Wellness Revolutionaries | Making Meditation Mainstream with Emily Fletcher
Listen as Blake interviews meditation guru, author, and founder of Ziva Meditation, Emily Fletcher. Together, they dive deep into the physiological impacts of stress, the difference between mindfulness and meditation, and why effort—not thought—is the enemy of meditating. To Emily, meditation isn’t just another “hippy-dippy thing,” but the key to increased productivity, creativity, and compassion.
- Introduction [01:13]
- Interview with Emily Fletcher [05:08]
- Emily’s Approach to Meditation: Stress Less, Accomplish More [09:34]
- Meditation and the Seven Dimensions of Wellness [27:30]
- Closing Remarks [47:31]
- Credits [50:38]
- The Ziva technique
- Summit L.A.
- Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance
- Harvard neuroscientist Sarah Lazar
- Eckhart Tolle
- The Power of Now
- Wellness Revolutionaries: “Building a Healthier America with Nancy Roman”
- Brené Brown
- Screen Time
Blake: [00:00:02] My revolutionary guest today says meditation is the foundation of the Wellness Revolution. She has a new book and she's determined to see meditation stations become more commonplace than coffee shops.
Emily: [00:00:15] The mission of this book is very much to bring meditation mainstream. We all know we should be meditating by now, the science is in, no one's doing it. I mean even at these wellness conferences. Ok I ask every single time I give a talk, "How many people in the room have tried meditation?" Hundred percent of the hands go up. And then I say, "All right, how many of you guys have a daily practice? Come Hell or high water, you meditate every day?" All the hands go down, maybe like 8 percent of the hands stay up. And so bridging that gap. Why are a hundred percent of the people trying it and only 8 percent of the people doing it? This is the world we have to change. And I feel like this is my mission on this planet is to bridge that gap.
Blake: [00:01:13] Welcome to Wellness Revolutionaries, the podcast that shines a light on the leaders of the Wellness Revolution. I'm talking about the inspiring women and men focused on building a culture of wellness in America. I'm Blake Beltram, Mindbody Co-founder and Evangelist and your host, tour guide, and companion on this journey toward a healthier, happier us.
[00:01:37] I think you're going to want to meet my guest today. In fact, you might need to meet my guest today. Not only is Emily Fletcher just a fascinating person with an interesting story - this is a woman who had a successful career on Broadway for 10 years in shows like Chicago, The Producers, and A Chorus Line. But she also has a vision to change the world through a meditation technique for changing your life. It's called The Ziva technique or the Z technique. And as she says this is not a hippy-dippy thing this is about science, it's about practical mindfulness meditation, and manifesting, which she says can lead to higher performance, making more money, having better sex, and consciously creating a life that you love. I really liked that her work is about demystifying meditation it's not about some woo-woo, spiritual experience for her. It's simply a tool that elevates the performance of your brain which is critical to your success and happiness.
And I've loved by the way how she's just genuinely dumbfounded that any smart, practical person would not spend a few minutes a day to do a simple thing to maximize the performance of their brain, and body, and live a better life. This is why she thinks we have to take meditation mainstream because it underpins nearly all of the illness and dysfunction and disease we see in the world today. And I agree with her on this, wholeheartedly.
I've said before, if we want to heal the world we have to heal the individual. And so often we look at healing through the lens of the physical form, or the behaviors, the addictions, mental health issues, etc. But all of that starts with our state of mind, the emotional dimension of wellness is the foundation really of all the other dimensions because how you feel and what you think are going to determine what you put in your body, what you do to your body, what you say to other people and do to other people. Bottom line: What happens in your brain is going to determine the quality of your life. So the big change a lot of us want to see in the world really boils down to the very small change that millions or billions of us have the opportunity to make. Literally in our own minds and to make this kind of change we need a technique. And this is Emily Fletcher's domain and it's why I love this work and I love this interview.
Emily, the founder of Ziva Meditation, tells us the Ziva technique or the Z technique literally changes your brain. And we will go into some of the brain science in this episode and it's really all about making meditation attractive, accessible, and easy to adopt in your busy life as she puts it. It's hard for me to sum Emily up so I do want to read you just a quick excerpt from Emily's bio from her website.
Emily Fletcher is regarded as the leading expert in meditation for high 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.
I got to say after spending an hour with her, I literally felt less stressed. I left the interview feeling inspired and I think you'll feel the same after listening to this interview. So enough about me talking about talking to Emily let's jump into the interview and get you in on the conversation. Here's Emily Fletcher from Ziva Meditation.
Blake: [00:05:30] So Emily I was wondering if we could start by doing a little meditation to help both of us drop in, to help me drop in, maybe you're already dropped in at least to help me drop in.
Emily: [00:05:39] Sure. So the thing is you can't really meditate in two minutes.
Blake: [00:05:41] Okay.
Emily: [00:05:42] But I'm happy to walk us through like a breathing technique. That would be great for us for the interview and also great for the listeners. And it will just get us all present and on the same page...
Blake: [00:05:50] Fantastic.
Emily: [00:05:51] It's the simplest thing. But it's also really good and effective at getting you out of panic attacks and getting you out of anxiety attacks because I feel like if you're on the verge of something or you're feeling nervous then you don't really have time to think about a complicated technique or find your phone or get on Wi-Fi you just need something really, really simple. So this is actually one of the things I write about in my book. It's called the 2X Breath.
So we're going to we're going to inhale through the nose for the count of two and then exhale through your mouth for the count of four. Good, again in for two, and out through the mouth for four.
[00:06:27] Really good. Closing the eyes in the nose for two and out through the mouth for four. You can do this with your back supported and your head free.
You can do this in your own time, simply in for two, and out for four and you can keep going in your own time.
But as we do this we start to strengthen the vagus nerve or we start to calm down the vagus nerve which is really the bridge between the brain and the body and we start to calm the nervous system. We start to oxygenate the brain, the organs, the body, and just calming everything down preparing you for a great interview. So one more time, biggest inhale you've taken all day.
[00:07:13] And what if you just smile at the top just for fun?
So good. And so whenever you're ready, we can start to gently, easily open the eyes.
Blake: [00:07:26] It's amazing the difference that that makes...
