Self Reliance (Part 1)

An Island

Self reliance is the ability of an individual to be able to function as a productive and balanced human being without being reliant on others. Imagine living in the wilderness or on a remote and uninhabited Island. You have all the tools and resources needed to survive indefinitely. Could you do it? Would you have the emotional strength, the physical fitness and the knowledge and skills needed to survive without outside help? Would you have the spiritual fortitude to overcome the periods of loneliness, self doubt and unhappiness? Being unable to share moments of personal achievement and happiness or having someone to share the burden of suffering would weigh on most people.

 

Jedi Reliable

The Jedi by nature and training were self reliant while also dependent on each other. Each individual was expected to be able to function effectively as an independent unit. This was critical as the Jedi often worked alone deep in hostile territory with limited support. Jedi were taught the skills needed to be effective. They had the mind set and resilience required to be able to work in isolation cut off from all support. If they got in to trouble behind enemy lines they were often on their own and had to find their own way out.

 

The Dude in Black

In “Return of the Jedi” we find Luke Skywalker a changed man. The black Jedi Gi made him look different but there was something in his eyes, the way he walked and carried himself. It was compelling.

Some years had passed since Luke confronted the truth of Darth Vader and realized who he was and meant to be. On Dagobah, Skywalker had faced his dark side and purged himself of weaknesses. Desperate to help his friends and driven by the fear of their loss he set out before he was ready. The events that unfolded later changed him forever.

In “Return of the Jedi” Luke has matured. Now a Jedi, he has become self reliant. He is competent and confident. This is apparent by his bearing and command of force powers. Luke can easily get past guards using Jedi mind tricks and can wield a light sabre with all the prowess of a master. But its more than mastery of skill.

In his maturity Luke has become calmer, more at ease within himself and confident in his decisions. Along the way he has lost the reckless and impulsive drive which we saw in the first two installments. The cockiness and impatience of youth are replaced by a humble and self assured resilience and character. Luke Skywalker is beginning to resemble Obi-wan Kenobi in some intangible way.

 

Growing Pains

Self reliance is something that comes early in some and later in others. For many there is a degree of self reliance but their wings are clipped. They are unable or unwilling to blaze their own trail.

Probably because of my upbringing I was self reliant by the time I was in my teens. My Father’s absence and alcoholism meant being able to look after myself at an early age. I barely had the skills to make it alone but life had taught me to fly early. As soon as I finished high school I flew the nest and I entered into the Army. It was out of the fire and into the frying pan.

 

Hurry up and Wait

The Army thrives on a paradox of inconsistent consistency. Nothing makes sense till it does. The strange thing about the Army is they teach you self reliance but preferred you didn’t have it. They want you dependent. We were taught the importance of improvisation and initiative but then punished when we used it. Skills and knowledge were drilled in to us which were handy in war but barely transferable in to the civilian world. With each year that passed I found myself less and less tuned to the world outside the gates and the people in it. In the Army you are caught in a sort of a paradoxical paradigm that stays with you when you leave.

Then the day comes when you are cast in to that world and all the escape and evasion training, combat survival skills, navigation, marksmanship, weapons handling and smart drill on the parade ground you learned means “sh*t” in the real world. You suddenly realize you know very little and are not so self reliant.

Fresh out of uniform I thought I would find civilian life easy. It came as a rude shock. Without the order, routine, support and discipline I soon fell apart. I would stay up half the night watching TV and sleep most of the day. My drinking crept from Friday and Saturday evenings into Sundays and then during the week. I could not hold down a job and would either get laid off or quit as my frustration and anger rose. I would lose my temper and get in to fights over trivialities. Women were a mystery unless they were strippers and hookers. People avoided me and friends disowned me. In the attempt to remedy the situation I sought a change of scenery and bounced about from one town to another and one job to another. In that time my drinking got worse as did my overall situation.

 

Booze Reliance

The problem with alcoholism of course is the dependence. With that dependence we lose any semblance of healthy self reliance. All of the sudden life becomes primarily a series of drunken episodes interspersed with periods of awkward sober time that invariably lead to another spree.

Everything and everyone has a utilitarian purpose in our agenda. We are reliant on our work to provide us with money to primarily buy booze. People are either facilitators or collaborators in our drinking or they are impediments. Friends are props to our drinking or sources of free booze and money. We think we are in control and self reliant when in fact we are a slave to our rampant emotions and addiction.

