When one thinks about meditation, rarely does science come to mind, or heaven forbid, business and commerce. Since most people equate meditation with a spiritual practice (as if that is something separate from the rest of the human experience), they tend to think of science, business and commerce as more mundane aspects of life, and thus the antitheses of the goals of meditation. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
Meditation is the practice of clearing the mind, and going within oneself to seek the Source of all experience, knowledge and action. It is purposefully altering one’s state of consciousness to more deeply and firmly connect this source within oneself; by doing so, a number of interesting things begin to happen. Yogis and sages have described many of these interesting things for millennia, but it was not until the twentieth-century that science actually started to take notice.
Meditation has been heavily studied since the 1950s. Sixty years of research has uncovered some remarkable things. Not only does meditation affect the physical body, but the mind and human behavior as well. But what does any of this have to do with business and commerce? As I alluded to earlier, it is impossible to separate the many facets of life, and why would we want to? Business and commerce, as a crucial element of our daily lives, is as potentially enhanced as any other area of life by the interesting things brought about by a regular meditation practice. Over the next several posts, I will be outlining some key findings in the meditation sciences and how they pertain to business and commerce. You will see when I am through that today’s companies cannot afford to keep this information from their personnel any longer. If you wish to expand in business, you will be far more successful with a team trained in the art and science of meditation.
Meditation Improves Creativity
Today’s companies are doing just about everything they can to foster a culture of creativity within their ranks. From encouraging “play time”, to expanding workplace flexibility, to offering numerous perks to employees including in-house personal and professional development programs, the modern organization strives hard to give itself the competitive edge. Creativity leads to innovation, innovation to products, products (through marketing) to sales and profits. With creativity, Amazons, Facebooks and Googles are born; without it…Blockbusters, MySpaces and Yahoos die.
Creativity is crucial in both a company’s personnel and its operation/management. Thus having a way to cultivate creativity intrinsically, organically and reliably would be a most valuable asset to any company. Science has shown meditation’s ability to enhance creativity by promoting divergent thinking—a style allowing new ideas to be generated.
Meditation also has a significant effect on three other creativity-interdependent traits: innovation, problem solving and novelty. And there is no doubt that regular meditation plays a role in shaping the mind physically, making these valuable qualities a conditioned, and therefore potentially permanent, part of the individual. Please understand the magnitude of this, and how it might strengthen an organization in the same way farm team does for a big league ball club: by acting as a foundation for an entire culture, in which the core values and characteristics of a company can be instilled and expressed uniquely throughout the individuals making up its personnel.
Because of meditation’s ability to “neutralize” the mind’s “waves of feeling,” which make up the incessant mind chatter permeating most people’s thoughts, it creates an open space for which new and imaginative ideas can come into formation. Inspiration may come during meditation, but more likely it arises spontaneously throughout one’s day, be it during wakefulness or sleep. A clear mind has a way of doing that.
Every great thinker throughout history has had these moments of inspiration, and many have had specific rituals to get them in the space of receiving. This power is inherent in all of us, but some have discovered the ability to tap-in at will, while others simply need to be taught. Meditation, or quieting the mind, is a potent, efficient and ever-evolving tool to touch this level of innovation regularly.
Problem solving is vital to company’s survival and success. Customer service, public relations, lost market share, competition all require quick and decisive thinking. For this, clear minds and controlled emotions are paramount, and nothing beats regular meditation as a way of conditioning these qualities of mind.
A 2007 study showed that people practicing a mindfulness exercise called affect labeling, in which participants were required to label facial expressions with the appropriate emotion, had increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex and decreased it in the amygdala (limbic system). The right prefrontal cortex is responsible for many functions, but most significantly executive function: the management and control of cognitive processes which includes working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving, as well as planning and execution. The amygdala (the alarm center in the brain that triggers stress-related feelings), where memory, decision-making and emotional reactions are processed, was subsequently inhibited.*
Another study showed meditation’s ability to increase emotional adaptation strategies—how feelings are processed—and reduce emotional reactions (which are often abrupt and unrestrained). Further, other studies showed a greater ability of meditators to accept “negative” emotional events and continue mental functioning with minimal error.*
One uniquely human characteristic is our drive for novelty. We constantly crave “new and improved’ in every facet of life, and this is what guarantees business and commerce an eternal role in human affairs. The ability to discern what can and should, in fact, be made better (yes, even the wheel!), comes down to a clear and sharp mind. Nothing beats meditation in creating an environment of clarity and novelty.
As I mentioned earlier, meditation has shown irrefutable evidence of influencing a practitioner’s neurology—that is, shaping their actual nervous system. Studies have shown that the incredible brain changes seen in long-term meditators also happen to be cumulative; so in other words: the more meditation, the greater the changes. This ability to change and reshape our brain and nervous system is known as neuroplasticity, and is crucial in creating new habits and skills. Just think, a company can increase its potential for regular novelty and innovation, while also shaping the neurology of its personnel to maintain a greater openness to creativity—a win-win situation under any circumstances.
Again, think about it: How much can meditation enhance the minds and lives of an organization’s personnel? How much could a culture of regular mind-quieting expand the parameters of a business or industry—by stimulating innovation, effective problem solving and novelty? How valuable would an in-house training program be for the infrastructure of a company? These are questions today’s businesses must surely ask themselves when trying to remain competitive or garner dominance within their industry. While modern companies are doing everything they can to keep their employees loyal, including opportunities for personal and professional development, adding a meditation instructional program is completely new and cutting-edge. The professional mindfulness coach will not be simply versed in the art and mystery of meditation, but also understand the culture of commerce and how a meditation program can benefit a company in its core values—providing quality goods and services for public or private sectors for a fair compensation. If this makes good business sense to you, then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we may discuss how we can implement a quantifiable and measurable meditation program within your company.
*Both excerpts from my soon to be released book, Seeking The Self Through Meditation, available through pre-order for significant savings