The author of the recently released book, Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance and founder of Ziva meditation, today’s guest Emily Fletcher is a meditation teacher who has built her career on helping others to achieve more through practicing meditation. She’s here to tell us how meditation can improve our health, reduce stress and enable us to accomplish more through a commitment of only a few minutes a day.
In this conversation, we’ll explain why stress is so corrosive to our health, and why meditation is the most effective way to counter it. We’ll take you through the differences between mindfulness and meditation, explain some common barriers to people committing to meditation. Emily will tell us about the effect meditation has had on her health, she’ll give us some practical tips to make meditation part of your daily life. Finally, Emily will take us through a quick meditation you can use anywhere, anytime.
- Stress is the epidemic of our times: Harvard Medical School had said that stress is responsible for 90% of doctors visits
- Stress is making us stupid, sick and slow
- A single most effective tool to get rid of stress not just in the present but from our past: meditation
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
- Mindfulness and meditation are used as synonyms but they’re not the same thing
- Mindfulness: the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment (aspirin)
- Meditation: giving your body deep healing rest and getting rid of your stress from your past (vitamin)
- If we have a daily discipline of getting rid of the stress that has been accumulated in our brain and bodies over time, it levels up our performance capabilities and allows us to stress less so we can accomplish more
- People can feel overwhelmed without knowing why
- By the time the average American is 20 years old, they have over 10 million premature cognitive commitments (PCCs): like an open window in your brain, which will slow you down over time
- Meditation: gives your body rest that is 5x deeper than sleep, de-excitation of the nervous system, decreasing heart rate, creates order in your cells to allow a lifetime of trauma to heal and come up and out
- When you give your body the rest it needs it knows how to heal itself, but most of us are running around in fight or flight mode taking in more stress
WHAT STRESS DOES TO THE BODY
- Fight or flight: not useful for daily tasks, makes it hard to be present and enjoy life
- Was useful years ago to keep us alive (e.g. to run from the tiger): digestion floods with acid, acid seeps into the skin, blood starts to thicken and coagulate, bladder and bowel evacuate, cortisol and adrenaline spike, the immune system goes to the backburner
- These chemical reactions are maladaptive in today’s environment and do not allow us to perform at the top of our game e.g. remembering names, mid-term exams, kids
- Meditation allows us to get out of fight or flight and into ‘stay and play’
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MEDITATE?
- Neuroscience: in some types of meditation a small part of the brain lights up brightly, whereas in Ziva meditation the whole brain lights up but not brightly—reflects the lazy and slow nature of the practice
- Meditation encourages neuroplasticity and strengthens the corpus callosum: builds the bridge between the two sides of the brain, allows you to creatively problem solve
- Stress ages the body quickly, but when you meditate you can reverse body age by 8-15 years (depending on the study) and flood the body with bliss chemicals: dopamine and serotonin
- On Broadway for ten years: showed up to the theatre and couldn’t remember which character she was supposed to play, the constant stress of remembering multiple roles led to insomnia, illness started going gray
- After her first meditation class slept through the night for the first time in 18 months (11 years ago) then left Broadway, went to India for training, opened up Ziva
- Pick up Emily’s book here!
BARRIERS TO MEDITATING
- People think they don’t have time to meditate and that meditation is a ‘luxury item’: but it should become the most important piece of mental hygiene we practice each day
- We need to reframe meditation as the performance and productivity tool it actually is, it makes time
- People think they should already know how to meditate—because it’s simple they think they should know how to do it or think it is just ‘clearing the mind’ or having a ‘blank slate’
- This sets up feelings of failure because the mind thinks involuntarily, just like the hearts beats — and people won’t do something they feel like they’re failing at for very long
- Another mistake is not having a technique that was designed for you
- ‘Ziva’ is a Sanskrit word that means bliss and a Hebrew word that means ‘one who is radiant and kind’
HOW TO MEDITATE
- We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditating
- Find a teacher you trust, a technique that works for you, where the return on investment is exponential—make sure it’s making you better at life
- You can try Emily’s Ziva
- Schedule it into your calendar
- Try an accountability buddy: it’s hard to break a promise to someone else. You can also try making a bet with each other
- Emily recommends meditation first thing in the morning, then a second time in the afternoon slump time where you might have a snack, coffee or nap—you’ll get a hit of productivity and creativity as if you’ve taken a nap, but without the sleep hangover
- You can meditate anywhere, nowhere on the planet is silent—if you’re in an office, you can pop in some headphones with no music
- Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good, don’t let Good be the enemy of Done
- The 2X Breath: Emily’s simple technique, perfect for if you’re having a panic attack, inhaling through the nose for 2 and exhaling through your mouth for 4
- Follow along with Emily as she takes us through the 2X breath guided meditation from 15:55 on the podcast
- Don’t forget to take a screenshot of this episode, tag us both on social media (@zivameditation & @jimkwik) and share what you’ve learned from this episode with us!