The Master

… for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.”  – Darth Bane

 

The Sith were the antithesis of the Jedi. Serving the Dark side of the Force the Sith were diametrically opposed to the Jedi. The Sith sought to dominate the galaxy and impose their will on all life. The story is one of the struggles between the dualistic nature of the Force. The conflict between the Sith and Jedi is a struggle were the Light Side attempts to negate the Dark Side and the Darkness seeks to extinguish the Light. One must dominate the other. One must be Master.

Within each person it can be argued is a similar struggle. What Lincoln called the better angel of our natures does not always prevail against the dark side. Within all of us lurks the shadow of the Dark Side, our own inner “Sith”. Throughout our life we face an internal struggle with that duality of our nature. We are torn between virtues and vice. Virtue does not always take precedence. Good does not always prevail.

 

Remember, the first and only reality of the Sith… there can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced.

―Darth Sidious, to Darth Maul

 

The Headmaster

Believe it or not, our personal Dark Side is a teacher. I refer to it as my inner “Sith Lord”. I attribute selfishness, belligerence, arrogance, self-will and a rampant or an over inflated ego to my inner “Sith Master”. Emotions such as anger, resentment, hatred and especially fear are the outcomes of an effective education in the Dark Side of the Force. For more than two decades, alcohol was my Master and I was its willing apprentice.

Among the Sith there was a constant struggle for supremacy between the Master and Apprentice called the “Rule of Two”. The Master sought to keep the Apprentice in servitude. The Apprentice served the will of the Master and at the same time learnt from him through the suffering of training. Through pain, fear and loathing the Master kept the Apprentice in check and bent him further to his will.

 

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

 

Rule of Two

The Master also knew that the Apprentice sought the power to eventually usurp him and become the Master. While the Apprentice continued to learn and submit to the Master and serve him, he was of use. The Apprentice sought to learn all he could from the Master. Once the Apprentice was ready to overthrow the Master, he was killed and replaced. The Apprentice however demonstrated his superiority by killing his Master and assuming the role and seeking out a new Apprentice. Thus the Sith grew stronger and stronger with every generation through the natural selection of the “Rule of Two”.

Darth Sidious served Darth Plageuis and killed him. Darth Sidious at first drafted Darth Maul as a servant and then betrayed him choosing Count Dooku as a suitable Apprentice. Dooku became Darth Tyranus until the Sith Lord in the guise of Palpatine recognised Anakin as his chosen disciple. Once he had corrupted the Jedi Anakin to the Dark Side, Palpatine had his new protégé kill Count Dooku in cold blood. Anakin soon became Darth Vader and served Darth Sidious until the Sith line was ended in the Return of the Jedi. The history of the Sith was one of domination, submission, betrayal and death.

 

“(Darth Plagueis)  became so powerful … the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. never saw it coming. It’s ironic he could save others from death but not himself.” – Palpatine (Darth Sidious) to Anakin

 

Natural Selection

The analogy of the relationship between Sith Master and Apprentice accurately describes the alcoholic’s relationship with booze. The relationship is far deeper than shallow desire. It is a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual “craving” to something which is at once endearing, warm and inviting while at the same time cunning, devious, cruel and unforgiving. Alcohol becomes the unwavering and unforgiving Master that dominates every aspect of life, even to the grave.

Alcohol embodies the power and the Alcoholic craves it. A “Rule of Two” resides within that relationship. The only thing that matters is the relationship between the Addict and the substance of Addiction. There is nothing else. A struggle evolves over time in which the Addict attempts to seek control in the relationship. Through resistance and failure the Addict is constantly reminded of the futility of her attempts to overpower her addiction by self will alone. Every attempt leaves her weaker.  Only one victor can emerge from the throes of that struggle. There can be only one Master.

In time the Master takes everything and leaves nothing but despair, anger and fear.

