I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. Each time I look back and try to learn something from those mistakes, I realize something about myself; I am not a very disciplined person. I try to make myself out to be one. I might boast that I can get all As, or that I can have a job, go to class, and be in an opera all at the same time. But, these accomplishments do not take much effort for me. School has never been hard. And, when it did get hard, I dropped the difficult classes for the easy one, or I cheated to get what I wanted. I have a pattern of giving up when things become unpredictable or chaotic, and that is what this sermon is about.
The 16 teachings tell us that “Jedi maintain a clear mind”. We are to practice meditation and mindfulness so that we can see with clarity the intentions and possible consequences of our actions. We consistently have to practice the discipline of being Jedi; otherwise we end up not having any direction in life. I find myself, day after day, ignoring the things I should be doing and instead focus on tasks that will numb me from experiencing life to the fullest.
How many of us turn away from the power of discipline, and instead resort to negative rituals? Do you find yourself becoming excited about a new goal, only to wake up the next morning and go back to your boring cereal, your internet surfing, your boring day job, your boring wife, your smoking addiction, or whatever? We put so much energy on these negative habits that it almost seems like we have disciplined ourselves to be self-sabotaging. I have been trying to consider why I might have failed at many of the things I wanted to do in life… Why is it that I consistently fail at losing weight? Why is it that I continually tell myself I will pick up a martial discipline and I never do? Why is it that I regret going to my music classes every day and I won’t take a stand and say: “I don’t want to do this anymore”?
We spend so much of our lives in self-sabotage… or at least I know that I do… that I never get to see the lightness of the multitudes of possibilities. I approach my days with such tunnel vision that my discipline is predestined for me. I will continually condition myself to be dead inside. I will continually condition myself to be empty and without passion. For how long?
What does it take to have courage? If you read the passage from the 21 maxims: “To be a Jedi sometimes means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one”… it so hits home for me. We have to have the will to change. We have to open up our eyes and see the truth of the situation:
We are disciplined to destroy ourselves.
We pick up habits that numb ourselves from the true pleasures of life so that we can also avoid the pain of uncertainty and true loneliness. I’m not here to tell you that this is wrong… I’ve certainly believed my entire life that this was the better path. It seemed so much better that I not live and instead protect myself until my shell of a body dies at 40 from lack of will. At some point, we stop trying, and we become a soulless being.
I think it should be the goal of the Jedi to eradicate this monstrosity. We must take a step forward from being a reactive shield to being a Being of Light that shines forward. We, as Jedi, can develop discipline in the midst of uncertainty.
Pema said it best:
“Our habitual patterns are, of course, well established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn’t enough. Mindfulness and awareness are key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is part of our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but know that we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.” – Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty.
She is saying that there are a couple of things you and I can do right now to develop better discipline: We can stop and breathe when things fall apart; we can question the validity of chaos [i.e. what good does the chaos serve me? Do I need it? If not, can I discard it?]; and, we can become vulnerable because this brings us honesty instead of protection.
This is where fickleness comes into play. In order to develop proper discipline, we have to be flexible. Our conclusion-based living has to stop. As I wrote earlier, we are trapped in our perspectives. We think that we are dead already and that we are passengers on a train bulleting straight for a brick wall. We’re stranded in the midst of uncertainty, and we feel like there is nothing we can do.
On the contrary, we have the power. We have the power of flexibility. We can take a step back and view this from a larger perspective. We can take a breath and ask ourselves: What else is possible? What can I do that will remove these limitations? How could it get any better than this?
The thing about these questions… they unlock something within us. They give us the possibilities by opening our minds to places we didn’t know existed. Fickleness and playfulness when it comes to options go hand in hand. When we want to know if something is right for us, we need to be open to these possibilities otherwise we might miss something. So, stop being trapped by your beliefs and honestly ask yourself if you could dream up something new… something unpredictable! If it truly feels light, you will feel lighter. It will simply feel like you have reached a level of truth. You won’t be weighted down by the power of self-sabotage.
At this point, you can begin to develop your discipline. You can pull yourself from the chaos and make unto yourself a rock. You can build the foundation of your life, and rise up to be a light on the hillside, showing the joy of compassionate, fickle, disciplined living.
I love you, fellow Jedi. Contemplate these precepts, as they may guide you to a new level of ecstasy.
-Rev. Connor Martin Lidell, L.M.