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.

Geographical Cure

Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” – Luke Skywalker “Episode IV: A New Hope”

The Geographical Cure is the idea that enters in to our mind suggesting that the grass is always greener on the other side. We decide that if we were to change our location and find a place where we are meant to be we will find peace and happiness. All our problems will be resolved by moving to another town, city, state or country.

Psychologists have shown that the Geographical Cure works some of the time for some people but in most cases the benefit is temporary. The flip side of the Geographical Cure is the fact that when moving from one place to another we are moving. No matter where I go, there I will find me. So if I want real change in my life, moving to a Greek Island or French Provence might sound ideal but it is unlikely to change my mind or behaviors. Believe me I tried.

Gypsy Life

As a kid we moved around a lot. You could’ve called us Gypsies. I won’t list them here but before I completed the 7th Grade I had moved from one end of the country to the other and attended over 20 different schools. The adventure was only interrupted briefly by social services that placed me and my siblings in to State Care for a period of time. The reason for the constant moving was a parent who was alcoholic and was a strong believer in the Geographical Cure. If anyone proved that the Geographical Cure does not work, it was my Father.

Like Father I also moved around a lot mostly to get away from myself. Getting to somewhere new, becoming familiar with the people and the culture, making new friends was intoxicating at first. The problem of course was when I got to any of the numerous places I chose as “ideal” I soon ran in to myself. Then the real “intoxication” would begin and so would the dramas and the scandal that ensued.

It was then only a matter of time before I made my excuses and tried somewhere else. I’m probably the only person who ever tried to make Aliyah to Israel and got told “no longer welcome and don’t come back” by my exasperated hosts. Its a bad sign when an entire country doesn’t want you.

Book of Stamps

After many years of wandering the globe I did not have any major epiphanies, there were no resounding breakthroughs and I was alcoholic. Traveling and drinking tend to go hand in glove.

On return home I could boast an International bar crawl that had taken me to over 30 countries in 5 continents. I  even had a collection of glass coastere from Pubs around the world. There was no Geographical Cure for me, just a steady decline and then a plunge to “Rock Bottom”. I became recovered in the same town I had left 27 years earlier to join the Army and “see the world”.

I still get the urge for Geographical Cure. Perhaps in my sobriety I realize that despite the many stamps in tattered passports and the grainy photos of me getting plastered with unrecognizable people in exotic locations, I didn’t really get to see the world or experience life as it is meant to be. The travel bug remains. I wonder if I had the chance again would I do it differently or would I see the world through beer goggles once more.

At times when people and life pisses me off  I imagine a small cottage on a Greek Island or in the foot hills of the Pyrenees. Fishing, hiking, writing and reading and mostly being alone. Then I remember people will probably annoy me there too and life will still be difficult. Running away from our problems does not solve them, it often makes them worse.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 
— John Lennon

Home is where you make it

Moving town, city, state or country may or may not make us happier. It really depends on your definition of happiness. There are places I longed for and when I got there I was disappointed. Was it the place or me? A place does not care, it exists in spite of us. We stand there in the same body and look upon it with the same set of eyes. When we bring ourselves, happiness can be found on a paradise like Naboo or on a hell hole like Tatooine.  Happiness comes from within and so does change.

So when Luke Skywalker looked at the twin suns setting on Tatooine and dreamed of getting off world to join the Rebellion he was looking for a Geographical Cure.  Life as a moisture farmer on an outer rim planet that no one cares about can be pretty glum. Luke was like his father wanting adventure, travel and purpose. He was impatient and wanted to run away. The reality of life as a fugitive, rebel and Jedi soon caught up with him.

Forty years later we find Luke as an old man on the “Jedi idyllic” setting of Ahch-To, on a rock in the middle of a cold and wind swept oceanic planet. I wonder if Luke had found his Geographic Cure. I guess we will find out in “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”.

And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” – Confucius

Bigger Fish

There is always a bigger fish” – Qui-Gon Jinn “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”

In the scene in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”, Qui-Gon Jinn and Ob-Wan Kenobi are pursued by an underwater creature. Jar Jar Binks, is in fits of terror while the Jedi seem unconcerned by the looming menace. They seem more annoyed at the bumbling Gungan  they are stuck with. As the reptilian carnivore closes in it is ambushed by some vast underwater behemoth that rises from the deep and swiftly devoured. Qui-Gon Jinn remarks nonchalantly “Well, there is always a bigger fish”. It’s a forgettable scene but it’s a memorable quote and is one I use often in applying my philosophy for life.

