Why have nearly 1,400 finance professionals learned the TM® technique in the last three years? Business Insider’s Richard Feloni went behind the scenes to find out.
Knowing he wouldn’t be able to understand the appeal of the practice unless he experienced it firsthand, Feloni took the course at the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) TM Center in New York City and started meditating twice a day.
“I wanted to find out why [Bridgewater hedge-fund founder] Ray Dalio would speak so emphatically and passionately about this meditation technique, and why other power players like Third Point manager Dan Loeb and JPMorgan wealth management CEO Barry Sommers were compelling others in finance to try it out,” writes Feloni in his recent in-depth article.
Feloni discovered that Dalio has been a key player in getting the word out. About eight years ago, Dalio offered the Transcendental Meditation® program to his 735 employees and about 500 have learned. “I did it because it’s the greatest gift I could give anyone—it brings about equanimity, creativity, and peace,” Dalio wrote to Feloni.
Since then, the TM technique has truly become mainstream, and the DLF TM Center has taught almost 2,500 professionals in New York City, with over half from Wall Street.
The foundation’s executive director, Bob Roth, and Feloni’s teacher, Mario Orsatti, “are thrilled by the rising interest, which surprises even them,” reports Feloni. “Because of a number of coinciding factors—the recent cultural normalization of meditation in the U.S., public evangelizing by figures like Dalio and Jerry Seinfeld, increasingly distracted lives, increasingly frustrating markets, and the fact that institutions such as the American Heart Association have cleared TM® as a tool for a healthy lifestyle—TM is having its moment on the Street.”
“I think where we are today is where Maharishi always wanted it to be, which is science-based and evidence-based, and it fits in with medicine and mainstream wellness programs,” Roth told Feloni, referring to TM Founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought the ancient practice to the West in 1958.
“Trading is a mental game, and anything that gives you even a slight edge is valuable.” —Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-creator of Showtime’s Billions
Feloni reports that research on the TM program “has received tens of millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health—a federal organization that does not liberally give out that level of funding.”
He writes that the abundance of peer-reviewed research on the ability of the TM technique “to lower blood pressure and decrease the presence of stress-causing hormones at a rate significantly higher than other forms of stress relief has caused institutions such as the AHA [American Heart Association] to inspire doctors to tell their patients about it.”
This high level of real-world results is “one of the reasons hyper-busy, intense investors are embracing it,” Feloni believes.
Wall Streeters on TM
“Trading is a mental game, and anything that gives you even a slight edge is valuable,” Andrew Ross Sorkin, founder of The New York Times Dealbook, wrote to Feloni. Sorkin has been practicing TM for three years, and Brian Koppelman and David Levien, Sorkin’s co-creators on the Showtime series Billions, are also regular meditators.
“I never leave a session where I don’t feel energized.” —Barry Friedberg, CEO of FriedbergMilstein
Mark Axelowitz, managing director at UBS Wealth Management, splits 18-hour days between Wall Street, philanthropy, acting, and three kids. “Since making TM a daily habit, he has been able to have a clearer mind, which has allowed him to be more present in both his professional and personal life,” writes Feloni. “He also believes this regular training of his mind has allowed him to be more creative, which has allowed him to take on more significant and enjoyable acting gigs.”
And Barry Friedberg, CEO of the hedge fund FriedbergMilstein, says, “I never leave a session where I don’t feel energized.”
Helping Underwrite DLF’s Mission
Like many Wall Streeters, Axelowitz believes in the David Lynch Foundation’s mission to teach the TM technique to those who could benefit from it but can’t afford the tuition fee. Founded by the acclaimed film director in 2005, DLF brings the TM program to underserved students, veterans with PTSD, and victims of domestic abuse.
“My goal for the foundation is to ensure that TM is available, at no cost, to every person who suffers from trauma and toxic stress—veterans with PTSD, abused women, and young people in underserved schools,” Lynch wrote to Feloni.
“Lynch’s mission is gaining traction,” writes the reporter, “as its wealthy business practitioners eagerly fund its pro bono work and scholarships for interested students who can’t afford the full fee.”
Ray Dalio has donated $20 million to the foundation and is one of its biggest supporters. Axelowitz became one of its trustees, and many other industry leaders lend their support as well.
“My goal… is to ensure that TM is available, at no cost, to every person who suffers from trauma and toxic stress.” —David Lynch
Feloni believes Wall Street loves the TM program because of its scientific validation and the ease of learning and practicing the technique.
“But it’s also because of people like Ray Dalio,” he adds, quoting Ken Gunsberger, senior vice president at UBS Financial Service: “They see Ray’s success—how are you going to argue with a guy who makes $5 million a day?”