Why would Oprah Winfrey pay out of her own pocket for her employees to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM)? Why is it that Ray Dalio, the CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, spends 40 of his valuable minutes every day practicing this technique?
Because Transcendental Meditation is an investment that pays back! From the outside, a person practicing TM might look like doing nothing. Yet science shows that having a person sit comfortably with eyes closed practicing TM twice a day is the ultimate mental workout leading to higher work efficiency.
Why a stressed-out mind can’t think straight
So what is it about Transcendental Meditation that makes a person so much more efficient and successful at what they do? One reason why TM acts like a pencil sharpener on the mind is its scientifically proven power to bust unnecessary levels of stress.
Every one of us has an innate fight-or-flight response to a stressful situation. Whenever we are stressed out, the CEO of our brain (prefrontal cortex) quits working because all available energy is directed to facing a possible physical danger.
And this is all great when you need to save yourself from an attacking lion.
Unfortunately, however, the same response is activated when you glance at your overflowing TO DO list at work. Here’s when the automatic shutdown of the prefrontal cortex becomes an evolutionary burden. In the modern jungle of fluorescent lights and office cubicles, not much can be accomplished by physically wrestling someone to the ground or darting away like a Speedy Gonzales.
For us to be truly productive in the whirlwind of the 21st century (work)life, we need to calm the primordial stress reflex so that the rational, executive part of our brain can kick back into full gear.
Studying the effect of TM at work
Transcendental Meditation practice has been scientifically proven to reduce the intensity and duration of the “run from the cheetah” stress reaction described above.
They have shown that the practice gives us more “inline time” with our brilliant prefrontal cortex and improves our mental functioning. Scientists have also found other benefits of the TM practice in real-life work settings.
One significant study, for instance, looked at the effect of Transcendental Meditation practice on employees of both a large manufacturing plant of a Fortune 100 corporation and a small distribution sales company.
In both settings, after 3 months, regular mediators had improved significantly more than matched controls on measures of
- employee effectiveness;
- job satisfaction;
- professional and personal relationships;
- physiological settledness and stability during mental task performance (measured by skin conductance levels);
- status of general health.
Regular meditators also reported decreased
- trait anxiety;
- job tension;
- insomnia and fatigue;
- cigarette and hard liquor use. 
Another pilot study compared employees of a wholesale company who had been practicing Transcendental Meditation for 8 months to on-site controls.
Employees who practiced Transcendental Meditation scored significantly higher on the Leadership Practice Inventory than controls. Leadership Practice Inventory measures important elements of leadership thinking, like:
- role modelling. 
Both mediators and non-mediators noticed changes in those who practiced Transcendental Meditation, such as:
- greater work effectiveness;
- increased energy for activities at work and home;
- greater comfort in taking initiative and increased calmness in stressful situations.
And a recent study with a Volvo managerial team in Sweden also suggested that the psychological changes accompanying TM practice could enhance decision-making skills while also improving the ability to find creative solutions to complex problems. 
How about just a snooze?
It is well documented that lack of sleep makes a brain turn mush rather quickly. Even moderate sleep deprivation is enough to make a person less able to pay attention, learn new things or perform the most routine tasks.
So, would it be helpful to, instead of meditating, spend those extra 20 minutes getting more snooze time? The evidence from comparing brain scans of people sleeping/resting and doing Transcendental Meditation show clearly that the beneficial effect of the TM technique on the brain far surpasses that of a simple catnap.
“Don’t just do something, sit there!”
As evidence keeps mounting, more and more employers around the globe are picking up that sometimes productivity increase can come from halting all activity at the workplace.
Besides Ray Dalio, Dan Loeb, the founder and chief executive of Third Point, and Nigol Koulajian, the founder and CEO of Quest Partners are among the Wall Street giants who publicly endorse the technique. Renowned business executives such as Ramani Ayer, Marnie Abramson, Bruno Grollo, Nancy Slomowitz and others sing praise to it – and many offer to pay for all or part of their employees’ bills for learning TM.