Learn Humility

“You must unlearn what you have learned” – Yoda

The words by Yoda to Luke Skywalker on Dagobah pretty well summed up the Jedi Masters assessment of the young Padawan Luke. Yoda recognized so many faults and shortcomings in Luke but also much hope. The main fear was that Luke would fall in to the same emotional traps that his father Anakin displayed such as impatience, impulsiveness, fear, anger, uncontrolled rage and finally a fall to the dark side. Humility conquers pride.

Yoda knew that Luke needed to be trained from zero as a Jedi ,as Obi-wan Kenobi had not had enough time to coach Luke. Yoda also realized that all of Luke’s perceptions, his biases and beliefs needed to be challenged and ultimately replaced with those that served him better as a Jedi.

Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows” – Epictetus – Discourses.

As an alcoholic I am a painfully slow learner and when I do decide to listen my ego will demand resistance. This is the very nature of denial. For decades I could see the damage that my selfish lifestyle was doing to myself and others but I chose to ignore it rationalizing that I had my drinking under control, that I was not an alcoholic. I chose to believe that I was like any other regular guy trying to have a good time.

Over the years I became convinced that the cost of drinking was less than the pleasure I derived from it despite the constant reminders to the contrary. In the end as the truth became painfully apparent I realized I had been living a lie for a quarter of a century and I needed to relearn everything that I thought I knew, not just about my drinking, but also my life and my very being.

unlearning everything I thought I knew about myself became a matter of life and death.

I had become a stranger to myself, I was angry and disgusted with myself while I hated the world and riled that it was the fault of others not me that I had descended to such a pitiful state. Hitting rock bottom made me realize that the answer lay in complete rejection of self denial, in the admission of my condition as a spiritually and morally bankrupt person. Acceptance of thorough and total honesty and complete and humble surrender to a power greater than myself was the answer.

I was facing a complete transformation, the old “me” died, what old timers call “ego deflation.” I was empty enough to start learning what I needed to learn to start recovery and stay sober. For me unlearning everything I thought I knew about myself became a matter of life and death.

Unlearn to Learn

For most addicts the key to recovery is self-honesty and humility. Those two virtues are essential if they are to admit their disease and start the slow march to recovery. The only way to be open enough to learn is to finally admit that we are wrong in the first place or that we don’t know. You cannot teach someone who thinks they already have the answers any more than you can instruct a rock.

As long as you live, keep learning to live” – Seneca

No matter how hard you try they will resist what seems plain to the rest of us. It is only through adopting an open mind and a humble approach that the “unconscious incompetent” starts to “get it” and begin to learn.

In the Army I experienced the process first hand. Over the span of 140 days Drill Instructors will meticulously and expertly identify character flaws and faults that require removal and through discipline encourage the traits and behaviors that are useful to the recruit. At first the body is motivated by fear and the “shock of capture”, while the mind may be less convinced, but in time the correct mindset is achieved and a soldier is produced. This is not called brain washing, this is called mental training which is pretty well what Luke got in Dagobah from Yoga.

Adopting another view point in life can be hard if we are stuck in our old ways of thinking. Anyone can pick up a book on Philosophy and read it, understand it and think they have “got it”. The reality is most will refer to their default point of view in no time despite a conscious decisions made to change. The same applied to me in the past, I would adopt an approach, believe I had overcome my addiction and return to drinking with renewed confidence only to be completely humiliated once again. Insanity.

Humans are often not adept at learning and very often a “deflation in ego” is required as Yoda revealed to Luke and as I learned when I hit rock bottom. In order to be Jedi and find your Jedi Spirit you must review your beliefs and values and cast aside that which no longer serves you as a person and as a Jedi. Very often this will be difficult and perhaps even confronting or painful but once you do you will never look back with regret.

Mindfulness in Action

‘You will know good from bad when you are calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

These words follow from Yoda admonishing Luke Skywalker to “unlearn what you have learned”. The essence of the words are mindfulness. To be free of the noise and turmoil that often hijacks our minds and derails our better judgment. How often have you been pressed to act on a hasty decision or an emotional response rather than take a deep breath and reserve the right to act or respond later?

