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Mindfulness has a dark side too

I used to pride myself by saying that I never sat through one movie in the Star War series. It was sort of fun to be the odd woman out. The glimpses I was exposed to from pop culture just didn’t interest me. Then one day things started to change. It was December over a school holiday and the weather was amazing, it was sunny and the temperature was to approach 70 degrees in Northern Virginia. I was longing to be outside and get some exercise. I convinced my son to walk a nearby 3.8 mile trail. Granted he was young but he would play outside running all day and I wanted to build his stamina so we could hike nearby parks more regularly. 

He was keen to hike the planned loop as the halfway point included a playground. I packed snacks, water, and we hit the trail. We made it to the playground easily, singing carols along the way. We played for a short while, ate a snack and then I explained we were at the middle point of our walk. We could continue the loop or turn around and go back the way we came but the distance to walk was about the same. We decided to keep going and shortly into the return, the complaining started- I’m tired, I don’t want to walk anymore- his paced slowed and he sat down. I tried to distract him with more carols but they were getting boring- we already sang all the ones we knew. I carried him for a bit but, that was not sustainable for either of us. I finally took him off my back and said, tell me everything you know about Star Wars.

He taught me about the different planets, the names of different characters, the Millennium Falcon and other ships, light sabers, the Rebel Alliance, Jedi and Sith, the Empire, and of course the Force. It all sounded familiar to me as the Star Wars plot he was describing definitely had influences from ancient philosophies that I enjoyed reading and studying. This was something I could relate too!

My son then asked me if I thought the Force was real because he could feel it. I have no doubt the Force is real, I replied because I also feel it. He then asked if bad guys could feel it because the Empire was bad and they used the Force too. My mind sparked with a quick list of figures that should have been on the light side but used their role of someone ‘good and trustworthy’ to advance their power and authority. The dark side can be strong I said and we need to combine the Force with positive intention to help out the light side.

Mindfulness has been under criticism that companies use it only to increase profits, to create passive employees that won’t question sources of stress, or to hide behind a boosted mindful culture only to make poor ethical and moral decisions. A criminal can also be very mindful- purposefully hurting others, in the present moment without judgement. Those in positions of influence in the light such as yoga instructors, religious figures, and heads of government have abused their power with whatever force they associate with. Aligning with the wrong intentions can turn anything dark.

However, because people have abused good forces doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be introduced to others, shared, or explored more. One can practice mindfulness with the intention of stepping into their best self, cultivating resilience, to connect more deeply with others, and to better understand compassion and empathy. Intention is a large influence on how any force is used.

Talking about Star Wars completed the hike which my son promptly sat at the trail end and demanded I go get the car to pick him up but, it was a win in my book. His reward- Mommy finally sat through a Star Wars movie. For you Star War enthusiasts I did not see the original trilogy first but started with Episode 1 (I know, I know). Over the course of a year I watched them all with my son and continued to draw the parallels between what I was studying in meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.

The Force is known as different things to different species such as life current, sight, galaxy spirit, or a field connecting everything to the Universe. In other worldly traditions this is similar to prana, qi, chi, life force, vital energy, and the breath. In Star Wars the Force resides in all lifeforms however some are born with a higher sensitivity allowing them to harness various powers of the Force more. The Jedi order realizing the power of the Force use it with the intention of selflessness and service to others and are deemed the light side. The Sith used the Force with the intention of strength and power and are deemed the dark side. These orders fight through millennia annihilating each other. The Star Wars series can paint a picture of our own future if we do not take steps to close the gaps created among us and the planet. As Yoda might say, much to learn we still have.

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