Scene Last Night: Ray Dalio, Batali Meditate, Talk Clams

At a panel on transcendental meditation last night, Ray Dalio and Mario Batali revealed they both have rubber soles.

During a packed David Lynch Foundation “Town Hall” at the AXA Equitable Center, chef and restaurateur Batali wore the orange Crocs that have become his trademark, inside and outside the kitchen. Hedge-fund manager Dalio sported black slip-ons with oversized soles that resembled the comfort support made for nurses and doctors.

My mind wandered to comfortable, ugly footwear as these successful men discoursed on loftier subjects, like going into the void, creativity and reality (which “works like a machine,” Dalio said). I picked up a few things.

Dalio said he started meditating 42 years ago after being inspired by the Beatles. He meditates twice a day for 20 minutes, two days in three, bringing him the equanimity to handle the stress of falling markets or bad trades.

“I feel like a ninja in a fight,” Dalio said. “When it comes at you, it seems like slow motion.”

He arranges TM lessons for his employees at Bridgewater Associates. “I pay for half and I have them pay for half, so I know they have skin in the game,” said Dalio, whose net worth is estimated at $13.8 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Vespa Meditation

Batali said he’s a TM “addict,” though “it’s not like, ’Oh man, I need a stiff shot of transcendental meditation.’ It puts you in a place where you don’t necessarily need that.”

“I can meditate pretty comfortably coming down Ninth Avenue on a Vespa,” said the owner of Del Posto and Babbo, who is also a partner in The Spotted Pig.

Tickets for the sold-out event were priced at $125 and $200. Proceeds will be used to teach TM to at-risk youth and veterans, according to the website of the David Lynch Foundation, founded by the filmmaker responsible for “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks.”

Moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin, founder of DealBook at the New York Times, referred to his own experiences with meditation. (He opted to wear light-brown wing tips.)

Why does one have to keep one’s mantra a secret? Sorkin asked.

“To avoid confusion,” answered Bob Roth, executive director of the foundation.

Sorkin shared his own experience of realizing a phone call does not always have to be made “right this second.” He asked if Batali felt the same way.

Veal Chop

“Well, in the case of the veal chop for table 33, unfortunately not,” Batali said. “That veal chop needs to be made right now. More significantly, it has to be consistent. I can teach a chimp to love and make linguine with clams. I can’t teach them to love and make it day in, day out.

‘‘What this gives you is the opportunity to find the joy in the mundane, in the reproduction that is important in creating the restaurant experience.’’

For Dalio, meditation leads to new ideas in an industry that thrives on independent thinking.

‘‘Creativity comes from the inside. It’s not like a muscle from your conscious cerebral mind,’’ he said.

Later, he elaborated how this works for him.

‘‘As you start, you have a problem, and new ideas bubble up and you want to spend time thinking about those new ideas, and you keep throwing away those good ideas and then they get better and better, and then you go deeper and it seems so much easier. It comes from your subconscious. It’s like when you take a hot shower, you get that creative idea that comes and you grab it.’’

Dawkins to Kissinger

After the panel, Dalio mingled with guests. In a brief interview, he talked about another source of inspiration.

‘‘There are so many great books, you know? This is the challenge. It’s so alluring, it’s a smorgasbord,” Dalio said. “It’s such a problem, because I can’t turn it down, because there are so many great ideas and exciting things.”

Dalio ends up reading many different books at a time. “I tend to skim, and then I go to another one and I work my way through it. I’m reading a lot of Richard Dawkins on evolution, and I’m reading on neuroscience, and I’m reading Kissinger’s book on China.”

Dalio said he regularly brings in authors to talk to Bridgewater staff. As well as Dawkins, upcoming visitors will include Norm Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who first described seasonal affective disorder. Dalio said Rosenthal will discuss his most recent book, “The Gift of Adversity.”

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