How One CEO Is Using Meditation to Relieve Stress

I’m a CEO. Pressure and stress come with my job. That’s not always a bad thing, as Justin Menkes notes in his book, “Better Under Pressure.” Some pressure is good. But a couple of years ago, the demands of being in charge took a serious toll on me. I’d read that CEOs including hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and Ford’s Bill Ford both meditate, so I asked my executive coach for his opinion. Most of his clientele are professional athletes, and turns out that for them he often recommends an iPad app called Inner Balance by HeartMath. He suggested that I try it.

So I did—though for several months, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing; I just asked my assistant to schedule three 15-minute breaks into my day. It wasn’t always easy at first; I had to really force myself to focus on the task. Now I have a routine: I shut my door and put a “do not disturb” sign on it to prevent interruption. Next, I find a comfortable place to sit with my face toward the windows. Sometimes I look out, and sometimes I start by closing my eyes to clear my head and get into the right state of mind. Contrary to popular belief, closing one’s eyes is not a requirement to meditate.

One of the initial challenges to successful meditation is learning to keep your mind clear and to not think of the many tasks you’ve got to tackle. This takes a lot of practice. I’ve learned that focusing on my breathing—the actual process of drawing air in, letting it out—helps to prevent my mind from drifting. To deal with nagging thoughts, I like to use a suggestion I took from a magazine article. To remove an unwanted thought, imagine that thought on a cloud, then watch it drift away.

“To remove an unwanted thought, imagine that thought on a cloud, then watch it drift away.”

What’s great about technology-induced meditation is that it is easy to do, anywhere. To use the app I like, you insert one end of a cable into your phone or tablet and the other end, with an ear sensor, to your ear lobe. The clip manages the coherence between your brain and your heart and your breathing, which puts you in a meditative state. I like this app because it indicates, as you meditate, whether you are in “high” or “low” coherence, with the goal of being in “high.” I use this app three times a day, seven to 10 minutes per session. I start each day with meditation to put positive thoughts and appreciation at the forefront of my mind. Then I take another session around lunchtime, and a third late afternoon. I meditate while traveling, too, though I sometimes have to limit sessions to morning or night if I cannot break away to a calm place, free of interruptions.

The results make all my effort worthwhile. My blood pressure is lower, without my having to take any prescription medication. Meditating has helped me learn to control impulses that have a negative effect on my body, whether eating or drinking too much. I’ve also found that meditation actually energizes me before a physical workout because it brings more oxygen into the body. I’ve also learned how to manage stressful situations more effectively in the workplace though the practice of meditating—remembering to breathe slowly keeps me patient and better able to think through problems and find a resolution.

The app gives immediate feedback which keeps me on track and able to achieve the goal of high coherence. It’s amazing how the mind can wander or stressful thoughts come into my mind—but the app pulls you back and you have the choice to practice clearing your mind immediately to regain high coherence. As a CEO, I appreciate the results-oriented approach!

Key takeaways:

  1. Investigate the various types of meditation to figure out what is right. Options include: focused meditation, guided meditation, spiritual meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, movement meditations and mindfulness. I practice focused meditation.
  1. If you want to use technology to help you mediate, sample apps. There are many. Ask coaches, therapists, and doctors.
  1.  Work sessions into the structure of your day; have your assistant block out fifteen minutes and stick to the routine
  1. If you miss a session or two, don’t worry. I have a heavy travel schedule and at times manage only morning and night sessions, skipping mid day when finding a calm space is difficult. Remember that some is better than none.



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