Fact 1: No matter how big and tough someone thinks he is there is always some one out there who will better him.

Never think for a moment that you are invincible and that if you hold the title for world champion someone is not going to come along one day and knock you off your pedestal and claim the crown. It need not be a title or the claim to being the best at anything, even becoming over confident can eventually lead to cocky self-assuredness, arrogance and finally complacency. This would be a fatal mistake. For someone in recovery they are all red flags which can ultimately lead to relapse. Humility as a virtue is vital to sustained recovery.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Saint Augustine

Fight Smart

The only wars that are truly won are those that were resolved before a shot was fired. I personally would not invite my addiction outside for a fight. I might win the first round but eventually pound for pound it will mop the floor with my face.  So I won’t dance with the Devil.

By fighting we leave ourselves open to being beaten, especially if we lead by the chin by being arrogant. Regardless of how recovered I think I am I know that the best way to win a fight is not to be there in the first place. I avoid situations that lead me in to trouble, I recognize the red flags as they appear and if required I have a tool bag of spiritual and mental skills I can use when needed. I fight smart.

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

It is better to treat life like a wrestling match than a dance or in the case of an alcoholic, a bout of bare knuckle brawling. Trying to fight life through brute force only wears us out and half the time you are beating yourself. Fools think they can dance through life. Realists realize that life is more like wrestling. Life sweeps us up, knocks us down and tries to pin us. We manage to break the hold and flip things over getting the upper hand until the next time we are thrown off balance. The trick is to be prepared mentally and physically for the things that tip us over.

 

Fact 2: No matter how big or bad a problem seems to be it could always be worse.

The next time something annoys you or you are faced with a vexing problem ask yourself “could this be any worse”? The truth is of course it could be. Things can always be worse than they are. Take a moment to collect your thoughts. Look around you and notice the things that are going right in your life. Realize that the world is still there, society still functions, the sun will rise in the morning to another day. What ever is bothering you now will pass.

Sobriety does not give us immunity from pain but it does give us the opportunity to respond to the vicissitudes of life in a sane and appropriate manner.

Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.” – Epictetus

Gratitude is a powerful force in your life and so is the ability to perceive and prepare for the “worst case scenario”. Negative visualization is one practice I use often to readjust my perception of “problems”. When I think about how bad some people have it I am reminded of how lucky I am. Things could always be worse.

Imagine the Worst

Negative visualization was used by the Stoics. Seneca reminds us that we should remember that our life can end at any moment and we should appreciate life to the full. Epictetus advises that when we kiss our children good night we should remember that it may be the last kiss. Children can be taken away. All things are transitory and impermanent and fate can change in an instant so we are reminded to savor every moment we spend with our loved ones.

Society compels us to live hedonistic lives, the book “The Secret” teaches us to use positive visualization to get the things we want, stating that the University will provide riches and opportunities if we simply claim them. Negative visualization teaches us to want what we have and appreciate more what we get.

The trouble with trying to get the Universe to give us things through positive visualization is we get really annoyed when it doesn’t fall out of the sky in to our lap. Worse it fosters a culture of entitlement and a ride on the hedonistic treadmill, we get what we want and then soon growing tired of it we want more and more.

Negative visualization teaches us not to take anything for granted especially our sobriety.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” – Unknown

Jonah and the Big Fish

Let’s use Jonah as an example in keeping with the giant fish theme. Jonah was sent on a mission by God which he didn’t want to accept because it was “too hard” or it didn’t agree with his plans. Too bad Jonah these things pick you. Displeased, God tossed Jonah about on an angry sea before the reluctant prophet was thrown over board by his terrified companions. Jonah was then swallowed by a behemoth and held for three days in the innards before being unceremoniously spewed up on the beach of ancient Israel for good measure. Then it’s a long walk to Nineveh where he has to deliver the news that the entire city is about to be destroyed by divine wrath which is certain to make him as popular as a bacon sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah.

