Oikeiôsis is the Ancient Greek word meaning belonging. The concept of the human need to feel belonging was first theorized by the Stoic Zeno of Citium. To the Stoics Community was everything. Buddhism uses the term Sangha which roughly translates as the “group” or “community” of practicing Buddhists.

Community is also important to us. As social beings we all need to belong to a community where we can contribute and be valued. No one really lives in isolation by choice. To be part of the group is in our make up as a species. We need each other to survive and to flourish and from that need civilization emerged, grew and persists.


One World

The importance of community in the recovery movement is expressed through the pillars of fellowship, unity and service. People come together to share and to learn from one another. By helping others we help ourselves in the process. We understand that sitting alone at home may work for some people some of the time but true progress is made when we join with others in a common purpose. Through others we come to learn that we are not unique but share common problems, hopes and fears. We begin to realize that it is our similarities that bind us together and our diversity of thought and opinion that makes the community resilient. From that we find the strength to recover.

To be Jedi is also to be part of a community. Jedi are active participants in society. They are neither cloistered Monks nor Hermits seeking perpetual solitude. At times we all seek solitude and time away from others to recharge. Once ready we are ready to take our place among others and participate, share, learn, work and contribute in our own way. This is in our nature as human beings.



Sometimes it is easy to get pessimistic about the world around us. Society can seem hostile or indifferent. People often feel disconnected and alone in the world. A person may have thousands of Face Book friends but no one they can lean on and trust. We can create an online persona and profile which attracts thousands if not millions of followers and admirers and still feel lonely. Some of us feel alienated in the real world and eventually in the online realm as the hostility and toxin that pervades it forces us to disconnect even further.

Many of us live in sterile suburban neighborhoods where we live behind locked doors and barely recognize the neighbors let alone know their names.  We commute in cars to work in a sea of traffic feeling disconnected from, if not frustrated with, the blank faces in the cars around us. We sit or stand on trains or in waiting rooms our eyes fixed on our phones, not speaking, not making eye contact.



In the Netflix Documentary “Happy” (2011) we see people living in supportive communities in Calcutta and Copenhagen. Despite the enormous gap in wealth between the two cities there is an undeniable “sameness”. Both communities are close knight, supportive and non-competitive. The members of different families and generations live together communally, share responsibilities and look after each others kids. There is a strong sense of belonging and unity which is increasingly rare today in general.

These people are among the happiest alive. The normal indicators of happiness and wellbeing; gross domestic product, employment rate and housing indices do not apply to these people. The strong sense of community is what makes these people feel happy and fulfilled.


The Odd Ball

I would be the first person to admit that I am not and never was the most sociable person. Being a strong introvert means I can be quite happy standing alone at a party without engaging anyone. Acutely aware that I was a quiet and reserved type when I was younger I naturally wanted to be liked by others. Alcohol was the remedy which allowed me to be gregarious, outgoing, funny and friendly. Drunk, I became approachable and my awkwardness was replaced with a confidence and a cocksure attitude that won people over and made me friends. Over the years I kept going back to booze and never really learned how to just be myself and connect with people on a deeper level. By the time I hit forty I realized I had all the social skills of a man in his early twenties, if not his teens.


Lost Soul

Being alcoholic is to live in a delusion. To find recovery is to see the falseness for what it is. The illusion of social acceptance and community which alcohol creates becomes apparent. We think that we “fit in” but we realize that we don’t. People who we thought were friends turn out to be nothing of the sort. Our own motivations with people become clearer and we realize they were selfish and self centred. We used people and prized things.


Getting sober we realize the relationships we had with people outside of our sphere of drinking, professional and personal, was often dishonest and sometimes abusive. Along the way we have hurt and damaged those we care about. If we are honest with ourselves we realized that we lived on the fringes of community, never in it. We did not really belong. All of this had to change if we were to truly recover and take our place in society.



Being in recovery and becoming sober has forced me to re-evaluate my place in society. I have come to realize how easily I could have ended up in jail, dead or in an asylum had I continued. In recovery we learn to re-enter the community and find our place and purpose. The attitude of entitlement and “special treatment” that we used to demand in abuse is gone. We realize that in life we must earn our place and make our way without expecting dispensation because we are somehow “special”.


The community is about the whole not the individual. By being part of that whole and contributing in some small way we start to feel belonging in a real sense.