I know some of the best speeches I ever made were the ones I later regretted. They were full of passion or venom and self-righteous anger and while my words got all the attention they deserved the reaction and consequences were not intended.  Perhaps if I had bit my tongue, gone for a walk or simply decided to remain silent things may have been different and worked out better. I would not have found myself in a position where I needed to apologize and make amends later.

Being “calm, at peace, passive” describes a state of equanimity where emotions are calmed, passions are absent and thoughts, words and actions are considered mindfully and with full awareness of their impacts now and in the future. In this state the mind is also clear of clutter and judgment and more likely to objectively respond to circumstances that may appear undesirable.

Having a clear mind also allows one to better receive knowledge and to learn from a teacher. Yoda was making an observation of Luke’s state of mind and lack of experience and giving him the key to progressing as a Jedi. He was challenging Luke to “empty his cup and return with an empty mind” in the spirit of the Zen Teacher. I don’t know about you but I was never a good student if I felt like I knew it all already and went in to a class with a negative attitude. The truth is, we never stop learning and there is no harm in being taught the same thing a second, third or fourth time, you may actually learn something new!

Coming in to recovery I had to calm down and embrace the “easy does it” approach. I had to learn to take things as they came without judgment, to recognize that my inner turmoil was nothing more than a mental projection manifesting as a set of emotions. Much of what I was sensing as I “came to know sanity” was not real, I had to simply acknowledge, accept and let these emotions go. In  time through applying mindfulness and meditation I began to be more calm and truly live “one day at a time” seeking to be more present and in the moment.

The brain does change with time through neuroplasticity and over a span of months I found that I changed gradually, at first I didn’t notice but people remarked that I seemed “different”, more calm. Progress can takes months and years, the important thing to remember is that recovery and personal growth is a metaphor for a life journey, one never reaches perfection and the end of the road is the day we die. You may falter and fall along the way but get up and keep going, you may never be completely free of your inner Demons but it does get better.

Mindfulness – Spot Meditation

Take a minute now and then through the day to simply breathe and follow the rise and fall of your diaphragm as you inhale and exhale.

Close your eyes if you need to and quietly say “Calm”, breath in and say “At Peace”, breath in again deeply and say “Passive”.

Slowly exhale on every out breath and let your body relax. Take a moment to scan your body for any obvious tension and let it go.

Now observe without total judgment what is going on inside your mind, throw a beam of light on it. Any negative thoughts will flight when observed, let them Go without judgment.

Now do the same and impartially observe any emotions inside you, focus on the center of your core just below the solar plexus.

Feel any tightness or tension there, explore it without judgment and finally let it go imagining the space is filled with a Golden Light.

Now breathe in again deeply three or four more times, open your eyes if they are closed and look around the room.

Notice how you feel different and everything looks a little sharper? That is mindfulness in action.

Lower your expectations

I seek a great warrior” – Luke Skywalker

Expectations can often be our worst enemy. When Luke Skywalker crash lands on to Dagobah he seeks out a great warrior, a Jedi Master who will teach him how to be a Jedi. When he encounters Yoda he becomes impatient, brash and rude and eventually it dawns on him that this little annoying old Goblin like creature is indeed the Jedi Master he seeks.

Luke had an expectation, an idea of what a Jedi Master should look like and that prejudice blinded him from reality. Often reality does not meet our expectations, we hold a certain perception of how others should act or appear, how things should be and are disappointed when they don’t make the grade we expect. Very often it is not what is that is the problem but simply our perception of it, in turn our expectations are incorrect.

When I joined the Army I had a certain illusion of what it would be like and imagined that my expectations would be met. I imagined I would become a member of an elite and a “man among men”. The reality sort of fell short of the mark mainly because of my own poor choices but because the reality of service is different to what I thought it would be. I became disillusioned. One of the most common reasons many choose not to re-enlist was because service and deployment was not what they had expected. Many feel conned. What were they expecting?

