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Economist Article – The mindfulness business – Western capitalism is looking for inspiration in eastern mysticism

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by Schumpeter

The mindfulness business

Western capitalism is looking for inspiration in eastern mysticism

IN HIS 1905 book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Max Weber credited the Protestant ethic with giving rise to capitalism. Now it sometimes seems as if it is the Buddhist ethic that is keeping capitalism going. The Protestants stressed rational calculation and self-restraint. The Buddhists stress the importance of “mindfulness”—taking time out from the hurly-burly of daily activities to relax and meditate. In today’s corporate world you are more likely to hear about mindfulness than self-restraint.

Google offers an internal course called “search inside yourself” that has proved so popular that the company has created entry-level versions such as “neural self-hacking” and “managing your energy”. The search giant has also built a labyrinth for walking meditation. EBay has meditation rooms equipped with pillows and flowers. Twitter and Facebook are doing all they can to stay ahead in the mindfulness race. Evan Williams, one of Twitter’s founders, has introduced regular meditation sessions in his new venture, the Obvious Corporation, a start-up incubator and investment vehicle.

The fashion is not confined to Silicon Valley: the mindfulness movement can be found in every corner of the corporate world. Rupert Murdoch has a well-developed bullshit detector. But earlier this year he tweeted about his interest in transcendental meditation (which he said “everyone recommends”). Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Bill Gross of PIMCO are two of the biggest names in the money-management business, and both are regular meditators. Mr Dalio says it has had more impact on his success than anything else.

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