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Why You Should Meditate


Twice daily meditation for decades have made meditation so much a part of my routine, that I would no more consider writing about it than I would about brushing my teeth (oh dear, I think I wrote about that once….) – until my friend Roberta Hill asked me to. So I’ve been thinking about what I’d write.

There are plenty of studies showing the health benefits of meditation; how it reduces stress, increases blood flow, slows the heart rate, relieves muscle tension and headaches. What I like best are the studies that show how it has an effect on well-being; it releases serotonin (a “good feeling” hormone) and shifts brain waves to the left frontal cortex, an area of the brain that is considered calmer than others.

All of the studies on meditation’s health benefits should peak your interest, and may be enough to convince you to try it. Since I practice a particular form of meditation called TM, I’ve been watching the studies that organization has done since the 1970’s; I’m particularly interested in the benefits it might have for leaders in the workplace. After struggling with not wanting to appear boastful, I’ve decided to tell my story of the benefits I believe I’ve gained from regular meditation.

A disclaimer: I’ll do my best to illustrate what I believe are the distinguishing benefits of meditation for me and how they might benefit you as a leader. Although anecdotal, there is some connection to the research out there as well as what others who meditate regularly have reported.

The benefits I’ve noticed

Presence: As a child and younger woman, my family may have called me a dreamer. I was off in my thoughts a lot. I still sometimes do that, but I am aware of my thoughts and can make the choice to be fully present. In your role as a leader, there is a big advantage to your ability to be aware of your thoughts and to choose to be present in your work and for the people around you. The quality of the relationships you form are dependent upon your being present so that you can react and interact appropriately with those around you.

Fulfillment: I’ve noticed a growing personal satisfaction with “what is”. I am conscious of what I can and cannot change and am confident of putting efforts into what matters for me and those around me. The past and the future don’t cause as much stress as they used to. Rather than dwelling on the past poor choices I’ve made, I can (almost always) reflect and learn from them. Rather than fear the unknown future, I can (almost always) look forward to it. I am happy. What good leader wouldn’t want more of that?

Stillness: The best way that I can describe the experience of stillness is as an ongoing calm (some may call it reduced stress). Even in the midst of calamity, I seem to be able to be still. This is the best benefit of meditation for me. It helps me to feel resilient. People notice, and comment on, the calm they observe. This is not something that people would have remarked about in years past, so I believe it has something to do with regular meditation. In your world of moving from one catastrophe to another, I’m sure you can see the advantages to experiencing stillness (a sense of calm) and the resilience it can provide you; not to mention the physical effects of reducing your stress levels.

It’s simple but not easy

There are many forms of meditation, and one may work for you. Pick one. Learn about it and try it – but stick with it (this is the hard part). The real benefits come with the habit you develop of regular and ongoing practice.

Do you see how meditation might improve your leadership? What would be keeping you from trying it?


13 Responses to “Why You Should Meditate”

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on meditation. It is such a personal thing and the benefits you have seen could have a big impact on leaders that have been working pretty hard over the last few years. We often talk of greater efficiency – imagine if we could increase the presence of everyone by 5%? Think of the impact of actually hearing each other more? :)
    Thanks for the post.

  • jay:

    I’ve been told by many people I should try this, but there are many different types. Suggestion?

  • Patrick:

    Hey Mary,
    I like your posts very much!
    “The quality of the relationships you form are dependent upon your being present so that you can react and interact appropriately with those around you.” is very useful for me. I should cost more time and energy to build up my good relationship with people around me.
    I found good relationship is so important for everyone in the world on matter which country you are from. Good relationship can give you more opportunity and knowledge when you contact with them.

  • Yathi Yatheepan:

    Hi Mary,

    Thank you for another interesting story. I started doing meditation when I was at college in Sri Lanka. I went to a meditation center. It was located along the banks of a river, an ideal place to meditate. When I was doing the meditation, I experienced that I was able to concentrate more on my studies. Also I felt I absorb fast. I meditated for two years. Unfortunately I could not continue as the center wants me (and my friends) change our food habits, the things we do at leisture time etc etc.. I was pretty sure that to get the full benefits of the meditation we need to transform ourself to a certain extend. Sadly, unable to face to questions like “Did you follow the week as instructed?”, we end up stop going for meditation. The dorm, we stayed, was not that great place to do meditation. After that never tried resuming meditation. I should try.

  • Thanks Patrick, I’m glad you like my posts. And I (of course) agree about the importance of relationships. I think we don’t give them the importance they deserve in our organizations and communities.

  • Yathi, it’s too bad so much was required of you to continue meditating. I think that is possible if you find a meditation practice that you like, you should notice that you will improve any bad habits (like a poor diet, or lack of exercise) without being coerced to do so.

  • Scott, I’m sorry for the lateness of reply – I had so much fun responding to you on Twitter, that I neglected your comments here. Like so many things, meditation takes time and discipline (which is why many don’t take it up), but the benefits far outweigh the time commitment. It’s unfortunate that it takes awhile to see that – many give up before they’ve made it a regular habit. I used to hear about something called the “Maharishi Effect” – a study that claimed if 1% of any population practiced TM (a particular type of meditation) that crime rates dropped significantly). So your comment bets the question: if 1% of any organization meditated, would the presence of those in the organization increase? Would people be hearing more?

  • Jay, I think you should just try what you can find. Perhaps you can find someone to teach you TM. Sometimes Buddhist temples teach Zen meditation.

  • Scott Waters:

    I’ve never tried meditation, Mary, but you make a good case to at least try it. I seem to get a similar satisfaction out of running and cycling. I suspect it’s also a release of serotonin, but during those activities, I end up clearing a lot of negative thoughts out of my head and often come up with some of my best ideas. I’ll give meditation a shot some time.

  • Mike Lipkowitz:

    Mary Jo,
    Thanks for the post. You have made some good points that have sparked my interest in meditation. I could really use some calming techniques. I have a few of my own, but I feel as though they are not as effective as they could be. I will have to take a look at the TM type of meditation.
    Mike

  • Scott, my guess is that meditation might actually “rewire” your brain. Not sure if vigorous exercise does that.

    Mike, good luck! I would love to hear back about what you find out.

  • Hi Mary Jo,

    I always thought of meditation as gimmmicky etc. till a professor of ours showed us some stuff from the mayo clinic to try out for ourselves and to give our feedback. I find it especially helpful when I’m super mad at the world. Here’s the link he sent us:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/MM00623

  • Jake, how about that? I wouldn’t have ever thought about a guided meditation on the internet. Thanks for the link.

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Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo
A former executive in a Fortune 100 company, I own and operate a leadership solutions firm called Aspire Collaborative Services. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. I am married, have two daughters, and a dog named Edgar the Leadership Pug who exemplifies the importance of relationships to great leadership.
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