As an alcoholic I always expected that one day I could get a handle on my drinking and control it. I had began drinking because I expected it would make me more fun, likable, sociable, one of the guys and attractive to the opposite sex. The reality again was much different and I wore the consequences of my drunken sprees like medals of shame.

When I got sober I also thought that all my problems in life would be miraculously resolved and then I realized that not drinking was only part of the solution. I also had to identify my faults and personal flaws, confront the past and make amends. I had to stop feeling like the world owed me and should treat me better because I was sober and accept that life was going to treat me like any other normal person. My expectations of sobriety were skewed and prejudiced by my own false perceptions of self and others. After some insight and rude reminders of my many character faults, I learned to adjust my expectations and start being realistic.

Ask yourself, what are your expectations at this moment? Consider everything, your job, relationships, health, finances and plans in general. Are they realistic? What influence do you have on others, potential external influence and ultimately outcomes? Identify what is in and outside of your control. Does it really matter if your expectations are not met?

The rule is to be objective and to make plans but never project outcomes. Very often our expectations get ahead of us and we end up disappointed in the outcomes therefore perspectives need to be adjusted if we are to have realistic expectations.

We also need to be agile and flexible enough to absorb the unexpected and often difficult moments in our lives with poise and equanimity. We must also be realistic with ourselves as well as others and accept that mistakes will be made despite the best laid plans. The challenge is to learn from those mistakes and improve. Use stumbling blocks as steps. Be gentle with yourself and with others.


“In peace are we warriors or keepers of the peace”? – Ahsako Tano

The Jedi are essentially depicted in the fiction as warriors. In a sense they are a version of the warrior-monk tradition of the East and West but without the religious fervor, cloistered monasteries and secret ceremonies and rituals. Conflict is still a part of the Jedi.

War is very much part of the Jedi mythos and while the Jedi had strong views around resorting to violence and the taking of life, they were not immune from fighting and killing if duty required it. Unlike some “warrior-monks” or religious fanatics in history, the Jedi did not relish violence and in fact they abhorred it and the act of killing. Never the less, Jedi trained to go to war, they kept themselves physically fit and mentally ready and trained in combat skills. Emotions and personal biases were set aside when duty called and mission success was paramount.

As a former “Grunt”  (Infantryman) I can understand the need for following orders, for self-discipline, training and physical fitness. I am well familiar with the vital importance of “operational readiness” and “mission focus”. The Jedi were a pseudo military order and were integrated within the Republic Forces as senior ranks, making strategic decisions while advancing to the front to lead their troops in to battle. Jedi did not hide in the rear, they led the assaults on enemy positions or undertook secret and daring missions in to the heart of enemy territory often at great personal risk. They did not rush in “Light Saber” happy, they simply used their weapons to carry out their tasks without hatred, fear or lust.

During an episode of Season 2 of “The Clone Wars”, Ahsako Tano reflects that after so much combat she feels ill at ease in peace and cannot sit still. As a veteran I can appreciate this; many friends of mine who have gone to war and seen combat never really settled down afterwards. A part of them still craves the adrenaline, the camaraderie and the momentary feeling of being “completely alive in the moment”, something that only comes during the intensity of combat.

A part of all of us wants to go back and do it again even though we know that when we were “over there” most of us wanted nothing more than to be back home. Ahsako -Tano asks “In peace are we warriors or keepers of the peace”? This is a compelling question as it is one that every veteran asks when they return to civilian life from an operational environment. Some never really find the peace they deserve as war takes a part of you that you never get back. In life Veterans and survivors of trauma may appear reasonably successful and normal and fully integrated into society however war and tragedy marks every person that experiences it and in some way it never leaves you.

Our Inner Conflict

Fortunately most people will not have to experience war, however within each of us resides an internal conflict; we are at war with ourselves. Our wants and desires often conflict with where we want to go and at times we are torn between one thing and another.

