[5:36] Emily Fletcher
[8:03] How Emily Went From Broadway To Meditation Instructor
[11:46] A Typical Meditation Session For Emily
[15:17] New Scientific Studies On Gratitude
[21:31] What Happens In The Body And The Brain During Meditation
[28:11] Stress And Mental Focus
[36:10] Casper Mattress
[39:06] What Makes Ziva So Special
[43:58] A Typical Meditation Session To Help Increase Focus
[49:02] What Phase Of Sleep You Would Be In When Meditating
[53:30] Sample Pick-Me-Up Meditation Session
[58:32] Does Emily Measure Her HRV
[1:02:56] What Kind Of Meditation Would Be Good For Falling Asleep
[1:08:58] Meditation For Mind-Blowing Sex
[1:13:23] Emily's Thoughts On The Newfangled Meditation Methods
[1:21:35] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey. What's up, you guys? It's Ben Greenfield. I don't know if any of you guys ever seen Napoleon Dynamite, that's my best impersonation of Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. You ought to see my Napoleon Dynamite dance moves, by the way. But I digress. In today's episode, we're going to talk about meditation for mind-blowing sex, meditation for insomnia, meditation for energy, and a whole lot more with my guest, Emily Fletcher. But before we jump into that episode, I want to tell you about one of the best ways to produce more collagen in your body. It's called vitamin C. Why is vitamin C required to produce collagen? Well collagen is, of course, found in the connective tissue of skin, and teeth, and bones, and organs, and cartilage, and what vitamin C does is it interacts with the amino acids within collagen cells. Specifically, it adds hydrogen and oxygen to those amino acids so that they may do their part in collagen production.
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In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Nature gave us 50-50 for a reason. Like if you look at a human brain, it actually splits down the middle, 50-50. I don't think nature makes mistakes, and I think that most Americans, they really strengthen the left brain and the right brain is atrophied.” “Once you have a mantra and some training, you start to curate it and you start to cultivate it in a way that then could start to be accumulative when you do it every day, twice a day. It's not just like an accident, like, ‘Oh, I just happened to find myself in flow state today.' It's like, no you're obviously curating it.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield here, and perhaps you've never thought about using something like meditation for insomnia, but it can be done. And meditation can also be used as an alternative to say, a cup of coffee. And it can be used for things like mind-blowing sex. And my guest on today's podcast has kind of cracked the code on what kind of meditation actually works for all of these type of goals, and for a lot more. Her name is Emily Fletcher. I met her a few years ago at a retreat out in Eaton, Utah, and I've been trying to get her on the podcast for quite a while and have finally landed. She's the founder of what's called Ziva Meditation and the creator of something called zivaMIND, and basically what she does is online meditation training. But she doesn't just do online meditation training, she's spoken at Google, and she's been featured in The New York Times, she's been named one of the top 100 women in wellness, she travels all over the place teaching people how to achieve better body and brain performance through meditation. She's trained for 10 years in India. And I think before that, she was on Broadway, which I actually want to hear a little bit more about, 'cause apparently she was in like Chicago, and The Producers, and Chorus Line. So she's been all over the place, she spoke at the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference, Harvard Business School, The Summit Series, the list goes on and on. So she's a true guru, I supposed as they say in the world of meditation, when it comes to meditation. So Emily, welcome to the show.
Emily: What a delight to be here. I would say I'm not your normal guru. I got no beard, I got no beads, I don't wear choli, I don't live in a cave. But I'll take it if you want to give it.
Ben: You don't have one of the beards with the curly mustaches?
Emily: Not yet. Although I think a few more years of meditation, I might start growing a beard.
Ben: Do you wear the giant white yoga pants?
Emily: I do not. I do not.
Ben: Wow. You're disappointing me.
Emily: I'm so sorry.
Ben: So you're just like a normal person?
Emily: Just a normal lady living in my apartment in New York City.
Ben: Meditates in disguise. But you were on Broadway. How did you go from Broadway to being a meditation instructor? I would imagine there's a little bit of a story behind that.
