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“I remind my students that resting is an action”, with Emily Fletcher

Technology is exacerbating the feeling that we are “always rushed.” Because we are almost always reachable via email or text, we feel like we always need to be available and “on.” Up until very recently, our cultural conversations didn’t put an emphasis on the importance of rest. However this has led to a society of […]

Technology is exacerbating the feeling that we are “always rushed.” Because we are almost always reachable via email or text, we feel like we always need to be available and “on.” Up until very recently, our cultural conversations didn’t put an emphasis on the importance of rest. However this has led to a society of really stressed out people who don’t have the tools to handle it. I remind my students that resting is an action.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Fletcher. Emily is the founder of Ziva, the creator of The Ziva Technique and regarded as a leading expert in meditation for high performance. Her debut book, Stress Less, Accomplish More was published by HarperCollins. The Ziva Technique is a powerful trifecta of mindfulness, meditation and manifesting designed to unlock your full potential. It’s 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, has taught more than 15,000 students around the world and has spoken on meditation for performance at Google, Harvard Business School, Viacom, & Wanderlust. Ziva graduates include Oscar, Grammy, Tony & Emmy award winners, NBA players, Navy SEALs, Fortune 500 CEOs, busy parents and social entrepreneurs.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before I was a meditation teacher, I was on Broadway for ten years. My last show was “A Chorus Line” where I was understudying three of the lead roles. This means you have no idea what character you’re going to play when you show up to the theatre. Some people are great at this — I was not one of them. I was living my life in a constant state of fight or flight which lead to eighteen months of insomnia, going gray at 26, plus getting sick and injured all the time. A colleague who was understudying five lead roles (and nailing it) said her secret was meditation. After I rolled my eyes, I signed up for a four day course out of desperation, and on my first day meditating, I slept through the night for the first time in eighteen months. That was eleven years ago.

I became so inspired to share this practice that I left Broadway and went to Rishikesh, India to start teacher training. Over the next three years I trained by transcribing books by hand in Sanskrit, did thousands of hours of apprenticing and eighteen hours a week of meditation. Once I graduated, I opened Ziva and now we’re 8 years in and I’ve taught over 15,000 people to meditate and created the world’s first online meditation training.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

Technology is exacerbating the feeling that we are “always rushed.” Because we are almost always reachable via email or text, we feel like we always need to be available and “on.” Up until very recently, our cultural conversations didn’t put an emphasis on the importance of rest. However this has led to a society of really stressed out people who don’t have the tools to handle it. I remind my students that resting is an action.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

When you’re always rushed and not taking adequate time to rest (i.e. via a daily meditation practice), you’re living in a constant state of low-grade fight or flight. Once upon a time, this stress reaction was a necessary part of the human experience. When we were hunting and gathering ten thousand years ago and a saber-toothed tiger came creeping with the intent to kill, it was important for our bodies to undergo a specific set of chemical reactions. This includes your digestive tract flooding with acid to shut down digestion so you’re not wasting energy digesting food; Your blood will start to thicken so if you get bit, you won’t bleed out; Your bowels will evacuate and your immune system will go to the back burner because we need all hands on deck to fight off this tiger.

This series of reactions was custom designed for us over millions of years — and it’s still really useful if you’re under attack. Where this becomes a problem is our bodies are constantly preparing for a tiger attack that will never come, because the cause of our stress isn’t predators, it’s deadlines, mother-in-laws, and . It’s not bad to get stressed but it’s killing us to stay stressed.

We are constantly dumping adrenaline and cortisol into our bodies — essentially pickling ourselves — and this is leading to weaker immune function, anxiety, insomnia, a decrease in skin elasticity, brain shrinkage, and poor digestion.

It is this constant, low-grade chronic stress that is making us stupid, sick and slow as a species, robbing us of our productivity, health and happiness.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

In order to improve our lives, we need to provide our bodies deep rest while working through the backlog of stress in our nervous systems. The most effective way to do this? Meditation. Meditation is the most powerful stress relieving tool we have — and neuroscientists are finally starting to back up what people have been saying for our 6,000 years.

The way that meditation helps improve our lives and helps us accomplish more is because it allows you to access an internal resource I call adaptation energy. Adaptation energy is your body’s ability to handle a demand or a change of expectation.