 

The Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me. Once, I had power — now I have nothing.” — Maul (Clone Wars: “Twilight of the Apprentice”)

 

 

Harsh Lessons

In my early recovery I imagined my addiction to be some dark beast that dwelt within me. That beast had me on a short leash. Attempts to leave were cruelly punished. My confidence was shaken with every failed attempt to escape. As I fell deeper in to despair my addiction mocked and tormented me and I grew more dependent on it. The Dark Side closed in all around. I found the harder I fought the deeper was the decent in to the Dark Side and ultimately my personal Rock Bottom.

Finding a Higher Power and rejecting my addiction by turning it over was the act of overthrowing that insidious Master. In the end there could only be one. Alcohol would take me to the grave or I would usurp it somehow and reclaim life. In the end all it took was a willingness to believe and the act of surrender. In order to over throw the Master I had to face myself and stop fighting. I came to realize that when I looked at the face of the beast I stared squarely at myself. I and the Master that I feared and reviled were one and the same. We were two sides of the Force that Lincoln described; the better angel facing the dark side. By ending that struggle I was able to walk free again.

 

When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

The Apprentice

I never forget that every person has a dark side although not all are slave to it. That is the Tao, the duality residing within the whole. My Dark Side remains but I choose not to give it license. I can’t afford to. I never forget that once it was the Master and it seeks to return. Like a prisoner condemned to a dark and deep cell it hides in the shadows brooding. It patiently waits. It believes the day may come when it will kill its old Apprentice. And when I peer deep in to my soul I see that Dark Side it is watching and it waits.

Keep fear at bay and be touched by Better Angels.

The Cave

Five Years

Today marks five years of sobriety in my life. I look back at that time and I ask myself have I come far? Am I a better person? Is it worth it? If I am honest with myself I can respond with some conviction “yes” to all of these questions. When I look at the person am I now compared to whom I was five years ago the change is remarkable. This process of change has not been dramatic but gradual. Change has not come over night but has been achieved through incremental progress, “one day at a time”.

Has it been hard? It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Becoming sober and trying to achieve a measure of emotional sobriety has been a roller coaster ride. The good news is that anything that we strive for, anything worth doing is rarely a walk in the park. Sobriety is no different. Most days we are getting by fine but we keep up the pressure and test ourselves. By never resting on our laurels and by applying principles in all areas of life and by being true to our values we prepare ourselves for those tough times when we need to dig deep. Philosophy helps us to get there.

 

“There is no success without hardship” – Sophocles

 

Life is a Wrestle

The Stoics understood the purpose of philosophy. They committed to applying their philosophy every waking hour. It was not a tool they used when they needed to draw inspiration or use a handy “get out of jail free card”.

 

“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

Marcus Aurelius compared life to a wrestling match. A wrestler is able to move gracefully and with purpose. The Wrestler is aware of his surroundings and can move through time and space with ease like a dancer. At the same time a Wrestler can anticipate an attack and if taken off guard can quickly recover from an assault, break a hold and turn the table in his favor. Using strength, flexibility, agility, momentum, technique, courage and intelligence the Wrestler prevails over his opponent.

Unless we take our philosophy for life and apply it, practice it and make progress constantly we will not benefit. We should learn from mistakes and strive to improve so that we do not become complacent and untrained. We are less likely to handle the adversities of life, be it an opponent in the ring, a sudden crisis, a tragic event or even a petty inconvenience that raises our ire if we are ill prepared.

Being sober has been five years of “train hard to fight easy”. I have had to wrestle mostly with my own failings. I have worked the 12 Steps and applied my principles and values in order to recover.   Working the Steps and being Jedi has enabled me to manage my anger, fear, anxiety, resentment and self pity.

 

The Cave

In many ways the last five years has been a solo journey.  I have had to face many challenges and confront many fears and a great deal of doubt and pain alone. My family has been there and there is also a fellowship to learn from but ultimately any one who passes through their personal Dagobah Cave must do so alone. When Luke Skywalker confronted his dark side in the Dagobah Cave he did so by himself. Yoda knew what Luke would face there; he too had faced his own personal Demons and conquered them.  Yoda also knew that Luke had to face the cave alone.

