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Trying not to try.

Why learning to stop trying could be the best thing for you.

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

To the uninitiated, the above quote is from Star Wars Episode V, and it comes about because Luke Skywalker is desperate to become a Jedi Knight like his father before him. He has a fierce intensity about him as he sets about his Jedi training, under the guidance of his guru and mentor Yoda, an ancient, little green creature who is also a Jedi master. Luke is struggling to raise his sunken spacecraft from a boggy marsh using just his willpower, in accordance with The Force (basically an all encompassing spiritual power). He argues with his master regarding the difficulty of the task in hand, and so Yoda says to Luke,

"You must unlearn what you have learned."

Luke looks bemusedly at Yoda and, in an almost adolescent strop, replies,

"Alright, I'll give it a try."

That is when Yoda says the now infamous line,

"Do or do not. There is no try."

It's very easy to dismiss this exchange as the ramblings of what is essentially a Jim Henson created muppet in a blockbusting science fiction film, but to do so would be to lose the profundity of not just this conversation but also much of what underpins the Star Wars phenomenon.

George Lucas, the writer and creator of Star Wars is a master storyteller. He is one of the greatest there is. Lucas understands the workings behind what makes a great story work, he has studied this to the highest level, learning about the mythology and history of stories. It's too easy to dismiss his work because it is so ubiquitous and so commercial, but this shouldn't deter us from appreciating the craft that created such an enduring body of work.

But, going back to Yoda, Luke and their swamp-side discussion, this is deep stuff. Even just the line, "you must unlearn what you have learned" is enough to keep a monastery full of zen monks busy for several of their lifetimes. Wouldn't we all be happier, freer, and more enlightened human beings if we all unlearnt what we have learnt? It's the baggage of the past, of previous knowledge, that we carry constantly around with us and that taints our experience of the present moment. Without that baggage there is just the here and now, unfolding perfectly, just as it is, right before us, in this moment.

Thanks Yoda, that would be enough for one session - but no, the little green fella follows that up with the most zen line ever uttered by a latex puppet in the history of cinema, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Boom. Game over.

Try. Three little letters that can do so much damage to our sense of worth and wellbeing. It's only marginally behind other such words as 'can't' or 'should', words which regularly strike terror into our hearts, and our hopes and dreams.

We try so hard. So hard. We are encouraged at every turn since birth to try to be better, cleverer, prettier, wealthier, thinner, happier,'s exhausting.

But what if we took Yoda's advice and vouched for 'no try'? What would happen? Would the world stop spinning? Would our jobs not get done? Would our relationships fail? Would our bills get paid? The great fear is that if we don't try harder then we'll lose our way, miss our opportunities, or fall behind the competition. But, what we are mistaking here is apathy, laziness and inactivity for the letting go of desire that Yoda is referring to.

Letting go of desire. Isn't that what Buddha was talking about? It doesn't mean giving up, it means letting go of outcomes. When we let go of outcomes we can be more present with each moment, we can actually be more effective, but without trying to be. And the more that we can see ourselves seeking an outcome, in whatever activity we enter into, then the more we can start to let go of that outcome and see what happens when we just remain as present as we can be.

My experience has taught me that I have less stress, more energy, clearer focus and greater creativity when I let go of what I am 'trying' to achieve, and to just be in this moment without seeking a greater outcome.

Right now I am just writing. I'm not thinking. I am aware of my body sitting in the chair, then I am aware of my fingers tapping away on the keyboard, and the sound of the dog rolling over on to her back on the floor next to my chair. I can hear the kids in the other room doing their homework. That's it. I'm not trying to write a novel. I'm not even trying to write a blog piece (yes, yes I know what you are thinking, very funny). I was reminded of the Star Wars quote on my dog walk in the park this morning and I thought it was an interesting starting point for a conversation with myself, after all that's what writing is - it's a conversation you have with yourself through a keyboard or with a pen. So I'm 'no trying' to write right now. I think I am 'no trying' pretty well, apart from those moments where my inner critic kicks in determined to review what's been written with it's scathing, beady eye.

It's a bit of a trap the 'no try' thing though because you do constantly catch yourself 'trying' again; the mind is a wily and sneaky little thing. Still, the point is in catching ourselves in those moments and gently returning to whatever it is we are doing but with more presence and less outcome.

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