Diane Breneman, a trainer with Conscious Transformation, can point to a long list of reasons why entrepreneurs should try meditation and mindfulness exercises.
>> Harvard researchers have found meditation leads to increases in the parts of the brain regulating emotional control, empathy and learning—and decreases in the “fight-or-flight” response.
>> Another study discovered that it can help reduce pain symptoms even better than many drugs.
>> It could potentially combat rising health care costs and boost productivity. Aetna realized savings of $2,000 per employee after it instituted mindfulness programs and $3,000 per worker in improved productivity.
>> Some of the biggest companies in the world have adopted meditation plans, including Ford, Adobe and Google.
Beyond all the studies, though, Breneman has seen the benefits of meditation in her own life.
Though she mostly focuses on meditation training now, she’s also an attorney.
She has specialized in cases involving people who suffered severe burns. About 80 percent of her clients were children who had burn injuries or parents who had lost their children—people who were dealing with severe, long-term pain.
Through her cases, she often worked with psychologists who talked about studies showing that mindfulness and meditation could get results where medication and traditional therapy wouldn’t.
At the time, Breneman was traveling a lot, and because of job-related stress, her health wasn’t great. She wondered if meditation might help her get back on an even keel—and it did.
“The person who really needed meditation the most was me,” Breneman said.
That was nine years ago. For the past five years, Breneman has been a teacher herself.
How long does it take to get results from meditation? Most people see a change in their thinking after eight weeks of regular, daily practice, Breneman said. (Sara Lazar, the Harvard professor who studies meditation’s effect on the brain, told the Washington Post that most of the participants in her study meditated for just under a half hour.)
It’s possible to get started on your own—several websites have downloadable, guided lessons for beginners. But Breneman also recommends taking a class or working with a teacher. She leads a free session on the first Wednesday of the month at the Jewish Community Center.
“It’s the biggest relief in the world I know,” she said.