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''Nothing has ever opened my eyes like meditation,'' says Hugh Jackman
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23 September 2017
People often believe that meditation only suits well for those already cool as cucumbers.
But Hugh Jackman, the celebrated Australian born actor, certainly wasn't all zen to begin with.
''I was a very anxious kid in many ways. I had a lot of fears. I was afraid of heights; I was afraid of the dark; I was afraid of what people thought—and I hated the prison of that fear.''
Jackman wanted to do adventurous things with other children like climb rocks and go camping but fear stopped him on his tracks.
''All these things I saw as limiting. So I had a fear of the fear.''
Overcoming fear, stress and anxiety
With the practice of Transcendental Meditation, however, the world-famous actor has witnessed his worries subsiding.
''With meditation, my anxiety levels dropped considerably. It seems to me that the mind is fuel to the fire of fear. The mind can make us worry about things beyond their measure. And the great thing about meditation is that twice a day, the monkey mind just calms down.''
Not only is the Wolverine star feeling more at peace now but he is also more aware of how his mind was able to imprison him.
''I've seen that because I'm afraid of fear, I sometimes deny it and say to myself, 'Oh, I'm not afraid of this, I'm fine,' as a way of hoping that'll make it go away,'' Jackman reveals.
''Meditation makes you see very clearly what goes on in your mind, its machinations. So, in some ways I see more of it—the low-level anxiety—because I'm more aware. And the high-level anxiety just calms down,' Jackman explains.
''A friend of mine said to me the other day: why do we call it stress? You never hear a kid saying 'I'm stressed!'
''A six-year-old doesn't say to you 'I'm stressed.' He or she says, 'I'm scared!' ''
''If every time you're going to say the word 'stressed' you say the word 'scared' then you admit what's going on and it's much easier to solve,'' Jackman notes how we sometimes try to stick our heads in the sand.
''I still get frightened by things. There is a level of fear, level of stress,'' Jackman admits, ''I suppose what meditation has given me is the ability to not only cope with it, but to accept it.
''There was no fear of something bad happening, just the need to ceaselessly occupy the mind.''
Becoming an (even) better actor
At first, Jackman begun meditating just to boost his professional skills.
''I kept thinking: this is going to make me a better actor. This is going to make me more present, more energetic.''
But eight months into meditating he had a very clear thought one day: ''Hang on! Meditation is the center of it all, where all activities can spring from the deepest well possible. If I act or parent or be a husband or throw a baseball or wash up, if I do it after meditating, it's a whole different activity.''
Since then Jackman has not made it a secret how much TM has impacted his life.
''I would say possibly equally to how marriage and kids did—I would put it right up there, in terms of things that have affected my life. I was always very curious and very much a searcher, but soon after I started meditating, I felt I gained a true understanding of myself and was no longer just being reactive to events that came my way.
''I felt a sense of calm, a sense of purpose, of finer energy in things I did. I think I had been quite an external person, living very much outside of myself, either for validation or just for stimulation, until, through meditation, I started to find what I call home, or a sense of my true nature or true self.''
Even though the benefits of meditation extended far beyond his career, Jackman is also keenly aware of how Transcendental Meditation has helped him to excel as an actor and handle the challenges that come with the life in constant spotlight.
''I'm an actor, so a lot of my life is putting on other masks and other personalities and looking into them. But, of course, for the actor the real power is finding authenticity no matter what character you're playing—and being.
''You cannot really move forward as an actor until you understand who you are as a person, and understand yourself. And then you branch out to understand others. So, authenticity is something that actors in particular—but I think anyone in a creative field—would call the Holy Grail,'' Jackman points out.
''With Transcendental Meditation, the decisions you make are more authentic. You're better able to listen to other people — and as an actor, it's all you've got.''
Jackman has found that as the routine of meditation brings down the level of stress, he is also able to make better decisions on the set.
''One thing about my job is there is a high level of stress that's easy to buy into. It doesn't matter how long you're doing it. For each new role, there's some element about it that's risky, frightening, and potentially very stressful.''
''I like the analogy of a glass of water . . . when you first pour it it's cloudy. When you're stressed, that's what your mind is like, it's kinda cloudy. And after I meditate all that sinks to the bottom and the water is clear and the energy is finer, and the decisions you make are more authentic, and I think you're more economical with your energy, with your time, in every way. You're more able to listen to other people.
''And as an actor, that's all you got. Your only tools you really have are being present, being clear, and listening. So, it helped me in every way, immeasurably,'' Jackman explains.
''That is why I meditated before I hosted the Oscars, why I meditate before I go onstage, why I meditate in the morning and during lunch when I'm on a film set.''
For Jackman, meditation also helps to deal with the tension of living in constant spotlight.
''Every day during meditation, I'm reconnecting with my true self. I parlay that into any situation: When I step out of a car onto a red carpet and there's 3,000 people cheering, then deep down, I'm actually connecting with their calm inner-self. Meditation makes me see what's true and real.''
