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Investing in health -- mind over markets: Meditation is helping millions get focused, stay healthy -- and make money
by Robin Goldwyn Blumenthal

Barron's Online    Translate This Article
New York, United States
19 April 2004

Close your eyes -- and imagine what it would be like to be one with the market, any market. See the numbers flash on a screen. See yourself smoothly executing trades. See the profits piling up, effortlessly. Now open your eyes. Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy all the time? For some traders and corporate professionals who have been practicing meditation techniques, conjuring inner markets -- and then winning in real ones -- it isn't just a dream.

'If your mind is clear, you're going to be able to get into the rhythm of the market better,' says Arjuna Martlin, 29, a successful day trader in Chicago and an ardent practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, one of the most popular forms of meditation in the U.S. 'It allows you to enter the 'zone.' . . .

. . . Martlin meditates twice daily; it helps him keep a clear head as he navigates the German futures market. . . . The Transcendental Meditation program, brought to the U.S. in 1959 by the Indian teacher and physicist Maharishi Mahesh Yogi . . . has been growing in leaps and bounds. In the past 10 years, organizers say, some two million people worldwide learned TM, matching the numbers of the previous 20 years. . . .

Most people make their trading moves emotionally, says longtime meditator Charles Lieb, a hedge-fund manager who times the S&P futures market from a TM-oriented retirement community called Heavenly Mountain in Boone, N.C. 'They should be doing it through unemotional analysis, but it's very difficult to ignore what emotions are telling you.'

That's where meditation comes in. It helps you become disciplined. . . . Len Oppenheim couldn't agree more. Once an institutional salesman at Montgomery Securities, he now trades for his own account from his home in Fairfield, Iowa, near the Maharishi University of Management, an accredited liberal arts and sciences university with a consciousness-studying and stress-reduction bent. Oppenheim, who has been practicing TM since 1975, says meditation gives him the perspective he needs for investing.

'Every investing system tells you that you have to be disciplined, to cut your losses and maximize your profits, but it's a very difficult thing to do in the heat of battle,' he says. He recommends reading The Bhagavad Gita, a sacred . . . text that he calls the best trading tool ever. . . .

Of course, better business and investing skills aren't meditation's only lures. Its mainstreaming can be explained largely by the apparent health benefits. . . .

Gary Kaplan, a neurologist who is director of clinical neurophysiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., says he's been 'more and more impressed by the recent research' showing the effects of TM on hypertension and hardening of the arteries.

For instance, studies in several American Heart Association journals have shown that even after a few months, new practitioners of TM have exhibited significantly reduced blood pressure, and a reduction in a measure of hardening of the arteries.

Kaplan, who started practicing TM in college in the '70s, says he often recommends meditation to patients 'who are receptive to trying something else' besides traditional therapies, like medication. He says it is becoming more accepted in the medical community, with insurance companies agreeing to pay for it on a limited basis, and some even considering reduced rates for meditators.

Some of the most convincing research has come out of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa, part of the Maharishi University of Management.

It has received more than $20 million in grant support over the past 15 years from the National Institutes of Health to study what its director and dean of the medical school, Robert Schneider, calls 'using the mind-body connection or the body's inner intelligence to have a complementary and preventive effect' on health, particularly hypertension and heart disease. . . .

Fans like Martlin, the Chicago trader, have no plans to stop. He was introduced to meditation at the tender age of five, while growing up in Fairfield, Iowa -- TM country. He now meditates every morning and evening for 20 minutes a sitting, and insists it helps him during the six hours a day he spends in the market, specializing in German futures. . . .

Copyright 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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