Today, I have a fantastic interview for you with my friend, Emily Fletcher, from New York City. She is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of Ziva Mind, which is the world’s first online meditation training. She spent ten years training, starting in Rishikesh, India, and she was inspired to share the practice that she learned with others after she experienced profound physical and mental benefits that meditation provided her during her career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, and A Chorus Line. Now she’s regarded as one of the leading experts in meditation, and has helps people integrate this practice into their fast paced modern lives. Meditation is an amazing way to up level your high vibration. So enjoy!
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Robyn: Hi, Robyn Openshaw here, and welcome back to Your High Vibration Life. Today, I have a fantastic interview for you with my friend, Emily Fletcher, from New York City. She is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of Ziva Mind, which is the world’s first online meditation training. She spent ten years training, starting in Rishikesh, India, and she was inspired to share the practice that she learned with others after she experienced profound physical and mental benefits that meditation provided her during her career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, and a Chorus Line. Now she’s regarded as one of the leading experts in meditation, and has helped over thirty-five hundred high performers integrate this practice into their fast paced modern lives. Ziva was recently featured in the New York Times and Elle Magazine.
Emily: What a delight to be here. Thanks for having me.
Robyn: You have just been everyone. I’ve been just chasing you around trying to get this appointment. What’s new and exciting in the meditation world?
Emily: Well, I just got back from ten days of travel, which was awesome. I got to speak at a thing called [A Fast 00:01:46] in Mexico, and it was such a delight to be there. I got to meet Michael Bernard Beckwith, who is the founder of Agape. He’s also on The Secret, so for the energy spiritual people out there.
Robyn: That would be everyone here.
Emily: Yeah. Then after that, I went to Summit at Sea, which is this beautiful annual event with these change makers and entrepreneurs from all around the world. Three thousand people on a boat, and I got to teach meditation there. They put me on a time slot with Wim Hof. Wim is the Ice Man, and all the bio hackers are really into him, because he climbed the Himalayas with shorts on and he could be in freezing water and his core body temperature doesn’t change, and so everyone on the boat was all atwitter about him. I figured it would be like me and four weirdos in a room, but it ended up I had like 85 people come, and they had to turn away a hundred people for my session, so that felt really exciting that people are starting to get enthused and jazzed about meditation in a new way
Robyn: My theory is the reason that we’re all saying, “All right, I finally need to start paying attention to this meditation thing,” is that there’s so many interruptions, there’s so many chaotic frequencies, there’s so many devices, there’s so many demands on our time and our attention. There’s advertising everywhere. You can’t get away from it, and because we all have to be online no matter what our profession, people are just more stressed. You specialize in working with high performers, have you found that people are coming apart at the seams and that meditation is part of the answer?
Emily: Yes. I think you’re absolutely right. I think that technology has made us all bulimic of the brain. We’re intaking, intaking, intaking, intaking, and we don’t really have the time built in for outflow or even really digestion. We don’t even really have a time to just be and process all of this intake.
I was preparing for that talk in Mexico, and I learned that the average adult in this day and age, consumes more information and data in one week than our ancient ancestors did in their entire lives. Just think about that for a minute. In one week, we’re consuming the same amount of content that our ancestors did in their whole lives, and so we don’t really have a space to process this, and this is what meditation does.
It’s not just about sitting quietly in a chair. It’s actually about a de-excitation of the nervous system, which allows you to release a lifetime of stresses that gets stored in our cellular memory. We know that stress gets stored in our cells, but actually as we’re starting to progress and advance our knowledge around epigenetics and just decoding the human genome, we’re starting to see that actually stressful situations get written into your genetic code, and so this is not just some hippie dippie kumbaya stuff anymore. Stress is a very real thing that we have to take seriously.
Doctors are calling stress the black plague of our century, and actually I learned that stress is responsible for 90% of all doctors visits, and so meditation, in my experience, is just the most powerful stress relieving tool we have. It just seems like a no brainer and a natural next step that as our demands are increasing, and as technology is adding to that, that we have to balance that. We have to counteract that with some digest time and some meditation time.
Robyn: Share with my audience, what your lifestyle was like as a Broadway performer living in New York City, and how your own journey took you to becoming a meditation teacher.
Emily: Sure. There’s this one moment in particular where I was listening to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now on my headphones and rocking myself in fetal position, basically having a full blown panic attack underneath my dressing room table on Broadway, because I was basically understudying three of the lead roles, which means that you show up to the theater and you have no idea which character you’re going to play that night. I was doing A Chorus Line. Basically that means someone gets on a loud speaker and they say, “Emily Fletcher, we need you on stage,” and I would start panicking because I wouldn’t know which costume to put on, so I’d just grab all three of my costumes, run down seven flights of stairs. A dresser would throw me in an outfit, and I’m not kidding, Robyn, sometimes I would be on stage before I knew which character I was playing.