Emily: [00:07:28] It's just so simple, right?
Blake: [00:07:28] Just to take a few conscious breath. Well I think we're done. That's all, that's all we need.
Emily: [00:07:34] Goodnight, everyone.
Blake: [00:07:36] Thank you for being here. It's such a pleasure to have you on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Emily: [00:07:41] It is my honor.
Blake: [00:07:42] And to set the context Emily and I have been at Summit L.A. for the last few days, which is a phenomenal event. It was my first event. You're a veteran of these and you're getting ready to catch a plane here in a few minutes so you were nice enough to let us set up in your hotel room here in downtown Los Angeles.
Emily: [00:07:58] We're looking at the Staples Center in the fancy J.W. Marriott and I'm about to get on a plane with a four-month-old. So if you ever need a meditation that's the time for it. [00:08:05][7.4]
Blake: [00:08:06] How often do you need that breathing technique? Toting a four-year-old around the country or four months old.
Emily: [00:08:11] He's he's only taken one plane ride so far it was out here and he was amazing. He slept and was happy and other people were holding him and he was making friends. He was like the mayor of the plane by the end of it. I think he knows what sort of life he's in for. And so he's like, "Mom, I don't want to get left behind, I'm a really good traveler."
Blake: [00:08:25] Aw, that's so cute. And he's your first?
Emily: [00:08:27] Yup.
Blake: [00:08:27] And only. And his name?
Emily: [00:08:28] Jasper.
Blake: [00:08:28] Jasper. What was the inspiration for Jasper?
Emily: [00:08:32] Oh thank you for asking. So my great grandmother, her name was Stella. That's who I was named after; my middle name is Stella and her middle name was Jasper. But I did not know that when I decided to name him. I just, you know, my husband and I were making a list and Jasper was on my... my husband's name is Jason and everyone in his family has J names, so he said a hard no, absolutely not. No J names. But I was really had my heart set on Jasper and then it just kept coming in again and again and again. One of my students gave me a Jasper stone bracelet, my best friend was choreographing a show called Jasper in Deadland, my mom called me and she's driving down Jasper Street and then I found out about my great grandmother's middle name, the one who I was named after and I said, "Babe, I'm sorry, but you're being overridden."
Blake: [00:09:08] That's it. That's it. You're outvoted. It's such a great name. I love that you talked about all the synchronicities and the signs popping in, I tend to follow those as well. I've learned that anything good that really comes in my life tends to come from following those signs and following the guidance. I'm guessing it's similar for you.
Emily: [00:09:23] Yeah we call it following charm.
Blake: [00:09:24] Following charm?
Emily: [00:09:25] Which is basically just like the Ziva way of saying listening to your gut, but the gut speaks to you, yes, from your own intuition but also through external. I call them high-fives from the universe.
Blake: [00:09:34] High Fives from the universe. I like that. Do you talk about this, you mentioned your book, and your book is going to be coming out.
Emily: [00:09:39] February 19th. It's called Stress Less, Accomplish More…
Blake: [00:09:42] Okay.
Emily: [00:09:42] Meditation for Extraordinary Performance." It's a really long title. The publishers love to do that but really the point of it is to take the very powerful medicine that is meditation but wrap it in some delicious candy coating like, "Hey, you guys, this thing is actually going to help you make more money, help you have better sex, and help you have better parking karma." It doesn't have to be some weirdo, hippy-dippy thing.
Blake: [00:10:01] And that's really what you specialize in, isn't it? It's kind of demystifying and decoupling meditation from necessarily religion or spirituality and just making it more practical and accessible.
Emily: [00:10:11] Yeah it's a stress-relieving tool at the end of the day. And the reality is stress makes us stupid, sick, and slow. So people are like, "I don't have time to meditate" don't really fully understand the neuroscience behind just how slow and sick and stupid stress is making us. So I think if you believe that stress makes you stupid then you cannot make this argument that you're too busy to meditate. Like both of those things can't exist in the same reality. You have to choose one or the other.
Blake: [00:10:34] It's like saying I've got a problem with my car and I don't have time to take it to the mechanic because my car's not going to get me to the mechanic.
Emily: [00:10:41] Exactly. Or like I'm too dirty to shower. Doesn't make any sense.
Blake: [00:10:46] Well let's talk about where a lot of us start from when it comes to stress. And then if you could kind of lead us through what's going on in our brain and then what the meditation techniques that you use do to our brain and kind of the difference between those two things. I'd love to get into the science of it a little bit.
Emily: [00:11:02] Okay, so where do you want to start?
Blake: [00:11:03] Well let's start from where most people are when they're stressed and when they're not checking in and what's going on in our brain, what's going on in, I would, probably say the average American's brain going through their daily life.
Emily: [00:11:16] So you know I was talking before this about sort of the epidemic that's happening in health in, not only America, but in the whole world. You know we've got obesity crisis, we've got 43 percent of American adult women are on anti-anxiety or antidepressants. You know I think that stress is really responsible, sort of like, causing this underlying imbalance that is actually creating these symptoms that I consider to be the biggest threats facing humanity, which is climate change, the fact that our food isn't food anymore, and racism; I think are all symptoms of these deeper, underlying imbalances that are coming from a lack of consciousness, which ultimately means we're stressed.
[00:11:49] And so when the average American is 20 years old we have approximately 10 million precognitive commitments or PCCs which is like an open window in your brain machine. And so what we do when we meditate we go when we close down those windows so you can start to have more computing power for your task at hand. This is why meditators report that their to do list they used to take them five hours starts to take them three. It's also why their sleep becomes more efficient. They used to need eight or nine hours of sleep waking up feeling exhausted, after they start a meditation practice they need five or six hours, wake up feeling refreshed because your sleep actually becomes more efficient because you're using the meditation time in your day as a time for stress release. So you can use your sleep as a time for sleep. So those are some of the changes that happen right off the bat.
