In this episode, I am with Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation and author of the new book, Stress Less, Accomplish More. In this podcast, you’ll learn why meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for lowering stress, increasing your energy levels and boosting your performance in every aspect of life — from work to sex.
- Stress Less Accomplish More | The Benefits of Meditation For Performance and High Achievers with Emily Fletcher – Transcript
- The Ziva Meditation, and why Emily wrote Stress Less Accomplish More
- What stress does to our bodies and the benefits of meditation on stress
- The three prongs of the Ziva Meditation Method
- Stress Less Accomplish More
- Why meditation is meditation
- The benefits of meditation for performance
- Emily Fletcher’s goal with her book Stress Less Accomplish More
- Stress Less Accomplish More | The Benefits of Meditation For Performance and High Achievers with Emily Fletcher – Show Notes
In this podcast, Emily will cover
- The benefits of meditation
- Emily’s view on adaptation energy (And why meditation can increase your adaptation energy)
- Why people who follow the Ziva technique become more productive
- Some common misunderstandings about meditation
- How meditation cured Emily’s insomnia and slowed her aging
- What stress does to our bodies (And why modern-day stress wrecks your health and energy)
- Emily’s hope for the future
Emily’s Ziva Online Program can be found HERE
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Stress Less Accomplish More | The Benefits of Meditation For Performance and High Achievers with Emily Fletcher – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Emily Fletcher, who is a meditation expert and she’s coming on for the second time. Her official bio is she’s the founder of Ziva Meditation, the creator of the Ziva Technique, and she’s regarded as a leading expert in meditation for high performance. She has a brand new book, it’s called, “Stress Less, Accomplish More,” and it’s being published by Harper Collins on February 19th of this year, 2019, which is a couple of weeks from where we’re recording this, and I’ll probably release this right around the time that the book is being released. So, the Ziva Technique is a powerful trifecta of mindfulness, meditation and manifesting designed to unlock your full potential. Its benefits include decreased stress, deeper sleep, improved immune function, increased productivity, and extraordinary performance. The New York Times, the Today Show, Vogue and ABC News have all featured Emily’s work.
She’s been named one of the top 100 women in wellness to watch. She’s taught more than 15,000 students around the world and has spoken on meditation for performance at Google, Harvard Business School, Viacom and Wanderlust. Ziva graduates include Oscar, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy award winners, NBA players, Navy SEALs, Fortune 500 CEOs, busy parents and social entrepreneurs. I guess I fall into a couple of those categories, but definitely busy parents is one of them. So welcome to the show Emily Fletcher, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on the show for the second time.
Emily Fletcher: I am honored to be here and since we last spoke, I myself have become a busy parent. And, yes, I have a seven-month-old son now and we joke that the book and the baby are twins because I sort of birthed them at the same time. And all I have to say is thank God for meditation or I would be like a pile of tears on the floor right now, I think.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And we can certainly talk about that, but you know, the stresses of being a parent and especially I think being a mother more so than being a father.
Emily Fletcher: In these first few years. Yeah, I think.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, especially the first year for sure are very intense and so I think meditation, no doubt can be a savior. I mean even for me and we talked in the last Podcast about me taking your course in person and sort of my personal results from that and my personal experience with that. But I definitely notice a huge difference on days where I get my two meditation sessions in versus days that I don’t. I mean just the anxiety, the tension starts to build up and if I get the meditation in, I just, it like just resets the nervous system and I feel that’s so important for when you have a kid. Especially I work from home, so when you have a little kid, my son’s two years old, little kid running around you for half the day and you know, distracting you from getting work done, it can get pretty messy and pretty intense. And so, if you want to stay focused and stay productive and stay calm as well as interact with your child in a nice way, I’ve found meditation to just be invaluable.
Emily Fletcher: I’m so glad to hear that and I’m living that right now. I’m breastfeeding so it’s every three or four hours, you know, I’m with him and so it’s a level of logistics on top of running the company and the book launch. And so, it’s just, you know, it’s an intense time of life and I’m grateful for all of it. Like these are decidedly high-class problems. But I feel like if I did not have meditation I could see where I would get so overwhelmed and you just feel like you’re not getting anything done. The second you get into one project you have to go and, you know, deal with the baby. And then the second you are with the baby you got to come back and do this conference call. And it’s easy to feel like you’re not moving anywhere, that you’re just spinning your wheels. Or like that guilt, that parent guilt of feeling like, “Oh, when I’m working, I feel guilty that I’m not with my child. And vice versa. When I’m with my family I feel guilty that I’m not working.” And that was my biggest fear about becoming a mom was that mom guilt because I had it even before becoming a mom. But I’m really happy to report that that has not been the case. I feel like he’s actually made me more present and, I think, thankfully the meditation helps with that. When I’m with him, I’m able to really be fully present with him and enjoy him. And then when I’m at work I really enjoy working. And I feel like if I didn’t have this decade of meditation it would be a different story.
The Ziva Meditation, and why Emily wrote Stress Less Accomplish More
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, I want to talk about your new book. Let’s kind of step back and do a brief intro of your background. We talked in depth about this in the previous Podcast, so probably a lot of listeners will have heard that already. But just can you give a bit of background on your sort of personal story and why you do what you do because you have kind of a unique niche even just within the meditation landscape. A lot of people are promoting meditation for sort of spiritual advancements. And it’s part of various spiritual traditions and that sort of thing. And your angle to what you’re trying to do meditation for is a bit different. I mean that may be part of it, but it’s also a bit different in terms of how you know, where you’re taking it. So, talk to me a bit about your background and what exactly you do.
