Written by Keaton Evans.
Ask the impossible, Yoda does not. Related directly to acting, this is. How it is I will, er, can show you… ah, forget it.
If you are as much of a Star Wars fan as I am, which I guarantee you’re not, you might remember the scenes from The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda is training the ever-growing Luke about the mysterious ways of The Force.
I think he has some key insight into what it’s like to live in the moment and how to concentrate. The Dagobah training scenes are rich with all sorts of sagely small green humanoid wisdom. But here I am going to translate some of the key ideas and show you how living in the moment will greatly reward you as an actor and how you can even do this on a busy set.
Listed below are some techniques I like to use to help me live in the present. They are quick and easy and shouldn’t take you any longer than ten minutes.
- A quiet place, you must find
Did you notice in Episode V how Yoda greeted all his neighbors on his daily walk to the local Dagobah supermarket before he met Luke? No? Neither do I. In fact we never see another sentient soul on the entire planet besides our little green friend.
That’s because Yoda (R.I.P.) understood it’s best to be alone when you do any kind of training. Including the training of living in the present moment. Take a page from Yoda’s book. Find a place on set or location, where you are about to film, that is quiet and away from the distraction.
If you’re up on the acting ladder you’ll have a trailer. Find that quiet place. The green room is a great place. The honeywagon is great too, if you have nowhere else.
- Your body, stretched it must be
Yoda was also quite the advocate for stretching. Now, while we never see him actually stretch, except for his hand when he lifts Luke’s freaking X-wing out of the mud. Now the stretching we see Luke do is not quite the same as what I have done, although the idea remains the same.
In that quiet place, your Dagobah, as I’ve now decided to call it, the first thing to do is to stretch. If you’re not wearing standard jedi garb then that’s ok. As long as the clothes are not too restricting, you can do the basic stretching techniques.
Try touching your toes, reaching for the sky, or my personal favourite: swinging your arms in giant loops.
Not only is stretching great for getting you relaxed and in the right mindset, but according to healthguidance.org, it also helps warm you up, increases your range of motion, and improves your posture. Stretching has a multitude of benefits. As you can see, and now so can Luke, Yoda knew what he was talking about.
Do or do not. There is no try.
- For success, close your eyes and breathe deeply, you should
Did you notice in the movie how when Yoda focuses The Force he closes his eyes? Well the same goes for training yourself to live in the present moment. I (almost) guarantee that when Yoda was reaching out with The Force he was breathing deeply. If you zoom in on him in the scene where he lifts Luke’s X-Wing you can just see Yoda’s chest (Oz’ hand) move up and down in the same pattern a human would if they were breathing deeply. My point? Yoda was onto something… that genius!
After stretching, pull a concentrated Yoda. Pretend you are lifting something with The Force while your eyes are closed and your breathing is deep. This is great for calming your mind and getting the distractions like the threat of the empire or your friends’ death in Cloud City off your ol’ noodle.
But seriously, according to Harvard Medical School, deep breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. It’s great for helping you to live in the present moment.
Here’s a link to the article about deep breathing which goes more in-depth: https://hms.harvard.edu/
- All around you, sounds are. On sounds, focus
Yoda talks about how The Force is all around us. It’s in the rocks, the trees, that possum you saw the other night, even in your very own computation device.
I believe that sounds are all around you. And I know from trying that while you are breathing deeply you focus on listening it makes all the difference in the world in pulling you into the present. Simply listen. Hear the birds, the cars, the talking, white noise, cats meowing, dogs barking. Then after you simply sit and listen to all the sounds, even if they are faint, try listening to only one sound. This will help your concentration. As you have to concentrate on one sound you will learn to concentrate on only one thing, that is your script later when you are waiting for the next shot.
- Now the time to focus on your role, it is
The last step in your jedi training, er, present-moment training, is to focus on the most important part of your job: your role. As you have used the instructions of the universe’s most trusted whatever-species-Yoda-is, you are ready to live in the moment and focus not on the distractions around you, but on your character.
In the moments of deep breathing with your eyes still closed, think of the background of your character. Think of their history and relationships. Think about your character’s overall objective and their objective in the upcoming scene. In this way you will be ready to live in the present moment by focusing on your role and it will be that much easier to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
The distractions of everything else will fall into the background. You will be able to concentrate on that which is most important.
Through these steps you have found your Dagobah, you’ve stretched your body, you’ve deeply breathed, you’ve listened, and you’ve focused on your character. You journey towards the darkside WON’T be complete now! Hurrah! Suck it Palpatine!
Pictured: a wrinkled sap who doesn’t live in the present.
Hopefully these steps will help you to live in the present moment and prepare you for the scene you are about to take part in. Well, as they say in Yoda’s swamp town: “bye”!