Lessons from the Star Wars Saga: The Importance of Mindfulness

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Lessons from the Star Wars Saga is a series exploring powerful themes in Star Wars. For more than 40 years, the epic adventures in a galaxy far, far away have also been significant explorations of the human experience in our own universe.

When Obi-Wan Kenobi tells young Luke Skywalker to stretch out with his feelings, have you ever wondered what that actually means? And is it an ability limited just to Jedi and Force wielders in the galaxy far, far away? Absolutely not.

Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker on Dagobah.

The seemingly simple instruction is at the heart of one of the Jedi’s core tenets: Mindfulness. From Yoda’s teachings to Luke in the original trilogy, to some of Qui-Gon’s most famous sayings, and even Luke’s instructions to Rey to just breathe in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one of the prevailing themes in Star Wars is focusing on the present moment. We might not be Jedi in the real world, but we could all use a mindful pause in our busy days to appreciate the galaxy around us.

Mindfulness is the practice of stopping to take in the moment, including being aware of your emotions and everything around you. Remove all the distractions and the clutter of thoughts in your mind — the nagging to-do list and errands you need to run — and just breathe. Be aware of the world around you for a minute. In other words, stretch out with your feelings.

Qui-Gon Jinn on Tatooine.

Qui-Gon Jinn uses mindfulness to ease anxieties of what might happen in the future, a lesson he imparts on his young Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi. Be conscious of the future, he agrees. “But not at the expense of the present moment,” he tells Obi-Wan. In other words, don’t get so wrapped up in the “what if” that you forget to live in the now.

Anakin comforts Padme.

Anakin Skywalker’s fall can be traced back, in part, to a fear of the future and the desire to control it, a fear that Sheev Palpatine preyed on to complete his turn to the dark side.

Luke Skywalker watches the twin suns set on Tatooine.

As a young farm boy, Luke was often distracted by dreaming of what his future might hold, a fact Yoda admonished him for. “All his life has he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! What he was doing!” Yoda says with irritation in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

While it’s a difficult lesson for Luke to learn, it’s obvious that he finally does; in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi he is more mindful, less reactive, and focused on his surroundings.

It’s a lesson he imparts later on Rey. When Luke begins teaching her about the Force, he says simply, “Just breathe.” Slowing down and taking a deep breath is a vital part of mindfulness. Judging by the first few seconds of the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it’s a Jedi value that Luke has successfully passed on.

And you can practice mindfulness in almost anything you do when you pause to focus on the present moment. How do you feel? What do you hear and smell? What can you appreciate right now? You may be surprised at what you might notice inwardly and outwardly when you just breathe.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

Lessons from the Star Wars Saga: The Importance of Mindfulness

10 of the Best Force Moments

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Whether it’s General Leia flying through space or Master Yoda pulling Luke’s X-wing out of a nasty swamp, if you’re a Star Wars fan, chances are you probably have a favorite Force moment. Tapping into the Force seems personal somehow, as it tends to be symbolic of where the hero or antagonist is on their journey. Today, we’ve picked some of our favorite Force moments from the movies and television shows.

1. Ezra and Ahsoka in the world between worlds. Obi-Wan really knew what he was talking about when he said the Force binds the galaxy together. And I like to think of the world between worlds in Star Wars Rebels as the Force’s central hub. As Ezra makes his way through this mystical plane, he starts hearing the voices of Rey, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and many more, the past, present, and future seemingly interlinked. When it comes to the Force, everybody’s connected in one way or another.

2. Ezra summoning the herd of Purrgil. While most smugglers and space pirates think of them as a nuisance, Ezra from Star Wars Rebels develops a special Force bond with the Purrgil, mysterious whale-like creatures that can hyperjump through space. From summoning the herd to help him take down Thrawn and liberate Lothal to witnessing a vision in one Purrgil’s eye, his connection with these these intelligent beings is truly unique and something to behold.

3. Ahsoka Tano’s possession. In Star Wars: Clone Wars, the Son, who embodies the dark side, tries to turn Anakin by possessing his apprentice. This terrifying moment shows that when wielded in a reckless and disrespectful manner, the Force can be incredibly destructive.

Yoda raises the X-wing on Dagobah in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

4. Yoda lifting the X-wing. Although Yoda’s display of power is impressive and awe-inspiring, there’s always a lesson to glean from his words and actions. Whether you’re big or small, a royal Princess or a scavenger, the Force lives in everyone.