Some people are really good at that. I am not one of them, and so I was living my life in basically this constant state of panic and anxiety. I started having insomnia. I couldn’t sleep through the night for about eighteen months. I started going gray at the tender age of 27. I started getting sick. I started getting injured, and so here I am, on Broadway, living my dream, doing the thing I had wanted to do since I was seven, and I was miserable.
Thankfully, this amazing woman was sitting next to me in the dressing room, and she was understudying five leads, which is an incredibly difficult job, but this woman was nailing it. Every song she sang, every dance she danced, every bite of food she ate was a celebration, and finally I asked her, “Lady, what do you know that I don’t know?” She said, “I meditate,” and I was like, “Come on now,” because this was a decade ago, so no one was really talking about it then like they are now. The neuroscience was not out then like it is now. She said, “No, Emily, it really helps my performance, my anxiety.”
I didn’t really believe her, so I just kept having insomnia, and sucking at my job, and going gray, and then finally it got so bad, I was so embarrassed about my performance, that I thought, “What do I have to lose?” I went along to this intro to meditation talk. I liked what I heard. It made sense to me, so I signed up this four day course, and on the first day of the first course, I was meditating. To be honest, I had no idea what that meant, but I was in a different state of conscious than I had ever been in before, and I liked it, and then that night, I slept through the night for the first time in eighteen months, and I have every night since, and that was a decade ago.
I stopped getting sick. I stopped getting injured. I stopped going gray. I’m 37 now and I don’t have gray hair, and I was legitimately going gray ten years ago, and so I was like, “Wait a minute. Why does everybody not do this,” because I actually started enjoying my job again, and so I left Broadway in 2009. I went to India, and I started what became a three year training process to teach this, and then I opened up Ziva, and it’s been the single best thing I’ve ever done. I love being able to use my lifetime of performance training, but now to get to help other people in a very tangible way to cure their insomnia and to get rid of their panic attacks, and for them to get off their anxiety meds or stop having … That selfishly is why I do what I do is that selfishly I like waking up to emails from people saying, “Hey, my whole life has changed.” That feels really good.
Robyn: That does feel good. I’m really glad you’ve taken this trajectory, because I really think it’s a missing link. One of the reasons why I’ve been picking your brain, it is clear to me that meditation’s been missing. I blogged about a year and a half ago, I said, “I’m a fail at meditation,” and when I sit down and try to do it, I feel like I’m going crazy. Is this common? Why does this happen and what do you do about it?
Emily: Thank you so much for asking that. First of all, let me just say that I’m so excited for you to take the Ziva meditation course. I know it will happen at the perfect time, but I think that you’re not alone. I think that a lot of people sit down and they try to meditate. They close their eyes and they say, “Okay, brain, stop thinking,” because it’s like there’s this one dude going around telling everyone that in order to meditate, we have to give our mind the command to shut up, and I wish that I could find this guy and teach him how to meditate, because it would make my job so much easier.
A lot of people feel like they’re failing, or they feel frustrated, or they feel like they’re going crazy, because they’re judging themselves based on misinformation. Here’s the really good and really important news. The mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily, and so if you sit down to meditate and try to give your brain a command to stop thinking, that’s as effective as trying to give your heart a command to stop beating.
Just to illustrate the point, I want everyone listening to just on the count of three, I want you to try to give your heart a command to stop. Ready, one, two, three.
Robyn: Mine’s still going.
Emily: Yeah. It’s like ridiculous, and we see that that’s ridiculous, because we understand intellectually that the heart is doing that whether we want to or not, but the trick is the brain is as well, and so most people are judging themselves, whether they’re good or bad at meditation, based on how good or bad they are at giving their brain a command to stop an involuntary action.
This is why I’m on a bit of a rampage and a bit of a warpath to just really clear up this one misconception around meditation, because if that’s the only thing you take with you into your practice, it’s going to make it so much easier, because then you’re not going to judge the thoughts as bad, and I am want to say that we meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation. No one cares if you’re a good meditator. Everyone cares if you’re good at life.
The thing that we want to start to look at is, is my sleep better? Is my immune system better? Am I performing better at work? Am I more patient? Am I more creative? Is my sex better? Is my parking karma better? These are the things that we want to start to judge the meditation by, not based on how much can I quiet my mind. Does that make sense?
