For one ASU MBA student, meditation is the key to finding balance and happiness

It’s no secret that a full-time MBA program is hard work. Classes, networking, and recruiting can be time-consuming and stressful. Often, individual wellbeing gets lost in the hustle to learn more and do more. As an MBA student at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey, Manish Choudhary decided to change that.

Manish started hosting weekly meditation sessions for his classmates, dubbing them “McCord Meditates.” The program transformed to an ASU-wide club, Sky Meditation, where Manish shares his passion for meditation to help students cope with the stressors of school. I sat down with Manish to learn more about his mindfulness practice and left the conversation feeling inspired.

Q: Let’s start with your background. Tell me about your journey to finding meditation and how it fits with your MBA journey.

A: When I was an undergrad, I was strained and depressed and often felt like I had no objective. At one point I attended a six-day meditation workshop and the transformation was amazing. As I started practicing and teaching meditation I became less selfish, more purposeful, and happier.

I find in the MBA program that people are always searching, hunting, and running; but they don’t know what they’re really after. Meditation is about coming back to yourself, returning to your existence. The program is not going to change, it will always be busy and challenging. But your perspective can change and meditation can help with that.

Q: What are some of the key benefits from your meditation practice?

We are always told to let go, but we are not taught how to let go. I believe meditation is the key. Regular practice can help you change your perception of challenges, be angry less frequently, and let go of the emotions of past events. That has been crucial for me. Through meditation, I can separate the emotion from the experience. The memory of events are still there to learn from, but I am not emotionally stuck in the past.

When I was a first-year MBA student, I didn’t have an internship interview until April (just a month before classes ended). Even though it was frustrating and scary, I was able to stay composed and calm throughout the process because of my meditation practice.

Meditating every day is my biggest priority ... In the morning I use it to prepare myself for the day, whereas in the evening it helps let go of all the things I have collected throughout the day and go to bed peacefully.

Q: There are so many types of mindfulness. What, exactly, is Sky Meditation?

A: Sky Meditation is a breathing technique where you are led by an instructor to breathe in specific patterns. We recognize that emotions are related to our breath pattern, so we can use breathing to tune in to those emotions. It is like fine tuning your body, mind, and intellect using your breath. Just as an un-tuned guitar makes noise, an un-tuned existence makes noise. Fine tuning is what makes music.

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about your personal practice?

A: Meditating every day is my biggest priority. My typical day includes two mindfulness sessions per day. Each session lasts about an hour and may include yoga, breathing, walking, and a deep meditation. In the morning I use it to prepare myself for the day, whereas in the evening it helps let go of all the things I have collected throughout the day and go to bed peacefully.

I actually meditate the most on days that I am busier, because it helps me stay composed and gives me the energy to perform. On busy days, I might add a lunch meditation to help me refresh and restart or quick sessions between other commitments.

Q: So what made you want to share meditation with other students?

A: Back in Nepal and India, I taught meditation to more than 500 people and it was very fulfilling to see the impact meditation could have on their life. Once I came to W. P. Carey, I heard that other students were interested in meditation and thought it would be a way I could give back to the program. Now, I volunteer up to 100 hours per semester to host meditation workshops with students from all over campus. Our club hosts three-day workshops that give 15-20 hours of meditation instruction.

Q: For those of us new to meditation, how can students get started and build a mindfulness practice?

A: There are different schools of thought related to mindfulness and meditation and sometimes it is difficult to choose. I recommend that you go try a few out. Talk to people who have been practicing or explore popular meditation apps. Find the style that is best suited to you and will be most convenient in your life.

You don’t have to spend two hours a day. If you can set aside 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening you will see a transformation. Consider this: You brush your teeth everyday no matter how busy you are. Protecting your emotions and building your mental health should be the same.

And finally, people say they can’t meditate because they think they need to clear the mind. Trying to not have thoughts makes it more difficult to meditate and people end up frustrated. Meditation should be an effortless process and having thoughts in meditation is okay. Instead of flowing with the thoughts, if one accepts and observes them, it is easy to transcend them. Remembering that thoughts are part of meditation will make it easier.

Q: What does your mindfulness journey look like in the future?

A: The fulfillment I get from helping students overcome challenges keeps me going as a practitioner and teacher. I want to help people who have misery get out of it and those who do not have misery become misery-proof. I don’t aim to make it a career, but I do aim to continue volunteering and giving back to society through meditation. I want to see a stress-free, anxiety-free, violence-free, suicide-free society and I believe meditation is the key.

Q: What do you hope your classmates and future MBA students take away from this?

A: Today’s MBA students are outgoing professionals who will be leaders in their companies and communities one day. Everyone has their own definitions of being mindful. I think it is important to talk about mental health in the workplace and it is up to leaders to work together to create a stress-free and violent-free society. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and ASU is committed to helping students live their best life through a variety of wellness solutions.