Things do turn out well though; Jonah gets his second wind and gets the population of Nineveh to repent sparing them from annihilation. Having done a great job he gets a whole chapter dedicated to him in the Bible and almost everyone has heard the story.

Jonah should have just had faith to being with and done what he was told in the first place and cut all the fuss, he should have gone straight to Nineveh. Instead of being a sour puss Jonah should have taken a leaf from the Athenians and used negative visualization to harden up for the worst case scenario and then worked for the best outcome. The flip side of course is that his reticence taught the rest of us an important lesson about accountability and duty.

 

Fact 3: The biggest and best that you think you can achieve might be wrong. You can always do better if you want. There is always “bigger fish to fry”.

We define our own “impossible”. If we say we can’t do something we are probably right, if we say we can we are probably right. Recovery has taught me that I can achieve more than I gave myself credit for. I never imagined I would be three months sober let alone 5 years. If I can do it so can anyone else.

The idiom does not only apply to recovery but in all other aspects of my life as well. Whether it is setting goals at work, in training or in my personal life I set the bar a little higher. I try to work in a zone of Eustress.

Good Stress, Bad Stress

Under stress is where we are not challenged. We are simply coasting along and usually accepting mediocre as good enough. If we put in average effort we are going to end up with average results but more usually none at all.

Half measures availed us nothing” – Big Book p59.

Distress is the opposite, we are at the limit of our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual capacity and sometimes beyond. Performance starts to fall apart and effort is non-sustainable. In early recovery I went in to hyper mode and over loaded myself. This of course led to distress and almost a relapse. “Easy does it” means to do it but do it easy, which of course means Eustress!

Eustress is the zone in between under-stress and distress. It is the zone of optimal performance where we are challenged but within our capacity and we can improve over time.

Set Goals

I work towards self improvement. In physical training for example the only way to make gains is to increase the load or the reps a little every time, introducing new exercises also helps, mixing it up. Sticking to the same routine will work for a while but soon you will simply plateau out and get bored and you won’t make gains.

When setting goals that push you, allow yourself to recover and then ratchet it up a bit more. If you plateau, back off a bit and then hit it again. Without rushing but with a slow and steady pace you will see improvement. New opportunities and bigger goals come in to view and the next thing you know you are doing things you thought were impossible a few weeks or months prior. Put the effort in and see the results. Nothing worthwhile is gained without hard work. Fortune does not fall out of the sky as promised in “The Secret”.

This formula works for training, learning a language, overcoming fears, dealing with anxiety and depression and almost anything else where the goal is gradual improvement over time. Always speak to a professional health advisor before starting a new program.

Oh and if you fish you will be very familiar that there is no such thing as “the biggest fish” only the “biggest catch of the day”. There is always tomorrow and if you hook Jar Jar Binks, throw him back in.

Science

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play.” Yoda, “Shatterpoint”

Science is based on proposition and the testing of a hypothesis. Experimentation is used to arrive at a statistically significant determination that a hypothesis is correct or incorrect. The best Scientists will try to reject a hypothesis and disprove a theory rather than default to a bias. They will try to prove themselves wrong no matter how important their theory is to them.

There are two types of Scientist in my experience. The first is those that undertake research to arrive at the truth. They want to understand the world as it is without the influence of any bias. Unbiased Scientists test their theories and accept when they are wrong.

The other type of Scientist will invest personal bias in their theories and adjust or interpret results accordingly to arrive at a conclusion. Such Scientists rarely welcome debate or criticism of their findings. You will find them in the halls of academia guarding their beliefs jealously and deriding any idea that challenges theirs. They are inflexible and they stymie the growth of scientific endeavor and the open exchange of ideas.

Truth of the Matter

No matter how you try to change it, the truth remains the truth. If you conduct an experiment and everything you do is correct but the outcome is the opposite of what is expected then that is the truth. The truth is not what you would make it. We have to accept the truth in order to recover.

The definition of insanity is to do something over and over again with the same outcome and expect something different. After trying an experiment a number of times in the same way with no change in conditions or parameters one should arrive at the same result. There may be some variation but when you do the math the result is still significant.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results“: Albert Einstein.

