You must unlearn what you have learned” – Yoda

Yoda was 900 years old when he met Luke Skywalker on Dagobah. That would have made him a Master by any definition. Despite his age and experience, Yoda was humble enough to be reminded by the younglings he taught in the Temple on Coruscant the value of having a beginners mind. On Dagobah he also admonished Luke to put aside what he thought he knew and empty himself of prior experience so that he could be open and receptive to learning, like a beginner.

You can’t learn what you think you already know. There is a reason beginners in karate and other martial arts are given a white belt. White is the color that represents Shoshin, the Zen concept of a mind that is fresh and new, waiting to be taught and  filled with knowledge. In martial arts having a beginners mind keeps one humble and always open to learning. Soshin is the beginners mind of a white belt, however even a black belt is just a white who never quit. In a Dojo you will often find the Sensei wearing a white belt in recognition of the unlimited potential of the “beginners mind”.

Despite his age and mastery as a Jedi, Yoda demonstrated a purer form of Shoshin. That state of mind opened him to the power of the Force and led Yoda to enlightenment.

Observe… without preconceptions and with a blank mind.” – Taiichi Ohno

Al Kavadlo is a well-known personality in the calisthenics community with over 20 years as a personal trainer in New York, a string of books and a growing YouTube channel. Other than being exceptional in the art of calisthenics Kavadlo is also respected for being a warm, humble and positive guy who works to motivate people to reach their goals. In his book “Zen Mind, Strong Body: How To Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength – Using The Power Of “Beginner’s Mind“, Cavadlo states that the path to excellence is often a simple one. We tend to waste a lot of time complicating things and making them harder instead of “keeping it simple” and doing the basics well even when reaching mastery. We should always adopt a beginners mind and view our training with a fresh set of eyes like any novice.


Kavadlo’s Zen like approach to training resonates with me because I have also practice calisthenics. It is a simple but humbling form of exercise which trains complete control of the body through strength and agility. Body and mind work as one. Progress can be very slow. After many years of training it is not unusual to be humbled over and over again by a move that eludes you but others find easy to master. It is also an easy practice to become arrogant and conceited as you progress only to have that progress cut by months or years through a simple injury caused by over-confidence. Many people quit after months of effort because they failed to realize calisthenics is as much a mental journey as a physical one. It require a beginners mind to master.

You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” – Unknown (sometimes attributed to Yoda).

The 12 Steps is about “keeping it simple” and never becoming so conceited that you no longer see the blind spots in front of you. Its about having a “beginners mind” and being humble enough to admit that alcohol is a cunning opponent that exploits arrogance and complacency. Years of abstinence helps but it does not guarantee we will never relapse back into old habits. Having a beginners mind reminds us that we are only one drink away from total relapse.

The 12 Steps also reinforces the need to getting back to basics. Instead of telling ourselves that we know it all already we have to be prepared to adopt a beginners mind in our recovery. After many years of recovery we can still lack emotional sobriety. Over the years we can hit a spiritual plateau and began to stagnate. Some of us are headed for trouble unless we take notice and arrest the slide. We must put aside any perception of mastery and become a humble beginner again and re-learn the basics from scratch. We take on a “beginners mind”. The 12 Steps is a circle it is not a linear path with an end point. In recovery we must often revisit the foundation steps in order to maintain our sobriety.

Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” – Yoda

Recently I have been experiencing a type of mental, physical and spiritual low which left me in a rut. During this time I felt myself often angry and frustrated over little things. I no longer cared about what I was doing or the people around me. “Stinking thinking” started to pervade my thoughts and as they did my behaviour began to change. It was affecting my relationships, my job and my health. I began to lose progress in my training, I stopped writing and in self-pity I began to consider whether I should leave the Jedi Path. Then I picked up and read “Zen Mind, Strong Body” and found that having a beginners mind is very much a part of being Jedi.

I got back to work with a beginners mind. Ideas and possibilities began to reveal themselves. Where before I refused to see past my own problems I now started seeing solutions. The Force started to work for me through an attitude of Shoshin.

So pick yourself up and shake yourself off. Pick up the basic text and read as if it were the first time. Train, meditate, read, pray, eat, sleep and repeat. Treat each day with the respect it deserves as a chance to start afresh and discover new opportunities and experiences. Do what you have to do but keep it simple and get back to basics. Do it with a “beginners mind”.

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” – Shunryu Suzuki.

Zen Mind, Strong Body: How to Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength—Using the Power of “Beginner’s Mind” by Al Kavadlo (paperback or e-book from Amazon or Dragon Door publications

Jedi practice meditation

Meditation is clearly a part of the Jedi lifestyle. Jedi believe that a calm mind can be achieved through meditation and contemplation. Jedi need to meditate often in order to clear their minds. Our minds, like sponges, get contaminated from the world, and need to be cleaned out daily. We even absorb things from those who are around us, and from our environments, the food we eat, etc. so it’s important to keep a calm, focused, clear mind and to meditate daily.

