No time. No space. No attention. Some skepticism whether meditation is all that it’s cracked up to be. Sound familiar? If you’ve heard about the benefits and even if you’ve read the research on the positive effects of meditation, you might be like the 39 million people who have downloaded one of the most popular meditation apps and stopped short of committing to a subscription.
Emily Fletcher wrote “Stress Less, Accomplish More” (William Morrow, 2019) just for you. She’s on a mission to re-brand meditation as the performance and productivity tool that it can be so that people can never use the excuse of not having time. Fletcher created the popular Ziva Technique for meditation, now practiced by thousands of students, including Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award winners, NBA players, Fortune 500 CEOs, busy parents and entrepreneurs. It’s a practice she teaches live and online, and now she has adapted it for readers as the Z Technique.
“If you define stress as what’s happening to you, it’s never going to go away,” Fletcher says. “There will always be demands. Life will always change. People will always die. There will always be traffic. What can change is your response to those demands.”
Still, Fletcher knows we need convincing, so “Stress Less, Accomplish More” makes the scientific case first. “Neuroscience is really catching up to what people have been saying for thousands of years: You don’t have to meditate but you can’t write it off anymore,” she says.
Fletcher also dispels myths and confusion that keep us from giving meditation a try or experiencing its benefits.
De-exciting the body
For one thing, exercise and sleep might not be enough to get the break from stress that our bodies need.
Fletcher cites the proverbial tiger in the bushes that prompts a fight-or-flight response and follows through to make the point that our coping mechanisms (even exercise) might be insufficient. “If you outrun or fight off the tiger, you immediately burn off the adrenaline and cortisol that starts pumping through your veins. This is why people say, ‘Exercise is my meditation.’”
“Exercise is great for you, but you’re exciting the nervous system,” Fletcher continues. “In meditation, you are de-exciting the nervous system. Exercise is good enough to handle your stress from today, but if I want to handle the dog that barked in my face when I was 10 or my parent’s divorce when I was 12, that stuff is stored in our cellular and epigenetic memory, and we have to give the body rest.”
Unlike the activities that we choose to relax, Fletcher points out that “meditation is a tool that is custom-designed to induce deep rest and usher you into a verifiable fourth state of consciousness that is different than waking, sleeping or dreaming. Cooking will not do that for you. Walking in the woods will not do that for you.”