“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.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
Meditation In Science Fiction
Meditation might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about science fiction, but there are many examples of meditation practice in all forms of pop culture.
Many characters, human and alien alike, have been shown using meditation for supernatural purposes—like seeing the future or controlling minds—but also to increase their productivity and focus.
The most obvious example is The Force, created for Star Wars by George Lucas in the mid-seventies. The 1970s saw a massive influx of meditation into the public consciousness, led by celebrities like The Beatles and Mia Farrow, who studied Transcendental Meditation in India.
Even earlier than Star Wars was the publication of Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic Dune in 1965, which is set in the extremely distant future and features a number of different meditation practices based on real-world examples. Dune‘s most famous meditation is “The Litany Against Fear“, a powerful mantra designed to help those who use it face their fear:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Influence From Japanese Samurai Films
Meditation isn’t only a tool of Jedi Masters and human computers from the far future. Western filmmakers and authors were influenced by the arrival of Japanese samurai films:
- Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon in 1951, samurai epics featured thrilling sword fights and Zen Buddhist principles.
- Later, the samurai film was usurped by Chinese kung fu movies of the 70s, which introduced the world to Bruce Lee. An incredibly charming and dynamic performer, Lee was also a practitioner of qi gong and a fierce supporter of meditation.
The timing of Lee’s arrival in the Western consciousness, along with the growing popularity of meditation centres in the US, led to a flood of meditation in pop culture that continues to this day.
Appropriately, meditation’s influence on pop culture has come full circle: the Esalen Institute, founded in 1962, was featured in the very last episode of Mad Men, one of the most successful and influential television series of all time.
Why is meditation important to being successful?
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Alak Vasa said she started meditating while a trader at Goldman Sachs and expressed how mindfulness had helped her keep her cool in a panic:
“There was this one instance where the market tanked and there was panic on the desk. The trading desk was an organized riot. Thanks to my meditation practice, I was able to keep my composure and propose solutions to reduce the impact of the market crash.”
Successful people who meditate
More and more successful people are opening up about their experiences with meditation and how it has helped their careers.
Here are a few highlights:
Marc Benioff, chairman, founder, and co-CEO of Salesforce
Marc Benioff discovered meditation while he was an executive at Oracle. Many Salesforce offices have “mindfulness zones” — quiet areas where employees can take a moment for themselves to promote clear thinking and innovation.
With the background of an entrepreneur, Benioff is an advocate for “the beginner’s mind” and that focus permeates Salesforce culture at all levels. After ten years at Oracle, he took a sabbatical to focus on his meditation, studying at retreats in Hawaii and India.
In 2018, he told the New York Times:
“We had these amazing experiences going to all of these different ashrams and meeting all these different spiritual masters. It was almost like a guru tour. I definitely came back from that trip as a different person.”
Muse has even had the good fortune of being invited to several large scale Salesforce conferences to create tranquil meditation rooms as a respite in the hustle and bustle of the busy conference floor:
Kobe Bryant, NBA All-star
Before his tragic death earlier this year, Kobe Bryant was a vocal supporter of mindfulness meditation, which he learned from his coach, Phil Jackson. Jackson, along with stress expert George Mumford, taught meditation to the Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers through the 90s and 2000s, leading both teams to multiple NBA championships.
Bryant told Oprah he meditates every morning for ten to fifteen minutes;
“It sets me up for the day. It’s like having an anchor. If I don’t do it, I feel like I’m constantly chasing the day.”
Micheal Jordan, NBA All-star
Jordan learned mindfulness after his return to basketball following the death of his father. His coach at the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, brought on former basketball player and stress expert George Mumford to lead the team in mindfulness exercises.
Olivia Munn, Actor
Actor and comedian Olivia Munn struggled for years to practice meditation, but found it impossible to focus. She used Muse to bridge her love of video games (Olivia was a host on G4’s Attack of the Show from 2006 to 2011) with her desire to learn meditation.
“When you’re thinking of nothing at all, you get bird chirps,” She told People Magazine, “It’s like a little video game for me.”
In a Woman’s Health article she goes on to explain more of her early struggles with starting a meditation practice, and how Muse has helped:
“For Olivia, self-care starts with the most basic step: breathing. “I tried so hard [to meditate] for years,” she says. “The tough thing for me about meditating is thinking, Am I doing it right? Did I do this for nothing? Do I have to start all over? My brain begins to spin.”
Then she found something that worked for her: a headband called Muse that uses an EEG device to sense brain activity and translate it into guided meditation sounds. “When you’re thinking of nothing at all, you get bird chirps,” she says. “It’s like a little video game for me.”
It’s taken years of work, but now she can get to that calm place in 10 seconds. In those quiet moments, she finds it easy to focus on what she needs to do.”
Marina Abramović, Artist
Marina Abramović is a performance artist who has spent decades exploring the gap between the mental and the physical, with a specific focus on endurance. She has spent 40 years developing the Abramović Method, “an exploration of being present”.
A group meditation experience, the Method takes participants through repetitive motions like breathing and walking to “investigate their physical and emotional limits.”
The culmination of the Abramović Method is her work “The Artist is Present”, where she sits completely still for hours: the first presentation at MOMA in 2010, Abramović sat for eight hours a day, over three months.
Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Scientist
Dr. Rosenthal is a psychiatrist who was the first to describe and name Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and develop the light therapy to treat it.
His book on Transcendental Meditation, “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation“, was called “The best ever book on Transcendental Meditation,” by other noted meditation practitioner, filmmaker David Lynch.
The entrepreneurs collection in Muse contains guided meditation courses on topics vital for finding success in your life. Starting with an introduction to the concepts of quiet and mindfulness, follow Christina Dufour as she guides you through Feeling Isolated, Tune in to Listening, and Grounding Practice. Finally, Chrissy Carter asks “What’s Your Superpower?”
Interested in finding out? Muse has more meditation courses for motivation, performance, confidence, and many more.