Emily: There sure is. It's kind of a weird one. So I was in Broadway for 10 years, and it's what I wanted to do since I was a little girl. In hindsight, when I look back at my life, I realized that after I got my Broadway debut, it was actually the saddest I'd ever been because I really thought that once I achieve this big goal then my whole life was going to be sunshine and roses. And when I still had problems, and I still had to pay taxes, and people still break up with you, like when there is still real life to deal with, even though I achieved this lifelong goal, I realize that I was more interested in the happiness pursuit than I was the pursuit of happiness. But I didn't really have the wherewithal to figure that out at 21 years old when I got my Broadway debut, so I just thought, “Well, I must be happy once I get that next show, or that next job, or that next zero in the bank account.” And I lived my life under what I call the “I'll-be-happy-when syndrome” for about a decade. And then finally my last Broadway show was at Chorus Line, and I was 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. Sometimes you start the show as one character, and halfway through they switch you to a different character. Or you're just chilling in your dressing room, and someone gets on loudspeaker and it's like, “Emily Fletcher, we need you right now!” And I start panicking and having anxiety.
So basically I'm living my dream, doing the thing I wanted to do since I was eight, and I was miserable because I was this constant state of fight or flight. Thankfully the girl sitting next to me in the dressing room had an even harder job than I did, and she was crushing it. I mean every dance this woman danced, she nailed it, every song was perfection, every bite of food was a celebration. And I was like, “Lady, what do you know that I don't know?” And she said, “I meditate.” And I was like, “Come on now.” ‘Cause this is a decade ago, so no one was really talking about it like they are now. The neuroscience was not out then, it is now. And so I didn't believe her, I just kept being skeptical, I kept sucking at my job, I kept having insomnia, I couldn't sleep through the night for 18 months, I kept going gray, I was going gray 26 years old.
Ben: Holy cow.
Emily: Yeah. So because I didn't believe her and was actually quite miserable at my job, it finally got so embarrassing, I was so bad at my job that I thought, “Well, okay. What do I have to lose?” So she said, “Look, my teacher's in town.” So I went along with this talk, I liked what I heard, I signed up for this four-day course. First day, first course, I was meditating. To be honest, I had no idea what that meant but I was in a different state of consciousness that I had ever been in before and I liked it. And then that night, I slept through the night for the first time in 18 months, and I have every night since, and that was about a decade ago. Then I stopped getting sick, I didn't get sick for eight and a half years. I stopped going gray. I'm 37 now and I have like two gray hairs. I was legitimately going gray decade ago. I stopped getting injured, I started enjoying my job again, and I was like, “Wait a minute. Why does everybody not do this?”
And so I left Broadway, I went to India, and I started what became a three year training process. I wasn't in India that whole time, but it basically upleveled my performance in my life so dramatically that I felt inspired to be able to share it with others. So then opened up Ziva about five years ago, and it's been the single best thing I've ever done. People ask me if I miss Broadway, and the answer is no. I feel I now, I still get to perform, it's just my words, and I feel get to more directly and quickly help people with this knowledge. And it's been selfishly the best thing I've ever done. And I love waking up to e-mails from people saying, “You know what? My sex is better.” “My parking karma is better.” “I've stopped having IBS.” “My migraines are gone.” “My insomnia is gone.” And so selfishly, I like hearing that from my students.
Ben: How do you meditate? I mean, literally, how do you meditate? Like what would a typical meditation session look like for you?
Emily: So my program depends largely on how much I'm teaching. Like if I teach five classes in the day, I'll meditate five times in a day. But if I'm not teaching, what I usually do is I wake up, go to bathroom, I will typically have some hot water in the morning, and then I'll do a little bit of movement, like either high intensity or yoga, and not much. Like I don't work out for a long time. I just do a little bit and then I meditate. So my practice is about 22 minutes. So it's not that much. I'll do like 20 minutes meditation at the end. I teach people this very specific gratitude exercise which, gratitude sounds super cheesy, but it's actually the simplest and most powerful way to change your brain state. New neuroscience is coming out around gratitude that says that even if you don't have anything to be thankful for, even if you can't think of one thing that you're grateful for, just asking the question is enough to change the chemistry of your brain, which I think is pretty powerful.
Ben: Really? So you ask yourself what you're grateful for, and even if you don't even have an answer, just thinking about something that you could be grateful for can change your brain?