Find your Place

Most of us are not in a position to move in to a commune or co-housing arrangement where strong community is fostered as in “Happy”. There are still a number of ways we can improve our connection with others and feel part of our broader community:


  1. Embrace your identity and what makes you unique.  Also look for the common humanity in all people. Very often we find our community is divided along ethnic, religious, racial, nationalist or social class lines. We flock to those we most identify with, those with whom we resemble and share the most in common with. There is nothing wrong with identifying with a group or ideology but we must be careful not to shut out others simply because they seem “different”. This enforces the identity mindset, victim-hood mentality and “us and them” culture which pervades society today.   We have more in common than we think.
  2. Be kind and compassionate; this extends from the previous point. We should respect and treat all people the same. Humans respond well to kindness and compassion, it is a universal language common to all. Donating to local charities and supporting local businesses is one small way we can express care for others.
  3. Be prepared to help. Offering our time and skills as volunteers brings us closer to the community. You may find a particular cause or charity which appeals to you. Organisations that deal in disaster relief and emergency aid will register people who can assist in times of crisis. Even just being willing to respond to a request for assistance, where safe, is being Jedi. Those in recovery know the benefits of being of service to others.
  4. Get active in issues that concern you; whether it is a social justice cause, the environment or a local issue such as better public amenities and services there are many ways to get active. People can organise petitions, attend public meetings, form online groups, write letters, submit public comments on projects and proposals and participate in rallies and protests. Even just participating in public surveys and voting is getting involved.
  5. Join community groups; sporting and recreational, social and cultural clubs. Finding and meeting with common minded people who enjoy similar interests builds a strong sense of community.


The Circle

Stoic philosophy challenges people to consider themselves not only members of their community and country but citizens of the world and cosmos. The “View from Above” exercise is used to remind us that we are part of a whole which extends far beyond ourselves and our immediate circle. The Circle of Hierocles was drawn more than 2500 years ago to depict cosmopolitanism. The ancient Stoics word for “belonging” to community was oikeiôsis. The ancients saw themselves as belonging not only to themselves but in expanding concentric circles, their family, city state, country, the world and cosmos.


The Circle of Hierocles  (Source: https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com )


We should take the time to broaden our perspective as human beings. Every action and choice that we make has a broader consequence and reach than we imagine. By understanding our place in society and our role in the community we can live more mindfully and in accordance with our nature.  We become connected with the whole.

A View from Above Meditation by Donald Robertson



Jedi believe in Service

Jedi believe in service to others, and are selfless

The path of the Jedi teaches us the importance of service. There is a lot of joy in serving others, and the Jedi believe in volunteerism and in service. Why? Because that’s the way of the Force; the Force is always giving, giving, giving without expecting anything back in return. The Jedi are like this too. Some of the practical benefits of serving others include diminishing egotistical thinking, removing energy blockages, increasing positive energy flow, and re-connecting us with other human beings


A Part of Us

Service to others is a fundamental part of being Jedi. Likewise, service is also integral to the 12 Steps. Both paths recognize the value in extending ourselves to others in selfless service. Service, giving to others is also a intrinsic human trait, we are wired to work together and to help each other.

A study by the University of British Columbia showed that Toddlers were happier giving to others than they were receiving. We feel it every time we do something for another person. It can be as simple as giving up your seat on a bus or holding a door open. It connects us to people. Likewise every time we plant a tree or help an animal we feel connected to our environment. Service put us in to the spiritual flow of the Universe, the Force.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35


One cannot keep what they do not pass on. We have an obligation and a responsibility to pass on what we have gained and to “pay it forward”. The flow of energy must be kept vital and the only way to truly improve is to get out of ourselves by putting the focus on others. Some of us provide a form of form of service as part of our jobs. Whether we serve customers, work in the military, security and law enforcement or emergency services the way we apply ourselves in our profession and how we treat people in carrying out our duties says a lot about ourselves.

Even though we get paid for the time and effort we put in, it is still service. Whether we take benefit from it will largely depend on our purpose and the meaning that we attach to the task. Some Policemen love their job, some don’t.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi



Volunteerism is by definition unpaid and voluntary without reserve. There is real commitment. We donate our time and skills to a particular cause. Activism and advocacy are also forms of service which serve an important function in raising awareness and making important changes in society. The opportunities for service seem endless. There are countless causes one can involve themselves in.  If what we choose to do adds value to our lives and others, the direct benefits can extend beyond material, there are many intangibles as well.

