Build Resilience: Be Realistic

Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

One of the mistakes I made when starting this journey was aiming for perfection. I wanted perfect practice. My principles had to be applied consistently and without fault. I became a religious zealot and almost fanatical in my approach to my recovery. Of course I could only sustain that for a short period of time. I grew frustrated that I could not always get my own way. Resentment and anger followed. I had to learn to be realistic with myself. Recovery requires a “take it easy” approach of just following the process and doing the work. That process turned out to be the gentle Middle Path.

We have to be realistic with ourselves and others. We cannot expect things to always turn out as we plan. Flexibility is a trait of the resilient person. Change is going to happen and you can either resist and fight it or adapt and live with it. Those that are resilient choose the latter.

No one is asking that we like everything that happens to us. Things happen in my life that suck which I cannot change. I have a hard enough time changing myself so what luck am I going to have changing people or circumstances. My happiness and progress in life should be independent of these things. By taking a pragmatic and realistic view we are less likely to be disappointed and more likely to contemplate, accept, adapt and bounce back.

No one can force perfection but we can accept things as they are.

 

Realism

“These thorns are all that is true, life is suffering, suffering is life, be happy with the small things that come to you” – Johnny Clegg & Savuka “African Dream”

Most recovered alcoholics and addicts I have met are realistic people. They can’t afford not to be. They may have spiritual ideas and beliefs but their feet are planted firmly on the ground. Life has made us that way because we lived in an illusion for so long and suffered for it. Experience has taught us the concept of dukkha and samsara. Suffering is life and life is suffering. Good things do come sometimes by chance but mostly through our own efforts.

Objectivity is also a Real World Jedi trait. We take an objective view of reality. Evidence based scientific method with healthy skepticism is generally accepted by Jedi. At the same time we accept that sometimes science has it wrong or lacks the answers we seek. We also cannot know all of reality. There are unknown unknowns and known unknowns. Reality also exists outside of the box of time and space. This we call the Force.

 

What Is

“Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

What exists, exists independent of our views and conceptual ideas. A rock exists with or without our consent. The world revolves, the seasons change, things are born and die, a tree falls in the forest whether we are there to experience it or not. The past is gone beyond recall, the future is nothing more than an illusion and all that truly exists is the Now. The Now is where reality happens. The Force exists in and through all things.

Our senses provide us with awareness of the physical world. At the same time our senses are not always right or are incapable of sensing all of reality. We therefore only sense so much. Something deep within us knows that there is more to reality than what we can see, hear, touch and taste. We all have intuition, a knowing and impressions. When we take a moment to absorb a painting, a work of music, a star filled sky, a sunrise or a newborn child, something spiritual stirs within us and we know that we are more than “crude matter”. Our consciousness is present in the moment. We get a sense of a grander reality and who we really are.

 

In a Galaxy Far Away

“The Force will be my guide” –  Je’daii Lanoree “Into the Void”

The Jedi understood the chaotic nature of reality. They appreciated the randomness and unpredictability of events. In order to achieve their purpose they sought to balance the Force within themselves. Emotions were kept in check but not repressed. Opinions mattered but were not accepted as absolute truth. Absolutes were rejected and ideas welcomed and judged by their merits and not by prejudice.

Behind the chaos of reality was the duality of the Force, the energies emitted by the light and dark sides of Ashla and Bogan. The goal of the Jedi was to seek balance within themselves through the Force. By achieving balance they could come closer to bringing balance and harmony to the galaxy.

Those that achieved balance with the Force were united with it. Through transmutation of the physical to the Force they became one with it and achieved enlightenment. This is the Star Wars depiction of transcendence to perfection. It may be fiction but it is inspired by eastern and western philosophies and traditions that we can use in our own spiritual journey.

 

 

The Middle Way

“The Middle Path is the way to Freedom– Rumi

Seeking perfect practice backfired for me. I realized early in my recovery and now in my journey that perfection is a mirage. As we move closer to our idea of perfection we see it begin to vanish or move. Frustration replaces optimism. Fear begins to replace Faith and if we are not careful despair can overcome hope. I had to take the Middle Path and face reality or I risked falling back in to abuse.

Every day I see idealism taking precedent over realism in our society. I have largely tried to distance myself from the toxicity of it on the news and in social media. Dogmatic extremes shouting down rational and reasoned discourse has become the norm in our polarized world. Everything is out of balance. Realism has taken a back seat to extremism and the first casualties in this war have been objectivity, tolerance and global resilience.

The Buddha reminded us that we should all strive for enlightenment for the sake of all living things. Suffering is universal but with the right choices, it is optional. The Eight Fold Path can validate the Four Noble Truths in our lives and lead us out of suffering. At the same time the Buddha admonished those that chose the hard road to perfection. One who seeks enlightenment for his own sake can never find it. The Middle Way gives us a reality check. We can’t hope to progress with no effort or through a fanatical approach. Both lead to more suffering.

