From Showgirl to Shivasana

If you knew me 10 years ago, you would never guess that I would end up traveling the world speaking about meditation. I wouldn’t have guessed it either. I was on Broadway at the time, understudying three of the leads in A Chorus Line. I was also suffering from anxiety, had been struggling with insomnia for eighteen months, and was going grey at the tender age of 26. So here I was living my dream on stage, but backstage I was rocking myself in the fetal position listening to Eckhart Tolle praying I wouldn’t be thrown on with a moment’s notice. I was desperate for a solution, so when a fellow castmember told me she swore by meditation I thought, what do I have to lose?

After the first day of the course, I slept through the night for the first time in 18 months. I realized that this practice was something special, and it has since up-leveled my performance and my life so dramatically that I felt inspired to share it with others. I left Broadway in 2009 and went to India, where I began a three-year training process to become a meditation teacher. Since then, I have taught over 2,800 people to become self-sufficient meditators with a practice to take with them for life.

When I tell people what I do for a living, they often say, “Cool. Exercise is my meditation.” Or “Cooking is my meditation.” What they are really saying is that these activities relax them. But exercise and cooking are not the same thing as meditation. Cooking is cooking. Exercise is exercise.That is why they have their own words. As any MFF Ninja can tell you, exercise has a seemingly endless list of benefits. Meditation does too, but they work in different ways. Exercise excites the nervous system which is good enough to get rid of the stress you accumulate each day, but if you want to get rid of the lifetime of stress that has been building up in your cells we need to give the body deep rest. That is where meditation comes into play.

The style of meditation that I teach at Ziva allows you to access a verifiable fourth state of consciousness which is different from waking, sleeping or dreaming. In this state, your nervous system is de-excited and your body is getting rest that is two to five times deeper than sleep. This is significant, because when you give your body the rest it needs, it knows how to heal itself. One of the things the body heals itself from is stress. The less stress you have in your body, the better able you are to perform at the top of your game.

The benefits of meditation are both spontaneous and cumulative, but it’s also important to note that the practice isn’t magic. Just like working out, it takes a bit of training, commitment, and most importantly consistency in order to see results. It doesn’t matter how amazing a tool is if you don’t pick it up and use it. And this is where a lot of people run into snags. They download an app and use it once, or they follow along with a few YouTube meditation videos but then get tired of it, or they try to sit still but “can’t stop their minds from thinking” and give up, making the assumption they are a meditation failure.

If any of this sounds familiar, you are NOT alone. Here’s the thing: there are different styles of meditation for different kinds of people. The style that we teach at Ziva is meant for people with busy minds and busy lives. If you have a job and kids and “stuff” to do, it’s going to be pretty challenging to try to practice a type of meditation that was designed for monks whose entire lives are a meditation.

There’s also a lot of misconception that the point of meditating is to clear your mind of any thoughts. But really, telling your mind to stop thinking is like telling your heart to stop beating. You’re going to have thoughts while you’re meditating. The technique that we teach at Ziva isn’t about trying to control the thoughts or bat them away, it’s all about surrender and letting go. We acknowledge that our meditations will sometimes be sloppy and thought-filled, and that is totally okay. We don’t meditate to get good at meditation, we meditate to get good at life.

Speaking of getting good at life, let’s talk about some of these sparkly benefits of meditation that I mentioned. Basically, when you remove stress from your body through meditation, you improve your physical and cognitive abilities. Some of the most commonly reported side effects of starting a meditation practice (based on what my clients tell me) are:

  • Waking up feeling like a rockstar, even before coffee
  • Not getting sick
  • Unlocking their creative genius
  • Become less of a dick
  • Better workouts
  • Sixth sense gets stronger
  • Less anxiety
  • Less depression
  • Better parking karma
  • And most importantly… better sex.

No, seriously, meditation improves your sex life. You can hear all about it in my interview with Huffington Post here.

The truth, though, is that I can spend hours telling you all about how meditation will make you better in bed, and will improve your immune functioning, and will give you more energy in day-to-day life… but you won’t know until you actually experience it yourself. If you’re interested in starting a practice, I’d love to have you at the MFF Intro to Ziva Meditation Talk on June 14 at 7pm in The Snatchery, RSVP here. Spots are already filling up fast, so if we end up reaching capacity, I’m also offering the same talk on June 21 at 7pm at my studio, RSVP here. If you’re not in NYC or LA, you can learn the Ziva technique with our online meditation training zivaMIND. And, just because I love the MFF community so freakin’ much, Ninjas get a special rate to learn with me in person or online. What do you have to lose except stress?

Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of zivaMIND, the world’s first online training for people who want to learn to meditate. Ziva’s mission is to make meditation attractive and accessible to modern people who are ready to up-level their performance and their lives. To learn more about Emily, click here.

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