Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens up December 18, and I’m beyond excited. Though camping out to be first in line was not an option for me, I have read several articles on why a film made almost 40 years ago, endures. [Quick note, among reviewers, and I agree, the favorite episode is “The Empire Strikes Back.”]
For me, this mythic saga represents our humanity and it is the perfect vehicle to teach us about yoga. Myths are lies told in the service of deeper truths—truths about ourselves and the nature of the world. They are an invitation to see more.
Here, then, is an exploration of Yoga, Yoda and Krishna. (Krishna, of the Bhagavad Gita, was never in a Star War, but he does have other battlefield experience.)
1) We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Call it Love, the Universe, the Force.
We intuitively know this and are looking for that deeper connection. Without it, we feel disconnected and alone. With it, we can face the darkest parts of ourselves, experience true joy and even lift spaceships with our minds. (Ok that last one was more mythic narrative—not literal. It’s important to know which is which.)
Yoda: Life creates it [the Force], makes it grow…its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter [our bodies]. You must feel the Force around you, here, between you and me, the tree, the rock, everywhere…
Krishna: Realize that which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality. The body is mortal, but that which dwells in the body is immortal…
Luminous beings are we.
2) Yoga is how we connect.
Yoga is literally the process of engagement—with the world, with the something that’s bigger, something that’s deeper, within us. The practices of yoga, such as asana (physical), meditation or pranayama (breath) are tools to help us connect. At one point, Luke is in a one-arm handstand—not to learn to do one-arm handstands but to learn to focus.
Yoda: Use the Force.
Krishna: Focus every thought on Love.
3) Know your Dharma (Purpose) & Shraddha (Faith).
Dharma is often under understood as law or purpose. The questions it asks are:
- What do you stand for?
- Who do you stand with?
- What is important to you?
- What matters?
Shraddha is the concept of faith, or more literally, where do you put your heart? Whom do you rely on and put your trust in?
Han Solo is constantly trying to leave and live for himself, but his heart is with those he cares about. His dharma is to be of service, to his friends and to the greater good of the resistance.
Luke is confused about his dharma and only wants to be a Jedi because his father was—which is a terrible reason. However, his saving grace is his heart is in the right place…even if his head is not.
Krishna: It is better to perform one’s own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another.
4) A Practice takes commitment.
Like any skill, the work of learning about yourself, going within—practicing yoga—takes commitment. In yoga we call this abhyasa, meaning a consistent practice done over a long period of time. It takes patience and perseverance; otherwise, you just stay on the surface and never come to a place where things change.
Yoda: A Jedi must have the deepest commitment…the most serious mind.
5) You have a choice.
Whether in the Star Wars galaxy or our own, you have a choice. You can choose how you think and move in the world. Your choices have consequences therefore it is important make wise choices. (And sometimes we learn of the wise choice from making the unwise choice.)
Yoda: Decide, you must, how to serve them [your friends] best.
Krishna: I give you these precious words of wisdom; reflect on them and then do as you choose.
6) Fear is real.
You’ve heard the saying, fear is in your head…but that doesn’t make it any less real. Our behavior begins with our thoughts. Angry thoughts can lead to anger and hatred in very real ways—or they can be channeled in a more helpful direction. Kind thoughts can lead to seeing, and doing, kindness in the world. Either way, it is important to learn and know all of you, including your darkness.
Luke: I’m not afraid.
Yoda: You will be. You will be.
As you begin to slow down and observe yourself, uncomfortable things may come up.
Yoda: Beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight…consume you it will.
Luke: How will I know [when I’m in darkness or light.]
Yoda: You will know…when you are calm, at peace…A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge…
Krishna: Anger clouds the judgment; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise…When you know no peace, how can you know joy?
7) Listen, Pay Attention and Focus.
Take time to observe what is going on right now. We call this being present and it can give you insight into how you think and how you do, what you do.
Yoda: I cannot teach him, the boy has no patience. All his life has he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.
Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.
8) Yoga is practical.
Yoda: …for the Jedi, it is time to eat as well.
It’s hard to go beyond the surface of things if you are hungry or tired. Self-care is important.
Krishna: Arjuna, those who eat too much or eat too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in yoga.
9) You are undoing a lifetime’s worth of doing.
If you are to engage in this practice, you must be willing to let go of things so that you can learn new things. Being absolutely sure we have things figured out holds us back from other possibilities.
Yoda: You must unlearn what you have learned.
10) What you are looking for is right in front of you.
In yoga we say the secret you are looking for is hidden in plain site—right in front of you. When we begin to search for meaning in our lives, seek a richer experience of living, or move beyond our hurt and anguish we often look outside of ourselves. However, it is only when we come to stillness and look inside, that we find that deep connection we have been looking for.
Luke: I’m looking for someone.
Yoda: Looking? Found someone, you have.
Kate Saal. Teach you yoga will she. Upside down, does she like. Connect with her you can. Google+.