 5. Leia connecting with Luke. The first time we see Leia using her Force abilities is in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. As Luke dangles below Cloud City, injured and exhausted, he calls out to Leia. Sensing he’s in danger, she gets the Falcon turned around to rescue him.

 6. Chirrut fighting the stormtroopers. Chirrut may not be a Jedi in the traditional sense, but his absolute faith in the Force is a powerful thing to see. When he faces off against a group of stormtroopers in Rogue One, his odds aren’t exactly great. But thanks to his keen hearing, amazing fighting skills, and Force sensitivities, he manages to win the fight. I find myself repeating his mantra whenever I need a boost of motivation or confidence.

Rey takes a lightsaber from Kylo Ren.

 7. Rey taking Luke’s lightsaber from Kylo. With their vibrant lightsabers glowing against the snowy landscape, the duel between Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is as beautiful to look at as it is pivotal to the plot. The entire fight is emotionally charged, but my favorite part is when Rey uses the Force to take Luke’s lightsaber from Kylo. I love that she looks a little afraid to wield it. Honestly? I’d be pretty scared, too.

Rey lifts rocks to give the Resistance a way out of Crait.

 8. Rey rescuing the Resistance. This is one of my favorite scenes from Star Wars: The Last Jedi because it’s chock-full of symbolic imagery. As Rey moves the rocks aside on Crait, she’s forging a new path. Armed with the knowledge she’s gained from Luke, she’s able to bear the weight of it all.

Leia in The Last Jedi.

 9. Leia flying through space. When Leia gets sucked out of her ship in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, my heart sank like a stone. That couldn’t have possibly been the end of her, right? But if anyone could survive outer space, it’s General Leia Organa.

10. Luke astral projecting himself onto Crait. Ah, Luke. From an idealistic farm boy to a prickly curmudgeon, it’s been a pleasure watching his character grow and change throughout the years. But when he projects a version of himself onto Crait in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It really goes to show you how much we still have to learn about the Force.

Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo is an editor at Reviewed, a division of USA TODAY. She also occasionally writes for Geek & Sundry and StarWars.com.

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

10 of the Best Force Moments

Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa: Lessons of Light from Twin Beacons of Hope

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When Leia first meets the young Ewok, Wicket, she’s in a war zone: her team has been separated trying to find the Death Star shield generator, and she’s dazed from a speeder bike crash. But instead of reacting defensively or being hostile toward Wicket, Leia offers him some food — a surprising expression of peace. And Leia’s diplomacy pays off later when the Ewoks help the rebels take the shield generator down.

Themes of giving to others can often be lost in the larger story of Star Wars, but as Yoda says, wars not make one great. It was arguably Leia’s act of kindness toward the Ewoks that changed the course of the Galactic Civil War.

As the holiday season approaches and we reflect on the power of charity and compassion, we take a moment to consider what the Skywalker twins can teach us about light and charity in our everyday world.

Leia’s understanding of the practical work involved in bringing hope and light to the people around her began early. In the novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, she trained as a politician and followed her adopted parents’ lead in resisting the most overt cruelties of the Empire. She soon discovered that by paying attention to people she could do the most good, an understanding that, along with her ferocity and determination, guided her as she continued on her journey to join the Rebellion.

Bail and Breha Organa gave their daughter a strong foundation in resistance. Bail worked inside the Senate to try to soften the Empire’s edicts. Although this didn’t work in the long run, it did lay the groundwork for Leia’s training in rebellion so she could become the person who would eventually deliver the stolen Death Star plans.

After Leia’s adopted family perished, she had her twin to lean on — even if the Skywalkers didn’t know they were siblings yet. Luke and Leia support one another in A New Hope as soldiers-in-arms. Both twins are caught up in the adventure and fear of their fight against the Empire. But their hope is not crystallized in the moment of triumphant destruction of the Death Star, with Leia overseeing the battle and Luke firing the shot into the thermal exhaust port. It’s the jubilant and victorious hug shared between Luke, Leia, and Han that solidifies the trio as a team that will carry the weight of the galaxy between them.