We feel it is our duty to be a certain type of person or act in a certain way but within ourselves we know that it conflicts with who we truly are. As a result many of us live in imbalance. Being an alcoholic I struggled with an inner conflict for decades and finally came out the winner as I realized what I needed to do to recover from my addiction.

I have discovered a sense of peace in my life but I know that the shadow of addiction is always there and that I must remain vigilante, honest and humble if I am to stay sober. I never drop my guard or grow conceited in my sobriety and when I feel myself sliding backwards I double my efforts and apply my principles. Seeking balance, I have stopped fighting people, places and things, shifting the focus inward.

How do you deal with your own conflicts both inner and outer? Remember that the world that we perceive is largely of our own making. Often where we think conflict exists in our world there is only inner turmoil at play. The important question is how do you deal with peace? How do you keep the peace as a warrior and rise over the urge to find and engage in conflict? The choice of how you do so is entirely up to you. You can also practice the Jedi Code and be objective, remain calm, be present in the moment. Adjust your expectations and your perspective.

Always Have a Plan


“I have a Plan” – Anakin

“Oh Really?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi were very different in their approach to carrying out an assigned task. Obi- wan Kenobi insisted on strategy and planning his actions and holding back to ascertain the situation before deciding. Anakin Skywalker on the other hand was far more impulsive and relied on his instinct and force sensing abilities to help him quickly decide on what required to be done. In most cases Anakin was able to achieve his mission but the methods were often described as unconventional or reckless. For Anakin the ends were more important than the means even if it meant stretching the ethical and moral boundaries of his Jedi training.

Where do you reside in Life? What is your habit to approaching and completing a task? Are you more likely to jump in without hesitation or do you plan your approach and consider scenarios? Are you a risk taker or risk averse? Or are you a bit of both?

I know some people who are very careful with their financial affairs and far from impulsive with their spending but in other areas they lack all wisdom and forethought. Some people in life will plan their day, month and life to the finest detail but will not hesitate to dash across the street through traffic rather than walk the extra hundred yards to a cross walk.

My life was like that for a very long time. I lacked wisdom as well as foresight. In some areas I was well organized and intelligent, my organizational skills at work being an example. In other areas I was completely reckless, without direction and no plan. Alcohol was one area where I lacked complete reason. I could step in to a bar with the fullest intention of having single drink before heading home to work on an assignment that was due the next day and still find myself at the bar at closing time pondering where I could go next to continue drinking. People were baffled how I could lack total self-control and good judgment. I had no plan, not for life or for one day to the next. I was simply rushing mindlessly through life in a downward spiral.

Make Plans but avoid projecting outcomes

That is why you should always have a plan and all plans should lead to one goal. Everything I do now is geared towards my recovery and self-betterment. I plan each day to be part of a grander plan for life. I train, meditate, work and write as part of a plan towards progression. Along the way I collect wisdom; one peal of wisdom to remember is to make plans but avoid projecting outcomes. Do what you can do to the best of your capacity and what is under your control. Leave the outcomes to that.

Take a few minutes every morning to plan your day, no matter how mundane it may seem, step in to the day with purpose and realistic goals whether it is to complete a major assignment or simply do the laundry. List them in your daily journal if you keep one. I keep a list of my daily tasks and check them off as I complete them one by one adding a sense of achievement even if the tasks seems insignificant. I also keep a training dairy which records my completed works outs and shows my progressions over time. Benjamin Franklin wrote “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Jump in to life but plan your journey ahead without projecting the outcomes.

You are greater than you know.


“You don’t have to look tough to be tough”. – Ahsoka Tano

In “The Clone Wars” episode “Bounty Hunters” Ahsoka Tano reassures a Felucian Farmer who is threatened by a group of Pirates seeking to steal their crop. The Felucians are far too timid to defend themselves and have recruited a small band of mercenaries as protection. Outnumbered the Jedi begin to train the Felucians to fight and they soon discover that despite their small stature they are not weak and have more courage than they know.  Sometimes the smallest and meekest creature has an inner strength and courage that belies its size.

Always believe that you are far more than you believe yourself to be and you will surprise yourself at your inherent ability to exceed your expectations consistently. You will bear far more than you give yourself credit for.