Emily: Just asking the question, literally “what am I grateful for,” that's enough to change it. Because what happens there is that you start training your brain to look for everything that's going right instead of looking for problems to solve, which most of us are very adept at looking for problems to solve. And so it's so simple, but over time, it can be a cumulative and very powerful practice. I do my 20 minutes in the morning, my Ziva meditation practice, and then at the end, I do gratitude and a little bit of what I call the “love bomb”, which is where I just start like blasting love out to people that I love, and then my city, my state, the country, and then the whole planet, and then out to the whole universe, which again sounds a little cheesy, but if you believe that there's only two emotions, love and fear, you can't move away from the fear, you have to move towards the love. And it's a simple thing to do, anyone can do it. You just imagine blasting the planet and the universe with some love. And then I find that things just start go a little bit more elegantly in the rest of my day. And then I do a second meditation somewhere in that mid-afternoon, early evening slump. So like where I would have had the coffee, or I would have had the chocolate, or I would have had the nap, I will instead do a 20 minute meditation, and I know that seems like a ridiculous amount of time, but the thing is your return on investment is so exponential that you start to be where that you can't imagine your life without it. So I'll do an afternoon meditation and that gives me like the second or third wind to either finish work, or actually go home and make dinner, or to do something with my friends instead of just leaving it all on the stage at my job and then passing out on the couch watching Game of Thrones.
Ben: Wow. Okay, so I have a few things I want to unpack there based on your personal routine. First of all, that gratitude thing, you said there was new research on gratitude coming out. What exactly is that new research? And the reason I ask is I do gratitude every morning, I do three things every morning. I say “what truth did I discover in this morning's reading,” I don't say that, I answer it, I write it down, “who can I help today, who can I help, or pray for, or serve today, or go out of my way to be there for,” and then “what am I grateful for today.” And of course I've been doing that for a while since I've learned about the benefits of gratitude on things like your heart rate variability and your nervous system. There's a whole book about it, I think it's by Robert Emmons, I think is his name, about the science of gratitude. But what's new? What's this latest stuff on gratitude that you found?
Emily: So really the only change there, 'cause you're right, the neuroscience has been out that gratitude is good for you. Like we know that, that's not news. The thing that struck me, and I think this is like two or three months old, and I was actually at a neuro, I go to neuroscience conferences once a year, and so there's some other cool stuff I can chat about, but this one, I heard about it there first at the conference, and then I read about it again in Time Magazine. And the thing that's new is the fact that you don't actually, let's say one morning you're doing your gratitude and you go to write down, “Okay, what's one thing I'm grateful for? What's three things I'm grateful for?” Even if you can't think of anything that day, basically it's like if you're having a bad day, you're like, “I'm in the shitter. I'm angry, I'm sad, my mom just died. I don't want to be thankful for anything. I can't think of anything that's going right.” It doesn't matter how many things or if you even think there's anything to be grateful for, the new science says just asking the question is enough to change the chemistry. Just asking the question is enough to start to release in dopamine and serotonin, which of those chemicals.
Ben: Wow. Amazing. Okay. So you've get these 22 minutes, you do the gratefulness, you do to love bomb, you've already done your exercise before then. Now is this like your own flavor? Is this what you call Ziva, or would be some traditional form of meditation that you've somehow twisted to be your own thing?
Emily: Okay. Good question. So the foundation of what we teach at Ziva, the thing that I'm doing during the 20 minutes, that is a style of meditation that's designed to give your body very deep rest, and that is an ancient practice. It's called Nishkama Karma Yoga, if you want to get fancy and Sanskritty. Nishkama Karma Yoga, which means “union attained by action hardly taken”. I like to call it “the lazy man's meditation” because you don't have to do anything hard in order to do it. You don't have to chant, you don't have to do a bunch of yoga to get to that delicious space that you get to in shavasana. You don't have to stop drinking Jack Daniels, or stop having sex, or move to a cave, you just need a chair. That's why it's called Nishkama Karma yoga, and in that, I use a mantra, and a mantra is a mind vehicle. Mantra's a sanskrit word. “Man” means “mind”, “tra” means “vehicle”. So it is the mantra that helps to de-excite the nervous system, and it helps to induce such deep rest, and it is the deep rest that you're getting in the meditation that makes you more awake in your waking state.
