Here are some interesting quotes from the article:
"We blink, smile at one another, and look around our makeshift zendo—a long, fluorescent-lit presentation room on Google’s corporate campus in Silicon Valley. Meng and most of his pupils are Google employees, and this meditation class is part of an internal course called Search Inside Yourself. It’s designed to teach people to manage their emotions, ideally making them better workers in the process.
More than a thousand Googlers have been through Search Inside Yourself training. Another 400 or so are on the waiting list and take classes like Neural Self-Hacking and Managing Your Energy in the meantime. Then there is the company’s bimonthly series of “mindful lunches,” conducted in complete silence except for the ringing of prayer bells, which began after the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh visited in 2011. The search giant even recently built a labyrinth for walking meditations.
It’s not just Google that’s embracing Eastern traditions. Across the Valley, quiet contemplation is seen as the new caffeine, the fuel that allegedly unlocks productivity and creative bursts. Classes in meditation and mindfulness—paying close, nonjudgmental attention—have become staples at many of the region’s most prominent companies. There’s a Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute now teaching the Google meditation method to whoever wants it. The cofounders of Twitter and Facebook have made contemplative practices key features of their new enterprises, holding regular in-office meditation sessions and arranging for work routines that maximize mindfulness. Some 1,700 people showed up at a Wisdom 2.0 conference held in San Francisco this winter, with top executives from LinkedIn, Cisco, and Ford featured among the headliners.
Steve Jobs spent months searching for gurus in India and was married by a Zen priest. Before he became an American Buddhist pioneer, Jack Kornfield ran one of the first mainframes at Harvard Business School.
But in today’s Silicon Valley, there’s little patience for what many are happy to dismiss as “hippie bullshit.” Meditation here isn’t an opportunity to reflect upon the impermanence of existence but a tool to better oneself and improve productivity. That’s how Bill Duane, a pompadoured onetime engineer with a tattoo of a bikini-clad woman on his forearm, frames Neural Self-Hacking, an introductory meditation class he designed for Google. “Out in the world, a lot of this stuff is pitched to people in yoga pants,” he says. “But I wanted to speak to my people. I wanted to speak to me. I wanted to speak to the grumpy engineer who may be an atheist, who may be a rationalist.”
Duane’s pitch starts with neuroscience and evolutionary biology. “We’re basically the descendants of nervous monkeys,” he says, the kind with hair-trigger fight-or-flight responses. In the modern workplace, these hyperactive reflexes are now a detriment, turning minor squabbles into the emotional equivalents of kill-or-be-killed showdowns. In such situations, the amygdala—the region of the brain believed to be responsible for processing fear—can override the rest of the mind’s ability to think logically. We become slaves to our monkey minds.
But Googlers don’t take up meditation just to keep away the sniffles or get a grip on their emotions. They are also using it to understand their coworkers’ motivations, to cultivate their own “emotional intelligence”—a characteristic that tends to be in short supply among the engineering set. “Everybody knows this EI thing is good for their career,” says Search Inside Yourself founder Meng. “And every company knows that if their people have EI, they’re gonna make a shitload of money.”
Duane, for one, credits Google’s meditation program with upgrading both his business and personal life. It wasn’t long ago that he was a stress case, and with good reason: He was leading a 30-person site-reliability team while dealing with his father’s life-threatening heart disease. “My typical coping strategy—the bourbon and cheeseburger method—wasn’t working,” he says. Then Duane attended a lecture Meng arranged on the neuroscience of mindfulness and quickly adopted a meditation practice of his own.
Duane believes the emotional regulation he gained from meditation helped him cope with his father’s eventual death. The increased ability to focus, he says, was a major factor in his promotion to a management post where he oversaw nearly 150 Googlers. In January he decided to leave the company’s cadre of engineers and concentrate full-time on bringing meditation to more of the organization. Google executives, who have put mindfulness at the center of their internal training efforts, OK’d the switch.
In 2013 nearly 1,700 signed up to hear headliners like Arianna Huffington, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams, and, of course, Meng talk about how they run their enterprises mindfully. Gordhamer has become a Silicon Valley superconnector, with an array of contacts that would make an ordinary entrepreneur burst with envy. He now leads private retreats for the technorati, and more conferences are in the works—one just for women, another to be held in New York City. “Everywhere you turn at Wisdom,” says PayPal cofounder Luke Nosek, “it’s like, ‘Oh my God, you’re here too?’”
On an enclosed porch outside the exhibition hall at this year’s Wisdom 2.0 event, Zen-monk-turned-CEO Marc Lesser talks about his plans to take the Search Inside Yourself training to companies everywhere. Plantronics, Farmers Insurance, and VMware have already signed up. Nearby, companies promoting mindfulness apps and “cloud-based platforms for market professionals” hawk their wares while an acoustic guitar player strums. On the main stage, executives discuss how they maintain mindful practices during the workweek: One wakes up early and focuses on his upcoming meetings; another takes a moment to pause as she dries her hands in the bathroom. In the cavernous, wood-paneled main hall, oversize screens show a silhouette of a brain connected to a lotus flower and the logos for Twitter and Facebook. "