How Meditation Changed Hugh Jackman's Life
Hugh Jackman: 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 from stimulation, until, through meditation, I started to find what I call home, or a sense of my true nature or true self.
NR: It sounds like you're describing a change in your consciousness. Is that a fair description?
HJ: 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. So the moment you say, "change in consciousness," I sense there has been a change, but the change brought me back more to my true nature as opposed to an acquired nature.
NR: I've seen you mention elsewhere a feeling of authenticity that impressed me as a powerful element in the change.
HJ: Yeah, and let's not forget 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. And certainly I find that, through meditation, [my personal authenticity] has increased for sure.
NR: It's interesting that you're that much more in touch with who you really are—and then there are all these characters you play, who are probably very different from you. It seems a bit paradoxical.
HJ: I totally agree. It's one of the great ironies, mysteries and, for me, a very, very powerful example of how not to get caught up in the illusion of things. And it is paradoxical, because I believe there are more things we have in common than that separate us. Even though I do play characters, I study human nature and the differences in personalities, traits or natures of different people. But the more I do this job and the more I meditate, the more I see the unifiers that connect us all. And when you start from that basis, then there is great joy in playing different characters.
NR: Has transcendental meditation made you less afraid?
HJ: I think what TM made me do was become aware of my fear. 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. I hated being stopped. I wanted to be able to do everything. So I hated not being able to jump off a cliff with my mate 'cause I was scared of heights, and I hated it when they made fun of me 'cause I couldn't do rock climbing. I hated that I didn't want to do roller coasters. I hated that I was afraid to go camping on my own in the bush at night. All these things I saw as limiting. So I had a fear of the fear.
I found that 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.
At the same time, 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. 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.
This excerpt comes from Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life Through Transcendental Meditation , by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, from TarcherPerigee, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright 2016, Norman Rosenthal.