It's also the deep rest that you're getting, it's the de-excitation of the nervous system which creates order in your cellular memory, and that's the thing that allows the lifetime of accumulated stresses that we all have to start to come up and out of the body. And this is one of the ways that Ziva is unique and it's different from what most people would think of when I say the word meditation, they would think of mindfulness, or a guided visualization, or a gratitude practice, or visualizing your chakras, or a waterfall. Like anything where you're directing your focus, I would call that mindfulness. It's more of a waking state practice, and that's what most people are more familiar with. What I teach is different, and it is based on an ancient practice, and you're using a mantra, but with very little effort. And whole point of it is to induce this deep healing rest. And then what we've done at Ziva to make that Ziva is we've taken this ancient practice and our mission is to make it attractive, accessible, and easy to adopt.
So there are parts of it that I'm very interested in protecting the purity and the integrity of that. I feel like there's nothing wrong with them, they're the most powerful tools I've ever found. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Now what we've done at Ziva is that we created a really powerful tribe around that which I feel like any good teaching has to have a good teaching, a good teacher, and a good tribe, like this is the way to make it easy to adopt for people. So the way that we talk about it, the neuroscience conferences that I go to, I'm working with Dr. Andrew Huberman, he's a neuroscientist at Stanford, and so we're starting a study to talk about, to look at how Ziva stacks up to other styles of meditation, at getting you out of fight or flight and into stay in play, and we're doing some cool stuff with like virtual reality, which I'm really excited about, which I can talk more about soon. So basically we have these beautiful ancient practices, and then we add on some neuroscience, we add in positive psychology, we add in this tribe, and in the teaching of it itself, we make it as entertaining as possible. Like I try to use my whole background and my whole lifetime of training to keep people laughing, and to keep people entertained, and to keep them on their toes so that they're able to ingest the knowledge as effectively as possible.
Ben: How is that mantra that you're doing any different than like transcendental meditation where you're just sitting and repeating a mantra over and over again in your head?
Emily: So transcendental meditation, which is pretty popular, and the foundation of what I teach, the Nishkama Karma yoga, they're sort of like cousins. So they are similar in that it's 20 minutes twice a day, they both use mantras, and they're both designed for people with busy minds and busy lives. One way to think of them is that they're like cousins, like different fathers, same grandfather. They are both designed for, not monks. Whereas mindfulness is derivative of a style of meditation that was originally made for monks, whereas both Nishkama Karma yoga and TM are designed for people who live in society, people with jobs, and kids, and stuff to do.
Ben: Okay. Got it. I'm curious, because when I spoke with you when we were at that retreat a few years ago, you seemed to know a lot about like kind of the biochemistry or the physiology of what happens when one meditates, and that's what I'm a little bit curious to hear more about is what's going on in the brain when you're taking those 22 minutes to meditate during the day, or when I'm going outside in the forest and like sitting in my sit spot and paying attention everything that's going on around me a great amount of awareness. Like what's kind of clicking on either a mental level, or a biochemical level, or a physiological level? And I realize it's kind of a complex question, but I'm curious what you found in terms of your deep dive into meditation when it comes to the body and the brain and what's going on.
Emily: Yeah. That's a great question, and I have two things I want to cover there. One, the difference between like sitting in the woods, and nature bathing, and being really present, present moment awareness, like how that would differ from what we teach at Ziva. And then how meditation changes the body chemically, and then changes the actual brain. So most styles of meditation, including like visualization, breathwork, mindfulness, present moment awareness, bathing in nature, most of these are very good at, and like a drop-in meditation studio, a meditation app, like a Headspace app, most of these are very good at dealing with stress in the right now. Meaning like, “I'm stressed right now, I'm going to go take a walk in the woods.” Or, “I'm stressed right now, I'm going to listen to this guided visualization on this meditation app.” It's kind of like taking an aspirin if you have a headache. “I have a headache, so I'm going to take an aspirin is going to handle the pain in the right now.” What we do at Ziva is that we're actually teaching people how to be self-sufficient meditators, and they're learning a practice that's not only going to handle the stress in the right now, but it's going to give them a system to help to get rid of the backlog of stresses that we've all been accumulating in our cellular memory, which eradicates the stress from the past. And once you do that, you actually start to increase your cognitive capabilities because stress makes you stupid, which I'll talk about in a minute. But that stress is taking up space in your brain and it's not paying rent, and it's disallowing you from performing at the top of your game mentally and physically basically because your body is preparing for a predatory attack.