Emily Fletcher: Yeah. So, at Ziva we’re all about meditation for extraordinary performance. Like I believe that we meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation. Sadly no one cares if you’re a good meditator. And this is very tough for me because I’m very competitive and I like to be the best at things. But nobody cares how many or few thoughts you’re having when you’re sitting quietly in a chair. But thankfully everyone cares how good you are at life. And how present are you, how kind are you, how compassionate, how generous, how creative, how intuitive, how healthy, how is your sleep, how is your sex, how is your karma, how is your productivity? Like these are all things that people care about and these are all the things that stress is really wreaking havoc on. And I’m sure we’ll talk about this as we go, but the harsh reality is that stress is making us stupid, sick and slow as a species. And so, what I’ve done in this book and my mission at Ziva is really to rebrand meditation as this productivity and performance tool that it can be so that no one can use the excuse ever again of, “I don’t have time to meditate.” Because saying that is like saying, “My car is empty, I’ve no gas in my tank, but I don’t have time to go to the gas station.” And so, we have to just reframe it out of this like, “Oh, that’s like a nice pedicure for my brain that I’ll get around to when I have some extra time.” And instead really educate people in the neuroscience behind what stress is doing to our brains, to our bodies, to our productivity so that we start to see it as this thing that I can’t live without. That actually life is so much easier, that I have more time when I do it. And, I think to answer your question of like why I have this particular niche in the meditation world is that I have a performance background myself. I was on Broadway for 10 years before I found meditation and it really changed my life.
It cured my insomnia on the first day. I was suffering from insomnia for 18 weeks. I was understudying three of the lead roles in A Chorus Line. I was going gray at 26. I was getting sick and injured and then I found meditation and it really changed my life very, very quickly. So, I left Broadway. I went to India and I started what became a three-year training process to teach. And then I graduated. I opened up Ziva and since then, like you said, I’ve taught 15,000 people to meditate. We created this beautiful online meditation training called Ziva Online and now this book baby is being birthed into the world in just a few short weeks, which is crazy exciting because it’s just going to make it more accessible. Right? And that’s my whole gig is like, why are these things so inaccessible? Why are we like shrouding these tools in incense and caftans and finger cymbals and freaking people out when actually it can be a super practical accessible tool that can make your life better. And the thing I want to highlight is that the return on investment is exponential, right? Because you can only say I don’t have time to meditate if you feel like you’re wasting your time when you’re doing it. But what most of my students’ report is, “Like, oh, for the 15 minutes that I put in I get 3x or 4x that back in my day.”
Ari Whitten: Right. So, we’re not trying to cleanse ourselves of past life karma or achieve the rainbow body when we die or like achieve some great afterlife or anything like that. It’s very much this world focused and about our everyday sort of performance and experience of life. You know, how happy you are, how well you’re performing and that sort of thing. You mentioned that stress makes us stupid, sick, and what was the last one?
Emily Fletcher: Slow.
Ari Whitten: Slow, okay. Let’s delve into that a bit more.
Emily Fletcher: You could also say sad. I’m really big on alliteration.
Ari Whitten: Yes. Sad works as well, or slow and sad.
Emily Fletcher: Stupid, sick, slow and sad. [inaudible]
What stress does to our bodies and the benefits of meditation on stress
Ari Whitten: So, talk to me about why that is. What is stress doing in our bodies at sort of, and you can delve into as geeky of biochemical mechanisms or neurological mechanisms as you’d like here. But what’s going on that’s actually causing the stupid, slow and sick effect.
Emily Fletcher: Yeah. So, the reason why the human body reacts to stress in the way that it does is that it’s designed to prepare for predatory attacks. So, if you want to really understand that we’ve got to go back in time a few thousand years. Let’s say we’re hunting and gathering in the woods; saber tooth tiger jumps out with the intent to kill. Well, first thing that’s going to happen is that your digestion will flood with acid because we’ve got to shut down digestion because it’s wasting too much of our energy if we need that energy to fight or flee the tiger. That same acid will then seep onto your skin so that you don’t taste very good if you get bitten into by that tiger. Just like, you know, I think Dr. Gundry is really talking about how animals, I’m sorry, plants will release chemicals when they are eaten or killed. Look, everything wants to survive, right?
So, the skin becomes acidic, so you don’t taste very good if the tiger bites into you. That’s actually what causes the premature aging is that acidity on the skin. It breaks down skin elasticity. Your bladder and bowels will evacuate so that you can be light on your feet. This is what the nervous poos are before we have big presentations to make, we get really stressed. Your immune system will go to the back burner because who cares if you’re going to get cancer if you’re about to be killed by a tiger. Your adrenaline levels increase. Your cortisol levels increase. And I don’t love teaching from fear tactics, but if people want to freak themselves out, you know, just have a quick Google search about what adrenaline and cortisol are doing to you. Now, as I’m sure you have shared many times, it’s not bad for you to get stressed.
It’s terrible for us to stay stressed and you actually introduced me to this concept of hormesis, right? Of this acute short-term stress that actually is good for the body. And so that’s why I’m saying it’s not bad for you to get stressed. Do a high intensity interval workout. Great. But this chronic low-grade fight-or-flight is killing us. Harvard Medical School is saying that stress is responsible for 90 percent of all doctors’ visits and people are calling it the Black Plague of our century. And that’s because this series of chemical reactions is very good for you, it’s very useful if your demands are predatory attacks. But if your demands are in-laws or kids or being an entrepreneur or deadlines or red eye flights, then this fight-or-flight thing has become maladaptive and it’s actually disallowing us from performing at the top of our game. It is disallowing us from being fully present, fully here and allowing all of our hormonal functions, endocrine functions, immune functions to go as nature intended because we’re basically just taxing the brain and body. It’s like having a bunch of open windows, running old irrelevant programs on your computer. You’re not going to have all of the energy that you need for the task at hand. So, this is what I’m saying. This is what I mean when I say stress is making us stupid, sick and slow.
Ari Whitten: I’m not good at the whole internet windows thing. I have like 90 internet windows on my browser right now.
