How I Meditate: Hollywood Producer Rachael Joy

How I Meditate: Hollywood Producer Rachael Joy


“There is no doubt that meditation has given me the awareness, clarity and focus to hear not only everything going on around me but also my inner voice in the midst of a chaotic shoot.”

Rachael Joy describes herself as a story maker. She’s directed and produced projects for the Discovery Channel, BBC, Animal Planet and Science Channel and won the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences Documentary Internship. Her latest project Man vs. The Universe was Executive Produced by Morgan Freeman and premiered on the Science Channel. Meditation has been her go-to practice to stay calm and be productive since 1994. Rachael told us how mediation has helps her perform at her highest level on the set.

Why did you start meditating? What was your goal?

I’ve read that “praying is talking to God while meditating is listening to God.” I was always in trouble as a kid for “talking too much.” I guess I realized early on that I needed to learn to listen.

What is your meditation routine?

My meditation practice has evolved many times over the past 20 years. Now it’s part Vipassana as taught by Tara Brach and part Shambhala as taught by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. My sitting practice is daily but I don’t do it for a set amount of time or at a specific time of day. Right now I’m focused on walking meditation which I do twice a week in the Santa Monica Mountains. One of my favorite mindful practices is what I call “just 3 breaths” which I do when I get out of the car. It’s crucial if you live in Los Angeles!

Do you think meditation gives you a competitive edge?

My job as a creative producer involves being an awesome listener. I’m naturally curious and love hearing people’s stories but need “spidey senses” when I’m on set which is where the actual magic happens. There is only so much that I can pre-produce. The majority of what I do is on the fly.

When I arrive on set I have minutes to assess the motivations and needs of the people I’m filming and have to make difficult decisions minute by minute. I do this by listening to everyone, paying attention to every detail and catching things out of the corner of my eye so I can anticipate what someone is about to do to make sure cameras are rolling. There is no doubt that meditation has given me the awareness, clarity and focus to hear not only everything going on around me but also my inner voice in the midst of a chaotic shoot.

Can you tell me a story about how meditation improved your performance at work?

In production we have a call sheet that plots the day down to the minute. You are in a constant battle of trying to stay on schedule and yet also be creative in this stressful environment. We call it “Hurry up! Wait” because you are often waiting for hours to light a scene and then have to shoot it at a moment’s notice. It’s difficult to stay present during the downtime.

I had a big shoot recently with Elon Musk and Morgan Freeman. When you’re working with talent of that magnitude you have to be incredibly efficient with time. Often crews these days will be on their phone while we wait for cameras to roll. Meditation has taught me not to check out or get distracted. In fact this “downtime” is precisely when it’s time to stay present so that I can be the most productive when filming. While we were waiting for Morgan and Elon to arrive I covered the grounds of SpaceX several times. Knowing the geography, what was being manufactured and the best angles to film allowed us to get everything we needed in a very short time period.

How does meditation boost creativity?

Creativity tends to happen when you aren’t forcing it. Ideas and inspiration “pop” into your head in the spaces between thoughts when being present. Meditation creates those spaces through breath.

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