But to your question of what are most of our brains and bodies look like if we want to understand what stress is doing to the body, we have to actually cut back in time about 10,000 years. Say we're hunting and gathering in the woods and a saber tooth tiger jumps out at us with the intent to kill. You know we all hear this fight or flight stress reaction but we don't really fully understand what's happening physiologically in the body when we go into that fight or flight. So first thing that will happen is that your digestion will flood with acid to shut down digestion because you need all hands on deck to fight or flee the tiger. That same acid will seep onto your skin so that you don't taste very good if you get bitten into by that tiger, your bladder and bowels evacuate so you can be light on your feet, your immune system goes to the back burner because who cares if you're going to get cancer if you're about to be killed by a tiger? Adrenaline levels increase, cortisol levels increase, and that's pretty scary. I don't like freaking people out but if you want to scare yourself you can just have a quick Google search about what adrenaline and cortisol do to the body; it's not pretty. It's erectile dysfunction and infertility and premature aging and brain atrophy. And it's the equivalent of dumping acid in your brain and body all day everyday, we're like pickling ourselves with stress and this is what we all considered normal. And I think that, while it is, in fact, normal it does not have to be our reality. I do not think this is what nature designed.
[00:13:42] The other thing that's happening is, if you look at the human brain, it's like almost two separate organs, there's like the right brain and the left brain. And they're desperate. The only thing that connects them is something called the corpus callosum which is a thin, white strip that is the bridge between the two.
Now the left brain is in charge of the past and the future critical mind, analytical thought, language, balancing your checkbooks, all really important activities. But for most of us, certainly in America, certainly stressed out in New Yorkers who I work with, we're thinking, we're taking action, we're achieving, we're making money so we can be happy in the future. We're working out that left brain day in and day out and meanwhile we have this whole other right brain and the right brain is in charge of present moment awareness, creativity, creative problem solving, intuition, music, connectedness. And so most of us have been using 90-10 like 90 percent left brain, 10 percent right brain. And I just don't think that nature makes mistakes. I don't think that nature would have given us 50-50 if it wanted us to use 90-10. And so we've just gotten a little out of balance but it's not that one is bad or one is good it's just out of balance. It's what we do when we meditate is we start taking that right brain to the gym. We start waking up that present moment awareness and over time we start to increase neuroplasticity which is the brain's ability to change itself and we also start to strengthen that corpus callosum, it actually gets thicker. And we've known for a long time that meditators have thicker corpus callosums than non meditators but we weren't able to prove if that was causal or correlated but now we know that the longer you meditate, the thicker this corpus callosum becomes which suggests that it is in fact causal which I think is a pretty cool party trick that you sitting quietly in a chair could change the white matter in your brain.
Blake: [00:15:15] Amazing.
Emily: [00:15:15] Yeah but it's like why would I want a fat corpus callosum? Well everybody should because it's quite literally like I was saying the bridge between the critical mind and the creative mind. it's the bridge between your masculine and feminine. It is the very thing that allows you to come up with creative problem solving ideas even in the middle of a quote unquote high stress situation because like nobody cares how funny you are the day before your presentation. No one cares how charming you are the day before you present to the board. It matters how well you perform when it's go time. And oftentimes we get stressed in those situations and so it's hard for us to be in flow. It's hard for us to come up with those ideas in real time. The example that everybody likes is let's say you get into a fight with your partner and it gets pretty heated and then eventually you shut down or start crying or you retreat to the bedroom and a few hours later when you start calming down you, start coming up with all these really witty comebacks and you're like why couldn't I thought of that in the moment?
[00:16:04] Well my theory is that the bigger your corpus callosum is, the easier it is for you to come up with those witty comebacks when it counts.
Blake: [00:16:11] Wow that's a great side benefit of meditation. I never thought about that. I would be better at potentially fighting with my partner with a thicker corpus callosum. [00:16:19][7.3]
Emily: [00:16:19] Indeed, yeah.
Blake: [00:16:24] If you're around yoga or meditation long enough you'll likely hear people tout the scientific benefits of meditation and yoga and some skeptics might wonder if that's actually true. Well it is, if you spend a few minutes Googling like I did, you'll turn up an impressive array of studies and research on the topic. Emily talked about meditation increasing the size of the corpus callosum, for example, and I did indeed, with a quick Google search, find the research articles that back up that claim.
[00:16:55] I was also intrigued by Harvard neuroscientist Sarah Lazar who started out as a skeptic and through her own research proved that meditation thickened four parts of the brain. This gets a little bit geeky but they are the posterior cingulate, the left hippocampus, the temporal parietal junction, and an area called the pons; a lot to get into but, in short, all of those have pretty profound benefits in terms of how we experience ourselves and how we experience the world. One area of the brain though, actually got smaller through meditation and that was the amygdala that's the fight-flight-freeze brain related to anxiety, fear, and stress
Emily: [00:17:40] A good thing for us to cover is the difference between mindfulness and meditation. In mindfulness, where you're directing your focus, where you are actively gearing your mind in a certain direction, this definitely wakes up the prefrontal cortex which is like our executive function of the brain. More of that left brain, analytical piece. So that's when we focus we're really taking that thing to the gym. Now the amygdala, like you said, is the fear center; it's only the size of like a thumbnail. And it is the thing that's responsible for fight or flight. And so almost all signs of meditation, if they're any good, will get you out of fight or flight and take the energy away from that amygdala. And so that's, sort of, I would say a baseline, step one of anything you should expect from a meditation practice would be to get you out of that sympathetic and into parasympathetic, out to fight or flight and into what I call stay and play. But in the style of meditation that I teach at Ziva, you're not really working that prefrontal cortex, you're not working that focus part of the brain. It's much more about surrendering. It's much more about letting go. It's actually about inducing deep healing rest. Rest that's about five times deeper than sleep and that's not an insignificant point because when you give your body the rest that it needs it knows how to heal itself. And one of the things that it heals itself from is stress.
Now an interesting differentiation between mindfulness and meditation is that in mindfulness you're dealing with your stress from the now, like my boss yelled at me, I got really stressed, I went home and listened to 10 minutes of headspace, I feel better in the now. I watched a guided YouTube video, did some breathwork, I feel better in the now; very good at creating a state change right now. Beautiful powerful important. We need it so what we just did at the beginning. You know the 2X Breath, state change.
