Yet with investing legends like Ray Dalio and Bill Gross, CFA, embracing the discipline and business schools adding it to their curriculum, it is becoming an increasingly meaningful tool in the investment toolkit.
Ng Kok Song, former group chief investment officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), and Jason Voss, CFA, discuss the value meditation can bring to investors, both personally and professionally, in a recent Take 15 interview.
“Meditation is about coming to a profound stillness of body and spirit,” Ng says. “This is not a new age phenomenon — when you meditate, we are entering a tradition . . . it’s important to understand that we are tapping into a wisdom tradition which has existed for thousands of years.”
One of the central components of meditation is the sounding of a word, or mantra, to center attention. “You will find that this is very challenging, because your mind is constantly distracted, it is constantly wandering,” Ng says. “The key to it is that as soon as you discover that you are distracted, and you are not sounding the mantra, drop whatever distracting thoughts they are and just humbly return to sounding the mantra faithfully.”
Ng says that understanding meditation as a discipline is crucial, and identifies three essential aspects to the practice. “First of all, there is the discipline of committing the time [to] meditation every day; secondly, there is the discipline of learning to sit still; and thirdly, the discipline of humbly sounding the mantra and being content to sound it, leaving behind all thoughts.”
According to Ng, by allowing one to emerge with a clear mind, meditation can help investment professionals — and anyone who practices it — see the underlying truth of their situations. He says that by meditating “we are transcending our ego, we are transcending our habitual mode of self-centeredness,” adding that the key is “not to perceive meditation as a complicated technique, as an esoteric practice — it is radically simple. It is so simple that a child of five years old can do it. A very old person who has dementia can also meditate.”