I've mentioned a few (million) times that I'm a Star Wars geek. Original trilogy, I might add. All three posters adorned my college dorm room wall. (The opposite wall featured the Lord of the Rings posters.)
I internalized the movies when I was a kid. As an adult I've reflected many times how applicable they are to our everyday lives. At heart, they invite us into a new, more expansive way of being in the world.
I could talk about this forever, but for now, I've distilled my reflections into the following 6 life lessons I've learned from Star Wars. Enjoy!
1) Pause and Breathe
When Luke is hanging upside down in the ice cave trying to reach his lightsaber with the Force, he's reaching and stretching, reaching and stretching, reaching and stretching. It's not working. What does he do that makes the most difference?
He stops struggling.
He pauses, closes his eyes, and breathes. He calms his mind and his body, and slowly reaches out… and his lightsaber jumps to him just in time.
Centering himself and breathing intentionally, Luke paves the way to his success.
There's a Zen adage that says, "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you're too busy — then you should sit for an hour." It speaks to the paradoxical power of slowing down to speed up.
If you don't feel like you can hit the pause button for 20 minutes, start with one breath.
Taking even one conscious, deep breath per day, or pausing for a few moments of focused attention on the breath here and there throughout the day, will make a difference. With practice, even a single clock minute can feel spacious.
The real Jedi mind trick isn't controlling other people's minds. It's the pause — the grounding in the moment — that allows whatever comes after it to be successful.
In our daily lives — and even in the face of crisis — we have time to pause and breathe.
We don't have time not to.
2) Get Out of Your Head
"Search your feelings" is a frequent Star Wars refrain.
Hard as we may try, we can't think our way through everything. And our thoughts can indeed betray us.
We tend to believe that our thoughts and the stories they produce in our heads are true. But are they really?
How many times have you re-lived a stressful experience in your head? Maybe you inserted dialogue from other people that they didn't actually say, but that you assumed they were thinking. Maybe you did the same in anticipation of a future conversation. We've all done it, but it gets us in trouble.
When we get carried away by the thoughts and stories in our heads, we feed reactive emotions and a physical stress response in our bodies.
We often get caught in a loop of thinking, telling, retelling, and embellishing stories that aren't true — no matter how real they seem to us — and before we know it we've come to a definite conclusion about someone else's trustworthiness, our own shortcomings, or how a future situation will turn out.
This artificially-induced stress creates a constant background noise of anxiety that holds us back from being our best. Long term, it can lead to chronic health problems, relationship issues, poor work performance, and low resilience.
The pause for breath is the key to breaking out of that loop and interrupting the endless cycle of thought.
In the stillness — even a moment of it — you create a gateway for information from other sources to pass through.
Sources like physical sensations. Your feelings and emotions, and how they show up for you in your body. Your intuition. The universe itself.
Our feelings give us powerful information. Our bodies and inner wise selves know far more than we give them credit for. Tapping into our feelings brings us deep insight, wisdom, and clarity.
In a modern society that's heavily biased toward logic and thinking, it's refreshing to see a cultural influencer that urges us to connect with additional sources of knowing.
There is a greater Truth than what your every idle thought would have you believe. Get out of your head — integrate every dimension of your experience — and you can access this universal wisdom holistically.
3) Shift Your Perspective
“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view,” Obi-Wan says.
When we're stuck in those aforementioned thoughts and stories, and when we're entrenched in our own point of view, it's hard to see other options. We cling to societal conditioning and preconceived notions that keep us stuck in old patterns.
When we're grounded and connected to our inner wise self, we have the confidence to expand our view.
We can imagine new possibilities for ourselves and for our planet.
We have the courage and curiosity to ask for and listen to others' viewpoints without feeling threatened.
We don't have to agree with those viewpoints. The key is recognize that another perspective exists, and that it's just as valid to someone else as ours is to us.
When we allow multiple points of view to exist, we create space to see and celebrate our common humanity. When we allow new perspectives to emerge, we begin to see connection and oneness instead of separateness.
If you're stuck in a repeating story, ask yourself:
What are three others ways to look at this?
What am I making up about this?
What would someone with the opposite viewpoint say?
What are three opportunities here?
When we develop the curiosity and compassion to listen courageously to others, and when we develop the skill to examine our own perspectives, we have the power to choose our response to situations instead of reacting by default.
What new perspective are you ready to choose?
