A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article from the business magazine Inc., with the title “Sit. Breathe. Be a better leader.” Since she knows that I am a meditator, she asked me: you probably already know this, right?

The article explains how meditation has helped some American leaders to improve life quality and relax, but also deliver more at work.  Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, meditates. Steve Jobs was also often associated with meditation. According to the article:

Among entrepreneurs and business leaders, meditation is an increasingly popular seated practice that encourages alertness in the present moment, a pause to relax and focus, and, ultimately, a recentering to lead better.

This fits well with my experience of how Acem meditation helps me in my daily life – including at work. The article lists several physiological positive effects of meditation and refers to scientific studies. According to an article in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging by researchers from Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany, brain activity changed in a group of 16 participants who had not previously meditated. Among the enhancements: learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, and perspective taking.

Nevertheless, one core question is left open in the article: what is meditation? The question is raised in the introduction, but the article does not provide a satisfactory answer. It does not provide a general definition of what meditation is, nor explains that there is a wide range of different meditation techniques (concentration techniques, non-directive techniques, religious/non-religious approaches, etc.).

At the end of the article, there is an instruction for how to do a meditation based on breathing – I think this is the journalist’s way of defining what meditation is, or at least what it can be like. I find that instruction quite difficult to follow – you are supposed to follow your breathing and “clear your mind”. Following the breathing is OK, but the instruction also says that some thoughts are not welcome. For example, the instruction says that you should “Put the to-do list aside.” My experience is that if I think that I should not think about something, that is exactly what I do – I think about it.

In Acem meditation, and several mindfulness techniques, thoughts are allowed to come and go freely – regardless of their content. My daily meditations are often full of “to do lists”, but I still experience that I am relaxed and renewed after meditating. And I have more energy to do my “to do”s – and also for all the other things in my life.