My Trial of Flesh
In the many years that I have been running the Jedi Path Academy, I have worked very hard to make it about the path, and not about me. Trying to avoid the cult of personality we see in so many other Jedi websites or organizations. But I realize that what I have to say here, the path as I see it is the path I have walked these past 15 years. All Jedi have a path in common but each of our journeys is individual. So this essay will be a little bit of a departure and discuss my journey over the past couple of years or so.
I have a rare version of an already rare autoimmune disorder called Dermatomyositis which in turn has given me Interstitial Lung Disease. The disease has now progressed to where I am on oxygen full time, and we are at the stage where we are exhausting other treatments before considering a lung transplant.
Part of navigating this illness the past years is having to endure many tests and treatments, often traveling more than three hours to get to a research university hospital system. And having to do these things as my health continued to decline and things become more and more difficult. I treat all these tests and appointments I must go through as a kind of training. It is not just training, but also putting my training into practice. I think it is an attitude shared by many Jedi of quality that we don’t avoid things because they are difficult. In fact, many Jedi I know run towards hard things all the time. We understand that it is the difficult tasks that are the most worthy. I am not alone when I say that I am training in “hard mode” many Jedi of quality do it, and I believe you can do it too. I have gotten to a point in my Jedi Path where having a training opportunity and putting my training into practice is a distinction without a difference.
This "trial of the flesh" is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I work very hard to meet it as a Jedi would. When the only way out is through, how you do it is vital. As I am tested both by the illness and the tests and treatments for it, I approach it the best I can. My many years of training are paying off, and as I apply my training, my understanding of the path becomes deeper. The difficulty of my life which is great is manageable because of the hard work I have put into my training leading up to this point. The Jedi Path is not just some philosophical exercise for me, but a tool I have used to better myself over a decade and a half so far, and in turn, I hope I have bettered the world by being a positive influence for those within my sphere of influence.
Even with my declining health, it is still my responsibility as a Jedi to better myself in what ways I can so that in turn, the world can be better through my presence in it. At least, this is my hope that I am able to continue in the face of declining health. A lot of energy must go to myself these days, but we must remind ourselves that self-care is not selfish, it is, in fact, necessary if we are going to be any help to others in our sphere of influence. If I sacrifice myself in the mistaken belief that it will benefit others, there will be nothing left of me to work towards world-betterment. So like many things in the Jedi Path it comes down to balance. I need to maintain my own training and serve my communities while seeing to my own health as I can.
I need a lot of support, and it is a function of social wellness to develop and participate in a web of support where I can give support and be supported by others. Because truth be told I am far from the only one in my social network struggling with these things and I am far from the only Jedi that has or will have serious debilitating health conditions. When we view the Force as connection, it behooves us to strengthen what connections we have by being a supportive influence in people’s lives, and in turn, be open to support from others. When we see the Force as connection, we realize that all of us are connected and when one of us suffers, it affects the whole, but through the connection of the Force when we help others, we are also helping ourselves, and in turn, will allow those we help to help others down the line. It is this community support that is a vital part of me navigating my illness.
When I went up for California Jedi Knighthood, one of the requirements was growth in the five areas of wellness taken from the Jedi Circle, of which social wellness is one. The others being physical wellness, emotional wellness, intellectual wellness, and spiritual wellness. It is working on these five areas that comprise the core of my Jedi training. It is important to me that just because I am very sick, does not mean that I get to slack off on my training. While I am growing much weaker, I still exercise daily, usually a walk with my dog. The work towards emotional wellness is very challenging especially when it seems every test and doctor’s visit brings more bad news. Intellectual and spiritual wellness is a matter of taking time for them. This means some study, meditation, and some religious devotion daily. Now I do not use my illness as an excuse, but truth be told there are some days where I am not able to see to all five areas of wellness. But rather than spend even more energy recriminating myself, I just resolve to do better when I can, and not to make the days where I cannot train as I want to a habit. If all we had to go by was the Star Wars movies, we would imagine that great growth in a short time is the norm for Jedi training. But here, in the real world, we realize that it is all about small (sometimes very small) incremental growth, built up over time.
I did not start out where I am today. It has been through diligent training over a long period that I have gotten to where I am now. I am in several battles, including the one for my life. My training has prepared me for this, and through my training, I will continue to move forward. Doing what I can to better myself and better the world I live in. While there are some days where I think about how nice it would be to give up, to just stop treatments and start palliative care, I realize we are not there yet. There are still battles to be fought, and I am still in the fight – for as long as I am able. Why? Because it was the Jedi Path demands of me. I take it seriously, and this “trial of the flesh” is a real trial – a testing of my training, and if I really have what it takes to call myself a Jedi Knight. I just hope to meet this and all challenges as a Jedi of quality.