Despite a background in Science I was never good at exercising Scientific method in my own life. I would try the same things over and over and expect the same outcome only to be proved wrong again and again. Of course this flies in the face of logic but then who every said that logic applies when it comes to Alcohol.

Let me list some of the experiments I tried to drink normally:

  1. Stick to Light Beer only: Failed
  2. Drink only when eating: Failed
  3. Add water to wine: Failed
  4. Stop at three drinks: Failed
  5. Pace Drinking, have one, wait an hour and have another: Failed
  6. Not drink at all at a Party: Failed
  7. Empty the house of alcohol: Failed
  8. Exercise more often, start a health kick: Failed
  9. Swear off: Failed
  10. Seek help from a Psychologist: Failed
  11. Isolate myself from alcohol and everyone else: Failed
  12. Accept my alcoholism and Surrender my addiction: Worked

Whatever works

Only the last method worked. I tried it once but unlike the others there was no need to go back to the experimental design and manipulate parameters and variables. My hypothesis “an active program of recovery based on spiritual principles leads to sustained abstinence” worked. It still does.

Everything else I was doing before that? There was nothing wrong with any of it. Under certain conditions they will work in some cases. For me, they didn’t so I had to take a radical depart and think outside the realm of normal science. I had to reject my bias and accept that in my case only a spiritual solution could work. I tried it and much to my surprise and delight it did work.

Yoda summed it up very well. Everything you are doing in your life might seem right; there may be nothing wrong with it. But is it working for you? Does it serve? Will making one change, doing one thing differently make all the difference in the world? Perhaps we should consider a different solution instead of being stuck in our own paradigm and rejecting the alternatives.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer

Children

Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” – Yoda “Episode 2: Attack of the Clones”.

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? That sense of wonder at discovering new things, the fascination and joy. Everything seemed bigger and brighter and your senses were alive soaking up every experience. As we grew up something happened; the veil came down. We started to lose our innocent sense of wonder, acceptance and trust. As we entered in to our teens the world started to lose its magic and color. We no longer cared for the same things in the same way as we did when we were little. The Ego expanded and we started to see ourselves as apart from everything.

Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardour, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shames, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.” – Aldous Huxley

Losing my Childhood

When I was a kid I would escape in to my own world. In that place lived Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. There was Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca.  Darth Vader was also there. Outside of my imagination there was all the misery of a childhood lost. The mind of a child is an amazing thing. Unlike adults they seem to be able to accept things more readily and handle life better.

For me the final death of my childhood was when I got drunk the first time and felt something within me expand. It was a feeling of power and independence. I could finally close the door on my childhood. It had been after all a miserable one. Here I was with my Army buddies in a bar, chest thumping and making bloody oaths. I was now a Man, at least in my own eyes. The veil slammed down and the fog drifted in.

Rip Van Winkle’s Sleep

Alcoholism is a twilight that exists between two phases in our life, the time before it and the time after it. During that time we are in a form of mental stasis. We do not seem to move forward in our emotional development. For me I stopped growing up in that seedy bar with my drunken and loud comrades by my side. Like Rip Van Winkle, I would only really wake up from my emotional and spiritual slumber 25 years later.

At that dark emotional and spiritual low point in our lives some of us call “Rock Bottom” I discovered something incredible. I found that the way out was to reclaim a child like sense of wonder and trust. Without even being aware of the 12 Steps I found my Higher Power in that place and felt within me the inner child stirred. It lifted me up and I came out of the pit renewed. The world looked…different. Everything was clean and fresh and new. I was seeing the world in a completely different way as if through the eyes of a child.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-4

Awaken the Inner Child

We adults must seem inflexible and obtuse to children at times. I can still hear my children imploring me to get dressed up as Pirate, Spider Man or a Fairy. They would be disappointed when I would refuse and delighted when I would drop my ridiculous sensibilities and play the part in their game. Those children are now teenagers and to them I am an old “Fart”now, barely worth a side ways glance. The veil came down for them some time ago. Kids these days grow fast or at least they seem to. Obviously I don’t get called upon to get “dressed up” any longer. They have grown and so have I.

