How to Stress Less Through Meditation
With Emily Fletcher
Have you ever tried to meditate, but felt like you just weren’t doing it right? Felt frustrated, or like you couldn’t get all those pesky thoughts to clear away?
You’re definitely not alone.
Meditating is hard. But, what we discovered this week on Mind Love, is that most of the meditation we’re familiar with was designed for monks. It simply wasn’t meant for regular people doing regular, everyday things.
That’s why, this week, we’re talking to Emily Fletcher; the founder of Ziva meditation, and a leading expert in meditation for extraordinary performance. Through her work, she makes meditation fun, easy, and accessible.
With Emily Fletcher’s practices, you become self-sufficient in your meditation, no matter where you are or what you have.
The three things we will learn are:
- The point of meditation, and how it changes our brains
- How stress from more than twenty years ago can still live in your body
- And why meditation is five times more restful than sleep
Emily Thought She Was Finally Living Her Dream...
She was finally performing in major Broadway shows in New York City – something she’d trained for and longed to do since childhood.
And yet, the three weeks after she had her Broadway debut was the saddest she’d ever been in her life.
And things kept getting worse.
Then finally, after ten years on Broadway, she was understudying three of the lead roles in A Chorus Line.
It was stressful. She never knew which character she was going to play when she showed up to the theater. She’d be thrown into a costume, head out onstage, and launch right into a six-page song.
She lived in a near constant state of panic. In fact, she couldn’t sleep through the night for eighteen months.
And that stress started taking a toll.
She started going gray at 27.
She started getting sick.
She kept getting injured.
And she was confused. She couldn’t understand why – now that she was doing the thing she’d wanted to do since she was a child – she was so miserable.
Then, Something Happened...
There was a woman in the dressing room – a woman who was understudying five of the lead roles – and nailing it. Emily could tell that, for this woman, everything was a celebration. When Emily asked her what her secret was, she said, “meditation”.
At first, Emily just rolled her eyes.
And yet, she figured she had to do something. So, she signed up for a four-day meditation course.
After that, she slept through the night for the first time in eighteen months. And she’s slept soundly every night since.
She stopped going gray.
She stopped getting sick.
She didn’t get injured anymore.
She left Broadway and moved to India; beginning what became a three-year training process. It was, truly, the beginning of her new life.
Since graduating, Emily has taught over 17,000 people to meditate, created the world’s first online meditation training, and finally, came out with a book, Stress Less Accomplish More; which debuted number 7 out of all of the books on Amazon, and has been featured in the New York Times, Vogue, on the Today Show, and ABC News.
She’s even been named the top 100 Women in Wellness to Watch.
Bringing Meditation to the People
Emily believes in a different approach to meditation. Even though Ziva is based on a 6,000 year old practice, it was designed for people with busy minds and busy lives.
Because, many of us have an unrealistic understanding of what meditation is.
Most people think the point of meditation is to clear their minds, relax, and have a blissful, thoughtless experience. And then, when meditation is challenging and thoughts won’t go away – they get frustrated.
The thing is, in meditation, thoughts are okay. In fact, thoughts are the point.
Meditation is not indended to be a thoughtless, clear, peaceful experience. In fact, meditation is actually pretty hard work, and it takes practice.
The big secret?
If you’re trying to enjoy meditation, then chances are, you’re not going to get the benefits of that meditation. But, if you focus on the benefits of meditation, then you stop caring so much about whether or not you enjoy the meditation itself.
We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.
So, just what are the benefits of meditation?
When you meditate, you give your body rest that’s five times deeper than sleep. And when you give your body rest, it knows how to heal itself.
Meditation gives you…
- Highetened creativity
- Boosted productivity
- A stronger immune system
- Deeper sleep
- Increased sex drive
- Better brain elasticity
- Improved digestive health
Among so many other, awesome benefits. Even more amazing? It can reverse your body age between 8 – 15 years.
Stress shortens the telomeres – little casings at the ends of your chromosomes. The telomeres weakening and shortening has a direct impact on body age and death date.
With meditation, we can strengthen and lengthen our telomeres, which can help reverse body age.
Sounds amazing, right?
Let’s find out more…
First, What is Stress Doing to Our Bodies?
In order to understand what meditation is doing to benefit us, we need to understand what stress is doing physiologically to the body.
Harvard Medical School says stress is responsible for 90% of all doctor’s visits.
Why is that?
Many of us are operating with stress that was designed for our ancestors 10,000 years ago; stress that throws us into a fight or flight state that’s meant for, well, things like tiger attacks.
If a tiger were to jump out and attack you, your system would flood with acid to shut down digestion, because you need all your energy to fight or flee the tiger.
That same acid seeps onto your skin, so you don’t taste very good to the tiger.
Your bladder and bowels evacuate.
