As part of today’s Star Wars Day celebration, Lucasfilm has launched “Star Wars Mindful Matters,” a series of Star Wars Kids shorts written by and starring Ashley Eckstein, known as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Created by Eckstein and Lucasfilm in collaboration with Citrone 33, Star Wars Mindful Matters looks to teach mindfulness to young viewers by focusing on the lessons their favorite Star Wars characters and stories teach. Each short video sees Eckstein leading a mindfulness exercise inspired by Star Wars. According to Lucasfilm, each episode is clinically based on resources provided by the On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health, backed by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The first two videos launch today on StarWarsKids.com. Additional episodes will release throughout May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. ComicBook.com had the opportunity to talk with Eckstein about the new project.
Tell me about this new project. Where did the idea to combine Star Wars and mindfulness come from?
Ashley Eckstein: The new series is called “Star Wars Mindful Matters,” and this is an idea I had about five years ago. It’s been a passion project of mine for a very long time, and I’m so proud of these videos. Basically, these are short bite-size videos, three minutes or less, where it teaches a short mindful exercise. Our favorite characters in Star Wars learn these exercises.
I’m taking lessons that we learn from Star Wars and combining them with clinically-based mindful and mental health exercises. I worked very closely with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their On Our Sleeves movement to make sure that these exercises were clinically-based, but first and foremost, they are lessons that we learn from Star Wars. I combine clips from the films and the shows, and I teach viewers how to do an exercise where they can learn these lessons as well, and teaching viewers that it only takes a moment to make a powerful difference in your day, because being mindful matters.
It feels like a natural combination, given the presence of the Jed and their mindfulness practices. Can you give an example of where these two things meet in one of your excercises?
Absolutely. Our two first videos that we’re going to be releasing on May 4th, one of them, we hear in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and also Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where Jedi Master Yoda is teaching Luke, and then also Luke is teaching Rey, where Luke says, “Breathe. Just breathe.”
A Jedi must learn to connect with their breath to slow down the moment and become one with the present moment, not focus on the future, but literally connect with the present moment. I teach viewers how to connect with their breath and repeat the mantra, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me,” to connect with the Force. I’m just so thrilled that we’re able to use these examples and share in these videos clips from the films, from the shows, to show our favorite characters in Star Wars doing these exercises as well.
Another example is Yoda teaches Luke, and again, Luke teaches Rey, to feel the Force, “The Force is an energy that surrounds us, that binds us,” and so how we can relate to it in our lives. Sometimes when things get overwhelming, either in a nervous or anxious way, or even when you’re very excited, you can lose a sense of your surroundings, and we need to ground ourselves in the current moment. I’m able to combine these lessons that we learn in Star Wars with a clinically-based grounding exercise, which is essentially learning to feel the Force because the Force is all about connecting with your surroundings. You don’t have to make these lessons up. These lessons already exist in Star Wars. Jedi Master Yoda says, “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” And Master Yoda teaches us that it’s just as important to train your mind as it is to physically train your body.
And it’s not just the Jedi where we learn these lessons. We learn these mindful lessons all throughout Star Wars. We’re going to be releasing an episode that features Chewbacca about emotions. We’re releasing an episode about the droids, about reaching out and asking for help. I’m thrilled that we’re able to connect clinically-based mindfulness exercises with lessons that we learn in Star Wars.
You mentioned that this is a passion project for you. What role does mindfulness play in your own life? Did your time voicing Ahsoka, playing a Jedi, affect how you think about it?
Absolutely. This idea really came from the fans, and specifically the kids, the Padawans.
One of the number one questions that kids ask me, they ask me how they can be a Jedi too. And I always found myself answering that question by relating lessons that Ahsoka learns, or lessons that the Jedi learn, or our favorite characters in Star Wars learn, and I relate those lessons to their everyday life. For example, if I ask a kid how school is going, and let’s say they tell me, “Oh, it’s just going okay,” well, I tell them, “Well, you know what? Ahsoka had to go to school as well. She had to go to classes and she had to learn her studies in the Jedi Temple. So next time that you may be bored in school or find yourself having a bad day or struggling, just imagine that you are like Ahsoka Tano, and she had to go to school too. And she had to get through her classes in the Jedi Temple before she could go fight in the Clone Wars.” You would be shocked, the change in their demeanor and the change in their face, as their eyes get really wide, and they’re like, “Wow, I can be like Ahsoka Tano too.”
I very regularly do breathing exercises with kids, but instead of just doing a regular old breathing exercise, I tell them to take in a deep breath and exhale, and then I say, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.” And they’ve seen their favorite characters in Star Wars do that too, so they can learn to connect with their breath, just like Ahsoka Tano does, or just like Chirrut ?mwe does in Rogue One, and they feel a connection.
These exercises were definitely inspired by a need, and the question that fans would ask me, but also it comes from a personal point of view because I find it’s so much more exciting to do exercises like these when I feel like I’m training to be a Jedi. Sometimes I need extra motivation as well, and I get myself extra motivated if I feel like I’m doing Jedi training or if I am pretending to be a Wookiee. So, I’ve always found myself relating exercises to my favorite characters.
Should we assume that we get to see Ahsoka in at least one of these videos?
There is one episode that we see Ahsoka in, and we see many characters throughout Star Wars. I feel so fortunate that we’ve been able to use clips from the films and from the shows, and Ahsoka inspires me in everything I do, so in all of these exercises, she inspired me, but we’ll definitely see clips of her in these exercises, for sure.