We always expect the worst and we always assume that we lack the courage and fortitude to face the future when hope seems bleak. We tend to forget that the combined weight of the years can seem insurmountable when we are faced with life challenges such as an illness, unemployment, financial difficulties or a relationship break up. But we can and we do survive and we carry and can come out stronger than ever before if we simply live one day at a time and embrace our ability to shine through.

When I was drinking I had given up that I would ever amount to much. I believed that I could never quit drinking. On many occasions I had tried and failed and every time I returned to drinking I seemed worse. The blow to my self-esteem and confidence was great.

I could not understand how I had managed to achieve many goals in life; there was University degrees earned with distinction and a decent career in my profession. I had served in the military and had been deployed and served well.  Not to mention my family; married to a wonderful woman and blessed with beautiful kids. In my years I had faced many challenges and overcome them but with alcohol I was completely and utterly powerless.

Once I finally admitted my powerlessness and surrendered my problems to a Higher Power I called the Force my addiction melted away. I was free of my compulsion to drink. Eventually many of my perceived problems also melted away as I started to see things clearly. I discovered I had more power and courage than I knew. This Force had resided in me all along, I simply did not choose to see it and if I ever suspected I had the potential, I lacked the willingness and the honesty to take the first step and claim that power. From that day on I never doubted myself again.

“You are greater than you know” – Mother Teresa

Remind yourself every day that you are more powerful than you know, that even if you don’t look “tough” you have an inner fire waiting to be unleashed. Never be afraid, never doubt yourself. You can be the person you are meant to be. Strive to be a better version of yourself every day, never let anyone convince you otherwise. You are greater than you know.

Dealing with Emotions

Emotions ar Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embrace and Let Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loss and Acceptance

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” – Yoda

The importance of non-attachment is often reinforced in the Star Wars fiction. Jedi were taught not to form attachment to people, places or possessions as to do so would ultimately lead to suffering. Despite his training, Anakin Skywalker failed to practice non-attachment and succumbed to his fear of losing what was dear to him. Anakin lost everything he held as precious in his life including his own identity as he fell under the power of Darth Sidious.

All that is, everything we hold important, is transient and in life we must face change and loss. Buddhism reinforces the transitory and impermanent nature of all things and suggests that attachment is akin to grasping at things that ultimately do not belong to us. When the time comes to let go, we suffer as our attachments have grown too strong. The Stoics also taught that it was acceptable to enjoy what came to us in life and that we should not pass up on pleasures or responsibilities. We should accept and enjoy them as long as they did not possess us and lead to harm. At the same time the Stoics taught we should be willing to surrender our attachments and let them go without remorse or regret.

Rampant attachment ultimately leads to frustration and having more and being richer does not necessarily lead to happiness. In fact wealth, while seemingly hard to come by and easy to lose is not the primary or secondary precursor to happiness in most people. Grasping attachments to status, possessions and relationships brings fleeting satisfaction and often leads to disappointment, disillusionment and despair. By holding on to things too tightly we often choke the life out them and ourselves.

The Stoics used strategies to overcome the anxiety of loss. They practiced negative visualization and on a regular basis would contemplate the loss of something that was important such as status, freedom or wealth. They visualized themselves banished from their homes and cast into exile and separated from their families and friends or reduced to poverty through bad fortune. The Stoics would also imagine the loss of their lives to illness or violence as the ultimate test for a Stoic was not only how they lived their life but also how they met their death. The Hagakure describes the use of daily visualization of death by the sword, fire or arrow to harden the Samurai to the prospect of death.   In time the Samurai would consider themselves already dead and therefore above any possible regret or loss.

The Stoics also practiced hardship to toughen themselves against misfortune. A Stoic might eat only bread for a day or more at a time and sleep on the floor to simulate a life of poverty, they ventured in to the public wearing rags and appearing disheveled in order to attract the scorn of the Elite. Saint Francis of Assisi made a commitment to a life of poverty with his conversion and forsake his wealth and title to lead a spiritual life of servitude and would often test his humility by venturing in to the community appearing like a common beggar often to the ridicule of the townspeople he would preach to.