What is the essence of life? To serve other and to do good” – Aristotle.

So what about Jedi? They served the Republic, they were guardians of peace. The purpose of the Jedi was to protect, defend and support citizens. Jedi were chosen for the path, they barely chose it. The Jedi were not paid for their efforts but they were rewarded in intangible ways. They were raised in to a meaningful existence and grew stronger in the ways of the Force for example. There was a mutual benefit.

The Jedi made mistakes of course but their intent was never selfish until the needs of individual Jedi became more important than the needs of the whole. The Jedi were not above reproach and neither are we. We are only human after all but we still have a choice.


Just Rewards

Why do it then if not for purely selfless reasons. Psychology Today lists a number of mental, physical and spiritual benefits in getting involved in the community and helping others:

  • Reduced stress and better stress management, we are able to better cope with life;
  • Appreciation and gratitude of what we have through better perspective taking;
  • Greater awareness of the world and the people in it;
  • Cultivated empathy, compassion and solidarity with others;
  • Provides greater life meaning and purpose of being.

Studies have also shown that volunteerism can improve overall contentment and happiness in people. Older volunteers have been shown to  extend life span in older people. The brain actually develops new pathways and neurons. Our brains respond better to selflessness and altruism than selfishness and meanness. It is an evolutionary trait which stems from the basic human need to belong and to care for others.


Motive is everything

Does selfless service truly exist? How often have we done something for others to make ourselves feel better or to gain some sort of reward or recognition? To give anonymously or with discretion with no selfish motives is different to giving with the intent of receiving some sort of recognition. Some religious people feel that if they donate money to the church or to worthy charities they will be rewarded for their generosity in the afterlife. Many students feel compelled, even forced to undertake “voluntary” community service in order to be accepted in to universities or to pass subjects.

Some people may recognize the intangible benefits of altruism such as working with the disabled or caring for injured animals, but not all will. Offenders will be awarded community service by a Judge. The hope is that service to others will help them adopt a change in attitude and reduce the likelihood of re-offending. The work may be beneficial but the person on “community service” may view it as a punishment rather than the privilege that it is. Is a large donation made by a multinational corporation sincere or a conceited form of self promotion?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” – Philippians 2:3-4


Bad Service

Years ago I did conservation volunteer work in South America and Africa and spent many months on a Kibbutz in Israel as a volunteer. These were important experiences and I went with the best intention however once there I soon fell in to bad habits. I took advantage of my hosts, avoided the worst jobs and would get so drunk is the evenings at the inevitable volunteer parties that I was too hungover to work. The experience soon turned in to an opportunity to indulge in all the excesses you would find on Spring Break in Cancun without the luxury.

In Israel I was politely asked to leave on one occasion and simply moved down the road to another place that was looking for volunteers. Many places seek volunteers because they need cheap or free labor and do take advantage. Some volunteers forget that they volunteered. They begin to question the entire experience seeking only to derive personal benefit.


Pay if Forward

Being in recovery has taught me how important service is as part of the 12 Steps. One alcoholic will help another through sponsorship or by taking on a role in meetings. The motivation is selfless but the work is done as much to maintain sobriety as it is to help others find or keep theirs.  Only service keeps the movement alive. The real world Jedi community also relies on people willing to give up their time, money and skills to keep the movement alive and growing. Most are anonymous and seek no recognition. Think of all the millions of people in the world right now quietly and selflessly serving others with no expectation of reward. They are Legion and bring light into an otherwise grey and cynical world.

Through service we begin to think more about others than ourselves. Getting out of our own self indulgence is a good way to avoid falling into the mental traps of self doubt and negative self talk. The point of service is not necessarily to serve without any direct benefit to ourselves. A mutual benefit can and should be derived. Service should make us feel good knowing that we’ve made a small difference. That simple pleasure can be its just reward it can also completely transform the way we see the world and others. It can transform the world.

You are the vehicle of change in this world. How will you pay it forward today?