4) Let Go
Instead of the targeting computer, Luke chooses to rely on the power of his presence and alignment.
He trusts himself. He trusts the Force.
He makes the shot.
In our fast-paced world where productivity is at a premium, we're bombarded by messages that tell us what we should be doing to squeeze the most out of every minute of every day.
The real gains come from deciding what we should stop doing.
"You must unlearn what you have learned," Yoda says.
We've certainly learned a lot through societal conditioning. We've learned to judge ourselves and others — harshly. We've learned we need the latest gadget or gizmo so we can be cool. We've learned to eat lunch at our desks (or not at all) or risk being called slackers. We've learned to put our own health and wellbeing on the back burner to put out fire after fire at the office.
How well are those lessons serving you? What do you want to unlearn? How about:
Mindsets of scarcity, lack, and "never enough"
The myth of "I'll be happy when..." (when I get the corner office, fancy car, next promotion)
The belief that "I can't do what I really love until I retire"
The word "can't"
If you're ready and willing to let go of those old paradigm beliefs, give these new ones a try:
We live in an abundant universe, and there is enough for everyone
Happiness is already available right here, right now
Everyone benefits when you follow your joy — and you can do it now
You become infinitely powerful when you replace "can't" with "I choose to" or "I choose not to"
We can rely on external devices and success measures, or we can rely on our inner knowing and our alignment with who we are and why we're here.
When we operate from a place of strength derived from grounding in the moment and letting go of non-essentials, we harness the full spectrum of our life experience. The full spectrum of who we are. The full spectrum of our higher purpose.
What are you ready to stop doing so you can create space and time for what really matters?
What are you ready to let go of?
5) Define Your Own Success
When we let go of societal definitions of success, we unleash a power that originates from our own intrinsic sense of value.
“I am a Jedi,” Luke declares to the Emperor. He doesn’t wait for external validation to confirm it. He stands tall and speaks his truth, confident in his own knowing.
Part of defining our own success is letting go of one other thing — attachment to outcome.
"But wait," you say. "What about my goals?!"
Non-attachment doesn't mean we don't set goals and work to achieve them.
It means that we're more likely to feel fulfilled if we value the process over the outcome, the journey over the destination, and progress over perfection.
We work for the goals, but we don't micromanage them and we don't define our identity or our worth as human beings by them.
Ask yourself what you actually want from achieving your goals. What we're usually aiming for when we set a goal is a feeling versus a thing or a position or a job title. What will achieving this goal make possible for us? What feelings will it inspire?
When we let go of our struggle to control a specific outcome or path to success — when we focus on the "goal behind the goal" — more paths actually become available. More doors open. Paradoxically, we set ourselves up to receive what we really want (or something even better) from the universe.
And we realize that the path itself is success.
In the end, you are the most uniquely qualified to measure your success. Not the external accolades or validation you may receive, not the next evaluation from your boss or board members, not the awesome testimonials from your clients or customers. Those are all great, but they can't bring you satisfaction if you haven't acknowledge or celebrated yourself for who you really are.
So who are you?
Take a stand. Declare who you are with confidence.
6) Have Faith
Humanity is experiencing a paradigm shift. Our consciousness is evolving. We're waking up to the awareness that reality is creating itself through us, and we can influence what form that reality will take.
We can let fear and chaos rule the day.
Or we can deliberately create sometime new. Something the world has never seen before.
“Luminous beings are we — not this crude matter,” Yoda says. We’re so much more than physical bodies. We have a soul essence that interacts with the soul essences of all other beings in a field that’s connected and integrated.
When we tap into this eternal source of energy, we access infinite creative potential. We can do and be anything.
The universe, or the Force, if you will, is always supporting our highest good. We can struggle and refuse to accept that support, or we can relax, let go, and allow ourselves to receive it.
The leap of faith has been a lifelong journey for me. I feel myself leap more and more every day, and it's exhilarating.
Sometimes it's daunting. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I still end up pushing and trying to force the Force.
And then I remember to go back to lesson one. Pause and breathe. I relax again, I ask for support and inspiration, and peace returns. I refocus my attention on who I came here to be and what I came here to do.
The struggle gives way to flow.
Faith is a muscle. It gets stronger with use. Play with it today. Practice believing that you and your dreams are supported. Look for the signs and synchronicity that show you it's true.
“The Force will be with you, always.”