What to Do Before You Lean In
“There doesn’t have to be a trade-off between performance and actually tapping into a place of peace, strength and wisdom within.” – Arianna Huffington.
Many women are not in the least daunted by the call to ‘lean in’ and are well aware of how it may give them an advantage. But women are more susceptible to stress than men are and therefore at risk of developing the crippling effects of chronic stress. Women need help so that they can lean in without buckling under the pressure, without being cowed by the statistics that show men are more likely to be promoted, and without getting exhausted by long hours.
In my position as executive director of our program for women professionals and as a New Yorker, I’ve spoken with many women who have found that the Transcendental Meditation technique is a way both to create a foundation in themselves of collectedness, creativity, resilience and focus before heading out to work each day and then to reduce the stress and fatigue from work at the end of the day.
Anita Warner was a VP in Institutional Fixed Income sales on Wall Street at a time in recent history when women were rarely seen in that position. She explained to me how the TM practice supported her career:
As a VP in this division, I had the responsibilities of handling major clients. Having learned TM prior to this job, I found I was personally capable of hard work and of going the extra mile. There is no question that my Transcendental Meditation practice enhanced my leadership performance capabilities. I remained collected and focused in the midst of the chaos and pressure of the Bond Sales and Trading Department. I operated effectively without losing my composure, even while the intensity of their jobs was causing others around me to be very stressed—often leading to their use of drugs or alcohol which deteriorated their mental and physical health. Also, women tend to be the ones who must off-ramp to be caretakers of children and elderly parents and later they find it difficult to re-enter the workplace; in my experience, TM is effective in helping one through these kinds of challenges.
Anita’s experience is an example of the benefits that have been shown by decades of research. Studies published in journals such as Career Development International and the Academy of Management Journal showed that TM decreases anxiety and tension on the job while improving job performance, efficiency, and relationships with co-workers and supervisors.
I’m often asked if other meditation techniques aren’t as effective. A meta-analysis of 146 independent studies, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, showed that TM is two times as effective as other relaxation techniques in decreasing stress and anxiety. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a 20 year senior researcher at NIH who studied the benefits of the TM program, stated:
No other ‘stress management technique’ has anywhere close to this amount of hard data in support of its claims to reduce stress.
Backing up that finding, Long Island neurologist Dr. Gary Kaplan emphasized that TM doesn’t manage stress, it significantly reduces it. He wrote:
Research shows that for reducing stress and promoting health, all meditation practices are not the same. People who come to me for relief from stress and stress-related disorders need an effective meditation that’s quickly mastered and produces consistent results. Though TM is a mental technique, due to the mind-body relationship the practice has extensive physiological effects. TM allows the mind to settle very deeply inward—in a natural way. TM teachers call this ‘effortless transcending.’ It’s what sets TM apart and why the technique is so beneficial for mind and body, right from the start.
TM practice provides a lot of what you need before you can lean in. Published research findings include:
- Improved Brain Function
- Increased Intelligence, Memory, Creativity, Productivity, Self-Confidence and Problem Solving Ability
- Leadership Development, Employee Development and Self-development
- Improved Tolerance and Relationships
- Improved Verbal and Analytical Thinking and Synthetic and Holistic Thinking
- Increased Resistance to Distraction and Social Pressure
Why should a woman find success in her career only to find that the quality of her inner life is deteriorating? The Transcendental Meditation technique is easy to learn and effortless to practice. Patricia Harrison, CEO of the Public Broadcasting Corporation, participated in a New York seminar to introduce women to TM; she stated:
You really look forward to TM. It’s your oasis. It’s your life preserver
If you haven’t heard about this before, have no fear: it’s not foreign to your lifestyle. Transcendental Meditation is practiced sitting comfortably twice daily for twenty minutes. There is no religion, philosophy, or change of lifestyle required in the program. Like sleep or a nutritious diet, it can only enhance your experience of living. Highly successful women in a broad range of occupations attest to their own personal benefits. Lesley Seymour, Editor-in-Chief of More Magazine, said:
Doing TM for 40 minutes each day gives us the calm and focus we need to deal with our crazy, busy, hectic lives.TM has changed the pace of my life and given me incredible focus and a sense of well-being.
And who does America listen to more than Oprah Winfrey? Oprah learned TM and introduced it to her entire company in three cities. Being herself already way beyond the need to learn how to lean in, Oprah has achieved phenomenal success in many venues. But she was missing something before learning to meditate. According to the Huffington Post, after Oprah learned Transcendental Meditation, she told Dr. Mehmet Oz that TM helped her “connect with that which is God.”