Meditation, as I would define it, is where you're accessing a verifiable fourth state of consciousness. We have the fortune of hearing Eckhart Tolle totally speak yesterday. And what a delight. And he spoke very much about something called "turiya" which is a Sanskrit word that means the fourth. And so what I teach at Ziva, it helps you access that fourth state of consciousness, which is different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. And in this fourth state of consciousness, the right and left hemispheres of the brain are functioning in unison, which is different from waking, sleeping, and dreaming where right and left brains are sort of doing their own thing.
Blake: [00:19:44] Interesting.
Emily: [00:19:44] So it is that increase in brain cohesion that starts to strengthen the corpus callosum but also the whole brain lights up which is different than mindfulness where a small part of the brain lights up but very, very bright. It's cool because we're living in a time where neuroscience is increasing to where we can see not only the meditation is good for us but how different styles of meditation impact the brain differently. So mindfulness we're directing our focus and meditation as I teach at Ziva, it's all about letting go.
Blake: [00:20:07] And I want to hear more specifics about your technique but I wanted to double click on Eckhart Tolle for a moment. I happened to be in the front row but I talked to somebody who was up in the balcony and said they had the same experience. I felt an energy transmission in that room. I've read Eckhart Tolle and listened to him for years, probably weekly for years, and have gotten so much from him. I wasn't expecting to feel the shift of the energy in the room on such a powerful level that I felt it put me into a meditative state just listening to him and I felt myself struggling. It felt like struggling to stay awake but as you mentioned it wasn't sleep that I was drifting into. It was that fourth state that I change sometimes in breathwork and meditation and sometimes in the dream state as well.
Emily: [00:20:48] I'm so glad that you experience that and that is something called Darshan where someone, just by their state of being, just by how high a state of consciousness they're in can actually transfer consciousness to the people in their presence. Amma, the hugging guru, yes she, you know, same thing. It's the transfer of energy, you know, thousands of people waiting in line for hours and hours on end to get a hug from this woman. And what's happening is this transfer of consciousness which is amazing and what a gift to be able to give people what a gift to be in that state of consciousness. And what I do,, which is perhaps a different strategy, is rather than giving people a shift from being around me. My intention is to make people self-sufficient, to give people the tools to usher themselves into higher and higher states of consciousness so they don't need me. Being in the room was really beautiful and it definitely reminded me of my days back on Broadway because I used to listen, like one of the stories that I tell and I was stressed out Broadway performer, I would find myself like rocking myself in fetal position on the verge of anxiety attacks listening to Eckhart Tolle on repeat. So just being in his presence took me back to those times and I used to have debilitating insomnia for about 18 months and the only thing that would put me to sleep was listening to Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now on repeat.
Blake: [00:21:58] Works every time.
Emily: [00:21:59] And I think it's because, I mean, he's a little dry but like in the most hilariously beautiful way. But I think it's actually that state of consciousness. It's a consciousness transfer that's happening even from a book on tape.
Blake: [00:22:09] Even from hearing his voice, yes, yes. I usually will put him on if I'm having trouble sleeping and I probably hear two or three sentences and I'm out.
Emily: [00:22:17] Yeah.
Blake: [00:22:17] You mentioned your Broadway career. Can you tell us a little bit about that and is that what led you to meditation? It sounds like it was pretty stressful.
Emily: [00:22:25] Yeah, so I was on Broadway for ten years and my last show was A Chorus Line and that was the one where I was in my dressing room. I mean literally rocking myself in a fetal position. It's just totally unbelievable that I would have to go back out on stage and subject myself to the level of torture that felt like I just been through and I know it's like poor little Broadway star but I was my job was to understudy three of the lead roles which means you show up to the theater and you have no idea which character you're going to play so even if you're not on, you're in this state of fight or flight. You're like, am I going to be thrown on at a moment's notice? You have to be ready vocally, physically, mentally having all three roles in your head at the same time and one of the roles I was very, very bad at and that was the role that was the person who always called out. And so I was constantly going off this role that I knew I was terrible at.
Blake: [00:23:05] Which role was that?
Emily: [00:23:06] Val. She's the one who sings "Tits and Ass."
Blake: [00:23:07] I had a feeling you were going to say that was the role.
Emily: [00:23:10] You know if anyone sees me, I'm like 5'9, I used to be a model, like no one's going to be like, "Oh, you got a boob job and then your career took off?" It just doesn't make any sense, like it was just bad casting first of all. And then I couldn't really sing it and I didn't have the stamina and it was just awful. It's quite embarrassing to be on a stage with 3,000 people looking at you, with a down light, in a leotard sucking at your job and just knowing that you're sucking, is just a level of vulnerability that I was not really ready for.
Blake: [00:23:36] And you're literally living the dream.
Emily: [00:23:38] Yes.
[00:23:38] I Mean you're on Broadway in "A Chorus Line."
Emily: [00:23:40] Yes.
Blake: [00:23:41] And you're stressed and hating every second of it.
Emily: [00:23:44] Yeah like it was very confusing why I was living my dream and miserable. And so I thought like once I got on Broadway my whole life will be sunshine and roses. But it was actually the opposite because I realized at a pretty early age that I was more interested in the happiness of pursuit. And I was the pursuit of happiness. And I think that discovery is a luxury that is only afforded to people who achieve their life dream at a relatively early age. A lot of people it happens later on 60, 70, 80 years old they realize that there is no magic carrot. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But I was able to realize that pretty early, thankfully, and so then I thought well if this is not where my happiness is then where is it? And I think it's sort of this inward reflection. I started trying to find well, where is it? And then it wasn't really until I found meditation and I was like, "Oh, it's right inside of me." Like every spiritual text has been saying since the beginning of time. What you seek is in you. The kingdom of Heaven is within. And most of us understand that it's an intellectual concept but I didn't really get it until I had a visceral experience of that which is what meditation provides because it's flooding your brain and body with dopamine and serotonin which are indeed bliss chemicals. And that feels nice when you're meditating but that's not the point. If all it did was make you feel nice for 20 minutes then like you could smoke some pot and do the same thing but meditation is not about necessarily what you're feeling like when you're doing it, it's about how you're feeling and performing and the rest of your life. And this is our big theme song at Ziva is we meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation. [00:25:07][83.0]
Blake: [00:25:07] I think a lot of people would relate to that being in a career that they thought they were going to love and then getting there and realizing that they're not happy there. I think people would also be happy to know that there are Broadway stars that are feeling that way because there's probably people that are in jobs that are not nearly as sexy as being a Broadway star, so to speak, and would probably think if only I had some really cool career like being a Broadway star then I would be happy. And how many actors are out there thinking if I only were successful then I would be happy? But it's a fallacy, isn't it? The if-then scenario that a lot of us subject ourselves to. If I get this, then I'll be happy, whether it's a relationship or a career or wealth or or whatever it is.
