Release Date

November 17th, 2021

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Before Hugh Jackman became an iconic performer, on stage and on screen, he was a child plagued by fear, an adolescent pondering God, and a young man searching for meaning. On this episode of Redefined, Hugh opens up about that search and how his perpetual quest for healing and self-knowledge has become a cornerstone of his existence, leading to ongoing personal growth.

“I see love as being the realization of connection. That we’re, in essence, all the same, from the same stuff. We’re connected. So lack of love would be a feeling of separation, and love is connectedness.”

INSPIRATION

TRANSCRIPT

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Redefined is hosted by me, Zainab Salbi, and brought to you by FindCenter, a search engine for your soul. Part library, part temple, FindCenter presents a world of wisdom, organized. Check it out today at www.findcenter.com, and please subscribe to Redefined for free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

What’s most important about life? What is the essence of life? Is it what we do, how much we earn, how many social media followers we have? Or is it: do we live our lives in kindness to ourselves and to others? Do we live our lives in love to ourselves and to others? In nearly losing my life, I was confronted with these questions and it led me to the conversations that make up Redefined, about how we draw our inner maps and the pursuit of meaningful personal change.

My guest this time is Hugh Jackman. Hugh, as many of you know, is an international icon, one of our most compelling actors and performers, both on stage and on screen, from playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies—one of my favorite characters—to portraying P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman, and now, his upcoming Broadway show, The Music Man. He does it all.

But the conversation in this episode is not about Hugh’s successful career. It is about his personal journey of growth and transformation, from a childhood heavy with fears to a quest to break that pattern. Hugh has become greatly attuned to a process of perpetual healing and study. His approach to self-improvement is tender and rigorous, open-minded and disciplined. He seeks out experts and reads constantly. He meditates, manifests, and gets the help he needs to grow as a man, as a husband, and as a father. Our conversation reflects on so many of Hugh’s learning: about family, love, and God; about connecting nature to happiness; and about realizing what to hold onto and how to let go. He’s a man who truly and refreshingly speaks from his heart. Join us.

It’s so good seeing you.

Hugh Jackman:

You too. I’m thrilled to do this.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Oh, thank you. Thank you, thank you. I got to tell you, because I heard you on Tim Farriss talking about a manifestation exercise that you do, right, which is, as I understand it, you write the day—your expectations of the day, or your prediction of the day in advance, in a note—

Hugh Jackman:

In present tense.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

In present tense, exactly. Then you see how it gets manifested. So I hear it and I was like, it’s a great exercise, I’m going to do it. And I do it the day before our originally scheduled interview, right? So I write: it’s a great day, it’s fantastic. I have a great conversation with Hugh Jackman. It’s going to [be] wonderful, wow, fantastic. And then half an hour before the interview happens, and I have a huge thunderstorm in here, the electricity gets turned off—it’s cut off—and neither myself nor my neighbors have any internet. I go from one neighbor to the other, “I have an interview!” And they’re like . . . no internet in the near vicinity in where I live. I live in Upstate New York, as you. So I was like, okay . . . First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to reschedule and being so flexible about it, I really appreciate it.

Hugh Jackman:

No problem.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

But then I went to reflect. The electricity came out [a] few hours later—came back—and then second half of the day was actually a good day, and things happened. Then I was like, so, okay, what am I not doing right in the manifest exercise? What is the attitude one should have when things doesn’t happen? I really need to ask the one who showed me, who told me about that, which is Hugh. So can you please tell me?

Hugh Jackman:

Lauren Zander, who taught me this method, would often pick me up on things that I said, “This didn’t happen.” She goes, “Read to me what you wrote.” So I would read, and she goes, “Not specific.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Okay, for example, I’m going to have a great conversation with Zainab. It’s going to be this, it’s going to be that. It’s going be—I’m going to learn, she’s going to learn. We’re going to connect.” She goes, “Did you say today?” And I said, “Well, no, this is scheduled for today.” “But you didn’t say ‘I have a great talk today.’” I was like, “You got to be that specific?” She goes, “Yeah.” You’re a backgammon player like me, right?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Yeah, I love backgammon.

Hugh Jackman:

When I’m manifesting I’ll go, “Seven, I need a seven. I need a seven.” And I’ll get a seven, and then I go, “Oh, what I needed was a three/four. I didn’t need a six/one. Six/one doesn’t help me.” So I always remember: specific. But the other key thing, which is life, is if it doesn’t work out, say it didn’t work out. Like, be honest. So the manifesting at the beginning of the day is bookended by literally a score out of 10. So I’ll write down, “Today is going to be X, Y, Z.” And at the end of the day, I’ll look at it and I’ll look back and go, “Wow, that was a four. That was a four.”

