"Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I've had." That's what Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates -- the world's largest hedge fund firm -- explained in 2012.
Dalio is in good company. More and more leaders in the corporate world have been taking note of the benefits of meditation, which include lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity, and even improved physical health. A number of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, AOL, Apple and Aetna, offer meditation and mindfulness classes for employees -- and the top executives of many major corporations say that meditation has made them better leaders.
Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and former Google.org director Larry Brilliant are also among the executives advocating the mindfulness practice. Here are 10 influential business leaders who say meditation has helped them achieve (and sustain) a high level of success.
1. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently tweeted that he was trying out Transcendental Meditation, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley.
The media tycoon said on Twitter in April, "Everyone recommends, not that easy to get started, but said to improve everything!"
2. Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems
Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a "digital detox." In her previous role as Cisco's head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she told the New York Times in 2012 that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all.
“It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” she said. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”
3. Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project
The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, according to his book What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance.
"Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy -- physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually -- requires refueling it intermittently," Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog.
4. Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, according to Inc. Magazine. At this year's Wisdom 2.0 conference, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford told Kornfield that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (metta) meditation practice.
5. Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.
An outspoken advocate of Transcendental Meditation, Oprah -- recently named the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes -- has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She's also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate.
After a meditation in Iowa last year, Oprah said, "I walked away feeling fuller than when I'd come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is -- still -- the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life."
6. Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund
Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s living in a Himalayan ashram and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi.
In his 2013 commencement address at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity -- a state of mental calm and composure.
7. Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA
In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio said that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity.
"Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity," said Dalio. "It's also given me peace and health."
8. Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.
"You don't have to believe in meditation for it to work," Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog. "You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, 'God helps those who help themselves.' My advice? Meditate."
9. Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.
There is a dedicated meditation room at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner.
"If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting," he told Bloomberg in 2008. "Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks."
10. Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group
And last but not least, Arianna Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her "joy triggers" in a 2011 Vogue feature. Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering weekly classes for AOL and Huffington Post employees.
Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. "Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one," she wrote in a recent blog.