So that leads me to basically all meditation will help you to get out of fight or flight and to get rid of stress, and I think this is relevant. Because if you really want to understand the way the brain and the body react to stress, we have to cut back in time about 10,000 years and say we're hunting and gathering in the woods. And let's say a saber-toothed tiger jumps out at us with the intent to kill. Well, first thing that's going to happen is that your digestion is going to shut down. Your digestion is going to flood with acid because if you're digesting your food, then your body is using a lot of energy for that, and we instead want to use that energy to fight or flee the tiger. Now that same acid will then seep onto your skin so that if you get bitten into by that tiger, you don't taste very good. Then your blood starts to thicken and coagulate so that if you get bitten into, you don't bleed to death. Your bladder and bowels evacuate. So you know the nervous poos you get before you have like a big presentation to make? That's your body trying to protect you, to make light on your feet, is to fight or flee.
Ben: That's really interesting what you said about the acid seeping under the skin. We have a mechanism that makes us untasty to animals?
Emily: That's exactly right. And that's actually why stress ages the body expeditiously. Because that acid breaks down skin elasticity, and it's the thing that makes us look old when we're stressed.
Ben: And what kind of acid is that? Is it just lactic acid that you're referring to or…?
Emily: I have heard that it's hydrochloric acid, but I don't know the answer to that.
Ben: Really interesting. Okay, I'm going to need to dig into a little bit more. I find this fascinating. Okay, so the skin becomes more acidic to make us less tasty to animals. And then what were you saying about the blood?
Emily: Yeah. So then, so blood thickens and coagulates so that if you get bitten into, you don't bleed to death. And I actually, I taught a police officer once in New York, or I've taught lots of police officers, we give them a full scholarship at Ziva. But she said, “Oh, this is why they always tell you not to get shivved from behind.” I was like, “What?” And she said, “Yeah. In our training, they're like ‘Never get shivved from behind'.” And she's like, “If you get stabbed or shivved from the front, it's better because your body will have time to launch into fight or flight which will make the blood coagulate, which means you have a higher chance of survival.”
Ben: Wow. That's amazing.
Emily: Yeah. So, yeah. So bladder and bowels evacuate, and then your body actually floods with adrenaline and cortisol, which the whole point of these is to give you superhuman strength and to dampen your pain sensitivity. And I don't like to freak people out, but if you want to freak yourself out, just have a Google search about adrenaline and cortisol are doing to your body over time. It's not cute. It's erectile dysfunction, it's infertility, it's premature aging, it's belly fat, balding. Like all these things, it's not bad to get stressed, but it's really bad to stay stressed. It's the equivalent of dumping that acid in your body all day, every day. And then finally, the last thing that happens if that tiger's attacking us is that your immune system goes to the back burner. ‘Cause 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 immediate danger.
So this series of chemical reactions are good for you, they're useful if your demands are saber-toothed tigers. But if your demands are in-laws, or kids, or deadlines, or iPhones, then this fight or flight stress reaction has become maladaptive. It's now disallowing us from performing at the top of our game and it's actually making us stupid. Like stress makes you stupid. There's a reason why can't find your keys when they're in your hand when you're trying to leave the house. There's a reason why you can't find your glasses when they're on top of your head when you're stressing out about where your glasses are. It's because your body and your brain are preparing for that tiger attack and then you're no longer fully present for the task at hand. And this is why meditators report up to a 40% increase in performance capabilities. It's not because meditation gives you super powers, it's because it's eradicating the stress from your nervous system which is disallowing you from being fully present for the right here, right now.
Ben: That kind of is something that seems a little bit counterintuitive if you think about it. Because you would imagine that you would want to have your wits about you more when you are stressed. Do you think that part of it is the way that we approach the stress? Meaning like can we focus our minds a little bit better in the presence of stress to somehow take a lot of these physiological variables that are occurring and allow ourselves to become almost more focused in the face of stress in the way that, I guess the way I think about it would be like how a Navy SEAL might learn how to get into like alpha brainwave production, or the zone when in the face of enemy fire or when in the face of extreme stress versus allowing themselves to get into like really fast, stressful beta brainwave production. Like do you know if there's kind of like this happy medium that we can find when we're in the face of stress that allows us to be stressed yet still have mental focus?