So the way I was taught is if it’s anything under like an eight, if your day’s anything under an eight, then you need to purge it out. Literally, I’ll get my recorder on my phone and I’ll just go, “Oh, this . . .” every thought: “This, why this didn’t happen, and then the thing, and my neighbors weren’t there, and [sound of babbling exasperation]”—everything out, and then to start again tomorrow. So it’s a mixture of specific, and then being accountable.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Specific, being accountable. Okay, I got it. And I would add to it, because this is impacted by the culture I come from. I grew up a Muslim in Iraq and there’s a saying in the Qur’an that sometimes you hate something’s happened to you, but they are ultimately for your best. Now, I don’t know how canceling yesterday’s interview and the thunder and all of that is good, but I also end up . . . There’s a part of me that trusts, it didn’t happen, I’m sure it’s for the best—sometimes, sometimes.

Hugh Jackman:

Can I add to that?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Yes, please.

Hugh Jackman:

I totally agree. I’m not sure it was the best for you, but it really worked for me, because I had arranged it at 11:30, and we had a massive storm here and it turned out my son is having a driving lesson and he was really a bit nervous about it, because it was really tough. And he said, “I feel really bad, but I’d really love it if you were there.” I said, “Not a problem. I’m there.” So—

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I’m so happy.

Hugh Jackman:

Thank you. [laughs]

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I’m so happy to hear.

Hugh Jackman:

It worked out for me, but I think it’s like that Zen master story, it’s a similar one of no matter what happens in your life, if you have a more bigger picture view of it all, is that so? So what might seem good or bad in a minute could prove to be the opposite tomorrow or a year later. We never know. So I think it’s really what that saying is about is taking a bigger picture view of it all, right?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That’s so true. It’s so true. So Hugh, this conversation, this podcast actually, is called Redefined, because it is . . . I had redefining moment in my life where I almost died, and I really became curious about how people reshape their understanding of life, about the essence of life in redefining moments in their lives, and how can we learn from each other to shape our lives in a new way, in a better way, in a healthier way, let’s say. So as I look at your life, and I have [a] few questions. One is, you had mentioned several times that when you were a child you had a lot of fear in you—fear of being alone, fear of not being good enough. Fear—

Hugh Jackman:

Heights. The dark.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Really?

Hugh Jackman:

Fear of so many things. Very fearful kid.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

So how did you change that, and what led you to change that?

Hugh Jackman:

I was at times humiliated, and humiliated in front of my friends at school, at rock climbing, where I cried on the rock face and they laughed about it for the next year, made fun of me. So I had to solve that because I just felt I was literally—your world, your friends—I was just like, this is a disaster. So I would make myself go down to the diving board at my school. It was just a three meter diving board, but I would never have thought of going up. I jumped off it, off it, off it, off it, off it, until it was fine. Then everyone in Australia seemed to be jumping off things—cliffs, things, it was rollercoasters, and if you didn’t, it was just horrible. So I got through it but I guess that’s a little bit of a insight into me, I think maybe the youngest of five kids, that feeling of you don’t want to be left behind, you want to be able to catch up and keep up with the others, so I would force myself to go through the fear. Even when I was at drama school, I’d be fearful every time I got up. I would go first, rather than wait, because I figured if I waited, I might end up just sort of not getting up or not doing anything. So I would always put my hand up first, just to continually confront it.

Since then, I’ve read amazing books by Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, which kind of says that that thing that you’re fearful of is in fact your roadmap, that’s what you’re meant to learn. Not jumping off a cliff obviously, but it’s some reach. But that thing you’re scared about is exactly where you need to put your energy, and I think that’s been my philosophy. I love the Baz Luhrmann—I worked with Baz Luhrmann on the movie Australia—and on his letterhead he has written, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” And I really agree with that. I think the fear can, from my personal experience, somehow infect other areas. It starts off as a fear of heights and before you know it you’re scared of the dark and then you’re afraid to go to that party, and then you’re afraid to do the school play, and it somehow is cancerous, I feel. So that’s sort of been my approach with fear. How about you?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

No, it’s very interesting. I grew up with a lot of fear myself. I grew up with a dictator, and so fear with me was like a physical almost, you can touch it. Then I came to America and there’s no need to fear the dictator but I’m still afraid. I would be afraid of uttering Saddam Hussein’s word in my backyard, in my own home. It’s like, “Sh, sh,” in case he hears us. At one point, I realized I either am going to stay in this fear, and I’m becoming the prison guard to my own fear, or I take this leap of faith and break away from it. I decided I’m going to take a leap of faith and jump off the cliff and I don’t know if I’m going to land or not, but I rather speak the truth than live in this fear and die in it, and it works.