Emily: [00:25:44] Yeah I call that that "I'll be happy when" syndrome. I'll be happy when I get on Broadway, when I have a boyfriend, when I have another zero in my bank account, when I get a million followers on Instagram and the reality is it's never on the other side of any person, place, or thing. It's always inside of us. But if we don't have the ability to access it right here, right now, then we think well it must be at the top of this mountain and then we start climbing the mountain and then once we climb it we realize okay well you've proved yourself you can climb a mountain but you're still not happy.
Blake: [00:26:12] Right.
Emily: [00:26:12] So then you think well it must be at the top of the next mountain and the next mountain, and the next mountain, and we just do that until we die most people. And I think that that is why people think that death is this tragedy. We in the West approach death like it's an avoidable tragedy. And, so far, it's not avoidable. And I actually don't think it needs to be a tragedy. It's only sad if you were under an illusion that your happiness was supposed to show up on the other side of some person, place, or thing, and it never did and then it is a tragedy. But if you actually have the tools to find your own fulfillment internally and I consider meditation practicing dying, like everyday twice a day you're moving beyond the individuality into the totality, and you're moving beyond your left brain and into the right, beyond the wave and into the ocean, if you want to use that analogy. And I think that if you spend enough time dancing in and out of those states of consciousness, when you approach the ultimate transition it's not so scary because you've been doing it every day.
Blake: [00:27:03] It's familiar at that point. And so you approach that state in meditation. You feel the experience of drifting into that other…
Emily: [00:27:10] Well I would call it just pure being. I'm not Emily Fletcher. Thirty nine year old meditation teacher in a hotel room in LA. I just am and you become a little less identified with the body and a little bit more identified with...I don't have a better word other than beingness or energy but it's like you, your sense of individuality starts to blur a bit.
Blake: [00:27:30] What I love about what you said and where it fits in this podcast as we talk about the Wellness Revolution and all of the seven dimensions of wellness and the crisis that we're facing as a culture right now and how we we really need a cultural revolution to turn this around to turn this ship around. We're not on a positive trajectory as we were talking about earlier. And it's really going to take a concerted effort for us as a culture, I believe, to have a renaissance of sorts, to say look we are really going to invest in creating a culture and building a culture of wellness here. And this is really the foundation of that, isn't it? Because if we don't understand, as a culture, that what you're talking about is the foundation of everything then we're constantly going to be chasing that mountain and realizing it's just life is just a series of false summits. When you approach it that way that you're going to find something on the external.
Emily: [00:28:19] So I think you're absolutely right I think that right now we're seeking our happiness externally. You know in food or drugs or alcohol or pot or sex or cars or you know and it becomes we become dependent on coffee to wake us up and pills to go to sleep or Eckhart Tolle to go to sleep. It's this consumer mentality. And I think that it is making us sick economically, physically, mentally and you know with the opioid epidemic and 44 percent of American adult women on anti-anxiety or antidepressants and these are the things we have to change. And so I believe, at least in my experience, if you are stressed, it is so much harder to make healthy decisions because your meat suit, your body, is doing everything it can to stay alive. You know if you are in fight or flight than any sugar, any fat, save up for the winter, get as much on your body because your body is preparing for trauma or war or winter. So it's like just save up, save up, save up. And same with sex it's like let's procreate, procreate, procreate. Let's just find our external happiness outside of us. But when we start to practice these tools like yoga, breathwork, meditation, exercise, we start to get high on our own supply. We start to create the ability to flood our brains and bodies with dopamine and serotonin. And so then we start being under the illusion that our happiness exists externally and we start to wake up our own internal pharmacy's, we become self-reliant for our happiness, we become self-reliant for our energy, we come self-reliant for our sleep, and actually we just aren't functioning as nature intended. This is not magic, it's not that weird, it's just what nature designed.
Blake: [00:29:55] I googled "meditation increases dopamine" and instantly found a wealth of information and research studies that prove Emily's point about waking up our internal pharmacy's, dopamine and serotonin are just two of the positive increases from meditation. It's also been shown to increase melatonin and growth hormones and endorphins and that's just to name a few. There's a lot to this but the science truly is in on meditation. And yet most of us spend our valuable time doing other things.
Blake: [00:30:32] What kind of impact do you think social media is having on this paradigm?
Emily: [00:30:36] Well like anything I think there's some light and some dark. We're all very keenly aware of the dark sides of social media. You know it's the FOMO, you're seeing your ten thousand best friends' highlight reel of everything they're doing that you're not experiencing while you're at home, in bed, scrolling through Instagram, makes you feel left out, makes you feel isolated, makes you feel alone. And also we're watching ourselves as we're doing it, instead of being present, you know, we're like never in the experience like what would this look like on Instagram versus just being in it, being fully present in your body. And so I'm so thankful social media was not around when I was in high school or middle school. I mean thank goodness. But I will say that there are obviously some beautiful sides as well. So I just had a baby 4 months ago, as we said, and my postpartum was very, very challenging. I'm thankfully a person who's never really struggled with depression and postpartum, we assume that the second part of that means depression, but there's a lot of elements to postpartum and I had a lot of physical challenges both with me and the baby. I had a four day back labor into he had jaundice into he had a lip tie. So I got mastitis, and blocked ducts, and my stitches came out and he wasn't gaining weight and I wasn't making any milk. You know it's your child and you're sleep deprived and your hormones are changing and it was getting like brought to my knees again and again and again. And I actually started posting on Instagram of like, "Hey, like moms, like I need your help. Like what did you do? What did you do to make your milk come in? What did you do to deal with the pain?" And hundreds and hundreds of people would comment giving these really good suggestions, like really genuinely wanting to help. And I felt so held, I felt like I was a part of this community, and people I hadn't talked to in years were wanting to share the things that helped them through a really challenging time and it actually was really healing for me. And I look forward to going on and I used a lot of the techniques and tips that people gave me and it practically helped me, but also quite emotionally, I felt held by that community.
