Qigong in Popular Culture: Star Wars’ the Force and Qi
Star Wars and Qigong have quite some similarities! Not only did Star Wars creator George Lucas borrow the concept of Qi for his Force, he also shaped Luke Skywalker as kind of a Ren Xue hero. Let’s have a closer look!
“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.“ This is how Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi explains the Force for the very first time in the original Star Wars movie in 1977. Young Luke Skywalker was listening – and so was I.
To be honest, I loved that movie. Sometime in the late 70s, my mum took me to the nearby cinema and I enjoyed the whole day with her. Star Wars rocked. But not because of the Force, but because of spaceships, a western movie plot, and that scoundrel of a character, Han Solo. But I was not at all interested in a cosmic energy field or the lectures of an old wizard, not even in Luke Skywalker.
Star Wars and Qigong
Thirty-something years later, I started to practice Qigong. I remember my first session in nature under a beautiful summer sky. I can still recall what my teacher said about the Qi around us, about the galaxy, and about breathing. Yoda? It reminded me of Yoda!
Weeks later, I wanted to share something of myself with my teacher. I don’t know why, but I decided to invite her to watch “The Empire Strikes back” with me. It might not have been my most adult move and, to tell the truth, she didn’t like the movie at all, but seeing the movie again, I discovered Qigong throughout the Star Wars universe, especially in the parts of Yoda’s teaching that I had found so boring before. Now, they had my complete attention.
“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere.” If these words, Yoda’s words, did not describe Qi what else was he talking about?
From his many interviews and the documentaries about him, I knew that George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, was inspired by many things, including Japanese cinema, Flash Gordon, Hollywood westerns – and Asian spirituality. But it never had been as obvious to me as on that day. Still, I wondered if it was a coincidence – or does George Lucas practice Qigong?
The Five Heart Qualities of Luke Skywalker
In the following month, I expanded my Qigong practice and at one point discovered the five heart qualities cultivated in the REN XUE practice: Trust, Openness, Love, Gratitude, and Gongjing (something like true respect and humility). Again, Star Wars came to mind and I wondered if these qualities were important for Jedi Knights as well – especially for Luke Skywalker.
TRUST seems easy. Luke trusts his friends and also his course. He is eager to help others and to have healthy relationships with the people around him. When he was challenged and discovered that his enemy, the evil Darth Vader, was his father, he struggled at first. But then he accepted it and stayed in a positive state.
I personally think you have to have a huge amount of OPENNESS to become a Jedi Knight in the first place. Only through openness can Qi flow freely; and only through openness can a student of the Force actually feel the force. Luke’s teachers reminded him to be open with his surroundings, with nature, matter, and all life forms. Only then could he use the Force, which, as we all know, is what he eventually did!
The heart quality of LOVE is a bit harder to see in Star Wars since Luke’s character had no love interest. But his pure heart beat for the redemption of his father. Even if his father was abusing the whole galaxy, murdering people, and destroying planets, Luke believed there was still some good in Darth Vader. When he confronted his father in the final episode of the first trilogy, Luke threw his lightsaber away. He didn’t want to use any weapon besides his unconditional love for his father. And in the end, it was that love that succeeded.
GRATITUDE leaves nothing out: it extends to others, to animate and inanimate objects, to ourselves, and to our bodies. Luke, as the only hope for the universe, basically had two quests: To redeem his father – and a seemingly far easier one (!) to save the galaxy. His desire not to fight Darth Vader and still to achieve his second quest, ennobled and enlightened first the rebellion, and then everybody else. In that way, through gratitude, he was able to spread his love.
GONGJING arises from a true understanding that everything is a manifestation of the laws of the universe (Dao). It helps us hold everyone and everything as equal, valuable, and part of the whole. Luke was open to trusting the will of the Force. Unlike his father, he put egoism, doubt, and anger aside to maintain balance and to embody the interwoven qualities of the heart. He was a true Jedi Master – and a true master of his state.
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