Thanks to the continued research touting its advantages, meditation has hit the mainstream. More and more people are willing to give it a try, often despite a measure of initial skepticism. Nowhere is that more true than in the workplace, where everyone from C-suite executives to entry-level assistants can share in the multitude of benefits.
"More and more companies are offering meditation rooms and allowing employees to meditate on company time, because if you're dragging at 4 p.m. and you have to keep going until 6 or 7 p.m. and you're just exhausted, you don't want to just grab a tenth cup of coffee," said Bob Roth, a renowned meditation teacher based in New York City.
"To slip away for 20 minutes of [meditation] and come back feeling like your brain just woke up is far more valuable," he added.
That's where the David Lynch Foundation, of which Roth is executive director, comes in. The star-studded nonprofit is known for bringing free transcendental meditation training to at-risk populations, but now it's branching out to corporate environments.
Through the foundation, Roth and his fellow meditation teacher Joanna Pitt have partnered with the New York City-based Center for Leadership Performance to bring the practice of transcendental meditation into workplaces nationwide. And they've noticed that business is brisk.
"The trajectory of this program has gone through the roof in the past 12-18 months," said Roth, who now runs trainings everywhere from banks and hedge funds to schools, hospitals and professional sports teams.
The five-step course includes an hour-long group introduction to the practice, individual 90-minute meetings with a transcendental meditation teacher, and then three group follow-up meetings so participants can continue building their practice.
Such meditation programs are proven to have boosted the bottom line of businesses and the productivity and job performance of employees, in addition to reducing healthcare costs across the board. But a unique benefit of holistic health options like transcendental meditation is the sense of well-being and connection each practitioner finds within themselves.
"The benefit that people notice right off the bat is that they start sleeping better almost immediately. They also wake up feeling fresher in the morning," said Roth. "They also have a sustained energy that isn't nervous or agitated but very settled, powerful and creative energy."
There are three distinct types of meditation: "focused attention," which involves concentration or control of the mind; "open monitoring," which is mindfulness; and "self-transcending," which is transcendental meditation. It requires a person to focus on an individualized mantra for 20 minutes at a time to key into a space of inner calm.
"The first two are dispassionate observational techniques where you're paying attention to your breath, your thoughts and your environment," said Roth. "But TM grants access to a level of the mind that is already calm and settled and silent yet wide awake and filled with creativity. Every human being already has that -- we've just lost access to it. It's like an ocean that has choppy, turbulent waves on its surface and yet is silent at its depth."
The benefits of transcendental meditation specifically have been studied widely by more than 200 independent universities and research institutions. A 2008 University of Connecticut study found that a consistent TM practice helped reduce stress, anxiety and hyperactivity in at-risk youth, while additional research conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles established that TM can help decrease hypertension, obesity and diabetes issues in patients struggling with coronary heart disease.
These meditation styles are not mutually exclusive and can often be used in conjunction with each other. Focused attention trains a person to be able to concentrate the mind, according to Roth, and mindfulness is more of a coping tool to help mitigate stress in the middle of the day.
Transcendental meditation, by contrast, is most physiological of the three. When practiced 20 minutes twice a day -- once in the morning and once in the late afternoon or early evening -- TM is able to give the body a state of rest and relaxation, eliminating the buildup of stress and tension and fatigue that many working professionals experience on a daily basis.
Making sure that their employees have a chance to learn to meditate and complete their daily practice on company time is a significant step toward improving workplace stress and burnout.
Interested in adding your office to the growing list of companies using meditation as a form of holistic health care? Talk with your supervisor and reach out to the David Lynch Foundation to find a program near you. And if the in-office practice doesn't pan out, be sure to visit the official Transcendental Meditation organization's website to learn how to get the training you seek individually.
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