Orignally posted on Huffington Post, with additional notes as provided to Founders Only.
Image by John Kelsey
Transcendental meditation is having a moment. Everyone from Hugh Jackman to Oprah is an avid fan. Even Wall Street is paying attention, with Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, not only practicing Transcendental Meditation daily, but insisting his entire fund join in. So what’s the big deal about TM?
As a practice it was created by the Maharishi Yogi in the 1960s in India, and recently, championed most emphatically in the U.S. by the David Lynch Foundation. TM’s 20 minutes twice per day mantra based contemplation is proven to lower blood pressure, strengthen your immune system and decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
But it’s what TM does for your brain that is most compelling.
On a personal level, this simple practice changed my outlook on life. I came to New York from Sydney, determined to start a company, but with excuses holding me back. There was always a reason I wasn’t ‘enough’ to create a startup and see it through. Lacking confidence, and with plenty of fears it seemed like creating a business was just a dream. Things changed dramatically as I began practicing TM after being introduced by a holistic practitioner, and felt the results immediately.
Repeated studies have demonstrated that meditation works by changing your unconscious thoughts, effectively rewiring the brain. On a practical level, the negative mindset that had made me stand in my own way in the past, lost ground, and I started feeling optimistic, capable and ‘enough’. As we launched our company there were ongoing challenges, but my perception had changed and somehow I now always felt that the odds were stacked in our favor.
A daily practice of meditation pulled me through negotiating a term sheet with investors despite not having raised money before, to overcoming my very real anxiety around public speaking, as well as the highs and lows of building a startup you hope millions of people will love.
I feel more self assured via this practice, with a certainty in the inevitability of events turning out for the best. In short, TM has made me more of an optimist. Optimism is something most people agree can be a real asset not only in dealing with the pressures of day to day life, but in creating better outcomes, as you attract positive relationships, build strong allies and more aligned business partners. But even if that weren’t the case, and being optimistic didn’t guarantee us all better results, wouldn’t you rather be happy living your life in the meantime?
At nearly the one year anniversary of the original post, I chatted with Rajah at Founder’s Only about the process of mediation, and he asked me if I’ve stuck with this. His comment was that: when you’re a founder who is racing 1000 miles per hour all the time, how do convince yourself to slow down? My advice to Rajah and the other founders is that meditation is a bit like exercise, you really get in the zone when you stick with it. Every time I find myself thinking of work while meditating or wanting to stop, I go back to the mantra. It’s also normal for your mind to wander. Regardless, the cognitive studies demonstrate that even when subjects don’t feel like they are “doing it properly”, the benefits are there. For me, it’s like brushing my teeth before leaving the house – non negotiable part of an every day routine!
Lisa is a member of Founder’s Only and is the co-founder of HeTexted.com.