Hugh Jackman:

I totally relate to that. I can totally relate to that. A lot of the fear is of being found out or covering up. I used to have that a lot in my acting even. I’d get on a job and I’d be the lead in a big movie, $100 million movie, and I’m going, “Whew, hope this is okay,” or “I hope we’re doing this all right. I feel a bit weird about this scene.” Or “I don’t know if I can pull this off.” But do not show that on set. You’re the quarterback, you’ve got to be, “Give me the ball, coach. Give me the ball.” So I was hiding, and since then I’ve let go of that. I’ll say to a director, “Dude, I feel really weird about this, and I’m really nervous today.” And they go, “Okay, what is it?” And I said, “I don’t know. I know this is an important scene. I’m not 100% sure how to play it.” I said that to Jason Reitman on The Front Runner, and he goes, “I’m so glad you said that.” He goes, “Because I’m really nervous about it too.” And he goes, “Let’s just make a pact. We will not leave this scene until we’re both really, really happy.”

And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And he goes, “I promise you, I will not move on from this scene unless it’s fantastic.” I was like, “Oh.” And a lot of the fear went. But I have to say to you I’ve had a kind of redefining moment or a defining moment recently in my life, and I’m working with a therapist who, I want to name him but I haven’t named him before and I’m not sure if that’s a cool thing to do, if he’s all right with that. I don’t know how that works. Anyway, I’ll ask him next time I speak, but for now, he’s been fantastic. He’s made me realize that my attitude to fear that I was explaining to you is too harsh, I was too harsh on myself. It’s a lot of, “Do not feel that, stop being [inaudible 00:13:26]. That’s weak. Yeah, come on, get on with it. Push yourself.”

And I would say that was my way of handling it and he’s really encouraging me to get rid of harshness, that actually no good comes out of harshness in the end, nothing. That there’s such a thing as loving firmness like you would with your kid. You know the kid’s got to go to school or they’ve got to this or they’ve got to . . . but it’s put your arm around them, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you, and you’re going to be fine. I’ve felt that too.” Rather than, “What are you talking about? It’s school. Every kid goes to school. You’ve got to get there. What’s wrong with you? Every other kid seems to go fine.” That’s how I was treating myself for many, many years, and I now don’t do that and it has made life, or anything frightening in my life, far easier and more fun, more honest. There’s just been more joy, I think. It’s been a big realization for me.

The other way kind of robs you of the joy while you’re doing it. If it works out, which I’ve been lucky in my case, in my career, a bunch of things have worked out, there’s a moment of relief after it. But then it’s like, ah, well, what’s next? There’s just not the feeling of joy during it as much, as there could be.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Well, you’re making me think of two things, one is when we speak our truth, as in your telling the director, “I’m afraid of this,” I feel every time I speak my truth, I really . . . it becomes an invitation for everyone else to speak their truth, like apparently I’m not the only one who’s afraid of this. There’re lots of people, and then it really becomes an invitation for everyone else to join in, and that doesn’t make me feel lonely, it doesn’t make them feel lonely, right?

Hugh Jackman:

Yeah, yeah.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

This is the example you said. The second one is . . . Hugh, when I almost—[a] very defining moment in my life, which I mentioned in almost life and death—what came to me was, did I live my life in kindness to myself? I’ve always lived in kindness to others, as I’m a humanitarian and I gave a lot of myself to . . . I really gave all of myself to the world. But I really was very harsh on myself, and yet in that transformative moment was, did I live in kindness to myself? And this is what you bring out, are we living in kindness to ourselves, not only to the world or our careers or our family but into ourselves?

Hugh Jackman:

Yeah, when you mentioned that about your fear, I know your story, so it’s totally understandable, but I can imagine your parents’ fear and your grandparents’ fear, and this is something I’m starting to learn a lot about now. A lot of those feelings of fear or nervousness, I say, “Oh, don’t feel this,” I’d be mad at myself, and I don’t know if it’s always mine. So it can be inherited, I think.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

It’s true. Absolutely.