Emily Fletcher: I am known to do a lot myself. But if you were to get to like say 200 or 300 and it were to slow you down and you were typing an email and the cursor was 20 spaces behind, you would probably go in and shut down some of those windows. And the thing is that by the time the average American is 20 years old, we have approximately 10 million open windows on our brain machine. They’re called premature cognitive commitments or PCCs. And all those open old stressy windows are slowing us down from the now. It’s why we pick up our phone and we’re like, “Why did I pick up my phone?” That’s why you read a chapter of a book, “Like what did I even just read.” Or you’re at a cocktail party having a conversation with someone and then you realize like, “I don’t even know what you just said because I was busy checking out everyone else. At the party” And so what we do with the meditation is that as we go and we give the body some deep healing rest, it’s able to close down those old irrelevant windows, get us out of that fight-or-flight mode. And then we have more energy, more presence for the task at hand, and it’s that very phenomenon that allows us to accomplish more in less time.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’ll share a related little breakthrough that I had just very recently. Meditation, I agree 100 percent is huge for that and sort of getting out of that brain mode. But if I took my camera right over here next to where you’re seeing me right now, I have like this big whiteboard on the wall now and it’s like a productivity technique called Kanban. But anyway, people can Google that if they want. But it basically just, I write down literally like not just todays to do lists, but I write down every task that I have to do like for the next month. And I’ve found that just getting those things out of my head onto paper, external from my brain is like just this wave of relief. Because I realize how much mental energy is constantly being consumed by just trying to remember constantly all of the things that I have to do. And it’s like dozens of things, you know. It’s, as you know, managing a business can be extremely demanding. I think those, people don’t realize and even I didn’t realize until very recently how much mental energy is being consumed constantly by just having those, what did you call them, pre-cognitive…?
Emily Fletcher: Premature cognitive commitments, which might be a little bit different than like an open loop, but we can chat about that. But that’s amazing. I’m going to, what’s it called Kan what, Kanban?
Ari Whitten: Kanban. I think it’s a Japanese word. It’s k-a-n-b-a-n. It’s not like super well known. It’s not as well-known as like Getting Things Done, GTD method. But I’ve found just for me, like you write things down on Post-it Notes, and you move them from sort of your like potential tasks you can do to the in-progress and then to the completed. Like just the physical movement of a task externally from like potential to I’m choosing to work on this at this moment today to I’ve finished with this. It’s just, I found it’s really nice for the brain. But anyway, I don’t want to digress too much. I just thought that was somewhat related.
Emily Fletcher: Yeah. And so, when you start your work day, do you move the things, you move the Post-it’s into like, this is what I’m going to do today?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. And one of the tricks is that you’re not allowed to have more than two things at any given time in the “doing” column. So, it forces you to like stay focused on no more than two things.
Emily Fletcher: And is that for men and women? Because I…
Ari Whitten: No, it’s only for men. Sorry.
Emily Fletcher: No, I’m serious. It’s actually a real question because, you know, I feel like the male and female brain, and I know this is a bit of a gender stereotype and I know we’re living in an age of gender fluidity, but if we look at like biological evolution, you know, men were typically hunters and women were gatherers. And so, I actually think that women are better suited to multipreneurship and what I would call like a simultaneity of consciousness whereas….
Ari Whitten: Did you say multipreneurship?
Emily Fletcher: I did.
Ari Whitten: Are you just making up words on this Podcast right now?
Emily Fletcher: I can’t say that I made that up, but Marie Forleo may have invented that word. It is sort of in the zeitgeists of the female entrepreneurial largely due to Marie Forleo. She calls herself a multipreneur because she was like, “I’m in fitness and I’m an author and I’m a coach and I have this B school.” And so, I think because we were gathering and you are dealing with kids, there is a simultaneity of consciousness happening in your mind versus that like laser sharp focus that happens when you’re hunting prey. So, I will be interested to know if there’s studies done on the male brain versus the female brain there.
Ari Whitten: That is either really true and amazing or a very elaborate rationalization for multitasking.
Emily Fletcher: I could go either way. It needs to be proved one way or the other. If being a parent teaches you anything it’s the humility of when you’re right and wrong. And also, that you don’t know anything.
The three prongs of the Ziva Meditation Method
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. So, in your book and your method, and one of the things that we went over in the in-person course that I took a year and a half ago, is you have sort of three prongs to your Ziva Technique triangle, the trifecta. Let’s talk about that. So, what are these three prongs? And it’s a little bit different or a lot of bit different from a lot of the other meditation techniques and programs that are out there.
Emily Fletcher: So, you’re absolutely right. At Ziva we teach this trifecta of mindfulness, meditation and manifesting, the three Ms as we call it. And where this gets a little bit confusing and where you were highlighting it’s different than a lot of other programs is that most other things that are out there are actually teaching what I would call mindfulness. So, most of the Apps, most of the YouTube videos, most of the drop-in studios are teaching shades of what I would call mindfulness. And I define mindfulness as the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment, which is beautiful, helpful. It’s kind of what you were saying with this method, right? It’s like you’re, “Okay, this is what I’m doing. I’m going to put all my attention right here, right now.” And that is necessary, especially in this day and age. We have become bulimic of the brain and we’re all just, you know, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, intake, intake, intake. Mindfulness is very good at dealing with your stress in the now. “So, my boss yelled at me and my kid is freaking out. I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. Let me do a few minutes of my free App. Let me do some headspace breath work. I feel better in the now.” Like taking an aspirin when you have a headache. Useful. Okay? But this is very, very different than the type of meditation that I teach at Ziva, which is all about giving your body rest. It’s all about surrender. It’s not about focusing, it’s not about clearing your mind. It’s actually about inducing rest that is deeper than sleep so that you can get rid of the stress you’ve accumulated from your past. So, mindfulness, very good at dealing with your stress in the now. Meditation, very good at dealing with your stress from the past. And where this is relevant to our conversation is that it is that accumulated backlog of stresses, those premature cognitive commitments that we all have open in our bodies that’s slowing us down.