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” – Howard Zinn

Jedi defend the helpless

Jedi try to protect others if possible, Jedi are peaceful warriors. Jedi are also aware that being prepared and trained gives them the advantage if they do have to protect themselves and others. Most Jedi know at least one form of martial arts or self-defense.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Defend the Oppressed

The Jedi were a humanitarian movement. During the centuries of conflict in which the Jedi participated they were often rushing to defend one oppressed group or another. Theses efforts were limited only by the reach of the Jedi. Anakin and his mother were sold as slaves to the Hutt Clan by a slaving Empire run by the Zygerrians. Anakin carried the stigma of slavery with him, it burned like an old wound. The wound cut deep and Anakin vowed to stamp slavery out.

“For thousands of years, Zygerria supplied slave labor to the galaxy. We prospered. Our customers prospered. Then the Jedi came.” – Darts D’Nar

The Jedi of the old Republic outlawed  the slave trade and dismantled the practice pushing it in to the outer rim criminal underworld. During the Clone Wars Zygerria allied with Count Dooku hoping to resurrect the galactic slave trade. The planet of Kiros was taken and despite the Jedi’s intervention the peaceful Togruta inhabitants were enslaved.

Later Anakin and Obi-wan did all they could to find and rescue the hostages from slavery and destroy the new slave trade.

The Sheep Dog

One of the five goals of Jedi Philosophy is “Defend the Weak” (Trout, 2014). Some real world Jedi work as police officers or serve in the military. Others are in emergency and medical professions. Aid and humanitarian workers and volunteers are also represented. Defenders of the environment are also among us. There are Jedi who work at the vanguard of environmental activism and others who try to advocate for sustainability and conservation through science, management and education.

“I am a sheepdog, I live to protect the flock and confront the world” – LTC Dave Grossman (ret)

I have a friend who at time of writing this is on the outskirts of the Syrian City of Raqqa fighting the so called Islamic State. This man is there as an unpaid volunteer serving with the Kurdish Forces. A former soldier who has acted against the advice of his government and on his own volition. Why? Because he considers himself Jedi and is trying to defend the helpless and free people from slavery and oppression. It is a small gesture which means a lot to people who were without hope. My friend is the proverbial “Sheep Dog”.

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3


Lend a Hand, an Ear

Not all of us can find ways to “Defend the Weak” through our jobs or past times. Those of us who volunteer our time do what we can. We in the 12 step program support the fellow alcoholic who comes to us for help. A kind word, an offer of a cup of coffee and giving our attention can also make a big difference.

When we see someone being treated unfairly we speak up. Often the weak and the vulnerable are easy targets for ill treatment. By looking the other way we would condone such abuse so we say something. We intervene mindfully and use our judgement. There is rarely cause to resort to violence. We show where our principles reside.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” – Winston Churchill

Take Courage

Courage is a virtue. Sometimes it takes real courage to stick to our principles and act them out. By defending others we are also showing selflessness and empathy. In accordance with these principles we act to avoid exploiting or abusing others. We do not play the oppressor whatever the reason. This means being fair and diligent in all of our affairs and with all people. For example we would not short change a customer or be silent if we were over changed. We would not push in ahead of others or use our size to intimidate people. We would not grow impatient and hurl abuse at a waitress doing her job on minimum wage. On a crowded bus we willingly give up our seat to someone who needs it more than us. We would not bear silent witness to a person being victimized or bullied in the workplace or in public.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

Recovery teaches us that we are not the center of the Universe. There are other people in this world who are deserving of respect and dignity as we are. We also recognize that we depend on our environment to live. Clean living shows us the value of unpolluted air and water and the beauty of nature.

We were victims once but we have cast off that label and reclaimed our lives. Step 12 reminds us that to “carry the message” also means to act out our principles and demonstrate virtues such as courage. No one is watching us all the time but we know what is in our heart. We can choose to look the other way and walk or we can act.

Trout, KS (2014). Exploring the Jedi Lifestyle. Amazon


The Hero

“I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day” – Bowie

The Hero’s Journey

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars he based the story on the mythical Hero as described by Joseph Campbell. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” describes the “Hero’s Journey”, a narrative monomyth which has existed since the dawn of story telling. The Monomyth follows the story of one who answers the call for adventure, the Hero archetype. Departing home the Hero encounters and overcomes the fear of the unknown and sometimes with a mentor learns the path to overcoming challenges and obstacles that lay ahead. Towards the middle of the story the Hero meets resistance and facing peril must overcome  an enemy or nemesis and finding strength and the help of others is able gain the prize.

