Hollywood Zen
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Five ways to Hollywood zen

by Taj Paxton

I’m a single, independent writer/producer over 25 (be quiet) and even though I’ve been studying yoga and meditation for 20 years, participated in 4 silent retreats and lived in an ashram, I still get stressed. Yoga’s not a cure-all. Nothing is.

Having a spiritual practice just means you have remedies for when you do get stressed, and hopefully your rebound time to equanimity is dramatically reduced. Like the Dalai Lama. His recovery time is a millisecond. Mine is about 5,060.

Here are five key questions I’ve learned to ask myself when I’m near tears and my shoulders hunch up like earrings:

1) Who didn’t get your edict about how to behave on Planet Earth?

Every person likes to think they’re not “controlling.” It’s a bad word and no one wants the label. But, it’s not entirely bad. We can work at controlling our will, our minds and our energy. It’s when we try and control anything other than those 3 things, like people, that we get into trouble. Whether it’s the studio that won’t make your film for a penny over $20 million, your agent who won’t call you back or your son insisting on his Spider-Man costume for Sunday Mass, things don’t have to go your way. You sail through life smoother when you accept that when things do go your way, it’s a bonus but not an entitlement.

2) Who or what are you avoiding?

The Buddhists call avoidance one of the fundamental elements of suffering. If you’ve ever avoided someone or something, then you know this already. You need to exit gracefully from a position, but you don’t know how to tell your boss this position isn’t working for you. Or maybe it is working but you need a salary bump and in this economy, you’re afraid to re-negotiate. A jump start out of this top stressor… finish this sentence: “If I had the guts, I would… ”

3) What are you pretending not to know?

We behave as if our instincts haven’t given us clear instructions. We each have an inner voice, your internal GPS. It talks in a whisper or it screams in your head. When you ignore it, the more stressed out you can become.

I was co-producing a project with a colleague. She did something sneaky and I found out about it later. From that moment on, I knew I couldn’t work with her anymore. But we had been developing this project for a year, and we were closing in on a round of network meetings. I didn’t want to stop the train. We took the meetings and each one was more uncomfortable than the next.

Something was irrevocably broken. It was ironic. The closer the project got to selling, the more I dreaded the idea of working with her. When at last it didn’t sell, I was almost relieved. Moving forward would have meant partnering with someone I couldn’t trust. Take a moment to hear and once you do, do as instructed.

4) Am I present?

Present means in the current moment, not fretting a past action or decision, nor worried about an uncertain future or a catastrophe you think is no doubt on its way. Our business is wrought with anxiety. The only thing certain is everything can change. It’s the nature of it.

So to find peace, we can’t look for control. We look for the confidence and trust that we can handle what arises. Paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle, trust that you are having whatever experience you need for the evolution of your own consciousness. And if you apply your instincts to the present moment (see question three above), you’ll likely get the outcome you desire. And if you don’t, it’s back to question number one. See how this works.

5) For whom or what are you grateful?

In a time of intensity, pause and ask yourself this one. I do it while counting on my fingers. That’s two zen techniques for the price of one. Getting present to gratitude changes your disposition because it’s impossible to be completely grateful and still whine and complain. Second, fingers represent energy points in the body and holding the fingers in specific positions form what are called mudras. A frequently used one is gyan (guy-yawn) mudra, which is when your thumb is softly pressed to your second finger. This mudra is used for wisdom and intuitive guidance. So, whether it’s a friend referring you for an open assignment or a surprise ticket to a sold-out Sundance screening, say thank you.

Here’s to your well-being.

Taj Paxton

About Taj Paxton

Taj is a TV writer, film producer and former development exec. During most of her career, she's studied and taught yoga and meditation to thousands. Follow her on Twitter: @talktotaj

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