 

Becoming Self Reliant

Finding sobriety is about finding self reliance, often in the dark. For a start we have to stop being self centered and selfish. We need to stop demanding that the world cave to our demands and constantly make concessions. With a jolt we realize the time to grow up and act mature has arrived, albeit a little late in life. We have to stop relying on others and start taking ownership and responsibility. We may physically be adults but we have all the maturity of a child.

We pick up the pieces of our life and start to put them together with both hands. This means coming to terms with our faults. We resolve to be rid of them. Determined to set matters straight we seek out those we have wronged and we make amends where can. The past behind us we look to ways we can improve and grow becoming more and more self reliant as we do. We learn honesty and start to owe up to mistakes and fess up to blunders instead of allocating blame or making feeble excuses. With that new found freedom we look to where we can help others sharing the lessons of our own struggles.

 

Being Self Reliant

Luke Skywalker was a good example of everything that is positive and wholesome in self reliance. It was not the selfishness and arrogance of rugged individualism but a maturity born of hardship, self knowledge and sacrifice for others. Luke still needed others he cared for and he never sought to be a loner. The Jedi knew his purpose and like the Jedi before him he knew he could rely on the skills, knowledge and power that he had been given to make a difference in his life.

At the end of the day what good we draw daily into our own lives is largely up to us. If we rely on people, places, things, circumstances, money, status or the affection of others for our own happiness we are likely to be disappointed at some stage. All of these external factors are largely out of our control. The true source of happiness lies in self reliance. You are with you all the time whether you are in a city of 25 million souls or alone on a desert Island. The source of all your joys and sorrows resides within. Value that, it is all we really have.

 

God laid down this law, saying: if you want some good, get it for yourself“. – Epictetus

 

Next Blog: Skills for Self Reliance

 

Note: I dedicate this blog entry to the service men and women who face the daily struggle in their transition from service to civilian life. CONUS Battle Drills is a sometimes sobering, sometimes hilarious look at that struggle and provides some skills for veterans leaving the service or already ensconced in civilian life that can be used to improve their lives.

 

CONUS Battle Drills

 

CONUS Battle Drills (The Book)

 

 

Jedi seek Balance

Jedi believe that they need to bring balance to the Force within

Jedi believe that they need to bring balance to the Force within, and not wait around for a Chosen One to do it. If our minds are negative, then the Force flowing through us will seem negative too; our consciousness will seem negative and dark. If our minds are clear and wholesome, then the Force flowing through us will be clear and natural; we will be full of goodness and light. Jedi are responsible for balancing their own minds, so that their minds are clear, good, positive, wholesome, and stay on the light side; this will serve “to bring balance to the Force” within us so that the light side is dominant.

(33 Jedi Traits)

 

Purgatory

The years I spent in alcoholic abuse were a journey through purgatory. Not in the literal sense but at the emotional and spiritual level. Drinking was meant to lift my spirits and bring pleasure to my life. I wanted the memories of my past buried and thought that the escape offered by alcohol could provide that. I was wrong on many levels.

It has been said that we addiction is the misguided attempt to fill a spiritual void in our lives. We seek direction, meaning and fulfillment. In the beginning alcohol seems to provide that and eventually we find that it has led us deep into a dark forest. We either lose ourselves there or find a way out. The darkness takes us or we follow the light out.

 

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life” – Buddha

 

The Light and the Dark

Life is an experience that takes us along a wide spectrum of emotions between two extremes; Fear and Love. The natural order is one of opposites; Fear and Love, Joy and Sadness, Good and Evil. When we live in harmony our emotions exist but we choose how to engage and respond to them. We are not swayed by out emotions as much as we were in active abuse. We can know equanimity, peace and serenity.

 

You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

 

Our emotions can resemble a boiling ocean under a dark and violent storm. We can be tossed about on the waves and pulled under by our emotions of fear and anger. We can also choose to stand like a like a lighthouse on a rock, solid and defiant against the howling wind and lashing waves. Our internal world can also resemble a serene pond disturbed only by the slightest breeze but otherwise calm. We can be the candle in the dark.

 

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Life is mostly perception. The color and tone of our emotions depend largely on ourselves, not others. No one and no thing does harm to us any more than the harm that we perceive. A serene pond can be calming to some but not to all. Some people live in a perpetual storm. They crave drama and turmoil in their lives and constantly seek it out, creating it in their lives and drag other in if they can. This only causes suffering.

