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

Dealing with Emotions

Emotions ar Human

A great leap forward sometimes requires two steps back” – Obi-wan Kenobi

Even Jedi had to deal with emotions and inner turmoil. In the Clone Wars episode “The Blue Shadow Virus” Anakin is becoming agitated as it becomes clear that Padme and the entire planet of Naboo will be in grave danger from a biological weapon if it is unleashed by the Separatists. Obi-wan Kenobi watching Anakin tie himself in to knots of anxiety wryly points out that Anakin seems a little “on edge”.

“There’s a good chance we’re about to destroy all life on this planet including ours and the senator so yes I’m a little on edge, why aren’t you?” replies Anakin with exasperation.

Obi-wan Kenobi shrugs nonchalantly, “I’m better at hiding it”.

In the face of pending grave danger and the deaths of countless life forms across the galaxy should the “Blue Shadow” Virus be released, Obi-wan Kenobi still maintains a calm and relaxed demeanor. Internally Obi-wan is likely as concerned as Anakin but is mindful enough to stay focused on the present rather than become carried away by an emotional response to something that has not happened yet. The deadly virus has not been released yet, it is still contained and efforts are underway to counter the threat.

Obi-wan Kenobi remains mindful of the present moment, his thoughts and emotions and responds in an objective manner to the present threat, choosing to deal with what he knows and not allow emotions such as fear or anxiety of something that has not happened yet sway his decisions. This is the Jedi way.

Anakin is keen to take action to save Padme and is later reminded once again by Obi-wan Kenobi, “A great leap forward sometimes requires two steps back”.  To act on emotions is fraught with risk and sometimes it is better to pause, take a breath and think before acting or speaking during an emotionally charged moment. Fear and anger are two powerful emotions that most betray us, we often react to these emotions in ways that are less than positive and they often bring unwelcome outcomes.

Embrace and Let Go

Anger, fear and anxiety were three emotions that dominated my life for decades as an alcoholic. They stunted my growth as a person and caused ruined relationships, hurt the people I loved and gave me nothing but regrets and many tears. I was at the mercy of my emotions and had no idea how to deal with them believing to feel them was in some way abnormal. Much later I came to the realization that it is not things or circumstances that caused me harm or made me angry or fearful but simply my emotional response to them.

It was how I dealt with those emotions and acted on them. In the past I had used alcohol to help me deal with my erratic emotions and moods and often it made it much worse. I would be lost in dark clouds of anger and resentment for days or would awake in the middle of the night with a deep sense of fear. I had no idea why I felt the way I did and felt as if I were losing my mind.

During my recovery I learned to simply accept and observe my emotions as they came and resist the temptation to act on them. I would simply ride out the wave of anger or fear that surged through me without trying to fight it. It became apparent that to engage any emotion is to charge it. By fighting anger I was simply amplifying it and by trying to ignore fear I was throwing a cover over a monster, it was still there.

I would feel guilty about feeling resentful or self-pity and it just made things worse. By allowing those emotions to be and simply shining an inner light on them without judgment I would embrace them and let them go. The emotions would fire in their intensity and then fade away, replaced in time by a sense of peace. This is one of the many ways to Emotional Sobriety.

Erkhart Tolle describes a similar practice for dealing with negative emotions, the key ingredients are acceptance, forgiveness and mindfulness. I would also add objectivity; as a Jedi one must show reason and continuously explore the basis of their emotions. Ask why am I feeling this? Is this emotion valid? Does it serve?

Jedi choose to act in accordance with their principles and valued virtues rather than with raw emotion. We are human beings and the full spectrum of emotions don’t make us less of a human but more so. Jedi may not express in unhealthy ways their emotions, but they still feel them. Try being mindful and observing your moods and emotions that enter into consciousness through the day. Simply acknowledge them without reacting and let them go. In this way you can soon learn to be the master of your emotions rather than its servant.