Yoda, Yoga and the Man who Swallowed a Harmonica
Some may feel that the closest the Star Wars film series gets to higher states of being (and you don’t have to be a Dead Sea Scroll scholar to spot it) is that a central character’s name (Yoda) bears an uncanny resemblance to the word ‘Yoga’. Some would argue what, if anything, of spiritual value could we possibly glean from violent science fiction movies? How could our view of life be deepened by films where the weapons of choice look remarkably like the fluorescent lights on the office ceiling at work and the main antagonist (Darth Vader) is a plastic fella on whom, if you met him, you’d perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre to cough up that harmonica he must have swallowed? Yet if you cast a critical (or third) eye over the content of these movies, you may discover that there are some wonderful nuggets of wisdom to be mined.
I could bore you into a New Age coma by comparing the obvious war theme with the fight between good and evil, ego and spirit, chaos and peace but I feel your time is better spent contemplating the clever dialogue that interlaces the plot and serves to sell the familiar concept of ‘good triumphs over evil’ in a fresh, philosophical and spiritual way.
In his article “Luke, I’m Your Dad”, Jeremy Adam Smith points out how the Star Wars hero and apprentice-Jedi (peace warrior), Luke Skywalker, is asked to
“trust something both larger than himself and deep within.”
He is taught to tap into his inner wisdom to access and develop his physical, emotional and mental strength. Luke is reminded by Obi Wan Kenobi that
“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things.”
Sound familiar, anyone? In both yoga and meditation, the practitioner’s intention is to access the invisible stillness behind and between each movement and breath, in order to become fully present to this moment, the Now, where, it is claimed, all our power truly lies.
Of this group of Jedi warriors, a little green character with pointed ears and a few wisps of hair called Yoda is the grand master. Admittedly a fictional character, it is still interesting how his words echo those of many spiritual teachers over thousands of years. Here are some of his observations on topics such as innocence, death and the pitfall that is fear,
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not…. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”
On a more superficial topic, Yoda teaches us not to judge a book by its cover. If you think that Yoda was hit with the ugly-stick, you would do well to bear in mind that amongst his own species he could well be a sex-symbol. He certainly has some very endearing qualities and with an age-span of 900 years, it is safe to say that when it comes to youthfulness and longevity, he certainly has the last laugh. In the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Yoda has to take young Luke Skywalker aside and give him a bit of a dressing down (as he is making a dogs-dinner of being a hero and is overwhelmed by the appearance of obstacles). Yoda reminds the young apprentice that appearances can be deceiving and that when there is a powerful force at our beck and call, we have more than just our physical strength to draw on,
“Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
So perhaps the next time you feel challenged by life, tune into your inner-Yoda and know your real strength. Take a few deep breaths or get onto your yoga mat. You are always bigger than whatever situation is arising, no matter how it looks….and with that in mind, I only add, may the force be with you!