I don’t suggest that we should go as far as giving away all of our possessions to live a simple life without wants. There is no need to join a monastery or to contemplate and meditate on a violent and graphic death. There are simpler ways to loosen our attachments and cultivate humility and ultimately serenity.

Practice non-attachment

Meditate on loss, visualize losing something important such as your job or a prized possession. Do this daily if you can in a quiet place. Attempt this exercise with caution as visualizing the death of loved ones or your own death can be confronting. The object is not to be morbid but to simply take a detached view of the event as if an observer looking in. This can be integrated into your meditation practice or done in quiet contemplation. Be calm, at peace and passive when doing this and back off if you begin to feel strong emotions such as anxiety or grief.

I regularly contemplate the loss of employment and imagine the stress and anxiety of financial loss. I also imagine being injured or killed in an accident but contemplate in a passive manner without drawing emotions. On occasion I also imagine more catastrophic events such as a natural disaster, war or another calamity which would utterly change my life and those around me.

Contemplate loss and view unwanted events in a detached manner and with time the underlying anxiety that pervades the experience will dissipate if you simply let it. So will attachments however you will value what you have more. By contemplating the loss of what you value, you not only build up your own mental resilience and fortify yourself against emotional anguish but you will also learn to want the things you have and spend less time wanting for things you don’t.

Control the things you can

Control is Serentiy

Accept the things you can’t….

Jedi were renown for having control over their emotions and staying in control seemingly when others were losing their minds. They were calm and completely at peace but behind that serenity was the potential for decisive action. Jedi were also adept at manipulating and controlling the Force with their minds and at times also controlling the minds of others through “mind-tricks”.

One could almost describe a Jedi Master as a sort of Warrior-Monk Stoic, completely devoid of inner disturbance and completely present in a state of equanimity and purpose amidst a raging storm. Of course this is fiction and only an ideal, not reality. The truth is that few but the most disciplined practitioners and adherents of a monastic order could achieve the same measure of internal emotional control and then they would still be subject to the vagaries of the world. Very few people would be able to achieve the same level of self control as a Jedi Master.

The main difference between a Jedi and an ordinary person is their ability and the wisdom to discern what resides within their control and what lies outside of it and to respond accordingly. Jedi have the serenity to accept the things they cannot change and the courage to change the things they can. More importantly a Jedi will know the difference between the two and reflect that in their decisions and actions.

It is important to remind ourselves that despite our best efforts sometimes we do not achieve our goals in life for a number of reasons. Life is not so simple and often the path is convoluted and beset with traps and pit falls most of which we have no control over. Awareness of control is important as it will lead to acceptance of failure and humility in success and ultimately a greater sense of serenity and peace.

What is intrinsic to you is what you have control over. Your thoughts, actions, words, motivation and your response to emotional stimuli ultimately reside entirely within your sphere of control. As you move from your inner world to your outer world your degree of control over your world diminishes. You have partial control over your health but not complete control, you exert partial control over the behaviors of people close to you but ultimately every person has free will to choose how they think and feel.

Remote events whether local or internationally happen with or without our consent, the planet revolves on its axis and orbits around the sun and the cosmos evolves and expands utterly indifferent to our existence or cares. Take some time to appreciate the difference between what is within your control, what is partially within your control and what is completely outside of your control. Act with purpose where you can and be prepared to accept the outcomes with equanimity and grace.

Grant me serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And wisdom to know the Difference

The serenity prayer is one of the most profound prayers written and it one that I read daily as part of my 12 Step practice in acceptance. I understand that I cannot expect the world to revolve around me, I accept that things may not go the way I plan. However what choices I do have is how I will respond to life every moment. I know that in the course of the day I will feel a wide range of emotions some of which may feel unpleasant however I still decide how I respond to and act out those emotions. Do I allow myself to feel anger? Yes, as a human being I will feel anger or disgust in certain circumstances, however I choose how to respond to those emotions. I can lash out or attack another person or I can remain calm and explore the emotion, allow it to take its course and then choose how to act in an appropriate manner.