Adrenaline and cortisol levels increase.
And your immune system goes to the back burner.
All this, so that you can have the greatest chance of survival from the predator.
This is extremely useful for tiger attacks, but in our modern day society, our demands are pretty different.
Our fight or flight function has become maladaptive.
Running around in a low grade chronic fight or flight state can, over time, lead to inflammation.
And chronic inflammation is the basis of all chronic disease.
What’s More? Your Body Can Store Stress for Long Periods of Time...
One of the most impactful ways stress effects us is by leaving a memory.
Any time you’ve ever launched into a fight or flight reaction, it’s left an open window in your mind. These phenomena are called Premature Cognitive Commitments.
In order to survive, your brain has to minimize those stress memory windows – but, it won’t make them go away completely. In fact, by the time the average human is 20, we have approximately ten million of those minimized windows in our minds.
And all that long-stored stress wastes valuable mental and physical energy.
What does meditation do?
Meditation maximizes those windows – so that we have the opportunity to delete them forever.
That’s why, after a couple years of meditating, you have significantly more energy, because you’re not constantly reviewing the past or rehearsing the future.
Not only that, meditation gets rid of those acidifying stress chemicals released during fight or flight, and instead, floods the brain and body with dopamine and seratonin – which are alkaline in nature.
This triggers a whole host of healing benefits.
How Are Sleep & Meditation Different?
Okay, let’s go back 10,000 years again.
A tiger is roaming around, and it’s time for you to go to sleep.
If your brain is in blackout sleep, you need your heart, lungs, and blood to be oxygenated, so that if that tiger comes in, by the time you wake up mentally, you’re ready to jump into fight or flight.
Get this: the opposite happens when you meditate.
When you meditate, your body is getting deep rest. Your metabolic rate and heart rate slow, your breathing gets more shallow, and your body temperature cools.
Here’s the trick: nature will not let us be deeply physically and mentally sleeping at the same time, because at that point we are an evolutionary liability.
When we’re sleeping, the brain is chilling, and the body’s on guard.
When we’re meditating, the body’s chilling, and the brain is on guard.
The Fourth State of Consciousness
We’re familiar with waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
But, did you know there’s actually a fourth state of consciousness? In sanskrit, it’s called Turiya.
Emily likes to call it the bliss field.
In Turiya, the right and left hemispheres of the brain function in unison. The mind is alert, and the body is getting deep rest.
We can access this bliss field for moments during our lives – like during the 30-second window between sleeping and waking – but through meditation, we can get there quickly, sustainably, and self-sufficiently.
Why would you want that?
Because accessing that state means being in touch with the very root of fulfillment, bliss, and energy. And that bliss field state starts to permeate your life, even after you come out of your meditation.
The Ziva Meditation Process
Emily recommends meditating for 15 minutes, twice a day. That’s a 2% investment in your day, to make the other 98% totally amazing.
For the practice below, Emily recommends using your inner timer, instead of a physical one. If Need a timer to make sure you don’t miss that next meeting? Set it for 22 minutes, so you have a little safety net.
Let’s take a look…
Mindfulness, 2 – 3 minutes: Start by going through the senses one by one, starting with sound. Instead of tuning out sound, focus on the most prominent sound you can hear, then, tune in to the softest sound you can hear. Next, notice the strongest taste in your mouth, and then the lightest taste in your mouth. Then the strongest smell, and the lighest smell. The strongest sight, and the lightest sight (even though your eyes are closed). The strongest feeling, and the most subtle.
Now, you’re settled into the present moment. Remember, mindfulness is simply a runway into the surrender that is that meditation.
Meditation, 13 – 14 minutes: Turn your attention to your one-word mantra. Emily recommends the word “one”. Mantras are powerful, so it’s wise to keep to this safe mantra as you begin your practice, instead of creating a mantra yourself. Softly repeat “one” in your mind. When you feel you’re off track, gently guide yourself back to the mantra.
After 15 minutes, you’ll start to come out of the meditation. It’s at this time that your mind is the most fertile.
Manifesting, 2 – 3 minutes: This is the time to plant high quality seeds in the fertile soil of the brain’s post-meditation state; where the right and left hemispheres are functioning in unison, and you’re dancing in between the conscious and subconscious.
Turn your attention to the things you want to achieve and create in your reality. Be specific, and imagine what it would feel like if you already had these things in your life. Amplify the feelings of that reality already being created.
And now, you’re done – no tools needed!
Accessing Your Fulfillment
Most importantly, when you meditate, you access your own fulfillment. Then, you can approach life with a desire to deliver that fulfillment, instead of constantly wondering how you can fill yourself up.
Meditation transitions you from neediness looking to be fulfilled, to fulfillment looking for need. And this powerful state will truly change your life.