Blake: [00:32:22] That's a great success story for social media and it really can help engender a sense of community and belonging and connectedness.
Emily: [00:32:28] And I think some of the things we were learning this weekend at Summit, it's all about how vulnerable are you willing to be? How much are you willing to let people in? And if you do that versus just being like, "Being a mom is great. Look how much fun I'm having" you know then people feel sort of secretly jealous or secretly left out, or secretly envious. But if you're vulnerable and honest then it gives people an opportunity to support you in the way that you really need to be supported. [00:32:48][19.9]
Blake: [00:32:48] It does. And we've talked about this on a previous podcast with Nancy Roman too, I think this is the new leadership. It's really about being open and being vulnerable and it's not about guru leadership any longer. It's more about entrenched leadership that I'm going through my things as well. And we can go through these things together.
Emily: [00:33:05] I think we owe Brene Brown a huge debt of gratitude. You know it's like vulnerability from a place of strength. I mean she's so masterful at articulating this. And I would add to that conversation, yes, vulnerability, yes, honesty, but I also want to propose the idea of teaching from the scar and not the wound because I think when you're in the wound, which I genuinely was, an example of social media was I mean I really needed help. I wasn't trying to teach. I wasn't trying to be on a pedestal. It was just hey I'm in crisis mode. I feel like I'm in a war zone. I need help which was its own kind of vulnerability. But I think if you're in a position of leadership that we have to be careful that we don't become so vulnerable, so open to sharing, if we're in the middle of the wound.
Blake: [00:33:44] Right.
Emily: [00:33:45] Because we're not in a place to teach about that particular thing when we're in the wound.. But once it heals, once it's a scar, once you can actually see what the lesson is then I think you have so much more clarity and perspective to teach from there.
Blake: [00:33:57] That's a great point. At our user conference I got up in front of 2,000 of our customers and admitted that I had gone through a really difficult period and had what I called a "nervous breakthrough."
Emily: [00:34:06] Ah, I like that term.
Blake: [00:34:06] Because It really is about how we frame these things and when asked about that I said, "Well, I mean, I think we get to choose our reality to an extent." So if I'm having a nervous breakdown it implies victimhood, it implies that I couldn't really do anything about it, is out of control but we can also consciously breakdown or breakthrough if we have the tools to do that and if we have the support to do that. But as you said, I was kind of on the other side of the dark tunnel by the time I brought that up. I can't tell you how many people approached me afterwards and said, "Thank you so much" and it opened up the entire room to feel like they could share and they could be vulnerable and I'm convinced that it really helped engender a sense of community and openness for those four days and we had a, we had a phenomenal event because of that.
[00:34:45] But I want to jump to talking about your book and I assume that your book's probably going to tell us a lot about the techniques. So could you dive in a little bit with us on your book? How exciting! Is this your first book?
Emily: [00:34:57] It's my first book and I wrote it while I was growing my first baby. So I was pregnant and writing a book at the same time, editing it postpartum. Here's the pro to that, is that while you are quite tired, the hormone changes made EVERY SINGLE TIME I edited it it was like a brand new book. I was like, "Wow! Fascinating! This is really good stuff. Who wrote this?" And then I would get it and edit it and three weeks later I edited it again as if I had never read the book, and so I don't you've ever having been around anyone who was pregnant, but there's a thing called "baby brain" because all your energy is going away from your brain and into your womb. And so it was hilarious like I had amnesia. So every time I was like great. But I think it may have some good, fresh editing eyes. I hope anyway, but I'm with Harper Collins so I mean we had a good team so... The mission of this book is very much to bring meditation mainstream.
[00:35:49] We all know we should be meditating by now the science is in, no one's doing it. Even at these wellness conferences. Okay, I ask every single time I give a talk. "How many people in the room have tried meditation?" Hundred percent of the hands go up and then I say, "All right, how many of you guys have a daily practice? Come Hell or high water, you meditate every day?" All the hands go down, maybe like 8 percent of the hands stay up. And so bridging that gap. Why are a hundred percent of the people trying it and only 8 percent of the people doing it? This is the world we have to change. And I feel like this is my mission on this planet is to bridge that gap because I think what's happening is a lot of people are judging themselves based on misinformation. They think that they should be clearing their mind because there's this dude going around telling everyone to clear their minds.
Blake: [00:36:30] Right.
Blake: [00:36:30] But, you guys, we got to find him, we got to teach him how to meditate because everyone is thinking that they're failing if they're having thoughts during the practice but thoughts are not the enemy, effort is the enemy of meditation not thoughts. And so a lot of people, they sit down to meditate, they're like "Alright brain, shut up... Sure would like a snack. Snacks are delicious. Oh wait I suck at meditation. I quit. And then that's the beginning and the end of their career because they're judging themselves based on misinformation. So big mission of this book is just to let everyone know that you can get all of the scientifically proven benefits of it even while you have thoughts.
Brent: [00:37:05] We're still in here.
Emily: [00:37:07] We asked for a late checkout. They said 1:00 p.m.
Emily: [00:37:12] Yes, 1:00 p.m. Hilarious. Leave it in the tape.
Blake: [00:37:17] This is great.
Emily: [00:37:18] Will you put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on?
Blake: [00:37:23] I hope you remember your train of thought because I loved what you were saying.
Emily: [00:37:25] Yeah. I think, I think so.
So basically we're judging ourselves based on misinformation, we're feeling like meditation failures, and then we're potentially robbing ourselves of a lifetime of bliss and fulfillment because we think that the point is to clear the mind.
Blake: [00:37:37] Right.
Emily: [00:37:37] And again I would argue that the point of meditation is to get good at life, not to get good at meditation. Sadly no one cares if you're a good meditator. This is really hard for me because I'm very competitive but nobody cares if I'm a good meditator.
Blake: [00:37:49] There's no meditation scoreboard.
