Twenty years ago who would have predicted an ever-deepening relationship between the meditation and business worlds? Not me, and I suspect I’m in good company. Last year, 22% of U.S. employers offered meditation or mindfulness programs to employees and that number is expected to double in 2017.From Dow Chemical to LinkedIn, more corporations are embracing meditation training as a good business investment. While the number of rigorous workplace meditation studies remains small, the early data show some promising payoffs.For example, studies report lower rates of employee absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, increased employee engagement, and improved supervisory relationships between managers and staff. The assumption is that these improvements will increase performance and productivity.In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a recent convert to regular meditation. To deepen my learning about meditation, I attended a talk by Dan Goleman and Richard Davidson on their new book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.If you’ve been skeptical about the daily benefits of meditation and the business sector’s growing attraction to the practice, Altered Traits may, well, alter your attitude.Goleman is the author of the groundbreaking work and bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. Davidson is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. Both authors are long-standing meditation practitioners. Here are three big takeaways from their book:
- Meditation of most any type can improve mental fitness to some degree.
- The more meditation you do, the more lasting impact it will have on your well-being.
- Repeated “deep” meditation reshapes the brain to produce long-term or “altered” traits in our being, particularly increased attention spans, patience, flexibility, resilience and kindness.
Goleman and Davidson present compelling scientific data on how meditation changes the brain’s circuitry to produce a range of positive changes that can profoundly affect our overall health and well-being.However, in addition to the scientific data, I appreciate how the authors brought me back to the deeper purpose of meditation, “As we see it, the most compelling impacts of meditation are not better health or sharper business performance, but, rather a further reach toward our better nature … the upper reaches of our positive potential.”Even as a relatively new convert to meditation, I’ve noticed myself slowing down in my daily routine and being more present in my engagements.
After reading Altered Traits, I can’t help but wonder about meditation’s potential to transform our work environments. Overall, the typical workplace can be a highly impersonal, uncaring and dismissive environment. We can only hope that the rate of employers incorporating meditation and mindfulness into the workplace will continue to accelerate.