Robyn: It makes sense, and it’s really comforting. I think you’re telling me that just because Chattery Monkey goes crazy when I sit still and palms up, and try to do what little I know about meditation doesn’t make me a fail. It just means my brain is doing what it’s supposed to do.
Emily: That’s right. It does not mean you’re a failure, and I will add to that that I think it’s really important that people look at meditation like any other skill. Imagine how silly it would be to be like tomorrow we’re going to start a 21 day Japanese challenge, and for 20 minutes a day, we’re all going to speak Japanese. If you don’t know how to speak Japanese, that’s a pretty dumb challenge, and you’re going to quit, because you’re going to feel like you’re failing, and humans won’t do anything for very long that they feel like they’re failing at.
In addition to knowing that you don’t have to silence your mind, I, also, want people to treat meditation like any other skill, and know that it takes a little bit of training, and a little bit of practice, and a teacher that you trust and respect, but once you have that, then it’s ridiculously simple.
I think where people get confused is that they confuse simplicity for weakness, and even though meditation is simple, it’s, also, very powerful, and so we want to take care that we learn it in a way that we give it the respect that it is due.
Robyn: How does the style of meditation that you teach differ from other types?
Emily: There’s thousands of different styles of meditation. For simplicity, I like to just divide into two categories. One would be mindfulness, which is basically a directed focused style of meditation, and this is derivative of styles that were actually made from monks. When we hear the word meditation in this day and age, what most of us are thinking of is some form of mindfulness, so if you were to Google or YouTube meditation, what you’d probably get is a guided visualization, where you’re directing your focus in some way, which I would actually call mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment. I think it’s a really important and very powerful technique, especially in this day and age.
Then there’s this other whole category of meditation, which I like to call the lazy lady’s meditation, which basically means that you don’t have to do anything really hard to do it. All you need to do it is a chair. This style of meditation, even though it’s six thousand years old, it was actually designed for people like us. It was designed for people with busy minds and busy lives, and so it’s designed to be integrated into your life, and it’s much easier to practice.
I think one of the reasons why people judge themselves as bad meditators and they think that meditation is hard, is that people like you and me, people who live in society, who have jobs, and kids, and stuff to do, are trying to do a monk style of meditation, and so we find it challenging.
Whereas this style, it’s like once you have some training and a couple days of practice, it’s ridiculously easy, and your brain and body just fall into this forced state of consciousness, where you’re getting this deep rest, so it feels delicious, and that’s not an insignificant point, because when you give your body that deep rest, it knows how to heal itself, and one of the things that it heals itself from is stress, and then the less stress we have in our body, the easier it is for us to perform at the top of our game in our families, at our job, in our relationships.
Robyn: You’ve hit on a few things, and certainly you’ve mentioned that the antidote to stress is meditation. Tell me what you know about the biggest benefits of starting to meditate daily.
Emily: For me, the biggest and the fastest was really curing my insomnia, and if that that is the only thing that meditation had done for me, it would have been worth the price of admission. Since then, my relationships have gotten better. My sex has gotten better. My gray has gone away. My skin looks really good for 37. I notice that my ability to cognize information in the moment is so much higher. I can get on stage and give an hour long talk, and basically not prepare. I do prepare, but if I had to, I could get on stage and just really flow. I’m able to now allow creativity and nature to use me as a vessel, whereas before meditation, I was much more controlling. I felt like I had to really plan and control the beginning, middle and end of everything.
But then even little things that seem sort of silly, like I joke that people get better parking karma when they start meditating, and what I’m really saying there is that your serendipity and your synchronicity start to increase, and that’s happening because every day, twice a day, you’re basically tapping into the source of your desires, so you’re tapping into the source of creativity, and so nature is able to much better use you as a vessel. I really believe that our desires are not our own. I think that nature puts these desires there, not because we’re going to be happy on the other side of the acquisition of the desire, but because those desires are like nature’s GPS. That’s nature cuing us to where it wants to use us to go and deliver our fulfillment.
This might sound a little abstract, but I actually thinks that meditation allows you to move of a mindset of being like, “I am need, and I’m looking to be fulfilled,” and it instead moves you into this mindset where, “I am fulfillment, and I’m now looking for need.” That paradoxically allows you to start to manifest and call in all these things that you want in your life. They start to show up by accident, because call me crazy, but I don’t think that neediness is sexy. I think detachment is sexy.
