During the height of Seinfeld’s popularity, Jerry Seinfeld used to keep pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in the writer’ room. The reason? As Seinfeld told Judd Apatow in an interview for the book Sick in the Head, he liked to remind himself that there were bigger things going on in the universe than his TV show. “That would calm me down when I started to think that this was important,” Seinfeld said.
That’s the reason that I meditate. Meditation allows you to take a break from the constant stream of thoughts that circulate in your consciousness. Relieved of this distraction, I can tap into what’s really going on in the world and realize that life and business go on without me. This has a calming effect and allows me to focus on what I can control.
This shift in perspective is one reason why so many people – including Seinfeld himself – are proponents of meditation. Self-help guru Tim Ferriss says 80% of his podcast guests meditate. I have found meditation benefits not just me, but my entire staff. That’s why I initiated an elective thrice-weekly program at my company, GlassView.
Here are three benefits of meditation that I noticed since my company started meditating together:
1. It’s easier to handle setbacks and keep perspective. The best thing that meditation teaches is that you are not your thoughts. Meditation gives you distance between your thoughts and the outside world. You realize that your interpretation of events isn’t always accurate. My colleagues find they if they happen to have a setback, they don’t fixate on the negatives, but rather appreciate all the other positive things that are happening. As a result, I find that people in my company that meditate are better able to handle setbacks than those who don’t have this perspective.
2. Meditation helps us get in touch with a sense of gratitude. Personally, I combine meditation with silent prayer, which I consider super important (though I certainly wouldn’t require it from my colleagues). When you pray, you are letting go of issues that you can’t control and you are appreciating the things that are going well. I think that meditation without prayer is only half of the picture. But half is better than nothing. Meditation can make you appreciate all the things you take for granted, including and starting with each breath you take. I find that this gratitude spills over into work as well.
3. We’ve developed stronger personal connections. Some managers only want to talk to their colleagues about work. I believe that we spend so much of our waking lives at work that it’s a waste not to get to know your colleagues as human beings. Since I started offering meditation at GlassView, my colleagues have approached me – in person or via email – to talk about the subject of meditation. Some have discussed Dan Harris’ meditation evangelizing book 10% Happier with me. Others have just talked about how it has helped them better control their emotions or think differently.
Philosophically, I also think that an emphasis on meditation recognizes that it takes effort to maximize our energy and creativity. You can’t just power through knowledge work that requires creative thinking. Sure, you’ll get it done but it won’t be your best work. By allowing your mind to get some space and escape from reactive mode, you can tap into resources you didn’t know were there. When this happens among a team of people, then this is where the usual delineations between life and work vanish and everyone – even those who choose not to meditate – will benefit.