“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

In Episode III of Star Wars (Revenge of the Sith), a troubled hero, Anakin Skywalker, fears the death of his wife and unborn child. He speaks to oldest and wisest teacher in his profession, Master Yoda. After Anakin unburdens his fears (albeit nonspecifically), he asks, “What must I do, Master Yoda.” Without hesitation, the elder Jedi replies, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Sadly, Anakin is unable to hear the wisdom in Yoda’s sage advice and he continues on a dark path attempting to control the outcome of events he doesn’t even understand.

Master Yoda counsels Anakin Skywalker in the ways of the force.

Although he was in a galaxy far, far away, Yoda was actually describing the Noble Truths of Buddhism. As explained on thehappinessclinic.org, “The Buddhist concept of non-attachment is a constructive way to approach relationships. Here, attachment refers to an attempt to control things that you can’t control. When you try to grasp or control something outside of yourself, this causes suffering for yourself and the other person. You cannot truly love someone by attempting to control them. For this reason, the practice of letting go is essential to the quality of your relationships.” This notion spans many religions across the world. Father Thomas Merton, a a Christian influenced by Eastern thought, wrote, “Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing, or held down by any special relationship. It is love for love’s sake.” (Merton, Contemplative Prayer, 1971). Jesus also preached this to his disciples, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

I face this challenge daily, both in my role as a school principal and as a father of teenage girls. In both roles, I’m responsible for creating an atmosphere where others can feel safe to be themselves, ply their trade, and grow. It’s often easy to begin assuming we know how and what people are feeling and thinking. Over time, it becomes easier still to make decisions using those assumptions. And when people don’t respond or act how I thought they would (or thought they should), I become offended or angered or hurt. But in truth, I don’t know what any one else thinks or feels. My misguided attempt to “lead” is actually an unhealthy way to try and control things. That “control” is exactly what Yoda, Father Merton, and Jesus advise us to release.

“Letting go” releases anxiety, allows us to live in the present moment, and helps us experience life without constantly labeling and judging. That release truly unleashes the ability to connect with everything around us. Bryant McGill, an author, wrote, “Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.” What may have happened if Anakin had released his fear of abandonment and the desire to control everything around him? When people in your charge come to you for help, how do you respond? I wonder what would happen if you let go of the desire to solve their problems or to be seen as the authority?

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