Hugh Jackman:

You grow up with it. It’s sort of instilled in you for survival. I’m sure your parents instilled a hypervigilance in you for survival, right?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Yeah, yeah.

Hugh Jackman:

You no longer need that hypervigilance, but that dynamic still is going on within you. So I’ve really learned to just recognize the feelings, “Okay, you’re nervous, that’s okay. This may not actually be my fear at all, maybe someone else’s fear. But it’s all right, just feel it,” and there’s certainly that little boy that I was telling you about that was always scared is still there. So rather than berating that little boy for feeling that and pushing him and “come on!” I just, hold on, I say, come here, just put him in my heart, and it’s okay. Because actually that little boy is probably . . . All the gifts I have to offer is all in there too, so I have to make that little boy feel really comfortable about rock climbing or whatever it happens to be.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That’s so beautiful. Well, let me ask you about rock climbing, because you are from Australia, and not to generalize the entire Australian population, but in my visits to Australia, it’s a very outdoorsy culture. It’s like there is a lot of connections to nature, more than other cultures, I would say, from water to earth to . . . How has your connection to nature been, and was there transformative moments or redefining moments that it impacted your awareness to nature, to the Divine, to who you are as a person?

Hugh Jackman:

Thanks for reminding me of this. Something just flashed in my head which was a hugely transformative moment for me. I was brought up very, very religious. My father was a born again Christian, I was in the church. I started to doubt some of that thinking by the time I was sixteen or so. It seemed very narrow, just these people are going to heaven and no one else is, I was like, “That feels weird.” So, I started to think about it more. By the way, I would say yes, Australia’s probably more outdoorsy, it’s probably simply because you’ve got this massive land space with only 20 million people, so there’s a lot of room. I actually grew up in a fairly suburban sort of setting, but it was beach, it was camping, it was outdoors. But when I was nineteen I went to the Outback, part of a volunteer group, we were building houses on an Indigenous community there, and then I was asked to stay on and run the general store for the guy’d never taken a vacation. So I said, yeah, and I stayed for a month.

Over those three months, something happened to me, because you can’t be in the Outback of Australia without somehow getting more and more grounded, feeling that humility of being just such a little speck in this enormous, beautiful spiritual landscape. Man, it’s got a spiritual feeling. It’s humbling as well as comforting. I felt honestly happy. I didn’t know you could feel this happy. Everyone left. The group I was with all left, I was on my own, with the Indigenous community. By the way, I’m in touch with one guy, Peter Wilson, Indigenous guy there, to this day, and we would just hang out. I would work in the general store with everyone and then we would go and watch the sunset and we’d wake up in the morning, we’d swim in the water holes. I just felt so happy to the point where, when it was time to go back for my second of university—or college—I wasn’t going to go back.

I was happier, so happy. I cried—I ended up being convinced by my father to go back—I cried the entire way home. I think it was, for the first time in my life, I’d had long enough in such a beautiful, natural environment that I felt the simplicity and beauty of being human. I think we complicate it so much, with our family, or school life, or we’re in college, what are you going to do with yourself? There was so much going on in my head and when . . . like when you pour a glass of water and it’s cloudy, somehow over those three months that all just settled, and it was just simple, I was just there. In some ways, I’m still probably searching for that happiness, sense of pure happiness that I had back then. That was a huge revelation to me.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

How have your relationship with God or the Divine evolved ever since what you mentioned, your upbringing and then where you are now?

Hugh Jackman:

I experienced that feeling when I was nineteen. I somehow knew that was divinity, that there was some consciousness that I was tapped into. I then spent a couple of years searching and reading and not really knowing how to put a name or a label to it, but I had it in here. Then I went to a place . . . I met a guy I was acting with, that he just had something about him, and I said, “Dude, there’s something about you. I don’t know what it is, but I need some of that.” And he said, “Well, I got to this place called the Philosophy School,” which I went to and it sort of really changed my life, because it’s not in any way didactic and it’s a place where I learned transcendental meditation, which made my human experience even deeper. I’ve been doing that for twenty-five years. That was a huge moment.

