Around eight years ago, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio introduced Transcendental Meditation to his 735 employees.
Dalio had already established a unique, intense culture of “radical transparency” at Bridgewater that he likes to say is akin to being part of an “intellectual Navy SEALs,” and he believed that Transcendental Meditation, or TM, would work as an effective counterbalance.
“I did it because it’s the greatest gift I could give anyone — it brings about equanimity, creativity, and peace,” Dalio told Business Insider in an email.
Since then, TM has popped into the mainstream, and Dalio has helped significantly. Over the last three years, the David Lynch Foundation TM center has taught almost 2,500 professionals — 1,150 in 2016 alone — and roughly 55% are from Wall Street.
The foundation was founded by the eponymous acclaimed director (“Twin Peaks,” “Mulholland Drive”) in 2005 to teach TM for free to underserved students, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and victims of domestic abuse. Dalio has donated about $20 million to the DLF through the Dalio Foundation over the past decade, with funds specifically allocated to students in New York and San Francisco and veterans. The Dalio Foundation accounts for 20% of the DLF’s funding.
Dalio began practicing TM in 1969 as a college student, after seeing that its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, taught it to the Beatles.
Dalio brought TM to his Bridgewater through the DLF’s teachers, who still regularly visit.
Practitioners must learn TM from a certified teacher, who gives them one of many mantras, a meaningless “vibration sound,” and assists them with perfecting the technique. Meditators sit still for 20 minutes and repeat this mantra in their head, letting thoughts float by and possibly “transcending,” reaching a pleasant and invigorating state of “restful alertness.” These teachers then regularly meet with the student to give personalised advice, because while the technique is easy in theory, it takes some practice.
The initial deal Dalio proposed to his company around 2008 was that any employee with a tenure of six months or longer could take a customised-for-Bridgewater course. The four-month program would cost $1,000 and, upon completion, Dalio would reimburse half the cost out of his own pocket.
After a few years, the course became popular, and many employees began regularly meditating twice a day. Dalio and his management team decided that it would be best to create a formal corporate reimbursement and training plan.
In the past eight years, around 500 employees have been trained. (Bridgewater’s employee count ranged from roughly 735 to 1,700 employees in that time.)
Also in that time, Dalio has become easily the most vocal and influential proponent of TM in the finance community.
Though Bridgewater, which now has $150 billion in assets under management, became the world’s largest hedge fund in 2005, it remained largely under the radar until 2011, when Dalio received mainstream press, including a full profile in The New Yorker. When the media asked him about his “secrets to success,” he would laud TM.
As he’s quoted as saying in the 2011 book “Transcendence,” not coincidentally written by his son Paul’s psychiatrist, Norman Rosenthal, TM is “the single biggest influence” in his life. It was Paul who convinced Rosenthal to revisit TM, which Rosenthal had learned years before, and to investigate it from a scientific standpoint. Rosenthal then went on to become possibly the highest profile doctor bringing to the public the wealth of peer-reviewed research on TM’s proven ability to benefit people with high blood pressure and anxiety.
Dalio himself is far from a casual meditator using the technique as a way to take some quiet time — he seeks out moments of transcendence and has found them to have changed the way he interacts with life.
He told Rosenthal, in a passage from “Transcendence” now regularly cited in the TM community, that his decades of practicing TM have made him more “centered,” in the sense of “being in a calm, clear-headed state so that when challenges come at you, you can deal with them like a ninja — in a calm, thoughtful way.
“When you’re centered, your emotions are not hijacking you. You have the ability to think clearly, put things in their right place, and have good perspective.”
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