Early in the day, it’s easier for us to get big tasks done because we have a full tank of gas. As the day progresses though, you burn off the units of adaptation energy and then how low fuel for the demands you encounter later in your day. When you run out of adaptation energy, from that point forward, any problems — big or small — suddenly become overwhelming.

By using a method like the Ziva Technique twice a day, you’re restoring your adaptation energy so you can better handle your demands throughout the day because you are allowing your body time for stress relief.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Meditation. This is the big one. It’s a non-negotiable part of my day despite having a new bestselling book, thriving company, and an 8 month old son. It’s a non-negotiable because meditation helps me to fire on all cylinders and allows me to be the most amazing version of me that I can be.
  2. Gratitude journal. I write down 3 things I’m grateful for everyday. It’s a powerful time for me to give thanks to nature and reflect on the day.
  3. Walk home. I love to walk home after work to ground myself in my body and breathe in fresh air. While it would be faster to take a cab home after work, I cherish this time to slow down and get present before returning home to my husband and son.
  4. Spend time with my family. Carving out space to spend time with my family is vital for recharging so I can be present at work when I need to be.
  5. Exercise. I use the 7 minute exercise app to enjoy an ever changing rotation of the 7 min workout app with Erin Stutland’s affirmation based movement, Physique 57 or The Class by Taryn Toomy.
  6. Massage. I prioritize massages as part of my self-care routine. Regular massage is an important branch of Ayurveda and is thought to heal and balance the body.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I define mindfulness as the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment. Anytime you’re directing your energy to something, whether it’s by thinking of waterfalls, visualizing your chakras, counting your breath, etc., this is what I would put in the category of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is beautiful and necessary and a great way to get grounded in your body quickly. However, many people are using mindfulness and meditation as synonyms when they are in fact quite different.

Today, most of the apps and drop-in studios are teaching mindfulness which is great for stress relief in the present. The problem is as soon as you get in your car and someone cuts you off, you’re going to be stressed out again because mindfulness practices don’t work through the backlog level of stress in your nervous system.

While I used to not teach mindfulness as a part of the Ziva Technique, I began incorporating it when I realized how many ex-meditators there are in the world. The top two reasons I heard from students about why they were quitting their practices were: 1. They had a difficult time stopping the momentum of their day and dropping into a deep, meditative place and 2. They had a hard time processing the emotions that were coming up and out during their time in the chair.

Because of this, I wanted to incorporate mindfulness so people could take time to get grounded in their bodies and slow down their heart rate before dropping into the 4th state of consciousness that Ziva Meditation provides, and also help ease them through the emotional detox that can come of meditating with a technique like this.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

There are so many great and easy ways that people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives. I teach something I call the 2x breath which is inhaling to the count of 2 and exhaling to the count of 4. By doubling the length of your exhale from your inhale, you calm down the vagus nerve which is one of the main connections between the brain and the body.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

One of my biggest mindfulness tools that’s most helpful at work is the 2x breath which can be used anytime, or anywhere, and scheduling your daily meditation time into your calendar just like anything else. Around 3p when you’d normally reach for a cup of coffee, finding time to meditate at your desk can be vital for how the rest of your day goes. The best part of the Ziva Technique is that you can do it anywhere you can sit with your back supported and your neck free.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

Because I teach mindfulness and meditation, I don’t really need much inspiring to use these tools as they are a vital part of my day and existence. One of my favorite podcasts is Mark Hyman’s, The Doctor’s Farmacy. Mark is a student of mine and he is a big advocate of the Ziva Technique and reports on a lot of the latest findings in neuroscience. He’s inspired so many people to come try out our method because it’s accessible, adoptable, entertaining and my new book, Stress Less, Accomplish More has made it the most affordable this type of meditation has ever been.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What you seek is seeking you” — Rumi

This helps to calm me down when my old control freak tendencies creep in. It’s helpful to remember that nature gave me my desires and that they want to be birthed as well. They’re not mine to control.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This is easy. Meditation. Imagine a world where all 7.4 billion of us woke up each morning, brushed our teeth and then sat down to meditate before coffee or poisoning our minds with the fear inducing news. I guarantee this planet would be a lot more enjoyable place to live.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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