That is the thing that’s keeping us from truly performing in the way that we could, that nature really designed for us to perform. And so, it is this daily routine, this daily discipline of going in and giving your body this deep rest that allows you to be more awake on the other side. So that’s the meditation portion. And then the third “M,” the manifesting, which is a little bit, that word’s a little hippy dippy. And I get some pushback from high achievers. But when I say manifesting, I simply mean consciously creating a life you love. So, it’s you getting intentional about what you want your life to look like. You know, “How much money do I want to make this year? What’s my dream vacation look like? What’s my relationship with my body look like? What’s my relationship look like?” Instead of what most of us are doing is that we think we’re praying, we think we are manifesting, but we are secretly complaining. And we ask questions like, “Why did she get a raise and I didn’t? Why can’t I lose this weight?
Why am I sick? Why don’t I have more energy? Why won’t my husband go to therapy?” And if we ask terrible questions, we’re going to get terrible answers. And so, to me, the manifesting is just about being disciplined and creating this time in your day to ask better questions so that you get better answers. And what I found is that the combination of meditation and manifesting is so much more powerful than either one alone.
Ari Whitten: Why?
Emily Fletcher: Because you can meditate all day, but if you’re not clear about what it is that you want, it’s very hard for nature to give you the thing, right? And then, conversely, you could manifest all day. You could put vision boards all around your house and watch “The Secret” on repeat, but if you are not meditating and your body is riddled with stress, the chances are you don’t believe that you deserve your desires. And we don’t get what we want in life, we get what we believe we deserve. And so again, even if it’s for no other reason than the discipline of getting to the chair every day, twice a day. You do that, you make a promise to yourself and you keep it. You start to build personal integrity, so you start to believe that you deserve your desires. Even if everything else I’m saying is total hooey and hogwash, just that simple act of making a promise to yourself and keeping it starts to up-level what I call deserving power.
Ari Whitten: Nice. A lot of different approaches out there just sort of stick to one thing. So, they have a mindfulness approach, for example. Like there’s Apps out there that are, you know, all sorts of guided what they call meditations, but they’re really guided mindfulness practices. And then there are meditation programs. But nothing exists that sort of combine these three things in this way. I’m just curious what’s the sort of backstory behind you even coming up with sort of the vision for combining those things?
Emily Fletcher: Thanks for asking that. So, I was just teaching meditation for the first few years of my career because that’s what I learned and just the meditation alone really was very transformative for me. Like just the meditation alone is the thing that cured my insomnia and did reverse my gray. I’m going to be 40 next month, two months from now and I have like one gray hair. I was legitimately going gray in my late twenties. It was the meditation that allowed me to not get sick for eight and a half years. So, the meditation is the main course of the Ziva Technique. It is what we spend the majority of our time focusing on. But even after a few years of teaching, and I think I’m a really good teacher and I make it really entertaining and I was doing my best. I still noticed that people were quitting more than I wanted them to.
They were doing once a day more than I wanted them to. And I noticed that the world is filled with ex-meditators. And so, I was like, why? Like I just really didn’t understand why anyone could find like the actual key to the kingdom and then walk away from it. Like really, truly this is the thing that we’re all looking for, this bliss, this fulfillment, this sense of peace, this sense of equanimity, this access to our own infinite creative potential. Like it’s just, I was like, “Here you go, here’s the key to the kingdom.” And then people are like, “I’m too busy.” And I was like…
Ari Whitten: “I got some things to do on Facebook right now.”
Emily Fletcher: Yeah, exactly. “I got some drinking and complaining to do.” It was just, it was mind boggling to me and so I started really diving in and doing some deep dives with my students.
It’s like, “Really truly, why did you quit? What’s the barrier to entry? What’s the resistance here?” And I started realizing two things were happening. One, people are either terrified of their potential or they were terrified of just how big they can be and just how big they can play. And when they started to step into their greatness it felt a little overwhelming. And so, they felt more comfortable playing small, which we can talk about. That’s really what the manifesting is about, that it’s like trying on for a moment your infinite potential. It’s starting to wake up and take ownership of just how much creative power we have as humans. It’s not 100 percent creative power, but it’s more than most people are playing with. And then the other piece of resistance that I found is that because this style of meditation is quite powerful, it can create a bit of emotional and physical detox and there can be some intensity in the first few weeks and even months that people start.
Some old sadness comes up and out. Some old rage comes up and out. Nightmares. Some, like sometimes people’s go to the bathroom a lot. Sometimes they’re crying and they don’t know why. And those are not pleasant things to experience. Like nobody wants to feel a lifetime of repressed trauma. And the thing about this meditation is that it will make the feeling non-negotiable. It will wring you out whether you want it to or not. And so that’s really why I incorporated the mindfulness piece into the practice. So, we use the mindfulness in two ways. One, to give people with busy minds and busy lives and a runway into that deep healing rest that is meditation. So, for most of us, the hardest part about meditating is just stopping our day and doing it. And so, the mindfulness, it’s a little bit more active, it requires a little bit more focus and so it gives high achievers something to do to transition from the like, “I’m answering a lot of emails” to like, “Goodbye.”
And so that’s one purpose that the mindfulness serves. It’s like an appetizer. And then the other really important purpose that it serves is that it’s something that you can use when that detox happens. So, when those old emotions start to come up and out, you can use the mindfulness tools to sit in it, to feel it fully. Because unfortunately if you try to avoid the sensation, if you try to avoid the pain, it only gets louder. The lessons only get louder and there is no way around but through. But I think a lot of people were quitting because I and other meditation teachers weren’t doing a good job of equipping people to have the tools that they needed to process and feel their way through that healing catharsis.
Stress Less Accomplish More
Ari Whitten: So, the subtitle of your book is called “Stress Less,” or actually the main title, “Stress Less, Accomplish More.” I remember talking to you like a year and a half ago when the book was just sort of in the early visions of it. And I think “Stress Less, Accomplish More” was the subtitle, wasn’t it?
Emily Fletcher: Yes. It used to be called, “The M Word.”
