'Billions' Co-Creator Brian Koppelman on Why the Show's Main Characters Meditate

Brian Koppelman tells ABC News' Dan Harris the significance of meditation.

ByABC News
March 18, 2016, 1:05 PM

— -- In the pilot of the new Showtime series “Billions,” a ruthless U.S. district attorney in New York (Paul Giamatti) and an ambitious hedge fund billionaire (Damian Lewis) are shown meditating.

While seeing these two high-powered titans in such a calming state may seem unusual, "Billions" co-creator Brian Koppelman, 49, believes it works perfectly.

“Story-wise and character-wise, it makes sense,” he told ABC News’ Dan Harris on his livestream podcast show, “10% Happier with Dan Harris.” “Because if you do even a little research into the world of high-performance, New York, Greenwich, Westport people, you find that they’re chasing if not inner peace, they’re chasing a kind of actualization as a kind of performance enhancement, and one of the key things they seem to look to is meditation. It fits the world, and it’s true to the world.”

And, in real life, it fits into Koppelman’s world.

Koppelman said he and the show’s other two co-creators, David Levien and Andrew Sorkin, all practice Transcendental Meditation, which is a form of Hindu mantra meditation where the practitioner says mantras, or a silent word, repeatedly as a way to avoid distracting thoughts and clearing the mind. It's also become popular with celebrities.

“In our culture, I think if we feel like if something’s not hard, it’s not worth doing maybe, or how can I make gain if it’s not challenging," Koppelman said. "Transcendental Meditation is great because it’s simple to do. You just have to carve the time, and you get results. So I think that’s why it catches on."

Koppelman said he started practicing Transcendental Meditation about five years ago and practices it for 20 minutes twice a day.

“For me it was a way to control anxiety, and I found that the physical manifestations of anxiety just dissipated by about 85 or 90 percent,” he said. “So that was a gigantic life change, to not feel a fluttering stomach, to not get a stress headache and things like that. Whatever the anxieties are, being someone trying to make a living in show business or, more to the point, like a parent who loves his kids, any kind of outside worry that I might have.”

“It doesn’t mean that I still don’t have concerns, that I don’t still worry, as we all do,” Koppelman explained. “But the physical manifestations, the actual way I walk through the world and feel, changed a dramatic amount when I started meditating after probably three weeks of meditating.”

During their discussion, Harris -- who practices Mindful Meditation, which is a different form of meditation from Transcendental Meditation -- and Koppelman discussed the differences between the two, as well as their thoughts on organized religion, meditators who have influenced them and whether achieving enlightenment is possible.

“For some people it’s listening to a great song, or reading a book that transports them and maybe that little moment that lingers after you finish a great piece of art," Koppelman said. "There’s a moment where you’re just right there, and maybe that’s the closest to enlightened that we get to be."