You know those people that are just like movie stars and politicians who are like really good hosts of parties. They walk into a room, and they just fill up the room, and when they talk to you, they make you feel like you’re the only person in the world. I think those people are operating through life from a place of fulfillment, and, like you say, a high vibration place, and people want that. People want to be around that. They want to be near it. It feels good to be around it, and so people want to date those people. People want to hire those people. People want to fund those people. I feel like meditation is just a really fast track way to increase your vibration.
Robyn: Attachment and neediness being polar opposites is an interesting thought, and I think we’d all agree that needy is unattractive, but what an interesting thought that detachment is attractive. Talk more about detachment and productivity related to meditating.
Emily: Okay. Good. They’re actually super related. The more detached you are, actually the faster and the easier it is to manifest things in your life, but productivity is a big piece, because I think that you’re not alone. Most people, especially busy, and successful people, and high achievers, which is who we love working with at Ziva, they think, “Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind lady? I don’t have 40 minutes to just sit there and do nothing. I don’t have 40 minutes to waste my time,” but once you start to understand the neuroscience behind this, you see that it is so far away from being a waste of time.
Oprah Winfrey isn’t meditating for 40 minutes a day because she has copious amounts of extra time. Ray Dalio is not meditating for 40 minutes a day because he just has nothing else to do. They do it because they know that they’re more productive on the other side, that their intuition gets stronger, their serendipity gets more intense, that they start to think of someone and then that person starts to call them.
Here’s why. If we want to really understand why meditation improves our productivity, we have to understand why stress hinders our productivity. Stress actually makes you stupid, and we think, “Emily, I need my stress.” My CEO clients say, “Emily, my stress is the thing that gives me my competitive edge,” and then my actor artist clients say, “Emily, I need my stress and my hurtie poohs. That’s where I create from,” but stress is not doing anyone any favors in the performance department, and here is why.
When the human body gets stressed, it launches involuntarily into a fight or flight stress reaction, and if we want to understand why the human body reacts to stress in the way that it does, we have to cut back in time about ten thousand years, and say we’re hunting and gathering in the woods. Let’s say the saber tooth tiger jumps out at us with the intent to kill. Your body is going to launch into a series of chemical reactions. The 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 this 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, and so that acid that goes onto your skin, that’s why stress ages the body exponentially, and if you want proof of that, look at any president the day they take office, and then that same president four years later.
This is why meditation has now been scientifically proven to reverse body age by up to eight years.
We’ve got the acid in our digestion. We’ve got acid on our skin, and then our bladder and bowels evacuate so that we can be light on our feet to fight or flee this tiger. Nervous poohs are not that sexy. It’s like you are about to give a presentation for your board or about to have sex or something. Then your adrenaline levels increase and your cortisol levels increase, and I’m sure your audience knows about adrenaline and cortisol, but just in case they don’t, here’s the cliff notes. That stuff is acidic in nature, and it gives you belly fat, infertility, erectile dysfunction, premature balding, all kinds of not so nice things can start to happen of cortisol and adrenaline accumulation over time.
Then 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. Again, we need all hands on deck to fight or flee this predatory attack.
This series of chemical reactions is actually very useful and good for you, if your demands are tigers, but if your demands are in-laws, or red eyes, or deadlines, or raising a family while running a business, then this fight or flight stress reaction has actually become maladaptive. It is now disallowing us from performing at the top of our game, and so what meditation does is that it goes in and it gives your body the deep rest, rest that’s five times deeper than sleep, and you simultaneously start flooding your brain with dopamine and serotonin, which are actually bliss chemicals, so they feel amazing, but they’re, also, alkaline in nature, and I know your audience knows about the important of alkalyzing the body.
Not only does meditation get rid of that adrenaline and cortisol, aka acid, but you, also, start flooding your brain with dopamine and serotonin, which are alkaline, and so it actually can start to undo some of the damage that stress has done for us.
But here’s where it leads to the detachment piece. Within 30 to 45 seconds of starting Ziva meditation, you have these bliss chemicals happening in your brain. You quite literally are accessing your bliss and fulfillment in the only place that they reside, which is inside of you, and then once you come out of that meditation, what you’ve done is that you’ve wiped some of that longing away from your lens of perception. You wiped away some of that neediness, so that you can start to see things more accurately for what they are. When you have access to that fulfillment internally, that is the thing that gives you detachment. We’ve become needy or attached to our desires when we think that we’ll be happy on the other side of the attainment of the desire, but the thing is we’ve done that research. We’ve spent decades thinking that our happiness will lie on the other side on this zero on the bank account, or this date, or this car, or this acquisition of this company, and the reality is it never does.
That is why I think people are finding meditation so revelatory, is not only is it upping their productivity, but it’s, also, allowing them to be more content, and more happy, and more fulfilled, and then they start to use their to do list and their desires as a means by which to deliver that fulfillment.