Yet the inner child never dies. If you look within you will find it is still there. That sense of awe and wonder, a long forgotten innocence remains. There is forgiveness and boundless love that sweeps over you like a fresh morning breeze in the sun when you find your inner child. I think it is the inner divine or at least a facet of it. Seek it out often; try to remember what it was to be 7 years of age all over again. You will find joy and inner peace there.

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” – Albert Einstein

Photo Credit: United Press photographer Arthur Sasse in 1951

Adapt

Probably because I grew up in an age when entitlement was not in common usage and the euphemism “no free lunches” was the order of the day. I have never expected much of either in life. In many ways “The School of Hard Knocks” was a blessing. I knew how it felt to go to bed with an empty stomach as a child. To be ridiculed by other children in the playground for coming to school day in day out with the same set of clothes. For being different and odd. To have the shame of being known as the kid, with the “drunk” as a Father.

The daily resignation that Father will come home soon, drunk and angry. The sadness and loneliness of constantly have to pack up and move so much that in the end you no longer try to make friends because you will soon have to say goodbye. Fronting the family court. Physical and mental abuse by care givers. These things hardened me for life from an early age. I learned to adapt to life early on.

Being given no quarter and cut no slack was an accepted part of Life. Later there was the revolving door of relationships, jobs and “easy come, easy go” existence. Money one day, broke the next. Rejection soon leads to dejection and apathy. You grow few attachments and in time the only constant and only friend is booze. The rest you could care less as nothing and no one is reliable. Booze carries the only promise.

Maladaptation

Being an alcoholic was a defence mechanism and a cover, it was a maladaptation. On one had it provided the sense of social acceptance among peers, it made me friendlier, more likeable and funny, someone other than myself. On the other hand it gave me courage and allowed me to rebel against the order of things. To stand alone and thumb my nose at the world and they be damned. Alcohol hardened an already hard exterior. I expected no quarter and gave none either. Life didn’t offer much hope so the philosophy of “hope for anything, expect the worst” seemed pessimistic but it also seemed realistic.

There is nothing wrong with believing that “serenity is preceded by pessimism”. It just doesn’t need to come with “stinking thinking” attached. Expecting inevitable adversity does not need to be accompanied with a confrontational attitude to life or resentment to others. Anger never served me then and it doesn’t serve me now. Neither does hating life because it seems to hate me. Life doesn’t do these things to us.

Accept, Adapt, Overcome

Today I still anticipate that life is going to dish out some unpleasant turn of events that knock me off my feet. It was Marcus Aurelius that said “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, because an artful life requires being prepared to meet and withstand sudden and unexpected attacks.” To that end I live by that precept. I may not know when the next kick in the guts might come but I know it will and I’m prepared to meet it with acceptance and resolve.

How does one train for the unknowable? For me, I have had to dig back in to my childhood for the answer. There I found a kid who had simply accepted things as they were and adapted to his environment and learned to survive in the face of a hopeless situation. I expected little from others and from life and what I did receive I was grateful for and considered a bonus. Kids are good at that.

Assume an attitude of being easily pleased and you will find that life becomes more pleasurable. The glass half empty becomes the glass half full. Be flexible and agile enough to absorb change when it comes, as it inevitably will. Be fluid like water.

In the Army I often heard the adages “Adapt, Improvise, Overcome” and “Train Hard, Fight Easy” it was handy then and still serves in a different context now. The slogans “This too shall Pass”, “One Day at a Time” and “Keep it Simple ” also provide daily reminders of a different kind. We can anticipate and prepare for adversity and difficulties and know they will come along with everything else that life throws at us. They will also pass. We should be on guard be we can also enjoy life.

Size Matters Not

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship” – Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back).

In this scene on Dagobah, Yoda challenged Luke Skywalker to use the Force and lift his X-wing Fighter out of the swamp where it was crash landed. Luke tries and at first seems to be succeeding and then he backs off and the X-wing sinks back in to the bog. “I can’t. It’s too big”, he says and then watches mouth agape as Yoda effortlessly lifts the fighter up and places it on dry ground. Luke has that look you get when you have just seen someone in the gym who is half your size easily benching twice your maximum weight capacity for more reps than you could imagine. “I don’t believe it!Luke says.

That is why you fail” – Yoda

A Short Tale

I’ve always lived by the premise that “size does not matter”, although it was a facade. At a modest 5’6” I would be considered short for a guy and indeed one of my many frustrations in life was trying to see what was going on past everyone in a crowded pub; everyone else being taller than me. Being short can suck, being short and skinny is worse.