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
Emily Fletcher: Which I liked, but Harper Collins nixed that for a lot of reasons. One, they were like, if they don’t know you, they don’t know meditation, you wouldn’t necessarily know to pick that up because it wouldn’t be obvious it was about meditation. And also, we didn’t want to be confused with the “N” word. And like the last thing I want to do is be associated with anything that is racist or so…
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I mean, I think all the expressions that have “the blank word” in them have a negative connotation. I could be wrong about that, but the “N” word, “F” word…
Emily Fletcher: The “C” word.
Ari Whitten: The “C” word, yes.
Emily Fletcher: But I was okay with that because I think, and this is changing, but I think a lot of people when they hear the word “meditation” they have a visceral, sometimes positive, but oftentimes negative response. Like, “I don’t have time for that. That’s too woo-woo. That’s not for me. I can’t clear my mind.” Like there’s so many snap judgments when you hear that word meditation which was actually why I wanted to call it, “The M Word,” because I was like, “Look, if you hate meditation, cool. Just try this thing. See how you feel. If you think you have a meditation practice, cool. Just try this. See if it isn’t different. See if you don’t get more of a return on your investment.” And so that’s why I liked that title. But this one I think “stress” has accomplished more. I like it because the promise is in the title. It’s like, “Hey, who doesn’t want to stress less? Who doesn’t want to accomplish more?” And it’s really speaking to this idea that stress is ultimately making us stupid. And then the subtitle for this one is, “Meditation for extraordinary performance.”
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, I want to come back to this performance and accomplishment aspect of things. I think we’ve sort of alluded to it, but I want to have you speak to that. I was going to say I want to speak to that, but I want to have you speak to that more directly. One of the things that we talked about last time that I think is a very useful concept is this concept of adaptation energy. And so how does that figure into this picture of meditation and how it relates to performance?
Emily Fletcher: So, adaptation energy I would define as your ability to adapt to life’s demands, right? So, life is giving us a constant stream of decisions to make, a constant stream of changes of expectation. You know, we got on the highway this morning expecting there not to be traffic and then, whoo, change of expectation demand, there’s traffic. We expected not to oversleep our alarm, but we did, and we woke up late and it burned up a little bit of adaptation energy. We showed up at our job today, we expected not to get fired, but we did, burned up some adaptation energy. You call your partner and you’re like, “Babe, I just got fired from my job.” You expected for them to get dinner and maybe a bottle of wine and instead they broke up with you. Change of expectation burns up some adaptation energy. So, you get home after like the worst day of all time and you pour yourself maybe a glass of water, whiskey or something and that glass slips out of your hand and breaks on the kitchen floor.
Now at this point, you’re going to start crying, screaming at the glass, punching the kitchen wall, running away from the glass all because you were out of adaptation energy and yet you had another demand. And if that happens, you’re out of adaptation energy and life gives you another demand, then you’re going to launch involuntarily into a fight-or-flight stress reaction whether you’ve read, “Eat, Pray, Love” or not, whether you have read, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” or not. Because we all know how we should be acting. Most of us are not doing that. Because we don’t act in accordance with what we know, we act in accordance with the baseline level of stress in our nervous systems. And so, if you engage in a daily discipline of eradicating this backlog of stresses than you are simultaneously increasing your capacity to adapt.
It’s like you carve out the stress and then you have a bigger vessel for adaptation energy, which does not mean that bad things won’t happen. Okay? It does not mean that your demands go away. It doesn’t mean the traffic suddenly disappears or that no one’s ever going to die again. Like life is still life, you’re still a human. But you have this bigger capacity to more elegantly roll with the punches that life is inevitably going to throw you. And that might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. Like you not losing your temper on your kid one night might not be a big deal, but a week of that, a year of that, you have a different life. You have a different relationship with your kid. One, you know, one day that you didn’t freak out when your boss changes your deadline on you might not change your life, but a month of that may change your life.
That may be the thing that gives you the raise or gets you the promotion. One date where you don’t freak out and try to prove how awesome you are. You know, that might not change your life, but four dates, 10 dates, that might allow you to be more available to meeting your soulmate. So, if you believe in those kinds of things. But, so it’s basically it’s a chain reaction of these series of tiny little moments where we can show up and adapt to what that moment calls for instead of bringing a lifetime of baggage into every single upset.
Ari Whitten: Awesome. Great explanation.
Emily Fletcher: Thank you.
Why meditation is meditation
Ari Whitten: Another thing that you talk about is, I remember hearing you say this in the in-person course, you said, you know a lot of people will say things like, “Reading is my meditation or going out in nature is my meditation or playing with my dog is meditation or going for a run is meditation.” And you’re like, “No, meditation is meditation. Those things, running is running and playing with your dog is playing with your dog. And those things can be joyful and relaxing and so on, but meditation is meditation.” So, what is, so why do you harp on that distinction? What is so physiologically different about meditation? And I know we’ve talked about some of those things before, but what’s sort of the distinction there?