Studying Skywalkers Ep IV - Luke, Leia, Han at awards ceremony

Leia’s smile at the end of A New Hope is another of the most joyful moments in the trilogy. It shows her love for her friends and her joy that the rebels are becoming a force to be reckoned with — just as her adopted parents wanted.

Luke also has a strong moral stance that was instilled in him by his adopted family. After A New Hope, his next step into the world of the Jedi teaches him what hope means to users of the Force. In the novel The Weapon of a Jedi, Luke faces off against Sarco, a bounty hunter who values the physical artifacts the Jedi left behind. Luke understands that knowledge is more important than treasure, and also that friendship is essential to hope. “The Force brought me here,” Luke thinks. “And what I learned here saved me.” Luke sees that his victory at the Death Star was just one aspect of his responsibility as a Jedi: he must build up as well as destroy.

In The Empire Strikes Back, the galaxy becomes a more difficult place to hold onto hope. Everyone is tested over and over — for every victory something is lost. Warmth in The Empire Strikes Back comes in part from the twins’ connection to each other; they lean on each other after Luke loses his hand and Han is captured, brought together by their shared tragedies. The importance of family is found in the gentle comfort between Leia and Luke.

In Return of the Jedi, when Luke reveals that he and Leia are twins, they begin to understand how they connect as siblings. Leia’s role in the fight could have been through her martial prowess — she knows how to coordinate an army, after all — but instead becomes a story about charity and how giving to the Ewoks leads to success for the cause. The return of the Jedi is also a return of hope, a fulfillment of the promise the Skywalker twins showed all along.

Return of the Jedi - Celebration on Endor

The victory celebration is a festival of life and light, with fireworks there echoed all across the galaxy. The war isn’t completely over; every season of hope is eventually followed by a season of darkness. But for now, the Skywalkers and their companions have won. The cycle keeps turning, reminding both the audience and the denizens of the galaxy far, far away of the power of charity and hope in the cold darkness.

Megan Crouse’s work has appeared in Den of Geek, FangirlBlog, and Star Wars Insider. She podcasts on Western Reaches and Blaster Canon and can be found on Twitter at @blogfullofwords.

Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa: Lessons of Light from Twin Beacons of Hope

How Fear is the Path to Hope in Star Wars

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Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

The underlying foundation of the Star Wars saga is defined by one single yet enormously important word: hope. Yet it’s often fear that propels the struggle to cling to hope, a hope running throughout almost every moment of Star Wars no matter how big or small.

Luke Skywalker stands alone on Ahch-To.

It’s fear that pushes Luke into self-imposed exile on Ahch-To, cutting himself off from the Force, after his failure to help Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren.

It’s the fear of losing his mother that nudges Anakin Skywalker down his path of self-destruction, fear that stokes his desire for Padmé and, in the end, fear of losing Padmé that costs him the love of his life, unleashing a plague of darkness on an unsuspecting galaxy.

It’s fear of discovery that drives Caleb Dume to abandon his identity and adopt a new life and name, Kanan Jarrus, in the aftermath of Order 66.

“I think fear is both an overt and underlying current in a lot of Star Wars storytelling,” says Charles Soule, author of several Marvel Star Wars comics, including the second volume of Darth Vader. “Even from the earliest days of the prequel trilogy, you hear Yoda talking about what fear leads to.”

Anakin comforts Padme. Darth Vader's mask is lowered for the first time.

Darth Vader, the living embodiment of fear for his enemies, is not so much guided by the emotion, but cursed by it. “Certainly his journey from Anakin to Darth Vader is about fear of losing control of himself, control of his life, losing Padmé– which obviously happens — and then after all that happens, it’s fear of facing up to what he’s done,” Soule says. “Vader … is strongly governed by fear and he’s supposed to be the cautionary tale of what fear will do to you if you give into it.”

No matter how you define fear — be it the modern definition of an unpleasant emotional response to a perceived danger or the ancient and archaic mix of dread and reverence — it’s a living, breathing part of Star Wars, paramount to all other emotions within the saga save, perhaps, for hope.

Fear, in the real world and the Star Wars universe, too, is immutable and immortal, a natural reaction in almost all living things to something they can’t understand, and an ever-present part of the Force, too. You can’t have Star Wars without fear. You can’t have tales of courage and valor or despair and dishonor, either.