Shorter guys usually get ignored by girls, get passed up for jobs or promotion and bear the brunt of “short guy” jokes. A mere few inches makes a world of difference in one’s self esteem and standing in society. We are as a species programmed to appreciate and admire what is tall, it is a ubiquitous fact with few exceptions. Short guys get the short end in life.

Since I first started getting conscious of my height in “High” School (no pun intended), I found ways to compensate. I played Rugby in my senior year because in my book Rugby was a man’s game played by real men. It was in my view the only true football code, soccer being a distant second because of skill. What better way than to prove my manliness than by playing Rugby?

The Pocket Rocket

My speed and agility on the field had me playing on the wing and I was also used as a Scrum Half and egged on by my team mates, “go for their ankles Pocket Rocket!”. My aggression was noted and in the last games of the season I was moved to Full Back as I was fearless in taking down much larger guys or picking up a ball and taking it all the way for a try. I was by far the smallest guy and weighed around 127 pounds, yet I was warned on several occasions to tone down my aggression or face the sidelines.

In the Army I chose the Infantry despite the jokes about my height not being adequate to get over the wall on the obstacle course. I was recommended for the Armor Branch where short guys are stuffed in to Tanks and Fighting Vehicles. In order to pass the Infantry course you had to negotiate a grueling obstacle course with weapon and webbing within a time limit. No small feat when you are shorter than everyone else and have to scale walls. I figured being a Grunt was what real men do.

In my unit I worked as hard, if not harder than anyone else refusing to let my size be an excuse. Coupled with my growing taste for alcohol I became immersed in the culture of “train hard, play harder, fight easy”. This was all to compensate for my insecurities and fears. I needed to feel accepted and fought the cruel joke God had played, handing me a sorry childhood and adding a small body as an insult.

Never to be outdone by my taller and bigger peers I would hit on the hottest and tallest girls in the bars and night clubs. Mostly my advances would be rebuffed but short guys know they can’t win the “tall gene” stakes so we go play the “hearts and minds” game. Fueled with alcohol and a cocky self confidence, I would either charm or amuse my targets in to submission. My friends would stare in wonder. Women would call me “cute”, it drove me nuts but who cares? All is fair in love and war. “Good things come in small packages”; I used that line more times than I care to remember. It worked.

Look at me. Judge me by my size do you?” – Yoda

Doesn’t Measure Up

As an alcoholic however I was no good at appreciating proportionality. For me it was “all or nothing”. Moderation was not part of my vocabulary, not in drinking or in anything else. There was no such thing as stopping at one or backing down. Drunk and faced with a larger opponent, I would go for the knees, never letting my size dictate my fighting weight. I would compensate by fighting dirty.I would more often than not be beaten in to the ground.

When I tried to stop drinking I would find that I needed to take out my excesses elsewhere. Addiction has a wide scope and rather than seeking temperance in all things I would simply seek to substitute one vice for another. In any case I would soon return to the booze and drink volumes that belied my stature and eventually left me drinking alone.

There is nothing more pathetic than a drunken fool. The image is even more pathetic when that drunken fool happens to be pint size. Like my father before me I started to lose weight and muscle mass as my drinking progressed and I neglected my health. My clothes hung off me, my skin tone was unhealthy and I regularly sported a three-day stubble and pair of blood shot eyes. I was lecherous and repulsive. My personality became progressively worse. I was bitter, angry and hateful and mostly with myself.

Learning to Stand Tall

One of the wonderful facts of recovery is acceptance. Not only do we accept that we have a disease and see the need to surrender our attachments and let them go, we also begin to accept ourselves, warts and all. We learn to accept and appreciate our entire being, mind, heart, soul and body.

In accepting who we are inside and out we also accept other people. We stop condemning ourselves and we stop comparing with others in order to feel better. Our focus becomes more inward, we lose the need to rely on external factors to make us feel complete. In short, I stopped feeling inadequate for being short. I started to accept and learned to embrace it. I learned the true meaning of “Stand Tall”.

