What do entrepreneurs Russell Simmons, Arianna Huffington, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff have in common? Besides their obvious business acumen, these entrepreneurs and media moguls all count meditation as a key to their success and well being. Every year millions of Americans resolve to take better care of their health, and thanks to changing perceptions regarding mental health and wellness, many of us are taking a more holistic approach to our health—starting with our minds.
You’d have to be living under a rock (or buried in emails) to ignore the rise of meditation in business and mainstream culture. From Entrepreneur to the Harvard Business Review and everywhere in between, it appears the startup train has entered the meditation station. Udemy, the online learning platform even has a dedicated Meditation for Entrepreneurs course “helping entrepreneurs focus, become more balanced, and live happier lives—one breath at a time.”
“Meditation has made me a more centered and balanced person, providing me with a calmer mind to help tackle the challenges of being a entrepreneur,” said Robert Andrews, Vice President ofBreathalEyes, a startup that allows users to test blood alcohol levels using an app on their smartphone.
So, what exactly is meditation?
Meditation is a practice in which you quiet the mind in order to reflect, achieve higher consciousness, or achieve some kind of mental clarity. In essence, its the practice of sitting quietly and doing nothing—the polar opposite of daily life as an entrepreneur or anyone working at a startup. While meditation has gained popularity in the U.S., shifting from a subculture practice beloved by new-age hippies to a well-regarded tool for thought-leaders and influencers, meditation has been around for thousands of years. The practice of meditation is as vast and diverse as it is venerable.
“If you’ve got a killer case of active mind or ADD, which so many entrepreneurs so often do, it enables you to channel that energy into the right buckets. Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll learn when to use your mental energy and how,” Molly Cain, Executive Director of Tech Wildcatterssaid of her daily meditation practice.
There are many types of meditation, each with its own unique approach and intentions including zen, Japa/mantra, kundalini, and transcendental meditation among many others. Meditation on its own isn’t a religion or specific spiritual practice, rather a “precise technique for resting the mind..it is a science, which means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified,” Yoga International states.
“I started meditating about 18-24 months ago, and have seen successively greater benefits from the practice,” said Maximillian Wall, CEO and co-founder of Dallas Urban Farms. Wall practices Japa—or mantra meditation, harnessing the power of intonation to clear his mind. “Meditation has expanded my awareness of my self, personally and in business. Business is only one iteration of life, but meditation absolutely transforms them all, across the board,” he added.
One of the more popular forms of meditation—particularly for entrepreneurs, is mindfulness meditation. According to Psychology Today, “mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment.”
“I’ve been meditating for over three years almost daily. The best thing that I’ve ever done for myself,” Jeannette Cajide, Dialexa VP of Corporate Development said. Mari Mergerson, co-founder of Dangle, MBA student, and mother of a one-year old also incorporates meditation into her daily routine. “My plate is constantly full,” she said, adding that meditation helps her to be present, prepared, and creative. “At night, I am able to reflect and accept my day’s experiences, which I feel has helped me grow and be more creative throughout this journey,” Mergerson explained.
Aside from mental clarity and increased creativity, meditation also has links to real physical health benefits.
“Meditation isn’t a cure-all for our health issues, but there is growing evidence that dedicating more time to mindfulness and relaxation can make significant improvements in overall well-being,” Rachel Winstead, a Dallas-based creative marketing strategist explained on the blog for Soap Hope, a Deep Ellum-based startup in the natural health and beauty space. Benefits like lower blood pressure, better memory, and treatment for depression and anxiety are among the key reasons why more Americans are making daily meditation part of their routines.
How does one meditate?
One of the most appealing things about meditation is its accessibility—you can meditate anywhere. Popular apps like Headspace bring guided meditation to your smartphone, limiting the intimidation factor of starting a practice on your own.
For those who prefer the connection and learning opportunities of a group, places like the Dallas Meditation Center, Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center, and the Kadampa Meditation Center of Texas offer workshops, courses, and retreats. As meditation becomes more mainstream, there will be no shortage of entrepreneurial opportunities for bringing the practice to new audiences. Sleek, spa-like meditation centers are already common in places like Los Angeles and New York and it’s only a matter of time before we see Dallas sprinkled with boutique meditation centers like Greenwich Village’s MNDFL.
Katie Jo Whisenant, associate at commercial real estate firm Alt + Co and co-founder of their subsidiary Alt+Co LAUNCH which focuses on startups, has a client with plans to open a meditation center in the Turtle Creek area of Uptown Dallas soon. A weekly mindfulness meditation series hosted by Katie Troutman launches next week at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.