Here’s the new recipe for magnificent business success: sit still, very still. Empty your mind of distractions. And let the successes multiply.
Sound, well, plain odd? Know this: a growing number of proponents of meditation - which amounts to quieting the mind - are loudly touting meditation as the route to winning in business.
New, too, is scientific research - published in Biological Psychiatry and led by Carnegie Mellon associate professor J. David Creswell - that demonstrated meditation does in fact change the brains of practitioners in positive ways that appear to equip them to better cope with life stresses.
You think meditation is too woo woo? “Nothing about this has to be spiritual or religious in any way,” said Jeffery Martin, CEO of Transformative Technology Lab in Palo Alto, who added that he has personally been meditating for about ten years. The meditation that is catching on in Silicon Valley, stressed Martin, is “very performance oriented.”
Back up a step. What is meditation? It’s a practice - nobody knows how old, probably thousands of years - of consciously emptying the brain of its constant chatter and focusing on a single thing, usually the breath in and out, but it could be a speck of light, maybe a spot on the wall. “There are many ways to meditate,” said Martin. The mechanical specifics don’t matter. What matters is holding that attention for 10, maybe 20, possibly 30 minutes. Do that and do it daily and good things seem to happen.
Like what? Martin said that his research into meditation with groups - often involving Type A Silicon Valley high flyers - has found that a regular meditation practice delivers these benefits:
1. 30% decrease in stress.
2. 40% decrease in depression.
3. 30% decrease in neuroticism.
4. 11% increase in engagement.
5. 13% fewer " sick days."
How - fundamentally - does it get those results? Nobody knows. Creswell’s research indicates it triggers brain changes. But that is about as concrete as anyone gets.
The other thing that is known is that many practitioners now sing the praises of meditation as a way to focus in today’s hectic, multitasking business world.
In Los Angeles, Tal Rabinowitz, 39, a one time vice president at NBC Universal, is busy building a meditation business at her recently opened DEN Meditation studio where the emphasis is on drop in classes for busy people, often those involved in Hollywood, ground zero for a harried workplace. Rabinowitz - who said she has personally meditated for some five years - said she opened DEN, because she was looking for a studio and couldn't find one.
"I wanted to keep a regular practice going," she said. "I needed help.” She said she is upbeat about DEN’s prospects, because “meditation is rampant in Hollywood -- everybody’s doing it.”
Cross-country in New York, 32 year old Sarah Jacobs, co-founder of The Wellness Project, said her company is finding success selling meditation trainings to companies for their employees. Most clients, she said, are small to medium sized businesses and, she noted, “companies are more open to this today.” She elaborated: “Companies that take a vested interest in meditation and wellness could see vast jumps in their bottom line, not just from better work produced by rested and more focused brains, but also from the production of more creative ideas and more honed problem solving skills.”
Jacobs, incidentally, proves a point: meditation can take multiple forms. Although generally done when sitting on a cushion, Jacobs prefers to do hers walking - “Walking Meditation” is a common practice in multiple Eastern traditions - and she also likes to “meditate on a swingset every morning,” near her home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Edward Sturm, 26 years old, who runs a content marketing firm in Brooklyn, said he personally meditates daily, about 20 minutes a day, and he also encourages anybody who works for or with him to do likewise. He added that he started “because a mentor - a successful entrepreneur - suggested I do it.”
Now, said Sturm, he is the one telling others to do it.
“I talk about how it has helped me,” he said. “There are social and career benefits from meditating.”
Google and Ford agree, according to The Atlantic, which named them among companies that now are promoting meditation for employees. And when companies that different have hopped on the same trend, you know something very well may be happening.