Owen Lars feared for Luke Skywalker were he to discover his true history and lineage. Beru Lars feared for Luke’s hopes for the future. Old Ben Kenobi, he wasn’t to be trusted, always getting in the way, putting the Lars family at risk with his scattered involvement.

Obi-Wan Kenobi fights Maul for the last time.

For Obi-Wan Kenobi, his greatest fear was losing Luke, failing in his mandate to keep him safely ensconced away from prying eyes, loose lips and the omnipresent malevolence of not just Darth Vader but Darth Sidious. That fear drove Kenobi to endure years of a solitary life, punctuated by brief yet startling confrontations with Tusken Raiders and, of course, a final showdown with Darth Maul.

Fear is one of the strongest factors which propel the stories in Star Wars, no matter the era or the medium.

In A New Hope, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and the Empire embrace fear while wielding what is believed to be the ultimate threat and power. “Fear will keep the local systems in line,” he tells his officers. “Fear of this battle station.”

Captain Phasma leads First Order troops in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Delilah S. Dawson, author of Star Wars: Phasma, showed how the fierce warrior made her way into the embrace of the First Order. Was it fear of losing that prestige and power and position that kept her motivated?

“Whether we fear dying, suffering, losing someone we love, or becoming something we dread, every character’s motivation is rooted in fear,” Dawson says. “For Phasma, she wouldn’t personally consider her primary motivation to be fear, and yet her life is dedicated to survival, which is basically the flip side of the coin of death. Outside of not wanting to die, she doesn’t want to go without again, to be hungry again, to have to make the tough choices that come with life on Parnassos. Of course the First Order and their promises of order and plenty would appeal to her.”

In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jyn Erso beats back her apathy and fear of involvement to join with Cassian Andor and his team to not just find her father, but to steal the Death Star plans.

For those watching the films and television shows, for readers devouring page after page of novels and comics, playing the video games, the fear that our avatars within Star Wars experience is amplified, reflected even, upon us.

Luke Skywalker in the cave on Dagobah.

Consider Luke’s brush with the dark side in the cave as shown in The Empire Strikes Back. Sitting in a darkened theater, surprised by the sudden appearance of Darth Vader only to see Luke’s face within the cracked-open helmet, the image jarred audiences in 1980 and continues to shock in 2018.

Cavan Scott, author of some of IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures and the recent five-issue miniseries Tales from Vader’s Castle, is using fear to drive the story, jumping from era to era and focusing on how it can affect characters’ motives and determination. Yet fear cannot exist without hope, he says.

“They have to coexist in a story otherwise there is no conflict and therefore no momentum. It’s fear that drives the story forward, fear that if you stop the bad guys will win, that you will lose those who are important to you and, often in Star Wars, that you will lose yourself,” he says. “But, for me, one of the greatest truths in Star Wars is that, no matter how scary a situation or a foe, whether it’s a giant monster or facing down an entire Imperial fleet, you are not helpless if you have each other. We need our heroes to face seemingly insurmountable odds for us to show that they gain strength — and hope — from each other.”

The cover of Tales from Vader's Castle #5.

Writing an all-age Star Wars comic that’s focused on scary events has some boundaries, but as Scott notes, “kids love to be scared.”

Still, there is a balance to be maintained, too.

For Scott, it provides a fulcrum on which to use differing levels of fear to tell a story that adults will find creepy and unsettling, yet without sending kids screaming from the room.

“Obviously, you have to be responsible and not push things as far as you would in a tale for adults. Also, with kids you can use humor to counterpoint the scares and ease the tension if need be,” he said. “And, as we’ve seen time and time again, humor and horror go hand-in-hand. Just look around the theater next time you see a horror movie. I can guarantee the audience will jump at a scare and then laugh, some of them nervously, of course, but it’s a laugh all the same.”

Much like Star Wars, where humor and being scared are often present together.

Ultimately, fear can be both an ally and enemy, in our everyday lives and in a galaxy far far away.

“I think fear is one of our most primal and important emotions. I think it drives us to do a lot of things and make a lot of choices, make a lot off decisions,” says Soule. “It keeps us away from things and pushes us toward things.”

Matt Moore is a writer and editor and co-creator/co-host of Comics With Kenobi, a weekly podcast detailing and discussing contemporary Star Wars comics from Marvel and IDW Publishing and their role in advancing the Star Wars saga.

How Fear is the Path to Hope in Star Wars