I was going along and everything they were saying, we were reading everything from Shakespeare to Socrates to the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, all different texts, a very universalist sort of approach, and everything being practical. It’s a school of practical philosophy, so they encourage you to try everything out, don’t accept or reject anything intellectually. Just try it in your life and if it works. It was simple but I remember thinking at the beginning, oh, this is going to help me with my acting, because acting’s all about being in the present moment. And about eight months in, I remember going, oh, hang on, acting’s just another activity as in being a father, being an actor, podcast host, whatever activity we have, there’s actually something way deeper and more connecting between all of us. That was when I was about twenty-two, I guess, and I was initiated into meditation. I was like, I feel I have a practice now where I know I can return daily to that feeling I had stumbled upon in the Outback.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And you have kept it, as I understand. You still meditate every single day.

Hugh Jackman:

Oh, yeah.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Wow.

Hugh Jackman:

Usually, definitely twice a day when I’m working. Sometimes when I’m not working, which seems odd, since I have more time, the second one might get away from me. But yeah, I’ve always kept it.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Zainab: That’s beautiful. I mean, for me, the day I meditate and the day I don’t meditate is a night and day of difference. Right? The day I meditate I’m more zen, I’m more calm, I’m kinder to myself, to others. The day I don’t meditate, it’s less. Things get more irritating, things get to me faster. It’s a different attitude. How about love? I mean, there’s so many definitions of love. I know and love your wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, and your kids. If I am to ask you, what have you learned from love, generally, and how do you see love as being?

Hugh Jackman:

I see love as being the realization of connection, that we’re in essence all the same, from the same stuff. We’re connected. So lack of love, I would say, would be separation, a feeling of separation, and love is connectedness. Sometimes in life, life throws you just such an obvious connection like I got with my wife when I met . . . She was a little unsure when we first met, but I knew, like every single cell in my body, in my heart, my mind, everything was screaming, “You’re meant to be with this person for the rest of your life.” And that was a great gift. I may have had that feeling in my life four or five times, total. So if you get those, that’s great. But regardless, I think it’s such a great thing.

I do think it’s a grace in a way that you have those experiences, but our job as humans is to go from that feeling to expand those circles out, so naturally for your children, for your wife, for your parents, for your brothers and sisters, there’s just a natural feeling of love, even when they’re annoying, it’s there. But the real work is about expanding that and seeing you, Zainab, your friends, or the horses you care for or whatever it is, the guy over there at the crosswalk, that actually it’s the same thing. We label it in different ways, but that love can exist. So I try, when I’m meditating and when I have space, I can feel that love. It takes space. You have to be able to breathe, look in someone’s eye, take a second, meet people as though you’ve never met them before, including your partner. Be present, just look at them, and then you experience love. It’s not an intellectual thing, you just feel it.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I love this. Love is about connection, really. I once heard Christine Lagarde, who was the head of the IMF, she said, “We need more love in the world.” And she said, “I’m not only about romantic love. I’m talking about love between us as individuals, between us in the meeting rooms, between coworkers, between nations. We need just more love.” When one sees love as connection, you explain what does that love mean. Connection. So then it’s possible to have it in the meeting rooms and between nations and beyond the romantic and with the parental love.

Hugh Jackman:

I was thinking just yesterday, I was thinking about the two commandments from Jesus, there always the Ten Commandments, but one of the two, so he said, “There’s two things to live by. Love the Lord your God,” which I interpret as be constantly aware of your true Self, with a capital S, which is connected to everyone. Be aware of that. And “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor, where does neighbor stop? It’s not just those on the other side of the fence, or the other side of the country. It’s every single person and animal, every living thing, love them as you would love yourself. I think a lot of the problems we have, it’s simple, but powerful, and a lot of the problems we have would be solved if we did that.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

You are a father to two kids, beautiful kids. What do you tell them about the meaning of success? How do you convey that to them so they can live their life from a place of fulfillment?

Hugh Jackman:

I tell them that . . . I actually just not too recently shared with them my favorite line from one of my favorite movies, which is Chariots of Fire, and the runner from Scotland, for those who don’t know, is very religious, made a big deal of not running in his event because it was on a Sunday and it was a huge uproar at the time. But anyway, before he went to the Olympics, he had plans after the Olympics to go and do missionary work in China, I think. So he’s going for a walk with his sister, and his sister just says to him, turns and says, “What’s this? You’re not really thinking of running. It’s silly. What is this silly running business? We have God’s work to do. We need to go out there, we need to get those Bibles to China. We need to start now. Why are we waiting?” And he looks and he just looks at his sister and he says, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” And it actually always makes me cry, even saying the line. And I said, that’s when you know you’re doing the right thing, and it literally does not matter what anybody else thinks or how the world puts it on the success pole or pyramid. None of that matters.

