Fighting Helplessness: Finding the Edges of Your Sphere of Influence
I usually do not reference current events in my essays, instead I focus on the core Jedi principles so that what I write will be applicable no matter when it is read. The same will be true for this essay, but I feel some temporal context is warranted. As I write this, it is the 2nd of June 2020. We are now about a half a year into the global COVID-19 Pandemic. Just over a week ago, on May 25th George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the intervening time protests have happened globally escalating to the point of property destruction and met with further police brutality and escalation over and over again. It is in this context this essay is written.
The world is a big place, and the world’s problems can seem overwhelming. Especially when in the light of all that is wrong with the world, we seem so very small compared to it. We may even feel powerless to fix all the things that are wrong with the world, or what efforts we put forth towards world betterment seem so inconsequential in the light of the “big picture”. I get it, nearly all people who call themselves Jedi want to help. Service to others is part and parcel for being a Jedi, as it should be. But if we are to help, we must do so within our sphere of influence. Our sphere of influence is the area within which we can affect change. While our sphere of influence becomes larger and smaller depending on circumstance, environment, and ability, we must not forget that each Jedi is at the center of their sphere of influence.
To address the feelings of helplessness in the time of overwhelming turmoil we must first learn where we can act. That is, where the edges of our sphere of influence lay. For most people that sphere does not encompass the whole world, but neither is it as small as many of us imagine (I often imagine my sphere of influence being smaller than it actually is). Sometimes we can intuitively work within it when we see ourselves have an impact (be it positive or negative) in those around us, but if we are going to truly know where the edges are we are going to have to do so introspection and reflective meditation.
To do reflective meditation on our sphere of influence, take some time where you will not be disturbed, and you can have quiet. This can be done sitting still in a quiet place, but another option is to do this on a walk, or in the shower, any activity where you have time alone, undisturbed. When we have done this, it is time to quietly contemplate our connections. These can be connections to the people in our lives, these can be connections to any organizations we belong to, these can be connections to our environment be it our home, our neighborhood, the community in which we live, or the borders of any area in which we live. This is focus on the Force, as seen through the web of connections in our lives. As you meditate further, start thinking about the interconnection of these things. How are these things you are connected to each other? And examine just where in all this connection you are. Finally, placing ourselves at the center of our sphere of influence reflect on where within these connections we can affect change. Examine some memories where we have already done so and use those as a lodestone to find our way to our sphere of influence’s edges.
This is not a “one and done” type exercise. In your career as a Jedi, you will have to often be mindful of your sphere of influence and what lays inside of it. But once we have an idea of our actual, obtainable reach comes the difficult part. But I often say that Jedi do not run from difficult things, they run towards them, so we will be diving into this difficult Jedi work and Jedi training.
The first thing to understand, and I know this will be difficult, Jedi, the point of the exercise is NOT to expand your sphere of influence to the largest possible version. A smaller denser sphere is preferable to a larger sparser one. I know you want to be the greatest amount of help possible but believe me acting small from a position of strength is much more preferable to long, but weaker reach.
Now the second difficult thing we must do is work within our sphere of influence and stay there. By putting our energy into places where we can actually affect change instead of trying to exercise in the futility of reaching beyond our grasp. Those that I have given this training to privately have shared with me that working where they are strong and affecting change even in small ways has helped them combat the feelings of helplessness.
And the final difficult thing in this training, and perhaps the MOST difficult, is we must let go of things outside our sphere of influence. There will be situations and people we simply are not able to help. We have to let go of the attachment of control that gives us the illusion that we can set the fate for those outside of our sphere of influence. But there is hope, Jedi. Remember that web of connection? Within it, you may be able to set things in motion, that are outside your own personal sphere of influence through the own ripples of showing up and doing the work within yours. Focus on what is front of you right here, and right now. Don’t look too far ahead, and when presented with a choice, or an opportunity, do the right thing in that moment, and keep going until the next one, and the next one, and keep going until things get better. They will get better, even though things seem dark right now, we are in for some tough times before they do, believe me, but you are not alone, and I firmly believe that we will all get there together, or we will not get there at all, and when we are all connected in the Force, we can’t but help to get there.