(33 Jedi Traits)

The Finger at the Moon

When we think of the Buddha we imagine a spiritual person sitting in a lotus position meditating. There is a serene expression on his face. The image captures a sense of peace, calm and equanimity. Nothing could disturb that state. Meditation is like a peddle in a pond but it also a rock in a sea of chaos. By sitting we clear our mind of the noise and pollution of the day. Meditation allows us to unify body, mind and soul for a short time. We are unified with our true state of being.

Quiet the mind and the soul will speak” – Bhagavati

To Jedi the practice of meditation is more than a daily practice or a discipline. The Jedi use meditation and contemplation to better understand the nature of the Force and to seek connection with the Force that resides within. The fictional Jedi are often presented in the state of meditation. Yoda levitating above a forest floor, Obi-Wan Kenobi cross legged with eyes closed and head tilted slightly forward, his back straight and hands cupped before him is how we imagine it. Yet meditation need not seem mysterious or mystical. It is not the sole domain of Monastics, Warrior-Monks and Mystics.

“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace” – Yoda

When asked to explain the moon, an old Zen Master pointed at the moon. Meditation is not a secret esoteric practice, it is simple and available to all. The reason to meditate is to bring us body, mind and soul to the present moment and to who we truly are.


I have to admit I have tried to practice meditation since I was a child. For me it was an escape from reality. It took me to places of peace and tranquillity. Laying in bed I would focus and on the breath. I would let go and seemingly be transported to another realm of consciousness. It seemed that I was being projected through space. Entire galaxies and bright nebulae arched past me as vivid as if they were real. I felt as if I were separate from my body and would soon open my eyes and find myself back in my room. An energy would resonate through me. I felt I had been gone for hours.

Through my years of active alcoholism I tried to recapture that magical sensation of being completely aware of my inner and outer world. I wanted to project my consciousness to another dimension as I seemed to have done as a child. There was a peace, a holiness there. Something pure and serene. It felt like home. Booze let me escape from reality but there was no answer there just more suffering.

“I meditate so that my mind cannot complicate my life” – Sri Chinmoy

Meditation is not about escape or withdrawal from life it is about being completely in engaged in life. It is about knowing our selves.

Learning to Breath

As much as I tried I could never meditate again. My mind was agog with thoughts and activity. The noise was too loud. My emotions bubbled under the surface and could not be ignored. Every time I tried to sit I found that negative thoughts and images would intrude and grow stronger as I fought to remove them. My breath was all other the place. I could not even breath normally. It was pointless and the only time I imagined some success was when I fell asleep.

Meditation is easy but it also very hard. For me it was like learning to breath correctly after a lifetime of doing it wrong. Many of us in recovery know the benefits and we practice meditation because it helps us cope. We sit every day. Some days we can manage a few minutes of Meditation without succumbing to a train of thought other day we can last for 20 minutes to an hour.

Meditation is not zoning out as some would believe. It is being completely aware of what is going on inside and outside of ourselves. We are allowing our body to sleep while our mind is completely awake. Meditation is an active process of focus and attention. Contemplation is meditating on the Divine self. This requires effort and practice.

“True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure silent prayer” – Adyashanti

Seek though Meditation

The 12 Steps suggest meditation as a way of building a solid foundation to our recovery. How we meditate or contemplate our Higher Power is up to each of us. The idea is that we devote some time daily to the practice. The benefits are emotional and spiritual balance and stability.  We can meditate to music, a meditation chime or simply by following the breath. Some people use a mantra to help them focus. I use “calm, at peace, passive”, each word follows the other with the breath. “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me” is another mantra that I use to help connect me to the Force.

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” – Step 11


Meditation is a personal practice. Each person will find a different way to sit in meditation or contemplation. It can be done lying down, sitting, in a lotus position or even walking. Lying down may bring on sleep and the lotus position can be painful. Use a straight back chair and sit upright with both feet on the floor and hands crossed on your lap. With head tilted slightly forward get comfortable and take three deep breaths and clear your mind. Now close your eyes and commence a mantra or listen to a guided meditation*. Otherwise relax your eyes and focus on an object a few feet away. Allow your awareness to expand outward, growing larger with every breath.

Now allow yourself to relax completely and scan your body from feet to head. Lingering at each body part imagine a white light there enveloping it and glowing softly. As you work your focus upward feel each body part releasing and relaxing as the light spreads. With the end of the body scan return to the breath or the mantra or continue to allow the guide to take you through the meditation. If thoughts start to form in your mind simply let them go imagining them to be like clouds passing in the wind. Allow any body distractions such as itching or aches to gently dissipate without getting distracted. Shift your body slightly or scratch the itch if required and resume focus without breaking attention. As the time comes allow yourself to gently exit the meditation. Look around you and see how everything appears clearer and sharper.

“Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenate the body” – Deepak Chopra

*Jedi Meditations (courtesy Jedi Living):