Emily Fletcher: I think people are just looking for excuses to not do it because they’ve never been trained on how to do it. It’s like because meditation is simple, we think we should already magically know how to do it. And because people aren’t really investing any time to get trained, they sit down, they try to clear their mind. They can’t because that’s impossible. The mind thinks involuntarily and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not into meditation, so running is my meditation or exercise is my meditation.” But it’s just not true. With exercise, you’re exciting your nervous system, you’re increasing your metabolic rate and the opposite is happening when you meditate. When you meditate you are decreasing your metabolic rate. You’re slowing down the rate with which the body consumes oxygen. And it is actually that de-excitation of the nervous system that starts to create order in the body. And it is creating order in our cells that allows that lifetime of stress and trauma to start to come up and out. And so, while exercise is good enough for you to handle your stress from today. Like if your boss yells at you, you launch into fight-or-flight, you go to the gym and you get on the treadmill you could outrun that tiger. So, you could burn off today’s adrenaline and cortisol. But if you want to get rid of that dog that barked in your face when you were 10 or your parents’ divorce when you were 12, then we have to actually give the body rest. We have to de-excite the nervous system. So that’s one thing. And that’s speaking to the meditation, dealing with the stress from the past. But the other thing is that when you’re practicing Ziva, you’re actually accessing a verifiable fourth state of consciousness, so different than waking different than sleeping, different than dreaming. And all of those activities that you just mentioned, playing with my kids, walking my dog, being in nature, surfing, mountain climbing, playing music, those are all awesome and you can find joy and fulfillment and create dopamine. Like you can be in a better state by doing all of those. But at the end of the day, you’re still in your waking state of consciousness doing any of those activities. Now, in Ziva, you’re accessing this fourth state of consciousness where the right and left hemispheres of the brain start to function in unison. And that’s important because, one, the left brain is the critical mind and the right brain is the creative mind. We want these guys talking to each other. But actually, over time with this, the whole brain is lighting up so you’re actually increasing neuroplasticity which is the brain’s ability to change itself. And you’re strengthening something called the corpus callosum, which is that thin white strip that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. And so, it actually, over time, it starts to get thicker and thicker. And that’s a cool party trick that sitting in a chair could let you have a fat corpus callosum. But that matters because it’s quite literally the bridge between your masculine and your feminine, your critical and your creative, your past and future and your present moment.
Ari Whitten: It is a good party trick except for the fact that people can’t see through my cranium and notice how thick my corpus callosum is. If it weren’t for that, it would be a great party trick.
Emily Fletcher: One of my students this week, she recommended that I make a t-shirt that says, “My corpus callosum is hella fat.” I’m like, “I love you.”
Ari Whitten: Nice. I’m curious, have you looked at all into the state of consciousness of flow, of like flow states. And I know that there’s been some recent sort of publications where they’ve even sort of mapped out the conditions that are most conducive to getting in a flow state. And I’m spacing on all of them. But I remember one of the most interesting ones is that there was, that a heightened state of risk is one of the conditions. So, for example, people who are rock climbers can get into a flow state. If people saw the recent movie with Alex Honnold called “Free Solo” where he’s climbing up a 3,000-foot cliff without a rope. You know, he’s basically entering in a flow state that whole time and he’s able to sort of block out the fear of the fact that if one little slip or one little hold pops off the wall, he’ll fall to his death.
But even surfing big waves, people talk about getting addicted to that flow state. When you’re in a state where there’s a potential for you to die or be seriously harmed, you can enter into this state of consciousness that’s like, time slows down, your presence is completely heightened and you’re physically aware of everything. I’m just curious if you’ve looked into that at all and how it would differ from a meditative state. And I have no clue what the answer to that question is, but I’m just curious if sort of, if you have any idea of what the distinctions might be.
Emily Fletcher: Yeah. So, I haven’t done a ton of like nitty gritty scientific research on it, but I have some sort of philosophical pontifications on it because I’m friends with Jamie Wheal who’s like of the Flow Genome Project. And I’ve been on mountains with him, where he will like drink some coffee and smoke some weed and then go down ski like double black mountains. And he does that, you know, and he’ll talk about that because he’s trying to access flow state. And, look, whatever floats your boat. And I think that that works. Like, he’s written a whole book about it. But the thing that I just want to highlight is that over time, if you’re consciously putting yourself into a fight-or-flight, like I might die in this situation, like it might feel good for a minute and it might, and obviously I haven’t seen “Free Solo” but I’ve heard it’s incredible. And certainly, there are people that are in very high states of consciousness that have specific extraordinary gifts. But my only concern about that is that what is that doing to your adrenals over time? Like is that sustainable for you to be in that fight-or-flight for years, months, decades on end. And like you said, you can sort of get addicted to it. Or like, you know, free divers or like free jumpers, you know, it’s like each time it has to be a bigger mountain, a bigger wave. And, you know, and there’s something beautiful about that because that in itself is a type of accomplishment and achievement.
But the thing, what I would consider flow state and the way that I talk about it is that each meditation, you are accessing this present moment awareness. Which is what we’re ultimately looking for where we’re putting ourselves into that like, “Well, I have to put my hand, I have to be so present with where I put my hand. Otherwise I’ll die.” That’s a type of presence. And similarly, in the meditation you’re accessing that presence but in a very different way. It’s through rest. And in that state your brain is very much on guard, but your body is getting very deep healing rest. And so, it’s the opposite of what we think about when we think about meditation because you’re not deaf, you’re not dumb, you’re not blind. You’re hyper aware of what’s going on and your metabolic rate is decreasing. So, when we access that, we flood our brains and bodies with dopamine and serotonin in the meditation. And then after your first meditation that might stay with you for one minute. After your second meditation, that dopamine and serotonin might stick around for five minutes. After a few weeks it might stick around for 15 minutes. And then bit by bit, meditation by meditation that dopamine and serotonin, which is really the thing we are chasing, starts to stick around with you for longer and longer periods of time until it’s with you 24 hours a day. And that’s what I would call flow state. Where you’re in that total right brain, left brain cohesion. Where you’ve got the critical mind and the creative mind firing at 100 percent.
The benefits of meditation for performance
Ari Whitten: Excellent. I love it. A quick digression. I’ll just mention since we just talked about this. Right after I saw that movie in the theater like a few weeks ago, like three days later I actually ran into Alex Honnold at the rock-climbing gym here in San Diego.
Emily Fletcher: What?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, he just happened to be here in San Diego like as part of the media tour. And he happened to be like, literally I did a climb and I came down and he was standing three foot to my right. And I looked over at him and I’m like, “What the hell? Like I just saw you in a movie three days ago. You’re not supposed to be at my local rock-climbing gym.” But, yeah, anyway, just to…
Emily Fletcher: Well did you talk to him? Did you tell him…
Ari Whitten: I talked to him briefly, yeah. Very nice guy. And I actually, funny enough, just watching him climb, just like observing him rock climb in person. I had something click in my brain where I instantly became a better climber and…
Emily Fletcher: Why, what did you notice?