We all know that feeling within where you go, there’s something deep within me that comes alive when I run. So Joseph Campbell called it “follow your bliss.” There’s been many versions of it. It’s written in mythology, that feeling of a song within that drives you. So I say to my kids, “Whether you believe in God or not, you know what that line means. I feel something come alive inside.” I said, “Just listen to that. It’ll come. It comes to everybody at some point.” You ask anybody, they’ll have a feeling whether they ignore it or not, and it happened to me when I was fourteen. I told you my father was converted by Billy Graham, he was so very evangelical, sort of Christian, and so we would go to revivals, and I remember we went to one and there was always a lot of energy, usually rock groups, Christian rock, that kind of thing, people getting converted. I went one night and I remember, fourteen, having this 100 percent knowledge that I was going to be on stage, that what I was looking at. And actually, for two or three years I thought I was going to be a minister. I just assumed that feeling was, “I’m going to do that.” Of course, now as a fifty-three-year old, I go, no, it’s all somehow a sacred religious experience theater, storytelling, live. So I’ve ended up being on stage. Now, my idea at the time was, oh, got to be a minister in the church, but I was going to somehow be a channel, up there. I just knew that was going to happen. So, I do tell my kids that thing, that now when they’re young, that siren song comes to you, and a lot of us miss it, or we say, “Well, I can’t do that. I can’t actually be a video game creator. No, no, that’s just fun. I can’t do botany. That’s silly. I can’t be a horse rider, no, that’s silly.” Because society says you’ve got to be X, Y, Z. So that’s a long-winded answer, sorry.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That is so beautiful. No, you know what? Can I tell you, when I was in Iraq, Arabic is my native language, I spoke English as a child, but second language. I used to give speeches in front of the mirror in my bedroom, in English. Why would I, a sixteen-year-old kid in Iraq, would give speeches in English where all my education was in Arabic, I have no idea. Guess what I do now? I give lots of speeches in English. So that is the choice, but sort of hearing that and following the pulse your heart is almost like, follow it, keep following it.

Hugh Jackman:

I love that, the pulse of your heart. Actually, I’m going to tell them that, because I think, when I tell my daughter in particular, that line, she goes, “Well, I’m not sure I believe in God.” I went, “Yeah, and it’s not really that God as that . . .” Okay, so I’m going to follow the pulse your heart.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Follow the pulse of your heart. Because I really believe that the heart has a language and has awareness and when we meditate or when we go to Earth we just, what you’re talking about, the bliss is to listen to our heart. It’s just like when we become in alignment. I mean, that’s at least my belief. Let me ask you, now, you meditate, you obviously exercise, you do manifestation exercise. I mean, you’re a Renaissance man honestly in so many ways. You read. Thank you for all the recommendations of books you recommended for me. I loved and swallowed each one of them. How do you take care of yourself personally, like an intimate act of care that you give for yourself?

Hugh Jackman:

Meditation is key to that. That’s a feeling of coming home, back to your true self, where I can actually drop even the label Hugh Jackman, or the father, the actor, the husband, the son, the brother, the sister, just all that can go. Then that builds like a well of fine energy. It feels like drawing back the bow. That’s the best way. But I’ve learned over the years the things that work for me and I know at times I’m really busy and I have a lot of demands, so if I don’t meditate, I won’t be able to fulfill them. If I drink too much, I won’t actually . . . I know drinking’s not great for me. Not that I get hungover but I get a little negative and a little sad. To keep learning, not get arrogant to think, oh, I’ve got it, I’ve learned everything. So I still have an acting coach, and I still have a singing . . . in fact, after this I’m doing a singing lesson. And keep reading and being open.

In the end, the beauty of being an actor is you’re learning all the time. My acting teacher on day one said to me, he goes, “You all here can act,” there was eighteen of us, “You can all act. The next three years are about the other 90 percent of the time, because you’re actually here to learn how to learn.” So I think that state of curiosity’s important and feels natural to me and I think that all that stuff helps me. Eating well helps me. If I don’t, I actually just start to feel negative. I jump in the ocean every time I’m down here, whether I want to or not . . . even this morning, when I didn’t really feel like it. And yet, I just know those things will help me feel better.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

So there is a knowing and there’s a discipline of doing it, like the knowing that if I do this, I feel better, but then sometimes you don’t want to jump into the cold ocean and you do it anyway.

