Over the weekend, we watched The Last Jedi again and I noticed that Rey, the main character, the young woman who seeks out Luke Skywalker for help and mentoring in the use of The Force, was really struggling in her combat with Kylo Ren, the heir to the Darth Vader role.
When he attacks her with his mind and the dark use of The Force, the effort is manifest on her face. She’s holding out with all she has.
Contrast this with Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Or with Luke Skywalker in the battle at the end of The Last Jedi. There is no struggle. There is confidence. There is patience. There is letting go.
Rey shows some glimmer of this in her one-on-one interactions with Ren, where they find themselves together across time and space. When she isn’t frightened or angry or consumed with emotion, she lets The Force flow through her and they touch. When she is captured and being held prisoner early in the movie, she struggles against Ren but, after he leaves the room, she relaxes and is able to persuade the guard to let her go.
She struggles again with Snopes, as he holds her in the air, trying to wrest the map to Skywalker’s retreat from her. But at the end of the battle she is able to escape from Ren with little effort.
To me, this is the essence of meditation. We spend all day grasping our perception of reality, the stories that we are making up about what is going on around us. You don’t love me as much as I love you because you made the decision to get a Christmas tree, although I told you I didn’t want one; and then because you were going to go shopping for the tree without me, although there is snow on the ground and I hate getting my feet wet; and then because you spent more than the impossibly low amount I asked you to limit yourself to; then because you started to decorate this tree that I didn’t want without waiting until I was ready to help you. Do you see how the stories spin themselves? And how easy it is to hold onto these stories and create a reality from them?
At it’s worst, we see people like Kylo Ren doing this on a grand scale: I have a right to behave badly on a grand scale and put my needs above everyone else’s needs and sew fear and hate everywhere because I am so unhappy myself, and I think that having more power will make me happier – when all indications are that I am no more happier now than I was four years ago.
Meditation is about letting go of the stories, just for a little while. About not blaming yourself if fail at staying focused on the breath. Letting things come and go and move through you without holding onto them.
So, if you ever find yourself being attacked by a Dark Lord of The Force, who is trying to rip the location of the last Jedi Knight from your mind, here is my advice to you:
Don’t fight him.
Let his attack move through you, as if you were fog.
If you practice letting go of your stories for even a few minutes every day, this will become easier.