 

Find you Own Light

We can seek inspiration and guidance from those we call Gurus and Sages but the way we decide to live out lives is up to each of us. To blindly follow a message can be as bad as not having direction. A spiritual path is a personal journey to one’s own answers. We are all very much the same but every person is also unique. There has never been a you as you are now and there never will be again. Each of us has our own path to walk. We should only look to others for guidance.

Being Jedi and living sober has not solved all of my problems and it certainly won’t exempt me from life’s difficulties. What the path has done has taught me I always have a choice. I command my own thoughts, words and actions. Do I allow emotions to toss me like a boat beaten by waves in a storm or do I create my own shelter from the storm? Am I the person who loses his mind when crisis strikes or do I stand firm and resolute in the face of adversity?

The path has also given me a philosophy for life. The greatest tool we have is our mind. Philosophy trains both the mind and the soul. The 12 steps remind us constantly to raise to action, to never be idle and to do good works. The Jedi Path pushes us to strive further and to reach the limits of our potential and then go further.

“What shall I find?” – Luke Skywalker

“Only what you take with you” – Yoda

 

 

The Light in Dagobah

In life we face trials like Luke did on Dagobah. We must be willing to confront our doubts and fears and resolve to conquer them. Only by healing ourselves and putting our own lives in order can we start to be of real service to others. There we find our true inner light.

Our goal is world betterment through self betterment. How do we get there? One step at a time, one day at a time and one act at a time. Life is a string of moments, how we decide to use those moments is up to us. We can let the light in or we can choose to shut ourselves of from it.

 

“‘May the Force be with you’ is charming but it’s not important. What’s important is that you become the Force – for yourself and perhaps for other people” – Harrison Ford

 

In all our affairs

“Bringing balance to the Force”  is not just being more mindful of our emotions and learning how to respond productively to them. Finding balance in all aspects of our lives is important for our well being. We may look after our spiritual health but at the same time neglect our own physical well being.

People work tirelessly to help others without expectation of reward and neglect their own needs. In time they begin to suffer ill health and mental fatigue and an emotional toll sets in. Saint Francis of Assisi was an example of a very spiritual man who died because of the extent to which he neglected himself to help others.

This week the world has remembered the Emergency Workers who responded to 911 and continue to suffer. We are blessed to be protected and served by people who sacrifice themselves but we should always also care for ourselves and keep a healthy balance in our lives.

We are only human. Each of us is being comprised of a physical body, a personality with emotions, an intellect and a deeper spiritual essence. One can focus on one aspect of their being without working on the others and soon find an imbalance. Eventually all aspects of our lives begin to suffer. Always seek balance in your life be it work, family life, recreation, service, study and rest. The Force will flow better that way.

 

The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” – Euripides

 

Clear your Mind

Sit quietly and meditate on the moment. Allow you mind to go blank of thoughts. Be aware of every tremor and sensation within. Relax you body and take deep breaths and relax further. Allow emotions to gently fade.

Focus on the breath, the rise and fall of your abdomen as you breathe deeply. Let thoughts enter in like clouds, without struggle, without resistance. Some thoughts are light and others are dark. You can watch those clouds pass by and keep focus on the breath. Close your eyes and allow yourself to go in deeper….

Imagine a bight light deep within yourself. See it as a small candle surrounded by darkness. Watch as the light grows brighter pushing back the darkness. The light continues to grow brighter until your entire consciousness is consumed by it.  Open your eyes, how does the world look when you put yourself completely in the moment.

 

The Window

When I started writing this blog entry I was in a negative mental state. My mood was dark and I felt cold and distant to those around me. I felt that everything seemed pointless.  Despite my mood I knew that the feeling would pass. To wallow in my self pity and frustration is a form of self indulgence. Entertaining negative emotions closes us off from the Divine Source. It closes the shutters and draws the curtains on the light of the Force.

I dislike feeling that way. Stinking Thinking was the harbinger of some of my greatest drunks and biggest mistakes. Getting drunk now is out of the question, that has been handed over to a Higher Power. What I can do is choose to open the shutters of my heart.

I can open the window of my soul to a wide blue sky over a green meadow. The sun shines brightly and I can see the divine light of the Force in everything. I can feel that light filling my being. The dark clouds over my soul disperse and the Force touches me once more. I have regained my balance and dark thoughts are gone. The sea is calm once more, it has turned in to a calm pond bathed in soft light. The gentlest of ripples play across the surface as a light breeze passes. Everything is well.

We are the temple which houses a spark of the divine in each of us. Every moment we have a choice; do we shut the Force out or do we let it in?