 

“What will I find in there”? – Luke Skywalker

“Only what you take with you” – Yoda

 

The Dagobah Cave scene was a symbol of the human need for self exploration and self knowledge. We all want to know what resides within ourselves every flaw and fault as well as every virtue. When I embarked on my journey or recovery I did not know myself. I thought I did but it was an illusion. The person I saw when I looked in the mirror was not the person that other people saw. What I believed others saw in me was not a reality either. I lived in self illusion and dishonesty.

Only by having the courage to confront myself and reveal all of my faults and flaws to another and to my Higher Power was a clear picture presented. I was appalled by what I saw but I also knew I did not have to be that person any longer.With self-knowledge  I could change but I had to want to and be prepared to do the work.

 

The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge” – Plato

Catharsis

In order to change sometimes we have to be prepared to undergo a personal catharsis first. For me it was hitting rock bottom and then finding a way out as I surrendered to a Higher Power. It was not the first time I had experienced a transformative experience. The death of my Mother when I was seven was traumatic and confusing. The years I spent in orphanages, juvenile foster care and living with an abusive alcoholic taught me about survival and the value of human dignity and justice. Service in the military and years as a homeless itinerant after discharge taught me about the wider world and showed me the best and worst in others and in myself. Alcoholism too was an important school of life.

 

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” – CS Lewis

 

All of these experiences were personal Dagobah Caves; trials on the journey of life. All of them carried poignant and powerful impacts on my life that shaped my character and my destiny. Those experiences carried important life lessons which have made me who I am today.

 

“Self knowledge puts us on our knees, and it is very necessary for love. For knowledge of God gives love, and knowledge of self gives humility” – Mother Theresa

 

 

The School of Life

If my alma mater is the school of hard knocks, then the last five years of sobriety has been the most powerful graduate school I could have ever hoped for. The prize has been emotional, mental, physical and spiritual growth. Recovery teaches us a great deal about ourselves and others. We are taken beyond the limits of what we thought was humanly possible. Much of the time we are swimming against the tide.

There are  years or decades of reinforced behaviors, ideals, bias and sacred cows to overcome before we can progress. The requirement is a complete overhaul of who we thought we were. We have to stop looking outside ourselves for faults and excuses but look inwardly at how we have made our lives. For many this can be confronting and frightening. Some of us fight it and resist but we know that we must enter that dark cave and put trust in our Higher Power. We must enter alone and face the truth, only then can we emerge victorious.

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” – Dalai Lama

 

Life Contract

Tomorrow I will wake up to another sober day. God willing there will be many more. I like to believe that I will see this life through without sliding back in to alcoholism. The future is uncertain and far better people than me have relapsed so I don’t take my life for granted. Even the most promising Jedi can turn to the dark side and become Sith. If I can continue the upward march towards a higher vantage point that never ends till the final breath I will be contented. There is still much work to do; there is no five year contract on sobriety or personal betterment. It is a life contract with my Higher Power.

We should never be complacent. I will not rest because of a milestone. It is only another day. Aurelius believed that his Legionnaires should train as hard in peace as they did in war. So should we. As Jedi we are compelled to train and to improve ourselves, it is our personal duty. While we drop our guard our opponents are watching and waiting for an opportunity. Our addiction is outside doing push-ups while we get comfortable in our complacency.

If we work at it a little at a time, day by day, consistently without repose we see the change that we seek not just in ourselves but in others too. Improvement happens incrementally. We work and do what we have to do, rather than what we want to do.

A philosophy for life is for life and to live well is to do so without struggle and without rush. We only live one day at a time and deal with one obstacle at a time, with each step we climb higher. Consistency and commitment is everything. Faith keeps us there. Remember it took Yoda nearly 900 years to reach enlightenment. Enjoy the ride and also take the time to smell the roses, you worked for them.