And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” – Yoda

Accept yourself

I started to realize that my body is not who I am. This body is a temporary cloak, an organic structure designed to carry me for a few decades on this Earth. I have learned to respect it more and utilize it mindfully and care for it. My body is on loan to me, invested for a time and it will grow old and one day it will die and return to dust.

In the meantime I treat it with the love and dignity it deserves and maintain it for the gift that it is. Why should I care if I stand shorter than anyone else? Within me resides something which is far grander and far more magnificent than can be imagined. That magnificence resides within all of us.

I still dress to look taller though ;).

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

Loss and Acceptance

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” – Yoda

The importance of non-attachment is often reinforced in the Star Wars fiction. Jedi were taught not to form attachment to people, places or possessions as to do so would ultimately lead to suffering. Despite his training, Anakin Skywalker failed to practice non-attachment and succumbed to his fear of losing what was dear to him. Anakin lost everything he held as precious in his life including his own identity as he fell under the power of Darth Sidious.

All that is, everything we hold important, is transient and in life we must face change and loss. Buddhism reinforces the transitory and impermanent nature of all things and suggests that attachment is akin to grasping at things that ultimately do not belong to us. When the time comes to let go, we suffer as our attachments have grown too strong. The Stoics also taught that it was acceptable to enjoy what came to us in life and that we should not pass up on pleasures or responsibilities. We should accept and enjoy them as long as they did not possess us and lead to harm. At the same time the Stoics taught we should be willing to surrender our attachments and let them go without remorse or regret.

Rampant attachment ultimately leads to frustration and having more and being richer does not necessarily lead to happiness. In fact wealth, while seemingly hard to come by and easy to lose is not the primary or secondary precursor to happiness in most people. Grasping attachments to status, possessions and relationships brings fleeting satisfaction and often leads to disappointment, disillusionment and despair. By holding on to things too tightly we often choke the life out them and ourselves.

The Stoics used strategies to overcome the anxiety of loss. They practiced negative visualization and on a regular basis would contemplate the loss of something that was important such as status, freedom or wealth. They visualized themselves banished from their homes and cast into exile and separated from their families and friends or reduced to poverty through bad fortune. The Stoics would also imagine the loss of their lives to illness or violence as the ultimate test for a Stoic was not only how they lived their life but also how they met their death. The Hagakure describes the use of daily visualization of death by the sword, fire or arrow to harden the Samurai to the prospect of death.   In time the Samurai would consider themselves already dead and therefore above any possible regret or loss.

The Stoics also practiced hardship to toughen themselves against misfortune. A Stoic might eat only bread for a day or more at a time and sleep on the floor to simulate a life of poverty, they ventured in to the public wearing rags and appearing disheveled in order to attract the scorn of the Elite. Saint Francis of Assisi made a commitment to a life of poverty with his conversion and forsake his wealth and title to lead a spiritual life of servitude and would often test his humility by venturing in to the community appearing like a common beggar often to the ridicule of the townspeople he would preach to.

I don’t suggest that we should go as far as giving away all of our possessions to live a simple life without wants. There is no need to join a monastery or to contemplate and meditate on a violent and graphic death. There are simpler ways to loosen our attachments and cultivate humility and ultimately serenity.

Practice non-attachment

Meditate on loss, visualize losing something important such as your job or a prized possession. Do this daily if you can in a quiet place. Attempt this exercise with caution as visualizing the death of loved ones or your own death can be confronting. The object is not to be morbid but to simply take a detached view of the event as if an observer looking in. This can be integrated into your meditation practice or done in quiet contemplation. Be calm, at peace and passive when doing this and back off if you begin to feel strong emotions such as anxiety or grief.

I regularly contemplate the loss of employment and imagine the stress and anxiety of financial loss. I also imagine being injured or killed in an accident but contemplate in a passive manner without drawing emotions. On occasion I also imagine more catastrophic events such as a natural disaster, war or another calamity which would utterly change my life and those around me.

Contemplate loss and view unwanted events in a detached manner and with time the underlying anxiety that pervades the experience will dissipate if you simply let it. So will attachments however you will value what you have more. By contemplating the loss of what you value, you not only build up your own mental resilience and fortify yourself against emotional anguish but you will also learn to want the things you have and spend less time wanting for things you don’t.