Hugh Jackman on the Benefits of Meditation

Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) talks about the benefits of meditation and aligning your efforts with your purpose in two excerpts from his June 2020 interview with Tim Ferris. These excerpts were condensed from the interview transcript Ferris published June-30-2020.

Hugh Jackman on the Benefits of Meditation

Hugh Jackman: one of the benefits of mediation is perspectiveTim Ferriss: I know you’ve meditated for decades now, and for me, meditation has been a tool that  helps to provide clarity in some respects. Could you describe your meditation practice and what you feel are the main benefits?

Hugh Jackman: The nature of our minds is always to be working, always to be thinking. The mind is often called the monkey mind in Eastern philosophies. The monkey is very energetic and will be mischievous if not given something to do.

There are many different types of meditation. In Transcendental Meditation, you repeat a sound–a mantra– silently to yourself for 20 minutes. The effect of the mantra is to say to the monkey mind, “I need you to climb to the top of that telegraph pole. And when you get to the top, I need you to climb back down. And when you get to the bottom, I need you to climb back up…” As the mantra is silently repeated, it fades away.

The best way I can describe it is the effect that it has on me. Sometimes I fall asleep, by the way, which is totally fine and clearly what my body needed. But when you first pour a glass of water, it’s cloudy. But in time, that all settles, and you see crystal clear through the glass, through the water. That’s what meditation does for me. I have a feeling of coming home, experiencing my true self and not just being caught up in the monkey mind or being reactive to life. And that gives me a finer energy. I don’t always come out of meditation ready to do a one-hour Peloton class, but I always come out with a finer energy. My intention feels clearer. My listening is more purposeful, and things feel easier and more connected.

SKMurphy Take: This matches my experience and is the clearest description of the benefits of meditation that I have read. Your mileage may vary and I think many forms of mediation will provide mental clarity. I have suggested entrepreneurs consider meditation as one of many practices that will help them manage the stress of a startup.

  • I think people have a setpoint or natural equilibrium point for their average level of happiness. They may oscillate around it but different people seem to be naturally more cheerful or content. I have found meditation is useful to gaining insights about assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors that are holding me back–failure and suffering is useful for this as well but I think meditation is underrated. With practice, I find it allows me to mentally summon “the cold light of day” perspective on a situation. And sometimes I get a good nap which is rarely a waste of time either and can do as much good for promoting mental clarity. From my remarks in Six Profound Insights Fom Naval Ravikant
  • Walking along the edge of a cliff makes most people nervous for good reason. Fear of embarrassment or loss of status, on the other hand, is rarely a good reason. Being nervous can make you react defensively when it’s not warranted or go on the attack because you mistakenly believe that you are under attack. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, keep your eyes and ears open and stay calm. I find a good night’s sleep, meditation, and adequate preparation–where possible, some events are impossible to anticipate–all make significant contributions to equanimity.  From my remark in Michael Wade: Things I Wish I knew in my Twenties.
  • Engage in activities that reduce your stress level and increase your resilience. This includes mundane items like making sure you are getting enough sleep, taking breaks for regular exercise (even if it’s just going for a walk), maintaining connections with friends and acquaintances. I find meditation is also helpful but your mileage may vary. One of my suggestions from “Q: How Can I Manage the Stress of a Startup?

Align with Your Purpose to Release Your Natural Energy

Tim Ferriss: where do you get your tremendous emotional energy?

Hugh Jackman: One of my favorite movies is “Chariots of Fire.” There is a great scene in the movie where Eric Liddell explains to his sister why he runs:

“I’ve decided. I’m going back to China. The missionary service have accepted me. But I’ve got a lot of running to do first. Jennie, you’ve got to understand. I believe that God made me for a purpose. For China. But he also made me fast. And when I run,  I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold him in contempt. To win is to honor him.”

That line–“when I run, I feel His pleasure” –always makes me tear up. That’s what I feel on stage. There’s a kind of natural energy. So I keep saying to my kids: Don’t settle. Find that thing that resonates with you where you feel the pleasure of the universe, of consciousness. Where there’s joy when you feel you can do it longer. That way, it’s not such a Herculean effort.

SKMurphy Take: I think Jackman has found his calling. His remarks reminded me of a quote by Edith Hamilton:

“The Greeks defined happiness is the exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope.”
Edith Hamilton in “The Greek Way” (1930)

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Image Credit: Liz and Mollie (@LizAndMollie)

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