The story continues and we think the Hero is safely home but encounters even greater challenges that bar the way. Unable to escape the Hero battles in a climactic struggle. Victorious at last  the Hero claims the final prize and discovers a revelation that restores the balance. The Hero is transformed and returns home or continues the journey.

The “Hero’s Journey” can be seen as a metaphor for life. We all face similar milestones in our personal Journey through Life. In recovery, we know the path quite well.

The Hero

People have always been inspired by the Hero. Legends and Myths are full of them. Since the Babylonian tale of Gilgamesh written in 18 century BC, the human story has included Odysseus, Hercules, David and Jason. Our contemporary fiction is full of them and include unlikely heroes like Harry Potter, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker and Jyn, Rey and Finn. Each of the characters became swept up in events greater than themselves. They  became accidental heroes who went far beyond what they believed they could achieve for the greater good. Their stories followed the classic “Hero’s Journey” as described by Campbell. The Hero provides humanity with an example for others to follow. We carry our Heroes on shields and decorate them with awards and medals.

No Ordinary Hero

Sometimes the Heroes of the world are right in front of us but we don’t even recognize them. These are not like the Heroes in the Ancient or Modern Sagas. They have committed themselves when action was needed with no time to think or plan. The bystander who jumps in to perform CPR, the one who instinctively jumps in to a swollen river to rescue a drowning child and the person who races in to a burning building to pull out survivors are the ones we sometimes hear about in the news. They remind us that there are still people out there who are willing to risk their lives for others. We think their acts are exceptional and rare while in fact they are in most people. The instinctive need to help and to protect and preserve life. It’s in our DNA.

We often hail our sporting achievers as “heroes” yet what have they done other than win a title, medals or a trophy, usually for great monetary reward and fame? Society tends to overlook underpaid and overworked care givers like Paramedics, Nurses, public health care Doctors as well as Police Officers and Fire and Rescue for their daily heroic deeds. Volunteers who dedicate their time and money to helping the poor, looking after the environment or taking care of animals are rarely considered “Heroes”. Not many people would count School Teachers, Hospice Workers, Aid Workers and Volunteers as Heroes. Soldiers are treated as “Heroes” and lauded for their military feats in some wars and derided or condemned for fighting others.

The Classic Hero as described by Joseph Campbell is a rare gem and one that primarily exists in literature and movies. Real Hero’s are are actually everywhere.

The Accidental Hero

Luke Skywalker was a hero of my childhood and for me had all the ideal traits that made such. I could also relate to Luke Skywalker on a personal level as I had also suffered loss. Skywalker gave many kids a dream that they could reach for the skies and achieve incredible feats if they only believed. Not long ago someone pointed out that Luke was no Hero. Why I asked? Well, he had destroyed an artificial planet with many thousands of lives. This “atrocity” had not ended the war, in many ways it had extended it and the untold suffering it caused.

The Death Star was moments away from ending the Rebellion and the war but instead it was destroyed. The Empire suffered a crushing military defeat with the loss of important Admirals and the ultimate weapon of deterrence. The war raged across the galaxy for years after and so did the death and the destruction. My Friend kind of had a point.

My Friend also pointed out that Luke Skywalker was not only against the established rule of law and active in an illegal Rebellion but he was indoctrinated in to an ancient religion. This religious belief compelled him to destroy the Death Star and continued to drive him to carry out attacks in the war and eventually topple it. Does this not sound at least a little like a terrorist?

The Modern Hero Dilemma

I thought about the many recent conflicts I had become acquainted. In these wars I had taken sides. One side was “Right” and the other “Wrong”. More than once I had called people I knew “Heroes”. They had traveled to Syria to join the Kurds and fight ISIL, an extremist and brutal regime. While I believe my friends to be Freedom Fighters and “Heroes”, other people, many decent and intelligent, called them “Terrorists” or “Criminals”. It made me realize that the word “Hero” can be a little ambiguous at times. In fact not everyone can agree on what, let alone who, a Hero is.

Then  what is a Hero? How would we define it? Many Real World Jedi have their own definition of what a Hero is and they diverge as much as people in any other part of society. This is a Jedi Philosophy Blog so I will take the words of Joseph Campbell to help define what a Hero is here:

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.“- Joseph Campbell

Then that would mean that anyone who has died for a cause that he or she considered bigger than themselves fits the definition of a Hero…Obviously this cause problems as it would firmly validate the phrase “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”. The cliché in fact contradicts itself as we know that no terrorist can be a Hero and no Hero can be a terrorist then neither can exist as they cancel each other out. To me a Friend in Syria is a Hero fighting for Freedom from tyranny, to many people in Turkey and  the Arab world he is a Terrorist as he happens to be fighting under a Kurdish Flag. Being a Hero can be complicated.