Hugh Jackman:

Yeah, because that discipline gives you some freedom in the end. Although I do have to be careful. My wife is a great antidote. I can be a little, my father, like, “This is the due, this is what you meant to do, you said you were going to do that, you said you were going to do this.” I have to like, it’s okay, it’s all right. Deb catches me all the time, like we’ll be driving back on a Sunday and we’ll say, “Well, let’s leave about 12:00.” About 11:30, I’m like, “Aren’t we leaving at 12:00?” And she goes, “Well, about then.” I said, “But come on. We got to . . . ” And then she goes, “We said 12:00 but it could have been 12:30.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, it’s okay.”

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I have a question for you. I was re-watching Les Mis the other day and the character you play, Jean Valjean, kept on asking, “Who am I?” It really resonated with me, because I was asking myself, who am I? for years. Honestly, until recently, that I was meditating for a long time, and I’m like, this question, who am I? stays with me all time, so I kept on. Then I get a line in my meditation. This is sometimes when wisdom just drops to you, when your brain is not thinking, and I hear, “I am. How dare you ask who am I? I am.” So my question for you, “Who are you?”

Hugh Jackman:

You just gave the answer. Because we can spend so many hours constructing a really compelling, interesting, funny, hopefully, intelligent sort of cover creating an adaptive self. We can do that and for whatever reason. I think what I’m realizing as I get older is you don’t need any of that. We just are. I feel that when I’m in the Outback when I’m eighteen, I feel that when I meditate, I feel that when I’m talking with friends, like I don’t . . . But sometimes I feel the need to, “Oh, I’d better be a little more. Oh no, you’re the lead of that musical and we start rehearsals tomorrow. Okay, no, you got to go in and—” It’s okay. Just go and be an actor and here we go. Let’s join together. So literally, that “I am” is everything that I started to learn when I was like twenty, twenty-one, and that, yeah, that I think is the first commandment, actually, that Jesus said of his two. It’s realizing love the God with all your heart. That’s like, realize yourself, self-realization: I am. And then love your neighbor as yourself. That’s all we need.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Oh, can I tell you, I really believe that all that God wants out of us, I mean, and I love God, and God for me is everything. It doesn’t matter what God is, everything, is all what God wants out of us is to fulfill our full potential. That’s it. That’s it, fulfill out your . . . whatever it is. Be a driver or an actor or an author. It doesn’t matter. Just fulfill your full potential. I know you have to go for the class. I have one last question. What transformation for yourself, for your family, and for society do you hope are ahead?

Hugh Jackman:

I really hope that we can broaden our thinking to encompass the whole; I mean, the planet, the universe, beyond. I hope that our political systems, I hope our economic systems, I hope everything that we have built up can very quickly become the whole, because there’s no way we’re going to solve all these big issues. Deb, my wife said this, the other day she said, “I really think we should just treat the whole world as family.” I went, “Yeah, it’s not like, well, ‘Listen, we’ll give vaccines to that country over there, but we got to make sure everyone . . . we’ve got them first. What’s the point, if we’re all sick, we won’t be able help.’”

What if that was your family over there? We say all the time you’re only as happy as your unhappiest kid, but if we saw the whole world as family, we’d be more like Peter Singer and all that philosophy of how do we really embrace everybody, and make sure that we look after everybody, because it’s within our power. There’s no reason . . . it’s just the way we manage it, where there’s more than enough of everything for everybody. That’s my big hope.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And that was Hugh Jackman. Starting next month, Hugh will be starring as Professor Harold Hill in the Broadway revival of The Music Man. For transcripts and other resources from this episode, please go to www.findcenter.com/redefined. You can follow Hugh on Instagram @thehughjackman. You can follow FindCenter on Instagram @find_center, and you can follow me @ZainabSalbi. Please email me questions about this podcast and your own transformative moments at redefined@findcenter.com. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back next week for another conversation about life’s turning points and lessons learned. My guest will be the renowned playwright, author, and activist V, formerly known as Eve Ensler. Redefined is produced by me, Zainab Salbi, along with Rob Corso, Casey Kahn, and Howie Kahn at FreeTime Media. Our music is by John Palmer. Special thanks to Michelle Schweitzer, Neal Goldman, Caroline Pincus, and Sherra Johnston. Looking forward to seeing you next time.