As an active alcoholic I had no realistic grasp on emotions and rarely applied control. In addition I had no concept of the fact that some things were not in my control and I lived in a false reality where it was normal that the world should make allowances for me. Of course this continued in early sobriety when I thought that being dry gave me some sort of entitlement to be treated special and I would rebel when people did not conform to my expectations. Society does not function for me, I am a part of society and a small part at that. Over time I began to realize that I needed to focus on what I can change (myself) and do my best with what I had partial control over. I have to be prepared to accept and let go of the things I have no control over at all.

Understanding our limited influence, the impermanence of our impression upon the world and the fleeting amount of time we have to spend in the material plane within our limited bodies is both humbling and liberating. We realize that we are a minuscule part of the whole which makes up the Universe, that we are each a single beautiful note within the expanse of the grand symphony of life. The part of the whole. With your feet planted firmly on the ground ask yourself these three questions as it applies to what is happening in this moment, in your life and with what you hope to achieve:

  1. What is in my control?
  2. What is outside of my control?
  3. What are my choices and how do I act?

Then go out and act and do so with mindfulness, purpose and single-minded intent.


Remain on purpose

Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)

In the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back”, Yoda was referring to purpose and single-minded intent when he advised Luke Skywalker on how he should not attempt to lift an X-Wing Fighter out of the swamp of Dagobah. The scene is a reminder of the power of the mind in achieving almost anything by simply focusing your intent and concentration on a given objective.

In life we often have the luxury to simply “try” at something, make an attempt and if it fails we can simply let it go and move on with the next thing. This is an acceptable and appropriate approach to most things in life and since childhood many of us would have heard the words of parents and coaches “Do the best you can” and “It’s not win or lose but how you play the game” and of course “Try your best”. As long as we try our best and give it our best shot we can be assured that the opportunity was not wasted whether we succeeded or failed.

In some cases it would be fair to say that “to try” is not good enough. For example would we be happy if we boarded a plane and the Pilot said he was going to “Try” to fly the plane and land at the destination? Would we be filled with confidence if before a major surgery our Doctor said he was going to “Try” to complete the operation without major complications? I would argue that in both cases the appropriate approach would be to go in with intent to succeed and a mindset that precluded failure as an option or not attempt it at all.

Jedi Philosophy requires that “We do or do not. There is no try” if we wish to succeed in its practice. A practical philosophy for life is not effective as a philosophy of life if we do not commit to its practice. One may simply “try” to apply a philosophy in their life and largely fail at the attempt, they are only really cheating themselves and missing out on the real benefits that consistent and disciplined application would bring.

Firstly we have to query our personal motivation for integrating Jedi Philosophy into our life. Determine whether it will work for you and commit to it if you want to honestly see if bring benefits. Any philosophy takes effort, energy and sacrifice to practice.

Jedi Philosophy if practiced diligently may not be as hard as say practicing Zen Buddhism and sitting for hours a day but it does still require self-discipline and dedication like anything else worth doing. If you simply “Try” to adopt some of the practices of being Jedi for a short period of time or do it inconsistently you will get some benefit but nowhere near someone who has adopted it as a way of life.

Focus, concentration and effort is the key. Someone who practices a musical instrument from time to time is not going to master it as fast as someone who practices diligently for an hour or more a day. The same goes with sports, martial arts, languages and behaviors.

Once I heard that it takes 1000 hours of practice and application to be proficient in something and 10,000 hours to master it. The point is, the more effort you apply to something, the more you get out. Tony Robbins was once asked how it was that he was such a great public speaker, his reply was “I just do it a lot”. Doing something for an hour a day will take a lot more commitment to do than one hour a week but it will lead to mastery quicker.

Ask yourself today, will you simply “try” to achieve what you set out to do  or will you give your tasks (and training) the mindfulness and purpose that it deserves? Will you give it the time that it deserves?