In this extract again drawing on his own life experience Daniel talks about the power of feelings to shape your life:
Jediism isn’t just about training your mind it is also about following the beat of your heart.
The love in your heart is eternal and the part of you that is one with the Force or living life energy that exists within and all around you. To demonstrate the awesome power of the heart ponder this: When you die nobody remembers what you said or did but they will remember how you made them feel. That is why Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader that when he dies he will rise more powerful because he knows his loving energy will join the Force and be with Luke at all times guiding and inspiring his heart – an invisible loving presence infinitely more powerful than his human form.
If there is no love in your heart you will never be in tune with the Force. It is only when mind and heart are in harmony that you are a magnet for the light. In my own life I have repeatedly found that thoughts alone aren’t enough and it is only when my thoughts and deeds are heartfelt that good things happen, weaknesses are turned into strengths, setbacks into stepping stones.
If you know anything about Asperger’s you will know that emotional intelligence is not my strong point. I’m a logical person. I can understand and reprogram my thoughts. However, feelings are different. The heart is unpredictable by its very nature and can’t be controlled or even at times understand. You can’t fake feelings, you just feel them and sometimes you feel them for absolutely no reason. Many times in my life I have been at a loss to understand and explain my feelings and the tension and frustration of that triggers irrational meltdowns where I lash out physically.
Given the emphasis I have put here on the importance of the heart in Jediism you can see that the universe handed me my greatest challenge from the moment I was born. My dream is to found a new spiritual movement that hopes to awaken a generation of people’s hearts to the potential within and around them. But don’t psychologists tell us that people with Asperger’s struggle with expressing their feelings?
I truly believe that I have Asperger’s for a reason. If I hadn’t had Asperger’s I might have taken my feelings for granted or not paid enough attention to the theme of love inspiring or guiding others coming up time and time again in every religious and spiritual tradition I studied. My desire to try to understand this thing called love helped me discover the true meaning of life and how love connects us to the Force in a way that thoughts never can. Love, of course, is right up there as a central theme in every Star Wars movie with Han and Leia setting the gold standard.
Just as I found a way to read widely through audio tapes despite my dyslexia, I found a way to connect with and express my heart despite my Asperger’s. The way I found was Jediism. My first love was Star Wars and I expressed my love for the Star Wars universe by founding a spiritual movement that could truly help not just me but others follow their hearts and lead meaningful lives.
Of course, I’m saying all this in hindsight and at the time I wasn’t aware of what I was doing and didn’t even know I had Asperger’s, but I can clearly see now that through creating and founding Jediism I followed my heart. If I hadn’t had Asperger’s I sometimes wonder if I would have had the burning desire to pour my love into creating something that would enable me to express my heart. Of course, it’s impossible to say what I might have done with my life without Asperger’s, as I am who I am, but what I do know is that the heart must find a way to sing whether a person has autism or not. The way I found was through my obsession for a movie franchise. In short, founding Jediism was my act of love.
Another seemingly insurmountable obstacle for me to overcome in the early days of the church was the inevitable opposition and criticism. Early reaction was largely positive and curious but there were also voices telling me to abandon the Force. These voices never came from inside my head but they certainly did from friends, the media, religious groups, educators, comments posted online and so on. Here’s a snap shot.
“Who do you think you are?”
“Why can’t you just grow up?”
“It’s a movie Daniel. It’s fiction, not a way of life.”
After my road to Damascus moment on the beach when I just knew that the universe was calling out to me to found Jediism there were many harsh critics who told me I needed to put away my lightsaber and grow up. Indeed, giving up on my dream of Jediism becoming a global force of love and kindness was by far the easiest thing to do. I don’t enjoy being called ‘odd’ or ‘deluded’ because of my love for Star Wars and belief in the power of Force but perhaps again Asperger’s was my salvation as criticism doesn’t typically get to me. I’m naturally thick-skinned. For me criticism is just data that I can either use or discard. I realise now that is quite an unusual quality. I see how others doubt themselves when faced with criticism but any criticism I got just made me want to spread the word about Jediism even more.
During this time my family had by now accepted that unusual was always going to be the norm for me and Jediism was here to stay. My biggest ally was always my brother Barney who worked closely with me to found the church in 2007. Barney and I worked long hours setting up a basic website, answering emails, creating and distributing leaflets and information online and promoting Jediism in person as much as we could. Visits to the website went from the hundreds to the thousands rapidly. I advertised the church on My Space and it was fairly easy to spread the word there.
When handing out church leaflets in my local area the reactions ranged from delight and interest to shock and surprise to anger and disbelief, but more often than not our leaflets were always greeted with a smile. For me just a smile was response enough as I truly believe religion and spirituality should place a stronger emphasis on the importance of joy. Humour can be the greatest teacher sometimes and a life without laughter is a life not lived. That’s why I am always absolutely fine to have my photograph taken complete with lightsaber and cloak or even a Stormtrooper or two lurking in the background. These images make people smile! ……………..