Jedi are Positive

Jedi believe in practicing awareness and are mindful of their thoughts. Jedi keep their thoughts positive. A positive mental attitude is healthy for both the mind and body. Not every thought that ‘pops’ into our head is actually ours, since thoughts can originate from many sources across the Universe, and not just from our physical brain. We have to be able to discern the thoughts and remove the bad ones or negative, fear-based ones. Even the food we eat, and things we drink can influence our thoughts. So, we must always be mindful of our thoughts.

Jedi Optimism

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 may be in grave danger from a biological weapon 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”.

Obi-wan always reserved optimism. Even when faced with a hopeless situation he never gave up hope and it showed in his attitude. Obi-wan was realistic but never defeatist. Anakin on the other hand could be positive but was easily drawn in to a negative outlook at the expense of reality.

Jedi Pessimism

In the Clone Wars The Jedi Master Pong Krell switched sides. Arriving on Umbara during an assault to take the capital, Krell relieves Anakin who has been ordered back to Coruscant. Krell takes command of a battalion of the 501st and begins to undermine the mission. The Clone troopers under his charge eventually discovered the deception and mutinied. They manage to restrain the Master Jedi after many Troopers are killed in the attempt to capture the traitor.

When asked “why” the Jedi Master revealed that the Republic’s efforts are futile and he was going to save his skin and become Count Dooku’s apprentice. Pong Krell had lost confidence in the Republic and his pessimism at their chances forced him to abandon the Jedi Code and sway to the Dark Side. This is the nature of chronic pessimism.

The Power of Positive Thought

Over sixty years ago the “Power of Positive Thinking” became an international best seller. The premise of the book was that each and every person has the ability to completely transform their lives simply through the power of positive thought. This was hardly a new concept. The philosophy had been around for thousands of years. The Buddha revealed to his followers this profound fact over 2500 years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans were tossing it about between the different philosophies of the day even before Socrates spoke about it. The early Christians preached of the power of the mind to transform one’s life through simple belief and Faith. The idea of miracles is largely one of the power of the mind over the body. If we truly believe we can be healed, so we shall.

Speak to any Doctor and you will be told that diagnostic medicine works most of the time. That most of the time is due largely to clinical trials undertaken to prove drugs and treatments. Some diseases like cancer provide Oncologists with a challenge in that science has not quite nailed a cure. A person identified with Stage IV lung cancer is likely to have a low rate of survivability even with treatment particularly if the tumor is aggressive. Doctors are now finding that patients who have grit, determination or abiding faith can at times turn these odds around and “demonstrate modern day miracles”.

Doctors will also tell you that treatment of any disease and the healing process is a team effort. The conscious patient is not just a passive subject but an active participant in their treatment and recovery. The Patient is expected to be compliant with the treatment plan. If a course of drugs is not taken as ordered or instructions are not followed then the Doctor cannot be held accountable for lack of progress. The Patient must also bring a willing and positive attitude to the table if they are to stand a chance of full recovery.

In a dark place we find ourselves and a little more knowledge lights our way” – Yoda

Think and Heal

Very often we hear stories of people who have been given a hopeless prognosis. Some are given months or a few years to live. Yet their sheer will to live and their “can do”, “never say die” attitude not only keeps them alive but in some cases leads to complete recovery. Ask any but the most closed minded Doctors and they will tell you that a patient’s positive attitude is a crucial element in the successful outcome of a case. Some people think themselves into illness. Some patients think themselves worse and sabotage their recovery. Recovery is a mental as well as a physiological process.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that backs the “mind-body connection”  with hard science1.. Optimistic and confident patients who went in to surgery fared better than those who went in fearful or pessimistic about their chances. Post-operative pain was also lower in patients who were positive and more proactive in their recovery. In another study optimism and a positive outlook was also correlated with long term health and quality of life2.

The “woe is me” cohort were found to have more dependency on treatment and pain therapy and lower success rates to full recovery. In the past Doctors would refer anything they could not touch, hear or feel and measure to the “Psych” department. Increasingly Doctors are talking to their Patients about the importance of having a positive attitude. Meditation and relaxation exercises are encouraged along with affirmations and visualization.