Emily: [00:37:50] Sadly, no. But everyone cares if you're good at life. How kind are you? How compassionate are you? How healthy are you? How often do you get sick? How creative are you? And these are all the very tangible benefits of meditation that you can get even if you're having thoughts during the sitting. Now where this gets a little tricky is that because meditation is simple people think that it is easy. Because it is simple, people think they should already know how to do it but I also would argue that meditation is like any other skill. You need a technique that is designed for you and you need some training and once you have those things it's ridiculously enjoyable, you actually look forward to it, and most importantly, the return on investment is worth it. Right? Because our most valuable resource, the most valuable thing that any of us have to give, is our time. So if you're gonna invest your time and sitting down and meditating every day and what I argue is twice a day, then you better be getting a return on that investment. Otherwise no you don't have time and so it's just letting people know that it's a skill. It requires training but once you have that the return on investment really becomes exponential and your brain starts functioning better. When people are like, "Oh, I don't have time to meditate." I'm like, "This is your effing brain. It is responsible for every single decision you make in every single cell that is printed in your body, so what else are you spending your time on?"
Blake: [00:39:03] One of the things we are spending our time on is digital distraction. It's estimated that teens now spend nine hours a day on social media and as adults we spend three and a half hours a day on our devices. So is it possible we could tear ourselves away from our devices everyday to meditate for a bit? I asked Emily how much time we would have to sacrifice, our scrolling through Instagram, to reap the benefits of meditation.
Emily: [00:39:36] So I say if you don't have any training, I recommend meditating for zero minutes a day because if you try and do something that you don't know how to do you're gonna feel like a failure. And none of us will do anything for very long and we feel like we're failing it. But once you have some training, what I do, what I teach at Ziva, what I teach in the book is 15 minutes, twice a day and you wake up, in the morning, before you get on Instagram, before you have your coffee, you just tap into the source of energy. You know, clean house, energetically and you fill up with that dopamine and serotonin, those bliss chemicals and then you get to use your day as an opportunity to deliver that bliss versus going through your day trying to fill yourself up. And then somewhere again around mid-afternoon like where you would have had the coffee, or the chocolate, or the nap, or where you start making mistakes at work, steal away, go to a stairwell, go to a coffee shop, go to a hotel lobby, go to your car, do their second meditation again, 15 minutes, and then you come back and you have this hit of productivity, this hit of energy and creativity, and a lot of people say that the last few hours after their second meditation are the most productive of their whole day.
Blake: [00:40:33] Even in the afternoon when one starts to dip. So meditation could be bad for the coffee industry.
Emily: [00:40:38] Well actually I was just talking to some friends of mine, I just had these two guys take my class in L.A. cause I teach live in New York and Los Angeles and they're actually talking to Starbucks and, I probably shouldn't be saying this out loud, but Starbucks is trying to figure out how to get their usership up in the afternoons because obviously they're packed in the mornings but how do they get people in the afternoons? And they have all this real estate so you're talking about my vision, what's my mission for the book? It's like, okay, well what if we utilize all this real estate that Starbucks already has and start to have afternoon meditations happening and then, you know, we like do a Ziva tea or something. So it's like go and meditate, have your Ziva tea afterwards. So we use this real estate that they're occupying when no one's in there in the afternoons. And honestly I say this in the book where, I'm like, my vision is to make meditation stations more commonplace than coffee shops. [00:41:21][43.3]
Blake: [00:41:22] I love that. Similarly with a lot of our customers who are the yoga studio owners and the Pilates studio owners, those spaces tend to sit empty in the middle of the day, in the early afternoon as well. So there's a lot of space out there.
Emily: [00:41:34] There we go. Afternoon Ziva meditation time. Let's do it.
Blake: [00:41:37] Absolutely. And just 15 minutes. I think the 15 minutes would probably bring a lot of people in because it's going to be hard to get people in for 45 minutes or an hour in the middle of the day.
Emily: [00:41:46] Yeah.
Blake: [00:41:46] Drop in, 15 minutes.
Emily: [00:41:48] You already have the technique you just close your eyes, do it.
Blake: [00:41:50] Get your cup of meditation.
Emily: [00:41:52] Get your cup of meditation on. I love it.
Blake: [00:41:53] You're ready for the afternoon. So we're setting this intention.
Emily: [00:41:56] Okay, from our lips to God's ears.
Blake: [00:41:58] A few years from now meditation, all of these spaces. I love the idea of meditation at Starbucks. Ok so the book, so far, is about one of the goals is demystifying if you think you suck at meditation. Guess what? You're human. We all suck at meditation. It's not about clearing your mind, it's about just being aware of your thoughts.
Emily: [00:42:14] Well it's about knowing that the mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily. So trying to give your brain a command to shut up is as impactful as trying to give your heart a command to stop beating. That does not work. But we don't all have to suck at meditation if we get some training because then we start to have these tools and techniques that usher us into that fourth state of consciousness that induced this deep healing rest and what's happening there is that your metabolic rate decreases, heart rate slows, lower body temperature cools, giving you this deep rest so that when you come out of the meditation, you're more awake and sustainably so and you get better at life.
So the first third of the book, were basically talking about all the selfish reasons that people come to meditations. We have a whole chapter on better sex. We have a chapter on reversing your body age. We have a chapter on productivity and performance, a chapter on sleep. It's all of the like pain points that most of us are dealing with, all the reasons why most of us are like all right I can't stay in this pain anymore. Let me figure out what can help. And meditation is one of those things. We go deep into the neuroscience in part one. And then part two I actually teach the technique, so I teach an adaptation of The Ziva technique and people learn this beautiful trifecta of mindfulness, meditation, and manifesting - the three M's as we like to call it. And mindfulness P.S. I should say that most of the quote unquote meditation apps out there, most of the YouTube videos, most of the drop in studios are teaching what I would call mindfulness and the way I use mindfulness is that we use it as a runway because it's active, you're focusing, it's something for you to do. And we use that as a runway into that deep healing restful surrender that is the Ziva meditation. That's sort of like the main course and then the dessert course is the manifesting, which that word gets a little bit of a bad rap. But to me manifesting simply means consciously creating a life you love, asking better questions that you can get better answers. So instead of asking: Why can't I lose weight? Why don't I have a boyfriend? Why did they get a raise and I didn't? Which those are not so great questions, you're going to get not so great answers. When you start asking better questions, like: What is my dream relationship look like? What is my dream salary look like? What's my dream relationship with my body look like? And then you start to get better answers and to do that right after you meditate is a very powerful time to manifest. And what I've found is that the combination of meditation and manifesting is so much more powerful than either one alone. So we teach that in part two and in part three of the book we really pull the lens back and look at the ripple effect of these habits and techniques and yes selfishly, it's going to make you better, but how does that impact your family? How does that impact your co-workers? Has it impact your town? Your country? And ultimately like human consciousness itself?