 

Transcend

“Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter” – Yoda

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Anakin and Luke Skywalker all transcended to the Force. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda lived the Middle Path and transcended effortlessly. Anakin and Luke realized the truth more dramatically but it was their final acceptance of reality and surrender to the Force that led to their transcendence and enlightenment. They also chose the Noble Middle Path.

All humans have the potential to become enlightened but very few ever reach that summit of consciousness. Progress not perfection is the key in whatever journey we choose. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes and blunders will build resilience and compassion not anger and resentment. Accept that in reality things will rarely if ever go exactly as planned. We can only control our impressions, thoughts and opinions. What is not in our control is the body, circumstances, other people, money, status and the future. The important thing is using what we have to move forward in the Now. Faith, heart and resilience behind reason may not lead us to perfection but it will take us in that direction.

MTFBWY

 

Further Reading

“The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason” by The Dalai Lama

Jedi seek Enlightenment

Jedi train on Oneness or union with the Living Force.

The highest purpose of life is to train on becoming One with the Living Force. This is considered “Immortality”. Religions call it by different names like Enlightenment, Self-Realization, or God-Realization, but it’s the same thing.

(33 Jedi Traits)

 

One with the Force

Yoda, Anakin, Qui Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi all transcended to the Force. All four Jedi masters became the “luminous beings” that Yoda had described when he breathed his last words on Dagobah. The Jedi believed that all life was destined to return to the Force. The Force was the source of all life and what it gave was eventually returned to it. The Jedi also believed that certain individuals could achieve a state of enlightenment while alive; in death their living consciousness would survive and exist in eternity within the Force.

We call it enlightenment, transcendence, God realization and nirvana. These are only terms that attempt to describe a state of being that can not be articulated in few words. Enlightenment is a realization of the truth of who we truly are. Few humans ever come near to that point in their lives. The belief is that we all come to the realization at death with the loss of the physical body and the demise of the Ego. It takes death for us to realize our true spiritual nature.

 

The Spiritual Experience

One of the paths to enlightenment is through a life of suffering and a brush with death or a near death experience. While the co-author of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W, never claimed to be enlightened many people think he was. Bill W described his descent in to a personal hell, there he surrendered himself to “whatever God” there was and had a sudden and dramatic spiritual experience. The experience may have been the product of a hallucination or a dream but to Bill W it was very real. At that moment the burden of alcoholism was lifted from him and he never drank again. Bill W spent the remainder of his life with the sole purpose of trying to save the world “one drunk at a time”. Eckhart Tolle recounts a similar story in the “Power of Now”.

There are many stories of people who have had intense spiritual experiences. Some have been conscious and had a vision such as Bill W and many of the Christian saints. Others have returned from a near death experience and recounted incredible stories of meeting with spiritual beings and a Divine Light. The knowledge and raised consciousness which these individuals have gained has been utterly life transforming. Many people have ridiculed them and some have been persecuted, yet all have firmly refused to depart from the new purpose to which their experience has given them.

 

Many Paths

All of the spiritual traditions and religions speak of a path that leads to a union with the Divine. The Buddhists believe that some people may attain enlightenment quickly through a dramatic experience most adherents must dedicate their life to service, study and meditation to even come close. The Judaeo-Christian and Islamic faiths teach that unity with God comes through piety and submission to God and through charity to others. Hinduism teaches that solitude, asceticism and devotion brings enlightenment.

In all traditions, meditation and prayer is used to raise consciousness to a level that can open a channel to the Divine spirit. Sometimes those that have had little to no religious instruction can experience a spiritual experience that results in a higher state of consciousness.

 

Waking Up

Those that have had spiritual experience that presupposes transcendence to a higher state of consciousness all have similar personality changes:

  1. A sudden realization of a power greater than themselves;
  2. Loss of the fear of death;
  3. A renewed purpose in life which often includes service to others;
  4. Loss of interest in selfish pursuits and materialism.

Very often these people are unable to articulate in words what actually happened. The experience can be very sharp in the beginning but over time the effect starts to wear off. Eckhart Tolle and Bill W both had experiences of enlightenment. Over weeks and months they began to lose the spiritual glow but they were left with the ineffable effects of the experience which sent them on a completely different life trajectory.