Ari Whitten: I noticed that he trusts his feet when he’s… So, in rock climbing for people that are unfamiliar with it, oftentimes you have extremely tiny footholds. Like things that you would never think are possible for a human to stand on. And the intuitive reaction that you have, that most people have, that I’ve always had, when I stand on these tiny little nubs, you know, imagine like the tip of a finger, like, you know, an eighth of an inch sticking off the wall and you have to sort of sink your weight into that, the edge of your shoe. The reaction is that I always tense up my upper body. So, like the amount of tension that I have in my hand holds, whatever I’m holding onto, I get extra tense here because I’m subconsciously thinking that my foot’s going to pop off the wall and that the footholds not going to hold me. And what I learned from watching him, just like physically observing the way he moves is that he sinks his weight into these little tiny footholds that most people would have a hard time trusting and allows his hands to be more relaxed in the process and just to be more energetically efficient in that process.
And I literally, after watching him climb a route, I got up on the next route, which was a grade of difficulty that would normally be very hard for me, and I just breezed through it. Like it was no big deal. And I literally, since that day, which was about a month ago or a month and a half ago, I’ve been a full grade climber than I was prior to that. So, I did a big jump. Like I had been, I don’t want to get into the details of the grades because it’s kind of a weird rating system that people who are not familiar with rock climbing won’t be able to make sense of. But basically, I did a jump in difficulty that would normally take several months of practice or maybe a year or two of practice. And it happened just like a light switch just from one little observation of somebody who’s an amazing climber. Just watching the way, they move their body.
Emily Fletcher: Beautiful. Two things I’d love to share. One, there’s this concept in the meditation circles called darshan where… It’s why people seek out gurus, where it’s like just being in the presence of someone in a very high state of consciousness can elevate your state of consciousness. And you could argue the validity of that or not. You know, we could argue the ethics of that. But there’s, you know, there’s a reason why like thousands of people stand in lines to hug this woman named Amma. Like there is darshan, it’s like a surge of consciousness. And so, it sounds like to me like he, forget about the climbing, like there’s something happening mentally with this man that he can achieve what he’s able to do and accomplish these sort of extra human feats. So, you being in that and watching with the talent and the intricacy that you have, you know, it’s possible that you had this sort of darshan. What’s cool is that it’s sustainable. That these things that you ingested are sticking with you.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, actually real quick to add to that. In the movie they did a brain scan on him, like a FMRI imaging scan. And they actually looked at his amygdala and sort of the limbic system and found that it’s way, way, way less active than basically anybody else, than normal people. So, in other words, his fear response systems are just way de-excited, the baseline level there. Like he can be a thousand foot up on a wall with no rope and not be in the state of terror that everyone else in the world would be in.
Emily Fletcher: And do you know, did they say in the movie, was that, was he born with that or is that because of this lifetime of training that he’s developed that?
Ari Whitten: I don’t think anybody has an answer to that. They did show that he’s been climbing things since he was a little kid. But yeah, I mean even for me, I’ve experienced the excitement of that. Like as soon as I used to get above 40 feet up, even with a rope, I would have this like totally illogical fear just because I didn’t like being high up. I’m looking down and I’m thinking, “If something breaks, like I will fall to my death or wish that I’m dead because I’m so badly injured.” So, I would, my body would just kind of seize up and I wouldn’t be able to move and do physical movements that were easy for me if I was five feet off the ground. So, but now, you know, like my threshold for doing things, like I can be 60 feet up and going for crazy moves and, you know, or 80 feet up or 100 feet up or something like that. And it’s way less scary for me than it used to. So, it’s possible that maybe he has just been doing it so much for so long that he’s just learned to bring that state of relaxation and calm into this act which would be terrifying for almost anybody else.
Emily Fletcher: Yeah. To bring this back to the meditation conversation. To me it’s the same thing. Because when you’re meditating, you’re taking your right brain to the gym. Which is the piece of you that’s not only in charge of present moment awareness, but it’s the piece of us that feels connected to everyone and everything. It’s the piece of us that feels connected to nature, to the rock, to your higher self, to your intuition. And if you look at a brain, it splits right down the middle, 50/50. And because most of us have only had access to our left-brain waking state of consciousness, we’re holding onto the rocks so tightly with our hands. We’re trying to control it. We’re not trusting the rock. We are not trusting nature. We’re not trusting that right brain, other piece of us. And so, in the meditation it’s like you get so good at surrendering in the chair, but that sense of surrender and trust tends to bleed into your waking state, which allows you know, bigger accomplishments, bigger achievements that would have maybe scared you previously. You start to trust a little bit, you start to let go a little bit and see how nature wants to play out. Because you’re not as afraid of failing because what does that even mean, failing? Right? It’s like if you have access to your own bliss and fulfillment internally, which is what the meditation gives you, then nothing external can make or break you. This one launch, this one partner, this one zero in your bank account cannot make you. And if it can’t make you, then it also cannot break you. And so that is like the shrinking of the amygdala. It’s like the decreasing of fear, which allows you to accomplish more, to do what you were put on this planet to do.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that was so well stated, and you just made me think of something that has been something that’s really important to me for the last few years. And that is like a concept of trust or faith. And I don’t mean it in a religious sense like you need to be religious in order to find that, but an attitude of like trusting life and the universe and nature, or you can call it God if you have that sort of bend in your belief. But a trust that life and nature will unfold as it should instead of trying to fight all the time and like worry all the time that if you’re not there to control this and that and be the puppeteer, that things won’t unfold and that bad things will happen. I’m just speaking sort of stream of consciousness here. But I know this connects to some extent to meditation and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on it? Because for me it’s just kind of ideas in my head that are not that well connected, but you’d be the person to ask if you have some way of sort of making sense of that.