Blake: [00:44:36] Right. This is how we stoke a culture of wellness in America. This is foundational to the Wellness Revolution, isn't it?
Emily: [00:44:42] I think it is the foundation and a lot my students will say, "Can I practice Kundalini breathwork and this?" Absolutely. "Can I pray and do this?" Absolutely. This is the foundation. This is you accessing that source energy which just makes you better at everything else.
Blake: [00:44:55] You know we talk about the seven dimensions of wellness on this podcast and we've got the emotional, the intellectual, the social, the spiritual, which category or categories would you put this in? Would you even put it in the spiritual dimension or would you say it belongs more in the emotional or social or physical dimensions? Obviously It crosses over.
Emily: [00:45:15] It does crossover. I mean really it is all of those things because it is the brain. Because it the thing that is impacting consciousness itself. It is the thing that is impacting your intellect, it is the thing that is impacting the cells that your body is printing, and then ultimately your state of consciousness impacts how we as a society are interacting with each other. So it really isn't all three but I think I would maybe put it in the physical, first. Certainly For Ziva because stress makes you stupid, sick, and slow. And so if it's taking away, if meditation is the most powerful stress relieving tool that we have, then it's the ripple effect of getting rid of the stress and the brain and body becomes quite powerful. And a lot of people think of meditation solely as a mental practice but it's actually pretty shocking the physical benefits that happen as well like people's IBS goes away, their skin gets better. I've had people with Parkinson's that their symptoms start to abate. I mean people who hadn't had their period in years or to have them people who have never had orgasms or to have their first orgasm like their immune systems change. I personally didn't get sick for eight and a half years after I started meditating. I used to get sick five or six times a year. So people think it's just getting your mind right but it's actually well, if you get rid of that stress, your body comes along for the ride too.
Blake: [00:46:21] Amazing. I'm really looking forward to the book. Can I get an advanced copy?
Emily: [00:46:25] Yes. As a matter of fact I have one here.
Blake: [00:46:26] Really. Oh I would love to read it.
Emily: [00:46:28] It's for you.
Blake: [00:46:28] And tell us the name of the book again?
Emily: [00:46:30] It's called "Stress Less, Accomplish More" and the subtitle's "Meditation for Extraordinary Performance."
Blake: [00:46:35] Fantastic. I need to let you go because you've got to get your 4 month old Jasper packed up and get on a plane back to the East Coast. Such a pleasure getting to know you and getting to spend a little bit of time with you. I really appreciate your energy and so much appreciate the work that you're doing in the world. Thank you so much for what you're doing to be a Wellness Revolutionary and to help us shift the tide in this country and in this world.
Emily: [00:46:57] Thank you for saying that. Thank you for being such a beautiful human and an interviewer and thank you for the work that you're doing it's, you know, it takes a village and we all gotta saddle up. No one else is going to solve this for us. So I appreciate the opportunity to share these ideas with you and with your tribe. And I look forward to the next time we get to see each other.
Blake: [00:47:14] I look forward to it as well. Such a pleasure sharing the journey with you. Thank you, Emily.
Blake: [00:47:31] Emily's new book, Stress Less, Accomplish More is now available from Harper Collins publishers. And here's what's amazing. I've been inspired through the process of interviewing Emily, and reading her book, and doing some research for this podcast to double down on my own meditation practice. I've been a meditator for years and I've been pretty dedicated to a practice, especially these last few years. But I have noticed myself slacking off from time to time and feeling like oh, you know five or 10 minutes is good. I'm busy or I got some meditation in at the end of my yoga class so that's good enough for today. But she really convinced me and the research I've looked at really convinced me that 15 minutes a day, twice a day substantially increases the benefit. And this seems obvious. We know that exercising 30 minutes a day is going to produce far greater results and benefits than working out for five or 10 minutes a day. But I never really applied that concept to working out my brain with meditation and mindfulness until now.
[00:48:33] So along with just being a fascinating, intelligent person, with a vision to change the world, my experience with Emily literally changed the way I'm going to think about meditation and my own personal practice from this point forward. And it is great timing because I have noticed myself having a harder time focusing recently and truthfully I've been dealing with some pretty stressful things in my personal life. Aren't we all? But I've been contemplating, you know, what more can I do to alleviate some stress and have a little more focus and clarity to take myself to the next level because there's a lot I want to do and feel called to accomplish. This Wellness Revolution isn't to lead itself. And there's a mindfulness tour I'm planning up and down the West Coast of the United States. There's a lot, thankfully, on my plate and thanks to Emily, I feel like I just rediscovered a powerful tool that's going to help me get to the next level. That's going to help me get where I'm going. And here's my mea culpa for the day: I spend too much damn time on my phone, probably too much time on social media. Screen time on iOs is really helping me get real with myself on this and hold up a mirror and helping me to set some parameters. I highly recommend using screen time, by the way. It may help you in the way it's helping me to spend a little less time each day on my device and a little more time improving my brain and my life through meditation.
[00:50:01] So a big thank you to Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation and author of Stress Less, Accomplish More. You can go to zivameditation.com to learn more and you could find Ziva Meditation on Instagram and YouTube.
[00:50:19] Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. Rate and review us so other revolutionaries can find and join us on this journey and if you liked this episode you probably know someone else who might enjoy it so please share it. Pass it on.
[00:50:38] Thank you to summit L.A. for bringing Emily and me together. Thanks also to Jonny Lang for his song "Make it Move." And to the podcast team: Shelly Northrop, Meredith Simmons, and Lauren McAlister. And last but not least, I would like to thank my producer Brent Pearson. Of course I appreciate you taking the time to listen.
[00:51:02] I'm Blake Beltram. The revolution is on. I'll see you next time.
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