The Journey

As a recovering alcoholic I know that things never appear to be black and white. Every ideal and bias that we hold is a product of our Ego. The human psyche pushes many of us to embark on the “Heroes Journey”. In a perfect world there would be no need for Freedom Fighters or Terrorists. Heroes on the other hand, we need those angels like the Paramedics, Nurses, Cops and Soldiers who put others before themselves. The recovering Alcoholic in a 12 Step Meeting who comforts and consoles a newcomer who is at the end of his wits is a Hero. Each of us can through simple act of kindness and love in our daily lives also be Heroes.

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” –  Gandalf “Lord of the Rings”

Marcus Aurelius admonishes us to stop “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one” There are five common traits found in a Hero. They are courage, selflessness, humility, patience and caring. These are the virtues which the Stoics like Aurelius found so important if one was to achieve the “good life”. They are also the virtues that a Jedi was expected to demonstrate consistently. The 12 Steps require all five virtues for recovery to be built on a solid foundation:


Courage is when a person does something in spite of their Fear.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear” – Mark Twain.


Selflessness is doing something for others without expecting anything in return, indeed often with personal sacrifice.

selflessness is the only way for progress and prosperity” – The Bhagavad Gita


Humility is acting in a way that shows you respect yourself but never place yourself above others to look down.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less” – CS Lewis



Patience is being able to accept that things to happen at their own pace even when we wished they wouldn’t. Good things do come to those that wait.

Patience is bitter but it’s fruit is sweet” – Aristotle



Caring is showing to others the kindness and concern that they deserve. Caring is in the little acts that we do every day.

Caring The simple act of caring is heroic” – Edward Albert


Can we be all of these things? Can we be the Hero that we are meant to be? We can be Heroes not in the big causes that we take up but in the simple every day acts of life.

Joy (Part 2)

The Happy Trap

In the book the “Happiness Trap” the author suggests that one of the greatest impediments to achieving a “good life” is the expectation that we must always be Happy. The mistake that we make is we confound “Joy” with “Happiness”. Once again, the two are different; one is an emotion, the other is a state of being. The book reveals that we often beguile ourselves by falling in to a “Happiness Trap”.

We have convinced ourselves that life is meaningless and defective unless we are “Happy” so we set ourselves up for stress and disappointment when we fail to achieve “Happiness”. We may be happy in the beginning but then the love of our life leaves for our best friend, we get passed over for that promotion at work, someone steals the car, the computer blows up taking all our work. World crashes in, our life is crushed and we think it’s over because we are now unhappy. Life is not over, life is both pleasure and pain and even this too shall pass. Don’t feel unhappy about being unhappy. Embrace the wonderful tapestry of emotions which make us human.

“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy” – Jim Rohn

The “Good Life”

Monks and Mystics do not give the impression of being a “Joyful” bunch, neither do Jedi. We imagine them to be serious and humourless and everything that resembles devout. Then we are surprised when we see religious leaders, devout people like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu and even Pope Francis cracking a joke and being playful and funny. How could that be when the world is so full of misery, war and strife aren’t they supposed to be sombre and righteous? What is the secret?

St Francis of Assisi was also a spiritual leader who eschewed all the pomp and ceremony of the Church and chose a life of poverty, simplicity and service as Jesus of Nazareth had. Francis of Assisi is known as the patron saint of Ecology for his love of animals and defense of the Environment. At the Vatican Francis presented in front of the Pope in his simple habit and rags and instead of bowing and supplicating before the Pontiff he danced and sang in Joy to the complete shock of the watching hierarchy.

Francis preached in rapture about the beauty of nature and the wonder of the cosmos and the Joy of the Divine. Later Francis traveled to Egypt in the midst of the Crusades to broker peace and understanding with the Arab Caliphate. Instead of being killed or taken as a hostage he was honored by the Sultan and bestowed gifts. Francis returned home and preached that Christians and Muslims could learn from each other and co-exist peacefully as members of one big family. Francis took love, reconciliation, humility and respect with him and it was welcomed and embraced.