Robyn: I’m totally bought in on the fact that you’ve reversed your own age eight years, and FYI, since you don’t know Emily and I do, if you’re listening to this, she says that her skin probably looks pretty good for 37. Her skin looks amazing for 27, and I’m completely astonished that you were going gray and backed that up. The only other people I know of who’ve accomplished that are people who are flooding their body with a lot more minerals, because people tend to go gray when they’re mineral depleted, but guess what, stress can do that, too. Stress can deplete you of minerals. All these are related, and so I’ve learned a lot about … Cortisol and adrenaline leading to rapid aging, being acidic, and dopamine and serotonin being alkaline forming in the body. That is some super good stuff.
Tell me about your Ziva meditation and Ziva Mind toward that end.
Emily: We have a center meditation studio in New York City, and I teach there twice a month, and the way the course works is basically we teach you to be self-sufficient. I give you the keys to the car. I give you the driving instructions, and I teach you how to drive the car, so that you have a daily meditation practice that you can do on your own. You don’t need me anymore once you graduate.
But that said, once you take the course, you have this beautiful community and support system for life, and I’m really proud of our community that we’ve created, both in New York and LA, and also globally.
I teach in New York and LA primarily in person, and I think that that’s the best way to learn. If people have a work trip planned or any reason to come to New York or LA, maybe just check out ZivaMeditation.com and see if we have a course. It usually runs Thursday through Sunday, so you come for a long weekend, and that face to face, there’s nothing that can take the place of that. There’s a phenomenon of mirror neurons that happens when you meditate in the room, which is really powerful.
But that said, not everyone has the time or the means to travel to New York or LA, or maybe they don’t have access to a teacher in their hometown, and so this is why we created the world’s first online meditation training, and it’s called Ziva Mind, and people can find that at ZivaMind.com, just Z-I-V-A, and in Ziva Mind basically, it walks people through matriculation. Again, you become self-sufficient. You get the keys to the car. You get the driving instructions. It’s just that the online training is a little bit gentler than the in person, but it is changing people’s lives. It’s curing people’s insomnia, and their panic attacks are going away, and we, also, have this beautiful global online community for Ziva Mind, and it’s, also, much easier to do, because you can do it in your own time, and you can do it from the comfort of home.
It’s about 30 minutes of training for eight consecutive days, and each day builds upon the previous day. It’s a real matriculation, and there’s, also, some Q&A calls and some guided visualizations to help for jet lag, and insomnia, and stress release and performance, but once you graduate, not only do you have a 15 minute twice a day practice, but you, also, have access to the training for life, so if you ever wanted to refresh or if you just want to re-inspire yourself a few months later, you can do that.
Those are our two ways to learn right now. Yeah. It’s been really exciting to see people take to it and open up to it, and to challenge their assumptions that they’re too busy to meditate, and then low and behold, they find that they’re actually more productive when they make the time to meditate. It’s like mental fitness. You know that you feel better when you exercise, and the brain is the same way. It’s like taking your brain to the gym quite literally.
Robyn: Perfect analogy. I know that I need the immersion experience, so we’re going to put in the show notes Emily Fletcher’s links, so that you can check out when her next retreat is in LA or in New York, and I’ve seen her do them in a variety of other places as well, but she’s just absolutely dynamic and amazing on stage. She looks like she just walked out of A Chorus Line. Any of you listening, let’s make sure that we get to one of Emily’s retreats. I need the immersion experience, because I think that three or four days will commit me to it, instead of dabbling as a mediator.
I knew we would be so inspired by you. Every time I’m around you, my vibration increases, Emily, because that’s the kind of person you are. It’s the kind of person we seek on this show, and I just thank you so much for your time and your incredible knowledge you’ve shared with us.
Emily: It’s my absolute pleasure. I’d love to give your listeners a discount code. If they do want to do Ziva Mind, the online training, they can just put the code Robyn in. All caps, R-O-B-Y-N, and that would give them a discount off of the online training if they want to get started in that way.
Robyn: How exciting. Get a discount if you want to do the online. Take a look at where the upcoming retreats are. Emily, where can we find you on social media?
Emily: I’m all over, just @ZivaMeditation. We’re on Instagram and YouTube and Facebook are our biggies, and you can just search @ Ziva Meditation.
Robyn: Thank you for the shot in the arm. Thank you for the inspiration, and God bless you for your work on this planet.
Emily: Thank you so much and God bless you. It’s a total delight, and thank you for the work that you’re doing.