In my experience, stress and anxiety harm exam results enormously and by this logic, meditation can help us to improve in our studies and to be more productive.
I’ve never been a religious nor a spiritual person. This is why I was always sceptical towards things like meditation which is perceived to have a spiritual origin. For some people, meditation leads to inner peace and happiness while others might think of it as a placebo.
When I went to New York City during the Fall semester in 2017 to pursue a business certificate in finance, I took an additional course in organisational behaviour where we learned about the effects of meditation within an organisation. Research shows that it can increase productivity and reduce the risk of burnout. Then, a professional instructor went through a full meditation with us. The technique that was used was different from the one I want to recommend to you, but I still felt peaceful and relaxed in that moment. As any sceptic, I thought it might be a placebo effect since we heard about the research shortly before the meditation.
The proof? I was sceptic too!
At the time, I was re-reading Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio, Founder of Bridgewater Associates. Principle 3.6.e says: Meditate. Transcendental Meditation (TM), according to Ray Dalio, enhances creativity, equanimity and open-mindedness. He also once said in an interview that TM is the single-most important factor for every success he has had  (1:02:52 – 1:07:00). Reading that from one of my all-time role models has led me to finally abandon my scepticism and do some research on my own. In my last article “Learning takes no vacation – do a MOOC”, I mentioned how I completed a course on Neuroplasticity on Udemy. In that course, it was explained that, by meditating regularly, the amygdala physically shrinks over time while the prefrontal cortex increases in its capacity. That lowers the maximum level of stress one can experience while effectively enhancing cognitive ability. That shocked me! If an activity can alter your brain structure in such a positive way, why would anyone not practice meditation? I was finally determined to learn how to meditate and confirmed my decision by reading Strength in Stillness, a New York Times best seller by Bob Roth, a New York-based meditation teacher and the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation. In his book, Bob Roth explains the positive effects of Transcendental Meditation and how it already has had an impact on society. I recommend the book if you want to learn more about the technique and how it has already helped many meditators. I would give you a summary, but I am afraid I do not have the necessary space here to do this great book justice. For an informative introduction you can watch the video.
So, I contacted the central organisation tm.org and asked for meditation lessons. Two days later, Matthias Hermann (managethemanager.com) contacted me and we made an appointment for a first conversation over phone. It was inspiring from the very first moment! I explained what I already know about the effects of Transcendental Meditation and Matthias was instantly able to elaborate upon my existing knowledge and further extend it. I then went to Munich to learn TM in a four-day course. The instructor has been an outstanding teacher. We discussed the technique from a scientific and spiritual point of view and I started to understand Ray Dalio’s appeal to and connection between nature and hyper-realism much better. Being a hyper-realist and embracing radical truth, as Ray Dalio does, requires higher-level thinking which is in the centre of meditation. I have explained some of that already in a prior article “My life philosophy” and will not go into more depth at this point.
Since I started meditating
It’s now been almost two months since I started meditating. 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening. I am looking forward to testing the effects on stress during the next examinations in 2019, but I can confidently confirm that meditation has given me more equanimity so far and, thereby, more focus on my current activities. In the past, I would have problems with staying focused on e.g. doing my readings for the course because other things and ideas would come up and distract me. Now, my ideas and inspiration come mostly during meditation (especially in the evening) and I often write down a good idea after the session. Therefore, I can be creative if I need to be and be focused respectively. I use this to do creative things in the evening and my University studies, including my readings, in the forenoon.
What research shows
The psychological and neuro-scientific evidence in favour of Transcendental Meditation is overwhelming. Specifically, I would recommend you read research by Norman E. Rosenthal, M. D. who has studied mental health for about 35 years. Research has shown that regular practice lowers the risk of high blood pressure and thus the risk of heart diseases. This is especially important for future managers with lots of responsibilities. Moreover, the digital age has brought about an insidious form of stress: being connected all the time. This nerviness to look at your smartphone afraid to miss out on a new Instagram story or a new trending “meme”. As a future economist, I would call this high opportunity costs of time. Behavioural economists have found out that being better-off does not necessarily lead to happiness, but we also need others to be worse-off. I sometimes feel that for some people, social media is a tool to do that. For the ambitious student, however, this may present an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Because, if you really find “Strength in Stillness”, as Bob Roth titled his latest book, you feel less distracted or stressed by unimportant things like traffic, social media, or social constraints in general, and you find more energy to focus on what matters to you in the long-run.
My recommendation, especially around examinations
I can now confidently recommend Transcendental Meditation to everyone. It is scientifically proven to be beneficial for the reasons mentioned here and I have had very positive experiences myself. I believe it can help you in the same way it has helped me. Furthermore, it can reduce stress during upcoming exams and preparation. From my experience, stress and anxiety harm exam results enormously and by this logic, meditation can help us to improve in our studies and to be more productive.
Arnold is studying BSc Economics and Finance by distance learning in Germany.
 R. Dalio, “Ray Dalio on Hedge funds, Success and Life/Work,” YouTube, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OpDSP96Ro&t=1972s.