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Please, take a moment to unmuddy your mind and relax your body. No more stirring for a bit. Give attention to the way your mind flows, where you flow around and where you flow through.

Silent, smooth.

Breathe.

So have I seen…

 

Ghafla

In Arabic, it translates as mindlessness.  It refers to the momentary distraction that drags, or lures, one away from focused devotion to Allah.  Devotion to God varies within our Temple (a Jedi’s business with God is her own affair), but I would like to borrow the idea of the Rigid Distraction, and I invite you to explore it with me.

The Rigid Distraction, the sticking point, the barbed thing, the persistent barrier that draws or catches you off the path. So many possibilities…

 

I don’t feel like it…

I don’t see the harm…

I am in pain…

This is the real world…

I have suffered so much…

I hate him…

Just this once…

They don’t deserve it….

It’s so hard…

No one will know…

 

What draws you off your path?  What sends you spinning where, in that moment, you are not the Jedi you set out to be?  One moment, calm, vigilant, keenly sensitive to landscapes within and without, then… then you are elsewhere. It need not be left to the judgment of others.  You know, don’t you?

Or do you? How many times have you found yourself thrown and could not remember when or why you lost your footing?  What turned your head?

Find that, and you find the stone in your path, the rigid obstruction. Do not expect to find it (or all of them), now, all at once, as we speak.  Respect your own process enough to give it the gifts of time, patience, and effort. 

But we’ll have a look.

The Stone

Hold it in your hands, see it: the stone of your rigid distraction. A wall in your way, but held in your two hands.  Turn it over.  And again.  Let’s try to see it another way…

The barrier does not obstruct the path.  The barrier is the path.  And the seen barrier, the named barrier, is a profound gift. Make this the foundation of your practice.

Now, this can be approached in contemplative remove, and you may do this as often as you like.  But we must also do this in the midst of the beautiful calamity of living. That cannot be skipped or avoided.

First, I will ask you to notice.  Simply notice the stone.  Is it obvious, or subtle?  Sometimes a boulder blocks the path.  Fine.  Easy to spot.  Or, perhaps a smooth, flat stone.  A slippery one.  Or a pernicious sharpness that catches the toe.  You notice that you are capsized only on the way down, if at all.  Unless you were already looking.

And if you suddenly find yourself facedown, gently say to yourself, “Enough.  This is far enough.  I don’t need to make any more of this particular mistake.” With the barrier, be ruthless, but be tender with yourself.  No shame, no recriminations.  Responsibility to pass the barrier, not shame for its presence.

Lay the truth out in front of you. See it.  Name it.  Do not talk around it.  Here, you will need the honesty of a scalpel. You are able. Name it.

The seen barrier, the named barrier, is a profound gift.  And as it is named, turn the stone over again.  There is more to see.

The barrier expresses a need. Or a fear.  Often both.  Did you know that?  It’s true.  The barrier is in you, of you, from you, part of you.  And it is you wanting and wanting to avoid:  I want this.  I want to avoid that.  I want to be protected from what might come next.  I want to stay as I am. I want to feel something, but I don’t want to feel that.

What need does the barrier express?  If I am driven to attack someone, what need is being served by that?  If I am running from something, then why?

The needs expressed by this distraction, this great stone, get in the way.  Otherwise, it would not be a problem. Can you allay those fears?  Can you meet those needs in a way that does not work against you? What else do you want? 

I want to scream at you, I want to strike you. You never stop talking and I want to punish you for that.  And I want to punish you for making me angry, because I thought I wasn’t supposed to get angry.  I don’t like myself when I’m like this and I want to punish you for that too.  And I’m afraid I’m like you too because I think things even uglier than what you say. And I’m not certain I can protect myself from either one of us.  Except…

Except that I’m human. And while I want all of those things, I really do, I want something else too.  I want to feel comfortable in my own skin.  And I want to feel like it means something when I say, “I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace.”  I want my commitments to myself and my brothers and sisters to mean something.  I want to know the serenity that comes from the long, slow walk of training.  And falling to my distraction is not training as such, but getting up from my fall absolutely is. 

So I remember what I want and I move past this.  And it may take a few tries.  And I may skin elbows and knees, bloody my lip, but they will be honest scrapes.

And, if I am not ready to take that step, I will sit in front of that barrier.  I will not trip over it. I know how not to fall down.  But I will sit before that stone and peer into it.  And I will ask it questions and look for the answers in my own body: the flutters, the warm strength in my breast, the cold bundle of needles in my belly. I will ask the stone, the rigid distraction, questions and see within.

And when I am ready, when it has no power left, I will roll the stone aside, or simply step around it. And I will keep my eyes open for the next.

The Force is with us.