“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” – Grandmaster Yoda
In my last post, I mentioned that characteristics and techniques we see modeled by the Jedi can be applied to modern parenting. With no children of their own, what can the Jedi of old possibly teach us? Is it possible to learn this power? (Chancellor, please don't answer that!)
I want to start by saying that I have just one child – a rambunctious three-year-old boy – and have not spent much time around other young children, especially in a caregiver role. I recognize that my experience is undoubtedly far different from many other parents. With that in mind, I am merely relating my own thoughts and certainly do not intend this to be any sort of recommendation of what other parents should or should not do with their own children.
The vast majority of Jedi did not have children (Ki-Adi Mundi being a notable exception), and of course Force-sensitive children were taken from their birth parents at a very young age. This particular aspect of the Jedi experience is clearly not a rule that society should follow. It does not mean, though, that we cannot borrow many of the other mindsets or techniques from the Jedi to raise mindful kids.
The first thought that comes to mind for me personally is maintaining calm. I recognize and accept my own natural tendencies to excitement and frequent anger. However, I choose to accept the situation as it is, rather than what I would like it to be – though it is a work in progress (more on that later). Recognizing and addressing feelings and emotions is definitely a skill we see Force-sensitive beings use repeatedly throughout the saga. Jedi and Sith alike search their feelings and are taught or exhorted to either master them or give in to them, respectively. It’s easy to recognize the dark feelings in the moment – what a parent might feel when the child is in full meltdown at the grocery store, for example. I consider that to be too late, though. I work very hard at recognizing and calling myself out – nonjudgmentally – when I realize that I’m angry, frustrated, or stressed. In many ways, I feel that it gives me power over my emotions. If I can see the anger, I can address it. I may not be able to fix it, but I can surely ask myself if that emotion is really going to help me improve the real issue at hand, or if it just adds fuel to the flame.
Wait a minute – am I talking about my son, or me, in this post? The answer is both. I will completely and unashamedly admit that when my son melts down, I sometimes run the risk of melting down, too. However, I am an adult – and a Jedi, thank you! – and I can and will be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
My son knows when I get frustrated, and he will ask me about it (I love his perceptiveness). Of course, many times he knows EXACTLY why I’m upset, if he’s been “making bad choices.” I talk to him about my own effort to remain calm when life gets to be a little much for me and encourage him to do the same. I make a point of letting him see me practice deep breathing, not as a warning to him, but as an example. I want him to see that it’s normal to be affected by emotions, but that we (as a Jedi knight and youngling) do not have to give in and allow ourselves to become overwhelmed.
One method of learning control is through meditation, and I meditate daily.* I generally practice zazen – sitting Zen Buddhist meditation – in a secular fashion. I am not good at it yet, but I’m not bad, either. I consider the fact that I have taken the time to just sit and BE, daily, for over a year and a half to be a very positive measure of performance for me. All Jedi meditated, and for good reason. I do not truly touch the Force, of course, but I invariably feel more connected to my own mind and body, and the universe around me, when I take that time to sit quietly. I haven’t tried to meditate if my son is around – he IS a very lively boy, of course, so I doubt that I’d get much quiet relaxation out of that endeavor. In time I will introduce it to him as well. In the meantime, I model deep breathing for him and take opportunities to teach mindfulness and, if he’s in the right mood, being quiet and still. Again, as an active child, this doesn’t come easy to him, so it’s more of a relative quiet and still. While taking a walk in our neighborhood, I will point out clouds and ask him what he sees in them, or ask what he notices that’s interesting and different about a house or car that we pass. I praise him for picking up on small details that demonstrate that he’s analyzing what he sees.
Another method I use to share Star Wars with my youngling is by listening to The Empire Strikes Back score when we’re in the car. At times he’ll specifically ask to hear “Yoda’s Theme.” “Yoda calms you down, Daddy,” he’ll say, because I’ve told him so. It might just be his wanting to be like his father, but he says it calms him down, too. The reason why it relaxes me, though, is because it reminds me of the Dagobah training scenes in the movie. I particularly enjoy Yoda’s explanation of the Force and of our luminosity within the world. I describe the scene to my son, and he now recognizes the cue when Yoda lifts Luke’s X-wing out of the swamp when he hears it. He’ll then tell me how even small people can use the Force to do good (hint hint, son!)
In the physical realm, and like many Star Wars parents, we frequently play with lightsabers. I have taken it a step further by introducing him to a pair of foam training swords that I used when I practiced traditional Japanese martial arts. As we train – and I pointedly avoid the word “fight” – I encourage him to stay in control and not allow himself to be swept up in the moment too much. I realize that he’s a small child who needs to play, but I am cautious of allowing combat techniques to be reduced to “play” for him. In time I will teach him appropriate uses of physical force, but not yet. I admit to quoting Yoda often – “Control, control, you must learn control!” It’s also a good opportunity for me to reinforce that Jedi listened to their teachers, kept in touch with their own feelings, and controlled their emotions and physical selves as appropriate in the situation.
I’m interested to hear how others use Jedi techniques or attributes to help raise their own children. Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –
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*I use the “Insight Timer – Meditation Timer” app on my iPhone. Find out more at https://insighttimer.com/.Powered by Sidelines