat it several times and once got drunk and did it again trying for a different score. Every time INFJ.

These days I actually love that I am an INFJ. It makes perfect sense. The company and that job is long gone but I am still an INFJ and always will be. I know myself better than I did and to know thyself is a great thing. Whether a person can truly know themselves is a matter of opinion. We can be Jedi and go some way to trusting ourselves and being in tune with our feelings.  We can be ourselves without fear and with confidence. I will never again try to be anyone other than who I am. That’s a start.

The Advocat

I looked up INFJ today and found our archetype is the “Advocat” or the counsellor. We have a strong sense of morality and idealism as well as loyalty. Obi-Wan Kenobi was an INFJ as was Aragorn and Lady Galadriel of Lord of the Rings.  INFJ’s are dreamers who do. They are quiet achievers who try hard to make a positive impact on the world. They are altruistic and selfless people who fight tirelessly for what they believe is right. We are strong willed and decisive but soft spoken and caring. We are less than 1% of the world so we are truly special. Yes we have our weaknesses but then so does everyone else.

To my delight I found that Carrie Fisher, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela were all INFJ. I feel blessed to have that in common with these great people.

Accept who you are, be yourself. Embrace the authentic you even if you are an ESTJ like Darth Vader. MTFBWY.

https://www.personalityclub.com/blog/star-wars-personality-chart/

Growing Old

When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not.” – Yoda

Recently I turned half a century. The milestone was not marked by any celebration and I asked that family and friends treat it as any other day. My Stoic attitude to turning 50 was to take the time to contemplate my life up until that point. I wanted to appreciate where I currently am in my life and ponder the future.

The inescapable fact

It is hard to escape the fact that time is not on our side. No one will live to be as old as Yoda. Those that do not die young will see their parents grow frail and eventually lose their health. Children bury their parents and grieve their passing as is the nature of things.

Our children grow up and eventually leave the nest seeking to start their own journey through life.  If we manage to dodge the many ailments and illnesses that seem to beset the middle aged we too also eventually grow frail. Our strength and agility slowly start to leave us. Sight grows dimmer, conversations are harder to follow and loud noises bother us more.

We watch as the world around us becomes more and more unfamiliar and we notice how young new parents look with their small children. Once upon a time not long ago we were that age too and had the same glow and vibrancy of youth.

One by one that that we knew leave us and start to dim in our memory. Soon our time comes.

Looking Back

I am now fifty years old. It feels strange to say it. I am a product of the 60’s and was born at a time when youth was rebelling against authority. The Vietnam War was being fought and the counter culture was in full swing not only in the States but around the world. They called it the “Love Generation” among other things. Some may actually remember that era (pun intended) and recall that it doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet it probably seems like an eternity.

They say I am Generation X. The very mention of the term brings back a lot of nostalgia. Which in itself is weird. I remember getting drunk and stoned a lot through the 90’s. The music was a mix of House music and then Grunge. An entire decade seems to have been lost in some sort of haze of booze and drugs or the fog of hangovers and brief recovery.Trainspotting and Kurt Cobain inspired the times.

There are the faded and yellowed photos of forgotten friends and fellow travelers in some remote and distant parts of the world. Everyone looks so young and happy. We are holding up bottles of beer and nursing cigarettes. There are bongs laying about.

We are wearing cut off Jeans, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin T-shirts and Thai Dye. Everyone has long hair and some of the guys have beards. Most of us are skinny, tattooed and tanned. There’s the promise of a good night and maybe love with a stranger. Life is a care free adventure, for a time there is no need to worry about the future. Youth seemed to be the promise that would last forever.

Never Lasts

Nothing lasts for ever and everything must end. Our travels, careers, friendships and close relationships, our very lives are all finite and impermanent. The party also had to end. I just never caught on like most and didn’t start growing up.

Booze tends to hold back the clock a little. Soon enough we are the middle aged person trying to keep up with people half our age. They are where we were 20 years ago and here we are still in the same place.

Ripped Off

Getting sober is a little like Rip Van Winkle waking up from his drunken slumber. The first thing Rip did on waking was go to his local Tavern and order an Ale. Looking around the Bar he noticed that the clientele was different. Some of the older people stared at him curiously. There was a young man that looked vaguely familiar to him.

Soon enough he was approached and it became revealed that he had vanished 20 years before and was now a much older version of himself. Rip Van Winkle had slept for 20 years, the result of a ghostly practical joke. The old fellows were his Friends and the young man his grown son. He learned that his wife had passed on. A bit relieved, Rip had another drink.

Waking Up

When we get sober the world appears different. Like Rip Van Winkle we realize we have been in some sort of slumber for years. Others have been moving on with their lives and in many ways we have been moving forward too but a large part of us has been rooted in the same spot. Once we have freed ourselves from the compulsion to drink our old haunts and old way of life no longer appeal. The chains slip off.

Sometimes I pass a bar or a night club and feel an urge to go inside, to resurrect a part of me that is now dead. I see the young people partying and having a great time, the music is blaring and the laughter fills the air. I feel a sense of nostalgia for the past but it soon passes and I remember who I am and most importantly when I am.

Old is a State of Mind

I do not consider myself old. In many ways I am excited about the coming years. After five years of sobriety I have learned so much about myself and recovery. I have barely touched the surface. Like Rip Van Winkle I see a chance to make a fresh start with every day. Age need not hold me back.

Indeed I can proudly say that I am fitter and stronger now than I was at 25. People say I look younger too, which I’ll take. There’s still a spring of youth in my step. I hope I’m wiser. There is the advantage of experience on my side. Wisdom acquired from a life of mistakes to draw from.

The Future

We can accept that the years will wear on us and eventually the tide of time will take us with it. Like Yoda I can face my ultimate destination with equanimity. My only concern is to live what Epictetus called the “Good Life” and whether I do or not is largely entirely up to me.

No one can know what the next day will bring. The future is always a mystery. With some certainty we can say that the sun will set tonight and rise in the morning to another day. Each day brings another chance to get things right, to learn and to grow and to use what we have learned. We can continue to look forward with hope and draw on our Faith that your best days are yet to come.

Recently I saw an article about a man who reportedly lived to 256. This man had been taught by another man who he claimed had lived for 500 years. The man is now dead but his story was documented early last century. The very old man had a secret for living to such an age which he shared…I’ll share it…..Tomorrow.