Archives for the month of: August, 2016

Sun Tzu wrote:
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

Life has been, as my journal entries might attest to, more chaotic than usual, of late.

What is chaos? We habitually think of something “chaotic” as essentially random: unpredictable, hence incomprehensible. I have a systems background. Chaotic systems those where there are so many variables they cannot be accurately predicted, certainly. But that does not make them random. The outcome of a roulette wheel spinning obeys certain physical laws of force and momentum. Randomness is something I’m not sure really exists. Even those devices we use to produce a random output (the roll of a die or flip of a coin) aren’t in anywhere near a real sense, random. Even digital devices used to give a random number follow preset and comprehensible structures to produce their output. It’s fairer to say those things we call random, are chaotic.

And so it goes with life, from time to time. Chaos prevails, our expectations or plans are confounded. The Force moves in some unforeseen direction and we must adjust our course, or be dashed on the rocks. So it’s been for me, recently – having to make plans for the future of my children, my home life and my finances, only to have them all rearranged without my consent. It has been, in parts, terrifying, infuriating, deeply sad and utterly incomprehensible.

And yet.

We are Jedi. We follow the Force. The Force, that great, wide system which contains all things – all objects, all non-objects, all laws, principles, thoughts, words, meanings, everything and nothing itself. Can you imagine a more chaotic system? Such a thing is not possible, it seems to me. Were we the types to bow down before our creator, I can imagine this Temple like a great Mayan pyramid, with those of us engaged in our favoured brand of spirituality prostrate before the Great Knotted Ball of Wool that the messy, often senseless experience of life in the Force. The object of our “devotion” is just this: the chaos.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Almost Sith-like, given their denial of harmony. For me, the only true sense of harmony exists in such a chaotic, messy, unpredictable, confounding system. The zig-zagging line averages out to a straight course, and the sea stays in roughly the same place, despite high and low tide. Waves. If the system has any pattern at all, it is in waves. What sweeps in, sweeps on out again. What grows, decays. What lives, dies. And what comes up, descends again into obscurity.

My own crazy path through my recent periods of unrest has been, frankly, necessary. How does one come to serenity without ever knowing agitation? I recognise and welcome both elements, however hard it is to do. I accept the bad things which happen to me as bad, without denying myself the emotional experience of anger, fear, frustration. I need that fuel for the kiln of my self. I need the truth of all my experience, to live a real, authentic life. I need all this, whether I want it or not. Not wanting it, not coping with it, not dealing with it… that’s all necessary.

We require the chaos, but we can recognise the waves. The old quote goes “We can’t stop the waves, but we can learn how to surf”. I understand the wisdom there, but for me I’d say we need to drown a good few times in our lives, too. We need to fly, too. And once we have, we start to recognise the value of our place here on the surface, floating, bobbing. Do the peaks and troughs get less extreme? If anything, in my life they have only grown more so. But my ability to descend into those gullies, and emerge on those peaks, has been vastly improved by both their recognition, and the training I have received (and continue to receive) from my mentors.

Some might chastise others, for things in their life which are “not Jedi”. For me, the only thing which comes close to being “not Jedi” is the incapacity to learn from whatever comes into a life. Both our lives, and those of others. To be a Jedi is to be a student of the universe, a pupil of chaos, a scholar of the waves. To take what we’re given and to BE it. To DO it. To EMBODY it. And to learn everything this wide plane of existence has in store for us. Even those who would chastise us as “not Jedi” for some of it. Even those who expect us to feel less because our code speaks of Peace. It also speaks of Emotion. It also speaks of Chaos.

Everything in its measure, each in proportion.

Chaos, yet Harmony.
Waves, yet Serenity.

Meditation is a core practise for many of us, as Jedi, and as such we frequently field requests from members new and old who are unsure how to actually do it. Today I’d like us to try a technique I use pretty much daily, along with sharing some of the insights it has provided. A metaphor I use for meditation is to “gaze into the puddle”. Doesn’t sound very glamorous, does it? And that’s deliberate; meditation isn’t something fancy, which requires great spiritual insight to accomplish. It isn’t special or fancy, doesn’t require specialised equipment, and if done with the right attitude it can be the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, if one can gaze into a puddle for a few minutes, then they can meditate. The two things have more in common than it might seem…

When we meditate, we are taking something very ordinary to ourselves (our mental life) and responding to it in a different way. Rather than chasing our thoughts, we observe them. Rather than directing the flow, we let whatever comes, come. Like a puddle, stirred by storms or footsteps, our minds can become opaque to us. And like a puddle, if our minds are too turbulent we can find clarity by allowing them time to settle. Like a puddle, we may only see through to the ground, a clear and featureless shape without any obvious meaning. We may see our own familiar face, reflected back. The face we have seen more times than any other, since our first glimpse into a mirror. And also like a puddle, we may catch a glimpse of something else entirely: something unexpected, and something beautiful.

Most often, the puddle in my mind’s eye takes on the reflected image of a sunset, full of vibrant colours, drifting clouds and fluid movement. It swirls with a dreamlike life of its own, flashes of images and snatches of ideas coming and going as I quietly observe. I feel myself, my true, authentic self, the thing that notices all this. “I” am outside of all this shifting motion, yet aware that at a very real level what I am observing is “me”. I wonder to myself; am I a Jedi in the form of a puddle? Or a puddle in the form of a Jedi?

Both Jedi and puddle, puddle and Jedi, all as one in the Force. The wind blows across my face, over my arms and on through the trees. The puddle shifts again and I am indelibly aware of the connection between it all, wind, puddle, tree and me. The boards I sit on. The stars overhead. The ticking of the clock on the wall and the turning of the earth. All necessary. All perfect. All one, in the Force.

I’d like for us to take a moment, now, to sit in contemplation, around puddles of our own. When I ask you to, please close your eyes. Let yourself become still. Observe your breath, without control, and imagine you are standing over your puddle, looking down. Whatever comes next, let it come. Observe without becoming engaged in whatever you find there. If your mind wanders, nudge it back kindly. Take at least three minutes for this exercise.

Let’s begin: You are standing over your puddle. Close your eyes, and gaze in!

What did you see? How did you feel? What surprised you? What did you learn?

I hope this exercise was useful for you, as it has been for me. I hope you can continue to use it, adapt it and evolve it into your practise. And I hope this gives you just a small glimpse of the amazing power of our own perception; we can take a simple pool of water, something we each pass every day without a second thought, and turn it into a formidable tool for reflection, understanding and growth. Gaze into it all: the swaying branches, the billowing clouds, the crackling fire. What’s out there can reveal what’s within, if you let it.

The entire world has lessons for us, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Move through this world with open eyes. Stay receptive to that which crosses your path. Be thankful for all that you learn.

And may the Force be with you, my friends.

I am a Jedi, in tune with the Force.

Let me be mindful as I walk,
Let me be open as I discover,
Let me be thankful as I learn.

The Force is with me always, for I am a Jedi.