What do hedge fund billionaire Raymond Dalio and restaurateur Mario Batali have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out, as they explained to some 300 people during a town meeting on meditation in New York earlier this month. Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates the worlds largest hedge fund firm, with $87 billion in assets and Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group co-owner Batali, who runs more than 20 restaurants, are both big devotees of Transcendental Meditation, which was introduced to the West by Indias Maharishi Mahesh Yogi a half-century ago.
The event, held in a subterranean auditorium at the AXA Equitable Center on Manhattans West Side, was hosted by the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet and co-creator of TV series Twin Peaks, started the foundation nine years ago to give children everywhere the opportunity to learn how to meditate. (The music from Twin Peaks was playing as attendees filed into the room.) Lynch has been practicing TM since 1973.
Dalio, for his part, has been meditating for 42 years. TM is the single most important reason for his success, he told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin of New York Times Dealbook and CNBC Squawk Box fame, the moderator for the evening. Dalio, who started Bridgewater in 1975 out of his two-bedroom Upper East Side apartment, says that meditation enables him to stay calm, clear and creative in the face of market craziness. I feel like a ninja in a fight, he explained. What comes at you feels like it is moving in slow motion.
Dalio built Bridgewater on what he calls a culture of thoughtful disagreement, in which employees of the Westport, Connecticutbased firm are encouraged to challenge one anothers ideas. You need independent thinking to beat the market, he told Sorkin.
Batalis experience with meditation is far shorter than Dalios but no less transformative. The Iron Chef, sporting his trademark pink button-down shirt, blue fleece vest and orange Crocs, has been practicing TM twice a day for the past 18 months sometimes while driving his Vespa down Manhattans Ninth Avenue. What surprised me was how quickly I could feel a refreshment, he said. Its not like, Oh, man, I need a stiff shot of Transcendental Meditation. It puts you in a place where you dont necessarily need that.
Follow Michael Peltz on Twitter at @mppeltz.