3 Reasons Everyone At Google Is Meditating

The search giant is getting onto the meditation cushion. And this #unplug isn’t about enlightenment.

3 Reasons Everyone At Google Is Meditating

Yes, Google asked the most renowned living Zen master launch to their Mindful Lunches. But that doesn’t mean all the Googlers are renouncing their earthly searches–they’re just getting mindful to get productive.


That is according to a new Wired feature by Noah Shachtman. To begin, he traces the feelings of learning to meditate:

We feel our lungs fill and release. As we focus on the smallest details of our respiration, other thoughts–of work, of family, of money–begin to recede, leaving us alone with the rise and fall of our chests.

Shachtman’s narrative is framed around Chade-Meng Tan, who was Google employee 107 back when we was hired in 2000. He has since launched their hugely popular Search Inside Yourself class (and wrote a book of the same name). Tan had been trying to pitch meditation to his fellow Googlers for years, he says, but he didn’t see interest jump until he framed his pitch around emotional intelligence–a sign of the workplace value of mindfulness.

Emotional intelligence

As you may have read, emotional intelligence helps you to understand your colleagues’ motivations. The other-centricity that meditation breeds can boost your trajectory: in a place like Google, Meng has said, having a high intelligence quotient isn’t a differentiating factor, but having high emotional intelligence is.

“Everybody knows this EI thing is good for their career,” Meng tells Wired. “And every company knows that if their people have EI, they’re gonna make a shitload of money.”


Ongoing worklife stresses can lead to burnout–and for some Googlers, a meditiation practice bolsters their resilience. Bill Duane, a tattooed former engineer, designed Neural Self-Hacking, an intro to meditation class. How got started with the practice while he was leading a 30-person team and his father had life-threatening heart disease.


“My typical coping strategy–the bourbon and cheeseburger method–wasn’t working,” he says. He attended one of Meng’s classes and soon started his own practice, one that helped him better handle his father’s eventual passing away.


Beyond that emotional self-regulation, Duane says that his meditation practice helped him to focus–which he reports is part of the reason that he landed a promotion placing him in charge of nearly 150 people. He’s since left that position, Shachtman reports, to focus his efforts on suffusing meditation throughout the company.

Which the Google executives were OK with. Why? As the Times reported, mindfulness is becoming a center of the search giant’s internal training coursework.

What’s the motivation? One Googler’s testimony from taking Tan’s Search Inside Yourself class gives a clear argument, as the Times reports:

Johanna Sistek, a trademark lawyer, says the emotional skills she refined in the class help her focus on her many tasks, despite a fire hose of professional demands. Like most of her colleagues, she still faces “instant deadlines” but says they no longer freak her out.

“I think the benefit of something like S.I.Y. for anybody in any workplace is that any time you have people working together there is going to be dysfunction, people who do not communicate well,” she says. “Someone is always going to be a favorite–or not–and you can’t be unhappy about it all the time.”

So if you’re going to unplug and search inside yourself, you may want to start here.

Enlightenment Engineers


[Image: Flickr user Elise Ramsey]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.