River's offerings

31 Jan 2022 21:05 #365898 by River
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As our pastor Carlos prepares for a cross- country move, I've been reminiscing about my own many moves.

Moving feels so intimidating at first, even if I'm excited for the move or know that it will be beneficial for me. There are so many things to decide whether to keep or donate or throw away, to pack up and to load for the trip. Then on the other end there is unpacking, finding new homes and spaces for everything, figuring out new systems for how to function smoothly in a different kitchen and living space... It's a big shift and it can feel overwhelming. Sometimes I even feel some regret. I have to just take it one step at a time and not look too far ahead. All I need to do is take the next right step.

I have a lot of the same feelings when I have a big learning and shift perspectives, too. I need to look at my old thoughts and habits and decide which are still good for me, and which I want to thank for their service and let go of. I have to mentally shift my thinking to accommodate the new perspective, and then unpack and make sure my old patterns and beliefs really do still fit. It can feel awkward for a while as I navigate the new perspective and figure out how to function within it. Sometimes it makes me wish I hadn't shifted at all, even if I know it's beneficial for me. All I need to do, though, is take the next right step.
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31 Jan 2022 21:09 #365899 by River
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(I felt like I'd let myself down not sticking to my "one sermon a month" plan, so I did one for February.)
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15 Feb 2022 20:36 #366301 by River
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The TotJO clergy has my permission to use this sermon

The Mind Garden

"If any one trusted your body to the first man he met, you would be indignant, but yet you trust your mind to the chance corner, and allow it to be disturbed and confounded if he revile you; are you not ashamed to do so?"
-- Epictetus in The Enchiridion, verse 28

All kinds of seeds get dropped into our minds every day. Each time we see an advertisement, hear a song, read a book, talk with a friend, a seed planted in the fertile soil of our minds. Every bit of input is another seed. Many seeds don't take hold at all, and pass unnoticed, but some seeds do begin to grow in our consciousness. It is our job, then, to be diligent gardeners and decide which fresh seedlings to help grow, which to set aside for another season's growth, and which to uproot. If we aren't deliberate with this, we will get all kinds of harvests that we may or may not have wanted. Some may even be harmful to us, the people around us, or the other plants we want to cultivate.

In order to know which plants are good to grow in a vegetable garden, we have to understand the strengths and limitations of the garden. Some plants grow well together while some will strangle each other. A specific type of soil may be good for one plant but unhealthy for another. We also need to have a harvest goal when deciding which seeds to allow to take root and tend to. If we want pumpkins and corn in autumn, we won't get them by planting tomato and blueberry seeds in spring. When it comes to a mind-garden, we similarly need to know who we are, or the layout and capabilities of our garden, and who we want to be, or what we want our harvest to be. We need to know our strengths and limitations so that we can choose goals that are attainable for us. We need to understand what we believe so that our goals align with our values. And we need to have a destination, a personal harvest, in mind so that we can plan out the steps along the way and make sure that we are starting with ideas and plans that will get us to our goal. If I aspire to become a jockey, learning to play the violin won't help me get there.

We need to understand ideal growing conditions for any garden as well. A vegetable garden requires shade for some plants and sun for others, lots of water for some plants and a drier space for others. Likewise, we may require audio materials or visual, more independent processing and learning or more time learning directly with others.

By knowing who we are and who we want to be, and understanding the way that we grow best, we make sure that our growth is as fruitful as possible.
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15 Feb 2022 20:39 #366302 by River
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Because I didn't realize it needed to be explicitly stated until very recently:

The TotJO clergy has my permission to use any of the sermons posted on this forum thread.

I'll add it at the top of sermons from now on, as well.
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04 Mar 2022 22:35 #366672 by River
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This sermon may be used by TotJO clergy

Leadership Symphony

Picture a quiet auditorium. On stage is a semi-circle of musicians dressed in black and white. On the left are the violins, then the violas in the center, with the cellos all the way to the right. Behind them are the brass and the woodwinds and backing them all, the percussion. Each section of the symphony has a part to play to create a masterful, moving whole. Each knows how to play their part; they've practiced which notes to play when, and for how long, and how loudly. Their part of the written score is in front of them as a reminder. But, as skilled and practiced as they are, all they have is their part. The sections need someone who knows all of their parts, all of their strengths, and has the blueprint for bringing them together.

