“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Profound, right? But no, it’s not from Buddha or Osho. That awesome pearl of spiritual wisdom comes courtesy of everyone’s favourite Star Wars green guru, Yoda.
Image Credit: LucasArts/Disney
I truly believe that if Yoda were around now (and not in a galaxy far, far away or, perhaps more importantly, a fictional character) he could be giving Gabrielle Bernstein, Deepak Chopra and the rest of the social media gurus a big run for their money. Undoubtedly with an Instagram account full of inspirational gems, an e-course dedicated to making you your very best self and a deal with Hay House publishing about unlocking the Jedi within.
But although that’s not the case, we can still learn a hell of a lot from the little dude without buying his latest e-course or tuning into that “change your life” Periscope his PR team would be forcing him to host later this week. In fact his Buddhist-inspired teachings about fear, mindfulness, taking action and everything in between are just as relevant to someone sitting at their desk looking to make some big changes to their life as they are to a young Jedi who turns to him to learn how to use the force.
Let’s take a look at some of Yoda’s key teachings and get to the bottom of what they mean for all of us.
Lesson #1: Stop being so judge-y
When Luke Skywalker first arrives in Yoda’s swamp in The Empire Strikes Back he thinks he’s in the wrong place. And definitely in the wrong company. Yoda says to him “help you I can” and Luke replies “I don’t think so. I’m looking for a great warrior.” To which Yoda replies “Oh great warrior. Wars not make one great.”
Of course there are a lot of lessons to be learned here. But the main one is that it’s not all about appearances. Yoda’s mind and abilities make him great, not his stature or war medals. Which is echoed later, when he says, “Judge me by my size do you? Well, do not”. An idea that he then puts into practice when he uses nothing but his mind to get the X-Wing fighter out of the swamp.
And interestingly, this is a constant theme that runs throughout the saga. That seemingly smaller and even weaker-looking opponents can crush their adversaries using powers or strategies that go way beyond brute force. Like Leia strangling Jabba with the very chains he’s using to enslave her, which is another great parallel.
Lesson #2: Be more present
One of the most important Buddhist teachings is to accept what is, right now, in the moment. And give little thought to the past or the future. An idea that Yoda teaches many times. He says, “Always in motion the future is”. If the future is always in motion, it’s impossible to predict what might happen, to plan your next move or worry about what’s going to happen.
So what’s the answer? To be in the present. You can’t know the future, it’s always changing. Everything is in flux. So your only option is to stay present. Which Yoda has done through years and years of meditation and contemplation.
Lesson #3: It’s time to face up to your fears
The constant underlying threat of the dark side plays a huge part in Yoda’s teachings, as well as the Star Wars saga as a whole. And what will take you right there according to Yoda? Fear. Especially avoidance of fear.
He says, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It’s probably one of the most powerful and universal ideas Yoda teaches. Because the truth is we’re all really afraid of stuff, but have a hard time admitting it. From spiders and flying through to not being loved and not being good enough. Rather than face up to our fears it’s way easier (and more familiar for many of us) to get angry, push people away, avoid situations and try to avoid fear and pain.
But, as Yoda says, all this does is lead us to the dark side. Which in everyday terms could be described as depression, anxiety or just being a really unhappy and miserable person who doesn’t do anything.
At the same time, you could say there’s a sense of the dark side in all of us. Just like we all have fears and stuff to contend with every single day. And it’s not about eradicating it completely, just letting the light shine through and accepting the fact our fears aren’t real and can’t control us.
I feel like Yoda really delves into this idea when he says “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.” Sure you could read that as, don’t get too deep into your fears because you don’t know what’ll happen. Instead I think it means, get really deep in there, face up to all of your old beliefs, your shitty past, the dark stuff, and still feel like you can get through it, shine a light on it and emerge stronger.
Of course, he realises this is a difficult thing to do when he says “To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness. Be a candle, or the night.”
Lesson #4: Believe in yourself
When Yoda moves the X-Wing fighter with his mind, Luke says “I don’t believe it”. Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.” This is a great analogy for the teaching that without faith in yourself and belief that you can do something, you’re way more likely to fail. Sure that’s easier said than done, but focusing on what you do want rather than what you don’t want is a much better use of your time and gives you a better chance of making better decisions and taking actions that’ll lead you to succeed.
Yoda’s most popular quote supports this idea too, “Do or do not, there is no try”. Sure you could say this is about seizing the moment, but I think it’s also just about having faith and commitment. Doing something fully rather than trying to get your head around it at every level and creating obstacles.
Lesson #5: Stop being attached to stuff – even good stuff
If you start to delve into Buddhist teachings you’ll come across this idea a lot. That you shouldn’t be attached to the bad stuff. The worries, fears and judgement. This can apply to serious issues, like death. In Revenge of the Sith, he says, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”
But not the good stuff either, because then you expect it, become dependent on it. Life is just about accepting what is right now.
Yoda says, “Adventure, heh! Excitement, heh! A Jedi craves not these things”. This doesn’t mean you can’t experience adventure or excitement, but if you depend on them and need them to be fulfilled, you’ll only end up disappointed.
You could say this in a material sense too. Yoda lives in a swamp. He doesn’t give a crap about “stuff”, which brings us neatly back to the first quote, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose”. Only when we’re not attached to the good or the bad can we let go of suffering.
Feeling enlightened? At ease? Ready to join the empire and fight Vader? We thought so. Proving the theory that you can learn more from a few Star Wars movies than you could from a lifetime of therapy, all of Osho’s books and a whole weekend course about being your best self.
Is your favourite Yoda teaching not mentioned here? Let us know what you think the most inspiring Yoda quote is in the comments below.