 “In order to carry a positive action we must develop a positive vision” – Dalai Lama

The Operation

Some years ago I had a large non-malignant tumor removed from my head. The mass if it had been allowed to continue growing would have have been fatal. The Doctors were honest about the surgery and the potential outcomes. I was going to lose most of my hearing. There would be disfigurement and facial palsy. My eye sight would like be badly affected as well as balance. It would be months before I would be fit to return to work and I’d probably never have the same quality of life again. There would be chronic pain. The upside is I’d get to live for a few more decades.

The operation went ahead. I walked out of hospital and was back at work four weeks later. Within a few months I was back to full fitness. The palsy and eye issues were there but I was alive. The Doctors were surprised by the progress and stated that it was my drive and determination to get better that accelerated the healing. A positive attitude on my part had made their job a lot easier. They did the medicine, I did positive attitude. I got better and went back to work.

If you change your mind your conditions must change too. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.” – Emmet Fox

Stinking Thinking

While this disease had been easy to lick my problem with the other disease, alcoholism, was not so simple. Alcoholics have a way of self inoculating themselves against a mental attitude adverse to drinking. Where alcohol is concerned we become completely irrational and unreasonable. Our mind is hijacked by a deeper need than self preservation.We sabotage ourselves mentally.

Several months after my life saving operation I was wondering what was the point of being granted a second chance. I was frustrated with the pain and discomfort. My eyes watered or were too dry, I had headaches all the time and I was conscious of the palsy. Alcohol became a release. I had stinking thinking.

As the depression set in so did the anxiety and the resentment. Fear leads to anger leads to the dark side. I was losing my mind and as I spiraled downward there seemed to be little hope. Would it have not been better if that tumor had killed me rather than let me live through this suffering? I seemed to be sinking in to some kind of deep hole and into a morass of self pity, despair, anger, sadness and lingering insanity. I could not muster the bravado which had helped me recover after surgery. Why was that?

Waking Up

It was a simple and feeble call for help. A flimsy reed was offered and I was raised up out of that pit. I can remember the experience but it is hard to describe. My call for help was a surrender, a submission to some power. Something washed over me and I felt like a light flared within. The sensation was overwhelming. I knew at once everything would be alright. There was no need to worry ever again. My compulsion to drink was gone and it has never returned.

For a few weeks after I rode a wave of spiritual and emotional high. I embraced the ethos of recovery and set out to better myself. In the span of two months I worked through Steps 1 to 9. Such was my attitude that I was able to achieve all the goals I set myself. A positive attitude was paramount in early recovery. Since then I have discovered that attitude is a choice. We can choose to adopt a negative attitude or a positive attitude to almost any situation. It’s what we make it.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” – Colin Powell

Get Positive

Having a positive attitude does not mean we dance as Rome burns down. It means taking a realistic view of life by taking control where we can and accepting that some things are out of our control. Even in the face of a unwanted events we can still be cautiously optimistic. To fall in to despair or a cycle of negative self talk  solves nothing, it makes it worse.

Things will happen in life which broadside us in completely unexpected ways. We received bad news and we ask how can anyone be positive. I recently learned that someone close to me has lung cancer. The person is very ill but not terminal and is fighting the disease. I try to present a positive attitude every time I see him. It is largely up to him to decide whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about his chances.

When others are down we can help them raise their spirits. No one need carry the load themselves. We cannot take the cancer or the disease and carry it for them because we are stronger but we can help carry them through the rough times. As Samwise Gamgee said to Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom as the Ring Bearer lay on the rocks unable to go any further “Come on Mr Frodo, I can’t carry the ring for you…..but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get!”.

Be mindful of your attitude. The frame of mind that you take in to almost any situation will affect the outcome. A positive attitude can achieve almost anything, even miracles.

Men are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them” – Epictetus

1.http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20010727/power-of-positive-thinking

2. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/4/E150

Ben Kenobi, Buddha and Bill W

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

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

The Philosophy

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

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

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

The Jedi Code

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

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

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