CA­REER Is med­i­ta­tion your key to the cor­ner of­fice?

Is med­i­ta­tion the short­cut to in­ner peace and the cor­ner of­fice?

ELLE (Canada) - - News - By Guy Saddy

Iam sit­ting on the floor. My legs are crossed, and my eyes are closed. In front of me is a small sil­ver tray, and upon it, in a semi­cir­cle, are five can­dles that throw a danc­ing light against a foot­tall statue of Ganesh, the ele­phant-headed god revered by Bud­dhists and Hin­dus alike. Ganesh is play­ing the tabla, the tuned In­dian drum. De­spite this, Ganesh, too, is si­lent.

There are six of us here for the daily med­i­ta­tion class at Van­cou­ver’s Cho­pra Yoga Cen­tre. Mo­ments earli­er, led by our heav­ily tat­tooed, just- got- back- from- Mex­ico- an­dit-was-amaz­ing guide, a one-siz­e­fits-all mantra is dis­pensed—we are free to use our own—and, upon the chim­ing of a bell, we begin.

In my mind, my mantra is front and cen­tre. But in my jacket pocket, my busi­ness cards are at the ready. See, ac­cord­ing to re­cent hype, med­i­ta­tion may be a short­cut to not only in­ner peace but also a cor­ner of­fice.

At least that’s what a spate of ar­ti­cles would have you be­lieve. Young pro­fes­sion­als, we are told, gather at Ziva Med­i­ta­tion’s New York City or Los An­ge­les stu­dio to med­i­tate in groups and net­work their way to bet­ter ca­reers. Suze Yalof Schwartz, a for­mer fash­ion edi­tor at ELLE U.S., Vogue and Glam­our, has launched Un­plug, a drop-in cen­tre con­ceived of as a sort of “SoulCy­cle for med­i­ta­tion” in Los An­ge­les; she counts lawyers, bankers and other Type A ca­reerists among her tar­get mar­ket. h

And for sev­eral years now, Wis­dom 2.0, an an­nual con­fer­ence that mar­ries tech­nol­ogy and mind­ful­ness, has drawn large crowds seek­ing to in­ject a bit of bliss into their dig­i­tally based lives.

Med­i­ta­tion groups are ap­par­ently the new ca­reer-net­work­ing hubs. For­get about those crowded bars. Throw away that pri­vate-golf­club membership. If you want to get ahead, pass the bliss—and throw a non-com­pete clause into that con­tract for em­ploy­ment. Call it the shot­gun mar­riage of Dale Carnegie and the Dalai Lama.

Which sounds rather crass, of course. But that’s hardly the en­tire story. “I don’t care why peo­ple come to med­i­ta­tion; I just care that they come,” says Emily Fletcher, 36, the founder of Ziva Med­i­ta­tion and a for­mer Broad­way actress who re­ceived Vedic med­i­ta­tion train­ing in Rishikesh, In­dia.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, ad­mits Fletcher, busi­ness con­nec­tions are made. But most times, ca­reer growth is a by-prod­uct of med­i­ta­tive prac­tice rather than a di­rect con­se­quence of, say, sit­ting cross-legged next to a Wall Street fi­nancier or Hol­ly­wood film mogul. “It’s not ‘Oh, I met this per­son and they gave me a job,’” says Fletcher. “What I hear, more of­ten than not, is ‘Emily, I started writ­ing this book that I’ve been want­ing to write for 10 years.’ The veil of re­sis­tance that plagues so many of us starts to lift once you start med­i­tat­ing.”

At one time, med­i­ta­tion had, er, “cul­ti­vated” some sketchy op­tics and seemed des­tined to be a fad. “Yogic fly­ers,” led in Canada by il­lu­sion­ist/ Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion (TM) devo­tee Doug Hen­ning, at­tempted liftoff—lit­eral, not spir­i­tual—in 1993 by hop­ping around cross-legged on na­tional tele­vi­sion in a failed at­tempt to lev­i­tate; the Bea­tles and their en­tourage, flower gar­lands wrapped around their necks, hung out at TM founder Ma­har­ishi Ma­hesh Yogi’s Hi­malayan ashram. “I love those boys, but they put my work back 30 years,” the con­tro­ver­sial spir­i­tual leader re­port­edly said later. (Charg­ing neo­phytes $2,500 prob­a­bly didn’t help. TM has since dropped the price.)

Re­cently, how­ever, med­i­ta­tion has been re­branded, and much of the repo­si­tion­ing has been but­tressed by science. Cred­i­ble stud­ies tout the phys­i­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal benefits of mantra-based med­i­ta­tion, from re­liev­ing the symptoms of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion to low­er­ing blood pres­sure and en­hanc­ing cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and work­ing mem­ory.

Last Novem­ber, in an over­view of ex­ten­sive re­cent re­search, a Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can cover story en­ti­tled “The Neu­ro­science of Med­i­ta­tion” con­cluded that med­i­ta­tion has an im­pact on sev­eral re­gions of the hu­man brain and can “re­wire the brain cir­cuits to pro­duce salu­tary ef­fects not just on the mind and the brain but on the en­tire body.” Other benefits? A calmer, more fo­cused mind—not ex­actly a bad trait to have when you’re try­ing to make your way in the work­ing world.

Some high-pro­file prac­ti­tion­ers have added lus­tre, if not nec­es­sar­ily cred. On their way to their 2014 Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship win, the Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ coach­ing staff pro­moted medi­tation as a way of keep­ing their play­ers’ eyes on the ball, so to speak. In his book, The Way of Base­ball: Find­ing Still­ness at 95 MPH, for­mer Blue Jays slug­ger Shawn Green cred­its med­i­ta­tion with help­ing him achieve 328 ca­reer home runs.

Oprah Win­frey, Goldie Hawn, Rus­sell Brand and Lena Dun­ham are ad­vo­cates. Even busi­ness lead­ers have em­braced the prac­tice, among them hedge-fund bil­lion­aire Dan Loeb and Ford Mo­tors’ ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, Bill Ford. In Jan­uary, del­e­gates to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land, crowded into a con­fer­ence room and, in­stead of de­bat­ing macroe­co­nomic the­ory, med­i­tated silently. And, closer to home, Lu­l­ule­mon founder Chip Wil­son launched, a med­i­ta­tion ini­tia­tive promis­ing bliss to busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives who can spare just one soli­tary minute each day. The motto? “We prom­ise noth­ing. You achieve ev­ery­thing.”

Which sounds pretty good to me. Back at the Cho­pra cen­tre, as a sec­ond bell chimes to end our group ses­sion, I’m pretty sure even Ganesh might agree. h

Med­i­ta­tion groups are ap­par­ently the new ca­reer-net­work­ing hubs. For­get about those crowded bars. Throw away that pri­vate-golf-club membership.

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