Book Rec! Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance by Emily Fletcher

By now, you’ve definitely heard that meditation is good for you; in fact, you’ve probably been bombarded by the message that it is life-changing and the key to success. I have been meditating for years now, and while it has definitely grounded me, given me perspective on my life–especially in hard times–and provided clarity in times of confusion, it’s often a struggle.

As I discussed in my post on mindfulness and meditation last year, often I sit down and try to just listen to my breath, and then the timer goes off and I realize my monkey mind has just been going for twenty minutes straight, making to-do lists and sometimes stressing over things that aren’t worth stressing over. While all of this is okay–even Pema Chödrön, celebrated Buddhist nun and meditation teacher, tells us in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times that “the point is not to try to get rid of thoughts, but rather to see their true nature” and, “as meditators we might as well stop struggling against our thoughts”–sometimes, without a guide or teacher, it can be discouraging. It can feel like you’re just marinating in–and therefore reinforcing–the looping, unproductive narrative of yourself.

Enter Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance by Emily Fletcher, the founder of the Ziva Meditation technique. Scrolling through Instagram one day, I saw a post on this book and it instantly intrigued me. I’m so grateful for that Instagram post! It is truly the best book I’ve ever read on the benefits of meditation because Fletcher really breaks down how meditation works, how it actually changes our brains in very significant ways and how her technique specifically works–especially for the super busy modern multi-tasker.

 

Ziva Meditation, a meditation technique that Dr. Mark Hyman calls “the favorite training for high achievers,” is practiced twice a day for fifteen minutes and centers around repeating a mantra that, according to ZivaMeditation.com, “induce[s] deep rest which is very healing for the body.” Fletcher found meditation and eventually honed this technique while in the process of burning out as a Broadway actress. She has talked openly about her life pre-meditation: at 27, she was going gray, experiencing terrible insomnia and getting sick constantly. Finding meditation literally saved her life. After training in the practice for years in India and then California, she founded Ziva.

Ziva is different from other meditation techniques because it is very much geared towards reducing stress and making you “better at life,” rather than better at meditation. It is a lifestyle change, for sure, in that you have to fully commit yourself to doing it and can’t do it halfway and still expect the same results; but it is all about helping you to achieve the things you want to achieve without burning out on anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Ziva uses the Nishkam Karma technique of meditation, otherwise known as Vedic meditation. In the book and on the website, Fletcher explains this technique:

“Instead of trying to force ourselves into a cosmic abyss of black-hole nothingness, we allow the body to approach a deeply restful state more organically, innocently. There is a tool that helps with this. It is called a mantra. Now, the word mantra needs some clarification as well. A mantra is not a slogan. It is not something like, “I am a strong woman!” The word mantra is Sanskrit, man means ‘mind,’ and tra means ‘vehicle.’
When I teach face to face, each student is given their own mantra that helps to access a verifiable fourth state of consciousness that is different from waking, sleeping, or dreaming. In that fourth state of consciousness, you are giving your body rest that is five times deeper than sleep. This allows you to feel more awake afterward. Imagine a supercharged power nap without the sleep hangover.”
 
Fletcher boasts that meditation can help you get better sleep, better sex (!), and enhanced productivity; it can decrease depression and anxiety as well as many antidepressants by flooding the brain with dopamine and serotonin, increase immune function, and decrease frequency and duration of migraines. As for my personal experience with Ziva, I’ve been doing the technique for a few weeks now and I actually noticed a difference in my mood and energy after just the first day. Making time in the day for two fifteen-minute meditations is much easier than I thought it would be. But I do find it’s important to schedule it in your calendar to be sure not to miss one for best results.

I love Ziva’s emphasis on stress reduction and actually on bringing meditation to the mainstream: I have met more than a few people that still hold onto this idea of meditation as exclusively a Buddhist practice, something that people who are not religious, or not religious in “that way” just don’t do. But perhaps we should be thinking of meditation like yoga, or any other exercise for that matter: practices that slow cognitive decline; trigger the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine; and improve function in the cardiovascular, pulmonary and endocrine systems; among other benefits. For anyone feeling stuck, run-down, chronically sick, or even for those who are feeling good and want to “kick a$$ at work and thrive at home,” I highly recommend checking out Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance and browsing the Ziva website!

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