Secret to a happy marriage
Before taking on TM, Hugh often found work related stress spilling over to his personal life.
''I would internalize it. After I was done with something that was making me nervous, my wife would say: 'Oh, good, I got my husband back!'
''It was that feeling that you were not fully there, because part of your brain was focused on worrying. For me, the best way to handle that was with meditation.''
No longer getting lost in these stressful thoughts has certainly also benefitted Jackman's marriage.
A PERFECT MOMENT: ''It had been raining,'' Hugh Jackman recalls the breakfast when he had decided to propose to Deborra. ''Finally the sun came out, and I didn't have a line! I was thinking, 'Come on, come on, come on, you've got to come up with something, this is a once-in-a-lifetime, you've got to come up with a line'. And I said, 'Baby, look the sun's come out - it's almost perfect!' and she says, 'What do you mean? It is perfect!' And I said, 'Well . . . it will be if you marry me!' And I pulled out the ring,'' Jackman recalls, smiling.
When the actor, who celebrated his 21-year wedding anniversary with wife Deborra-Lee Furness in 2017, is asked about the secret behind their long-lasting relationship, he immediately knows the answer.
''Meditation!'' Jackman says.
''We meditate together,'' Furness adds. ''And sometimes we have friends over to do it, too. It's a lovely Sunday-morning thing. Everyone comes over, and then we have breakfast.''
Jackman has also seen his son Oscar (16) reap great benefits from practicing TM. Oscar was an exceptional child. Ever since he was a 3-year-old he had been interested in metaphysical and spiritual topics. Standing out as he did was not always easy.
''Some parts of this world were tough for him: finding friends, kids he could relate to,'' Jackman recalls. ''He was quite stressed and anxious as a kid. He didn't fit it.''
But after learning TM, things turned around for Jackman's son: ''I've seen him blossoming in his confidence.''
Connecting with your true self
For Jackman, meditation is not about making him into a whole new person. Rather it's about uncovering who he really is.
''I would describe it more as a revealing of consciousness—that through meditation on a daily basis, I get to strip away the masks that we build—that I build for myself, small and large—to reach more of a feeling of my true self: Oh, this is who I really am. This is how I can experience life. Oh, I see. It's just something simpler, finer and more powerful.''
''In the moments of clarity that meditation brings, I know that I am limitless. That's an incredibly powerful feeling. Meditation is a pursuit of nothing. When I meditate I am limitless.''
And it's not just to feel good and all blissed out while he practices TM.
Jackman finds that meditation helps to keep his mind from running around in circles for the rest of the day as well.
''As I've heard it said beautifully: the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master and most of us live with our mind mastering our day: I've gotta do this, I've gotta do that, I worry about this, worry about that I should have, I shouldn't have.
Mind can run days so for me every day through meditation I am practicing re-connecting with my true self.
Some of the clearest ideas or epiphanies I've had in life happened during or after meditating. Everything becomes clear and the truth starts coming out,'' he sums it up. ''People always say: 'You're so down to earth' and I reply, 'No, it's just that meditation makes me see what's true and real.'''
Actor and activist: Off the screen, Jackman is a long time proponent of small business loans used to finance start-ups in developing countries. He has recently also launched his own brand of fair trade coffee and tea to help break the cycle of poverty for African farmers.
No excuses: everyone can practice Transcendental Meditation
Over the years, Jackman has also one by one bust all the excuses one can make for not meditating, be it person's faith or lack of time.
''Anyone can do it. You can be an atheist who meditates, a Christian who meditates, a Muslim who meditates. It's like saying, 'Is walking a religious thing?' No. It's available to anyone, and the quality of your life is changed forever,'' he explained.
To those complaining of already overflowing schedules, Jackman has the perfect answer:
''Everyone takes a shower every day, and we don't complain about it. We do it out of discipline. There will always be an excuse not to meditate. . . . The ego says, 'You don't need to meditate, man. You're really busy. What about the kids?' But do I say, 'I can't shower today because I have to make time for the kids?' No,'' Jackman points out.
Nor does Jackman buy into the story that Transcendental Meditation is easy to do for some but not others: ''It's not an inborn talent, it's a technique that anyone can learn.''
And without getting started, Jackman points out, you have no idea what you are missing.
''Meditation is like a party: You've got to show up to find out that it's amazing. The more you practice, the deeper the experience gets.''
Lending a hand to the David Lynch Foundation to teach TM to those in need
Hugh Jackman and his wife have both been great supporters of the work David Lynch Foundation (DLF) — an organization dedicated to teaching meditation to at-risk populations.
''To be at these events is one of the most emotional experiences one can have because you see people's lives saved literally and changed forever, through this simple technique,'' Jackman says about DLF's benefit concerts.
At a recent DLF fundraising event which the couple attended, Jackman nicely summed it all up: ''Everybody benefits from meditation, everyone I've ever met. It changed my life. It's available to every single person, you don't have to be talented at it. It's literally the simplest thing on the planet. For those people who are really struggling and seeing no way out of it, it is life changing.''
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