The Mindfulness of Meditation

What do the Singapore Government, the IMF, Bridgewater (the world’s biggest hedge fund), and Pimco (global investment advisers) have in common?

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They all have senior executives who meditate every day.

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In an article in the FT this week a number of senior executives described how they are committed to meditation.

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Mr Peter Ng, the Chief Investment Officer of the Government of Singapore, meditates for twenty minutes two times a day. Mr Ng is in charge of tens of billions of dollars of investments. He says,

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“quieting the mind can help managers conserve energy in daily work life …. and bring greater clarity … and greater clarity makes you more orderly”.

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Sean Hagen of the IMF says that mediation …

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“… helps you focus, which is a good skill, and encourages a ‘one-thing-at-a-time’ approach, which helps slow things down”

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The other benefits listed are achieving equanimity, gaining perspective, increasing decision making skills, and removing ‘confirmation bias’ – the tendency to seek out information that supports your own point of view to the exclusion of data that might be right but contradictory.

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I read this article on Thursday morning and later that day I met up with a fellow leader who showed me cuttings from four different broadsheet newspapers this week on the same subject – meditation in business.

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It seems that meditation is having a good week.

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Which led me to puzzle over two things.

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First, none of these executives linked meditation to religion. They practised ‘secular’ meditation for its intrinsic benefits. So how does that compare to the practise of meditation by people leading the church, where meditation has a rich tradition in spiritual formation?

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I wondered how many church leaders (and that’s not just ordained or licensed people) have the same discipline of regular meditation as these successful businessmen.

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It’s worth some research to find out.

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Somehow I suspect that the findings would be disappointing, certainly if the gauge of successful meditation includes equanimity, perspective, increased decision making skills, and (especially) removing confirmation bias (look at most church mission strategies).

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The second puzzle was this. None of these executives related meditation to religion, and yet the Christian tradition has 2,000 years of expertise in developing high quality, life enhancing,  personal meditation skills. How did we loose the high ground on this?

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Answering this question runs the risk becoming being an academic exercise, so perhaps time would be better spent reflecting on the more important question of how Christian meditation leading to spiritual formation could open new avenues of engagement with people around us.

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After all, meditation in the Christian tradition is not restricted to the elite – either of the world’s financiers or even the church. Rather, Jesus’ guidance given in the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by an office worker, was for everyone to ‘Find a secluded place …. and be there as simply and honestly as you can manage’*.

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*Matthew chapter 6 verse 6:  [The Message version]

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