He walks out onto the stage, tux tails flapping as he strides to his podium, in the center of it all. In front of him is the entire score, all of the sections' parts, covered in notations. He faces his team and makes sure they are ready. He sets the tempo and then, on his signal, the music begins. A hundred different instruments come together to form one glorious sound. The conductor lets each section know what he needs from them throughout the performance. He sets their tempos, gestures for smooth or staccato sounds, invites them to increase or decrease their volume... he knows what they are capable of, and how he needs to utilize those capabilities to create the exact piece of music they are tasked with playing. He is not a better musician, or a better person; he just has the full score and so his contribution to the team effort is putting all the pieces together.

The conductor is a true leader. He sees the overall goal and has the plan for how to get there. He understands what each member of his team contributes and knows how to support them. He weaves the pieces of his team together in just the right way to create just the effect that they need in each moment. He puts trust in his musicians, his team members, and simply lets them know what he needs from them, and when.

As Jedi, we often find ourselves in leadership roles. We spend time fostering the kind of traits - the compassiom, the wisdom, the humility - that make good leaders so it's natural that we will be called upon to lead at times. We must remember that leadership isn't about telling people what to do though, it's about having the knowledge and skill to support them in playing their part in the larger plan.
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29 Mar 2022 16:02 - 29 Mar 2022 16:18 #367231 by River
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The clergy of the Temple Of The Jedi Order has my permission to use this sermon as they see fit, at any time.

Positive, Negative, and Neutral

There are things in the world that we all pretty much agree are positive: who doesn't like the smell of warm cookies, the feel of a cozy blanket, or the sound of birds singing up the sun?

And there are things we generally agree are negative. The smell of rotting garbage, the ache of heartbreak, and the sound of fingernails being dragged down a chalkboard are pretty universally disliked.

But things get tricky sometimes. Some people love thunderstorms; they find them exciting and energizing. Some people don't like storms at all: maybe they find then scary or depressing. So then, are thunderstorms positive or negative? Well, it depends on the person. It depends on their past experience around storms, and their personal beliefs about thunder and lightning and heavy rain and winds. It would make sense to say, then, that the storm itself is neutral and each person judges it as positive or negative according to their personal biases.

Let's go back to our positive experience examples: the smell of cookies, a cozy blanket, and birdsong. I have a friend who worked at a bakery for years and her stomach still turns when she smells baked goods; it reminds her of hard work and early hours and the tons of the pastry she ate while she worked there. Sometimes a cozy blanket is nice, but not when you're already warm or have a sunburn. A lot of people enjoy birdsong but I often find it too high-pitched; it grates on my eardrums and I don't enjoy the experience at all. In each of these cases, personal bias shifts what is commonly a positive experience to a negative one. It seems to me that every experience is neutral until we project our own perspectives and biases onto it.

There are some pretty exciting things that can happen once we see that all of our experiences are, in reality, neutral. We can recognize our biases and do our best to see beyond them. We can spend time looking at our beliefs and how they affect our experience of the world, and decide whether we want to keep those beliefs or change them. We can learn to accept other people's experiences as valid for them, regardless of the facts of the experience, because they also have their own perspectives and biases.

Our minds have the power to color everything we experience, but we have the power to choose the paints it uses. Why not choose the colors that serve us and the people around us, empower growth, and promote peace?
Last edit: 29 Mar 2022 16:18 by River.
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26 May 2022 13:09 #368312 by River
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The clergy of the Temple Of The Jedi Order has my permission to use this sermon as they see fit, at any time.


"why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think seperately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last"
-- Rumi

Sometimes grief overwhelms us. The wrench of loss can be so strong that there isn't room for anything else in that moment. Whether we are grieving a death or the end of a relationship, or mourning a level of health or a distant friend, or missing the sense of security or innocence we once felt, letting go can be difficult. It can be painful, and it can be messy, but by resisting our experience - by judging ourselves for our emotions and trying to ignore or deny them - all we do is add another layer of grief.