When I hit my own rock bottom and experienced my own “spiritual experience” all of these things happened to me. Over time the drama of life started to crowd in again and the experience was no longer as sharp in my mind. There was a certain aspect that I have never lost however, a deep conviction that I am loved, I can do no wrong and that all is fundamentally well. Those who have had a similar experience often feel that and experience fundamental changes in their lives;

Our fear of death is also largely gone. Of course we don’t want to die but the thought of passing does not bother us as much anymore. We worry more about how our death might affect others. We also don’t care about material possessions so much anymore. The rampant consumerism prevalent in society and the constant noise of commerce leave us feeling empty. We no longer see meaning in objects; they have a utilitarian purpose and remain as possessions until they don’t. Attachment to people, place and things becomes loosened. Our love and affection for those that are close to us becomes more meaningful. We recognize them for the spiritual beings that they are and we begin to see ourselves more as a part of a whole rather than as individuals.

 

Like Lazarus

It can be hard to adjust to life after something so dramatic that we emerge somehow “reborn”. Our loved ones can sense the change and sometimes they are concerned by our radical personality change. Naturally our life goes through changes and some of the people who we call friends are no longer there for us. They too can sense that we are no longer the person they knew. Our soul purpose has moved on and they are no longer drawn to us.

The world becomes like a loose cloak and we at times no longer feel a part of it and yearn for transcendence. Rather than hide from mortality and the deeper questions of life and existence we contemplate on them. We enjoy our lives as much as we can but we also accept the impermanent nature of existence and the certainty of change and the finality of death.

Our experiences do not give us all the answers. At times we have self doubt and depression creeps in. We begin to feel guilty for the way we conducted ourselves in the past. Some days we feel that life has dealt us a cruel hand, we do not feel like normal people. In some ineffable way we continue to suffer and we ask “why”. There is nothing wrong in that, we are human and we are subject to human emotions.

If God lives in us then it is in our nature to feel sadness, grief, anguish, confusion and anger as well as joy, humor, affection, desire and love. The enlightened are not exempt from human emotions; Jesus wept and laughed as did Gautama Buddha. They too were human and made to suffer.

 

The Journey

I read somewhere that the 12 Steps are like the Noble Eight-fold Path of Buddhism. The way we live our lives on a daily basis forms our path to eventual enlightenment. In 12 step recovery we “work the steps” as much as a Bodhisattva follows the noble eight-fold path. Being Jedi is also about applying self discipline and doing our daily practices diligently. Whichever path we choose, it is a journey.

The Jedi had a direct path to enlightenment but it involved a series of trials. Yoda was sent by the ethereal presence of Qui-Gon Jinn to pass tests that exposed his weaknesses and fallibility but would ultimately open him to learn how to transcend his consciousness after death and become immortal. In the final test Yoda travels to the ancient home world of the Sith, Moraband, and there overcoming the final trial transcends to a state of enlightenment which opens him to learn the final secrets of the Force from Qui-Gon Jinn. Our path fortunately does not have to be as dramatic or even seek the same end.

Perhaps immortality in the afterlife exists perhaps it does not. All humans do have the capacity to achieve enlightenment, to “awaken” to the truth. There are many paths to get there. The intent of our journey should not be to achieve enlightenment but to simply live a life we can be content with in our final hour. How we get there is up to each of us.

 

 

The Promise

If we live our lives according to spiritual principles how would it look? Perhaps it would resemble the following 12 points. Each has worked for me;

  1. On a daily basis we seek to surrender our lives over to a Higher Power and a purpose greater than ourselves;
  2. Mindful of our thoughts, words and actions we conduct ourselves in accordance with our principles staying true to our values;
  3. Where we are wrong we promptly admit it seeking to make amends where we have faulted others;
  4. We seek to better ourselves and review our conduct on a daily basis seeking opportunities to improve;
  5. Where we find fault in our character we resolve to desist in any enabling behavior and we drop it before it becomes a habit;
  6. Our daily practice includes a healthy appreciation of ourselves and our lives. We remember to be grateful for the things we have and remember that we live sober on a day by day basis grace of our Higher Power;
  7. We try to live healthy, conscious of the food and drink we consume. Our bodies are a tool that we maintain within our physical limitations. When we are tired we rest and seek never to over fatigue ourselves physically or mentally;
  8. We never forget that our recovery is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition;
  9. Accepting that some things are in our control and others are not we seek to take action where we can and accept the outcomes as largely out of our hands. We put our faith in our Higher Power. Not all things will turn out as we desire but we should try to accept with equanimity and seek to improve where we can;
  10. Meditation and prayer are used not to force change but to change ourselves. We know that a higher state of consciousness is accessible to all with practice and focus;
  11. Seeking to move our focus from ourselves we offer our service to others and help where we are able. We never turn a person away when they come to us for help;
  12. Through study and interaction with others we continue to learn. We pass what we have learned on to others.

Always remember; you are loved, there is nothing to fear and you can do no wrong. We are one with the Force. Fundamentally all is well.

MTFBWY