Why Sandra Oh Meditates

Mindful spoke with the actor on how she started meditating and how it helps with stress in her professional and personal life.

Photographs by Lever Rukhin

Sandra Oh played Dr. Cristina Yang on ABC’s popular Grey’s Anatomy for 10 years and has starred in many movies, including Sideways. Meditation is extremely helpful in sorting out the stress in her personal and professional life. She’s also found it helps enhance her creative abilities as an actor.

When did you start doing mindfulness practice?

About seven years ago, I started experimenting with meditation. I would listen to CDs and lie down, things like that. I tried out a couple of different groups. I tried doing it on my own. But really, it all started to come together about three years ago. I really consider that my mindfulness practice began at that time, when I found my community at InsightLA. I’ve been so inspired to find a diverse group of fellow meditators to learn together with, and a lovely place to go sit that has a regular schedule of sessions. It helps to have the support.

What inspired you to start practicing meditation?

I think, like many people, I had been thinking “I should meditate” for years. But, no surprise, shaming myself into it wasn’t doing the trick. I was looking to make a change in my life and my dear friend who had just had a baby said meditation had really helped her during her pregnancy and delivery. Hearing that really moved me.

What do you think of meditation now that you’ve been doing it for a while?

It has become a necessary part of my life, and I make it a priority to find time to fit it in.

How do you find it benefits you?

It has helped me through some very difficult times in my life and increased the joy of living. It helps me deal with stress—and there’s plenty of that to go around. It helps me to focus, and it helps me to have creative breakthroughs. Doing meditation practice has also challenged me to become a better person, to broaden my mind and remain curious.

You can find ways to deal with life better as you learn how to sit and just be there on the cushion with your mind and your surroundings.

It’s a slow process, though, a gradual, organic process. It’s not like you sit for 20 minutes and suddenly your life is peaceful. But you can find ways to deal with life better as you learn how to sit and just be there on the cushion with your mind and your surroundings.

Would you, do you, recommend it to others?

Yes, I always recommend it to people. For me, I find it essential for living a well-balanced life.

Does mindfulness have any effects on your work as an actor?

Deeply. Mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand. Around 2006, I simultaneously found my acting teacher (Kim Gillingham) and started doing some meditation, and I discovered that they sort of lived together in the same space.

Being present is the actor’s job. Being aware of your body, in space, and the emotions that are occurring inside, is essential. Well, quite simply, the more aware one is—of yourself, of your surroundings, of other people—the more likely you are to respond truthfully.

Try this: How to sit in meditation

Sandra Oh demonstrates correct posture for meditation. (Click here to enlarge the image.)

actor Sandra Oh demonstrates how to meditate

This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.