In our obsession with original sin we often forget original innocence”  – Pope Innocent III to Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi was 46 when he died. The years of attempting to live as an ascetic in self imposed poverty and deprivation had caught up to him despite later admitting that a middle road of simplicity was the path to spiritual Joy. Francis suffered terribly during his death but his Joy never left him, the light that he held within him was strengthened by his strong spiritual faith and beyond. Jesus and Gautama Buddha died in the same way, as did Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Sri Chin Moy and Bill W, they all took their Joy with them. They transcended life.

The Stoics believed that one could be deprived of everything but keep their sense of Joy at living, even condemned to death a person could meet their fate with peace and Joy of knowing they had lived a “good life”. Nothing can take that away. I believe we take our Joy with us when we die.

“Joy is not in things, it is in us” – Wagner


End of Joy

Today’s Pope has attempted to emulate the historic Francis by trying to broker peace again in the Middle East. This has largely gone no where. The Pope also tried to encourage a global consensus on climate change and environmental destruction as well as address inequality and rampant consumerism, to no avail. Technology may have moved on, borders have been drawn and erased and Empires have risen and fallen but still the same problems remain.

There is a detachment, a disconnect between what we think is joy (pleasure) and what is true joy in our society and as result a deep discontent prevails. This disconnect has resulted in endless war, poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and global angst. Perhaps this is because we have become more distanced from nature than at any time in our history. Material and individual pursuits have replaced the spiritual and the collective. It is no longer “we” but “me”. Many people feel entitled to happiness but do not realize only they have the power  to make themselves happy, no one can do it for them. We need to stop living in a “feel good” society and start living in a “do good society”.

The Art of Joy

Joy in comprehending and looking is natures most beautiful gift” – Albert Einstein

Yoda and the Jedi were similar in many regards to the spiritual leaders who have genuinely tried to make a positive difference in the world. The Jedi were not void of Joy, in fact they were probably the most content sentient beings in the Galaxy but just didn’t show it much. The fictional Jedi had a deep and abiding connection to the Force, they knew they were part of a greater whole and they were at complete peace with who they were.

Death did not fear them as they knew ultimately they would return to the Force and become one with it. The Jedi lived austere and simple lives based around duty, virtue and discipline and as a result they knew Joy.  Jedi realized that the pursuit of happiness in the shallow way eventually led to grasping attachment, which lead to fear, anger and hatred and ultimately the Dark Side.

In the Clone Wars “Lost Missions” Yoda travels to a mysterious world that is intense with the Force. Yoda seeks the wisdom to be able to unite with the Force after death in with his living consciousness. That is, Yoda seeks enlightenment and immortality of consciousness. In this mysterious realm he encounters the spiritual manifestation of the five states of being that are said to survive death; anger, sadness, confusion, serenity and joy. Each of the forms guide Yoda through the trials he must face to achieve his goals.

Yoda survives the trials and having gained the wisdom he seeks, he returns to Coruscant. The Jedi Master has changed and in the place of the fear, doubt and regret which has plagued him through the Clone Wars, emerges serenity, peace and Joy. These three unified states define Yoda for the remainder of his life until he is able to leave behind his tired physical form and his consciousness unites with the Force.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

Simple as ABC

Not many of us are in a position to change our lives to an extent necessary for significant spiritual, mental, emotional and physical improvement. We have lives, commitments, careers and families to attend to; responsibilities. Fewer want to completely leave their former lives and adopt a life as a Mystic or Monk in a monastery or retreat. We must all work out what works for us as an individual and try to maintain a balanced life that satisfies our personal needs with the needs of others.

Simple lifestyle changes can make a lot of difference, they do not need to be drastic. In sticking to them we find that the effort and time we put in to acquiring “Happiness” through the pursuit of shallow and meaningless pleasures and material possessions can be better served by going back to the basics, the “ABCs”.

A is for Act: always act in accordance with your identified values. Know what they are, they will guide you in every aspect of your life. Be spiritually, physically, socially and mentally active. This means take up a hobby or interest you enjoy, exercise within your limitations, socialize with like-minded people and build a network of friends.

B is for Belong: be part of something, join a club or community group or get more active if already involved.

C is for Commit: volunteer, engage in a cause, take up a course, accept a challenge.

It’s that simple.

only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: fulfillment” – Tony Robbins