Bill Gates once gave up all TV and music in an attempt to improve his focus. Now he meditates instead.
In a recent blog post discussing his favorite books of the year, Gates said that both he and his wife Melinda enjoy sitting down to meditate — but on comfortable chairs instead of floor mats.
"There's no way I could do the lotus position," he said.
The Microsoft founder was first inspired to meditate after discovering Headspace, an app that offers guided practices, animations, articles, and videos.
The app's co-founder, Andy Puddicombe, recently authored one of Gates' favorite new titles: The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness.
Puddicombe is an ordained Buddhist monk, who left the monastic life to become a circus clown in London. While there, he taught meditation exercises to people with severe anxiety. His experience prompted him to co-found an app that would bring meditation to the entire world — including Gates.
After years of dismissing meditation as "a woo-woo thing tied somehow to reincarnation," Gates began to recognize the legitimacy of the practice.
He called up Puddicombe and asked him to spend a day and a half at the Gates household, where Bill, Melinda, and their children learned many of the same exercises found on the Headspace app.
These days, Gates meditates two or three times a week, with each session lasting about ten minutes.
"For me, it has nothing to do with faith or mysticism," he wrote. "It's about taking a few minutes out of my day, learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in my head, and gaining a little bit of distance from them."
There's research to back this up. Numerous studies have suggested that meditation can lower stress and improve focus. The practice has also been linked to sharper memories, decreased blood pressure, and higher relationship satisfaction.
Though Gates isn't sure it would have changed his early days at Microsoft, he said meditation is much-needed now that he has three children and a vast scope of professional and personal endeavors.
"I now see that meditation is simply exercise for the mind, similar to the way we exercise our muscles when we play sports," he wrote."I like what I'm getting from my ten minutes every few days."