Emily Fletcher: Sure. So as a recovering control freak, I feel like I have a huge authority on this subject. And it’s all I teach all day every day. It’s, I say I joke that my class is not a meditation class, it’s surrendering school. My class is a 10-hour class in surrendering. And it’s trusting this process. It’s trusting your body. It’s trusting the technique. And then as you get good at trusting your body and the healing process in the meditation, you become more inclined to trust nature, to trust your employees, to trust your partner with your eyes open because you start to see it really is that fight-or-flight thing. It’s that control thing that has us constantly reviewing the past and rehearsing the future. And that we have to control if all we have is our left-brain individuality waking state, right? Then it’s like, “Well, if I don’t do it, it won’t get done,” and “No good deed goes unpunished,” and all these other things that we’ve been trained our whole lives to think. Or if you’ve come from an abusive childhood. Like if our parents didn’t take care of us or if they were addicts or alcoholics or abusive in any way, then we had to develop that sense of control, that sense of, “Well, I have to take care of myself.” And to undo that wiring can take some time.
And so that’s why it’s important that you commit to a daily practice to go in and rewire, to be like, “You know what? The very thing that kept me alive as a child might not be serving me now as an adult. Now that I’m safe, I might have to actually drop those tools to step into the level of greatness that I want to step into. I have to allow for some magic. I have to allow for something bigger than me to come in and play a role here.”
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully said. Well, you put that, you put words to that much better than I could have. So well done.
Emily Fletcher: I think about this stuff a lot.
Emily Fletcher’s goal with her book Stress Less Accomplish More
Ari Whitten: Apparently. So, what do you hope…? So, you’re publishing this book on the 19th. What do you hope to sort of contribute to the world with this? What do you hope will be the sort of ripple effect from getting this book out there?
Emily Fletcher: Thanks for asking that, too. What a good question. So, I wrote a lot of this book when I was pregnant with my son, Jasper and it’s very hard to not wax poetic about the future when you are pregnant. And I was really imagining like, “Well what do I want the impact of this book to be? What do I want the world to look like when he grows up?” And I was imagining a world where meditation stations are more common than coffee shops. I wanted people waiting in line to go and meditate in the morning instead of waiting in line to caffeinate themselves. And it sounds crazy, but you know what if? It actually is a more sustainable form of energy and it doesn’t blow out your adrenals and it takes about the same amount of time. And I started to think about a world where people started to see more of themselves inside of others and more of others inside of themselves and we stop seeing everyone as so separate. Or we got out of that fear, which ultimately leads to greed and separateness and the” I’ll be happy when” syndrome, which are ultimately the underlying causes of the biggest challenges that we’re facing as a species right now. But if I had to sum it all up in one sentence, my mission with this book is to eradicate unnecessary suffering from the planet. Like some pain is part of the human experience. And I get that. But unnecessary suffering like insomnia and anxiety and overwhelm, there is a solution for this. And so, I don’t understand why we’re not using it. And so, I really want to make these tools as accessible and as attractive as possible so that people start using them.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. You have, the last thing I want to talk to you about is that you have sort of three options now for people to learn from you. You have the in-person course, which I took. And you have the online course, which I’ve had a bunch of my people in my community take and they’ve loved it. I’ve heard wonderful things about it. And, you have your book as of February 19th in just a few days. So, what are sort of the distinctions for people to be aware of between these three options to learn meditation from you?
Emily Fletcher: Yeah, so I would say that the book is the cheapest, fastest way to learn. You know, and it’s going to give you a beautiful… You’re going to learn all three of the trifecta, but it’s definitely gentler than what I teach in the online course and certainly gentler than what I teach in person. And I did this by design because when I’m in the room face to face with people, I can really, we can go to the Maserati of meditation. We can go fast and powerful. We can create this healing catharsis because I’m there with you and I’ve helped 15,000 people through it so we can kind of rip the band aid. I purposefully made the online course a little bit gentler and then the book a little bit gentler because I’m not there, face to face with you, but they are still effective.
They are still changing people’s lives. One thing that I want to highlight with the book is that if people preorder, I’m not sure exactly when this is coming up, but if you order before the 23rd and you go to stresslessthebook.com, there’s a bunch of free bonuses there. You get actually the first three days of the online course. You get like a day in the life guide of everything I do in my day to optimize my energy and performance. And then you also get a bunch of audio exercises. So, at the end of each chapter, there are not only testimonials from people like Ari, there’s also exercises and so I made audio versions of those. And so, if you pre-order the book, you can get those at stresslessthebooks.com. So basically, it’s just different tiers. Everyone has different finances, different levels of commitment, different levels of what they’re ready for. So now it’s like we can date, we can be exclusive, or we can get married.
Ari Whitten: Does that mean we’re married now? Since I’m one of your 15,000 partners.
Emily Fletcher: Yes. We are meditation married. Super into polyamory, you guys.
Ari Whitten: Awesome, Emily. Well, thank you so much for this. I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. It’s been a blast talking to you as always. And I wish you the best of luck with your new book launch. I’m going to be recording you and helping you get the word out and I hope that you accomplish your mission of helping to decrease anxiety and unnecessary suffering in the world.
Emily Fletcher: Thank you. Thank you for having me on. I love talking to you. I love the work you do in the world and it’s really an honor to be your friend. So, thank you.
Ari Whitten: Thank you. The feeling is so mutual. Thanks, so much Emily. Have a wonderful rest of your night.
Stress Less Accomplish More | The Benefits of Meditation For Performance and High Achievers with Emily Fletcher – Show Notes
The Ziva Meditation, and why Emily wrote Stress Less Accomplish More (4:45)
What stress does to our bodies and the benefits of meditation on stress (09:09)
The three prongs of the Ziva Meditation Method (18:00)
Stress Less Accomplish More (26:50)
Why meditation is meditation (32:20)
The benefits of meditation for performance (40:38)
Emily Fletcher’s goal with her book Stress Less Accomplish More (51:13)