The first line of the Code is "Emotion, yet Peace." We are human and of course we have emotions; they are a natural and useful part of us. Allow your feelings to be whatever they need to be, but remember that beneath that upset is the peace of the Force and it is that peace that you must act from when the time comes to act. The last line of the Code is "Death, yet the Force." Within every loss, within every death whether it be literal or figurative, there is the Force. The Force is the peace beneath the emotion, the knowledge beneath the ignorance, the serenity beneath passion, and the harmony beneath the chaos.

So grieve. Be sad. Be angry, be scared, be lost. But do not rest there for too long. Remember that your foundation, your home, is in the peace of the Force.
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18 Jun 2022 13:53 #368789 by River
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The clergy of the Temple Of The Jedi Order has my permission to use this sermon as they see fit, at any time.

Falling Apart
This sermon is inspired by the monthly reflection for July, "Corruptibilty, yet Integrity".

I don't think anyone alive would be able to say corruption isn't a concern in the world right now; not while keeping a straight face, anyway. From the leaders of nations inciting riots and public officials being paid by private corporations to a bit of cash being passed to a restaurant host to ensure a short wait time, corruption seems to be everywhere, at every level. It's easy to see these kinds of corruption - after all, the news outlets tell us about then every day - but what about the corruption in our personal lives? For me, that's a bit trickier.

I went to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and found that two of the several definitions of corruption are:

- a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct (as in, the corruption of computer files or a text)

- decay, decomposition (as in, the corruption of a carcass)

It seems to me that corruption is what happens when things stop trying. When, for whatever reason, they stop working toward being in alignment with their true and highest selves and instead become still and stagnate. That stillness, that lack of growth, allows corruption to creep in.

For me, the early signs of corruption looks like poor eating habits, not keeping up my meditation routine, not doing art or lessons, and isolating. When I see these signs of corruption in myself I know that it's time to put extra effort into moving again, and that's where integrity comes in. Going back to Merriam-Webster, two of the definitions for integrity are:

- an unimpaired condition

- the quality or state of being complete or undivided

So by moving toward my goals- by actively learning and growing - I move toward integrity and, necessarily, away from corruption.

If corruption is being unwhole or "falling apart" then integrity is "putting the pieces back together." This is something we all have the power to do for ourselves, by learning our personal early warning signs of corruption and choosing to actively move toward integrity when we see them.
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19 Jul 2022 12:39 #369410 by River
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The clergy of the Temple Of The Jedi Order has my permission to use this sermon as they see fit, at any time.

What Can One Person Do?

The world is a pretty intense place to live right now. It can feel overwhelming to look at all of the confusion and fear and anger and hurt around us. Sometimes, for some people, hopelessness can creep in. We begin to wonder, what can one person do to stand for peace in the face of such huge things happening in places we can't really even access, like parliament or the Supreme Court or Ukraine? There are protests and letter writing campaigns and donations, and those are all good and worthy things... but I feel like I need there to be more somehow. I thought it would be a good time to turn to better minds than mine for some inspiration.

"Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyze us... Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world... Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so."
-- Thich Naht Hanh

"Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person."
-- R. Buckminster Fuller

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."
-- Edward Everett Hale

"One person can make a difference. You don't have to be a big shot. You
don't have to have a lot of influence. You just have to have faith in
your power to change things."
-- Norman Vincent Peale

"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."
-- Marian Wright Edelman

Looking at these quotes, and looking through history, I do believe that one person just doing their best can make a difference. Even if that difference may not seem very big, many people making many small improvements can add up quickly! Of course, the entire world is not changed in a single moment by a single person acting entirely alone; it is the combined efforts of many individuals doing their personal best that creates change. Each person's effort is needed to create the shift, though, and in that sense it is one person - many "one persons" - that creates change. Even the stand out names in history books had vast support networks of people enabling them to get to that one peak moment that means that they happened to be the name someone wrote down.

But how? How can we make the best changes possible, even within our personal scope of influence? I believe our Doctrine holds the blueprint. Through the Three Tenets we learn that focus leads to knowledge, and knowledge is foundational for wisdom. Honing our focus, gathering knowledge, and developing wisdom give us the ability to live up to our Creed; to offer love, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy consolation, and understanding. Those are all great things to be able to give others, and having that amazing support would surely enable those around us to take action within their own spheres of influence. We could support each other to spread the positivity until it reaches a critical mass and history begins to shift.

But what does it look like on the practical level to love, to give joy and light and hope, to be genuinely understanding? How do I live those ideals out in my own life? To answer this, I suggest we turn to The 16 Teachings and The 21 Maxims. They spell it out for us. As an example, the first Maxim is "Prowess: To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a Jedi." And it even goes on to tell us exactly how: "A Jedi strives to acquire greater skill and expertise in what they do at all times so that it may be used in the service of the greater good, and not for personal profit. This requires discipline, patience and perfect practice." The tenth Teaching even provides hope in much the same way as the quotes I shared above. It reads, "Jedi serve in many ways. Each action performed, no matter the scale, influences the world. With this in mind Jedi perform each action with peace, caring, love, compassion and humility. So it is that each Jedi improves the world with each deed they perform."

All that we need to do is laid out in our own Doctrine, just waiting for us to realize it. And when we falter, when we become overwhelmed and lose hope and feel that the darkness is just too dark, we have the Code. The Code brings us back to center by reminding us that deep down at the source and root of it all
There is no Emotion, there is Peace.
There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge.
There is no Passion, there is Serenity.
There is no Chaos, there is Harmony.
There is no Death, there is the Force.
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06 Aug 2022 12:54 #369756 by River
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The clergy of the Temple Of The Jedi Order has my permission to use this sermon as they see fit, at any time.

Fickleness, yet Discipline

August's TotJO reflection is "fickleness, yet discipline." Let's start with the Oxford Language dictionary.

"Fickle, adjective, changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection; from the Old English 'ficol' meaning deceitful."

Hoo boy. I'm autistic so I can develop intense and consuming special interests. I also have ADHD so those interests can shift daily or even hourly at times. I think this happens for everyone to some degree though. Something will capture our interest and we just can't get enough until we become over-saturated, whether it be eating a specific meal every day for a few weeks and then suddenly being sick of it, bingeing a show until one day you just don't really care any more, or intensely researching a topic only to experience a sudden drop off of curiosity. In some situations, fickleness probably doesn't really matter. If you're watching television just to unwind, who cares if you watch two-thirds of a series and then abandon it to begin another series? On the other hand, sometimes fickleness can be deceitful, as its entymology suggests. It may feel better in the moment but if you're working on a project, get bored and jump to another project, abandon that one to start a third and fourth only to return to the first for a while... well, not much is going to get done. If you begin to build a personal meditation practice but drop it in favor of more screen time whenever it becomes a challenge to find time or motivation, your lack of discipline deprives you of the important benefits of meditation.

"Discipline, noun, the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience; from the Latin 'disciplina' meaning, instruction or knowledge."

Parts of the current definition, the ones about training people to obey rules and using punishment to correct behavior, don't really fit with my understanding of this month's reflection. Or maybe it's just the wording that doesn't resonate with me. I see discipline in this case as more internal and self driven than "training people to obey rules" sounds. Learning to follow a code behavior that one has chosen for oneself seems more in Jedi ideals to me. I think internal discipline, rather than discipline applied from the outside, is what matters in this discussion. Sometimes finding and maintaining discipline is difficult. For me, what helps is to remember the "why" of something. Rather than telling myself, "I need to meditate now" I say, "I am going to meditate now so that I can be a more peaceful and less anxious person" or "I am going to take this opportunity to meditate as a part of learning to act rather than react in emotional situations." I might find the discipline to stick to a difficult lesson by telling myself "I am choosing to continue with this work because I value the insight and broader knowledge base I will gain" rather than "I have to finish this lesson."

Whenever fickleness strikes, it behooves us to consider whether it is a case in which shifting focus really matters. If it does, gentle and sustainable discipline may be found in reminding ourselves of the reasons behind the things we do rather than trying to brute-force apply will power. Our actions should be designed to bring us more into alignment with the Force, and reminding ourselves of that motivation can cultivate not just discipline but enthusiasm.

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