Emily: Okay. So this is really, really good question and very important point. So it's not bad for you to get stressed. It's terrible for you to stay stressed. So like you're a Navy SEAL, or you do need to lift a car off a baby, or you're in some sort of a high-demand situation that requires this fight or flight stress reaction, then great. Launch into it. That's what it's designed for. And your body, it's not that you want to be more, it's your brain starts functioning in a different way. You start operating more from instinct versus intellect, and again that's very good if your physical body is being threatened or if you're having to face an extreme physical challenge. And that is good for you, that's why flow state can be induced by extreme sports. So I'm not saying never get stressed. What I'm saying is that to stay stressed, that chronic stress that most humans and certainly most Americans are dealing with, that is what is killing us, and that is what is making us stupid. Because what happens is the stress, the thing that's causing the fight or flight stress reaction is no longer usually predatory attacks or even physical stress. It's “my boss yelled at me”, or “I have these deadlines”, or “my kid is crying all night and I can't sleep”. And then we end up with this chronic stress.
So the body's dumping this adrenaline and cortisol, and it's more of the overproduction of cortisol that has that cumulative long-term ill effect. That's what the acid is that I'm talking about. The adrenaline can be useful, but more short-term. So the cool thing is, and what happens with meditators' brains is that it moves you out, meditation moves you out of fight or flight and into what I call stay and play. So it takes the body out of survival mode and it starts to take the blood and the energy away from the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, and it starts to wake up the stay and play center, or the prefrontal cortex, or the executive function. And the executive function is what most adults need in play most of the time. This is our decision making capabilities, this is our ability to not eat the cookie, or the third cookie, or have the fourth glass of wine. But the thing is when you're in survival mode, if you're in that fight or flight thing all the time, then your body's trying to feed on fight or [censored] anything it can find. I don't know if I can cuss on this. Can I cuss on this?
Ben: You can 'cause we'll make cash register sounds or something like that to replace your cursing.
Emily: That'd be great.
Ben: Yeah. So you can have as dirty mouth as you want, it just fills us with amazing sound effects. So go ahead. So we've got blood moving from the amygdala, the area that would be more hardwired for stress, into this prefrontal cortex where more executive function resides as we begin to meditate?
Emily: That's correct. So basically it's moving you out of the fight or flight, out of the survival mode, and into stay and play, into the part of the brain that most of us need activated for most of our current, present day, modern jobs. So it's not about you know not getting stressed. And so, I think what you're asking about is how do we start to cultivate that hyper performance, that like ‘I-want-to-perform-at-the-top-of-my-game-even-in-the-middle-of-a-high-demand-situation’. And the way that meditation helps with that is that over time, you start to strengthen the right brain. And this is a gross oversimplification, but for the purposes of this conversation, I will refer to the left brain as the piece of us that's in charge of the past and the future, language, math, critical thought, analytical thought, language. All of these are left brain activities and most of us are very, very strong there. Most of us have been taking our left brain to the gym for a long time. We think, we take action, we achieve, we make money so we can be happy in the future. That's our left brain.
Whereas at Ziva, the style of meditation that we do at Ziva, we're taking the right brain to the gym. And that is the piece of us that's in charge of present moment awareness, intuition, creative problem solving, connectedness, music, creativity, all these things are right brain capabilities. And for most people, the pendulum swings a little bit. They start to get really present, and a lot more creative, and a lot more intuitive in the beginning of their careers meditators. And that's nice, but what I actually like is after a couple of years, what starts to happen is that you start to increase neuroplasticity which is the brain's ability to change itself. And then over time, you start to strengthen the corpus callosum. Now the corpus callosum is the thin white strip that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and this is a pretty cool party trick, I think. It's sitting quietly in a chair and thinking this little sound could actually strengthen or increase your white matter in your brain. But why would I want a fat corpus callosum? And I think that everyone should because it quite literally is the bridge between your critical mind and your creative mind. It is the bridge between the past, and the future, and the present moment, and it's the thing that allows you to be in the middle of a high-demand situation and simultaneously able to access creative problem solving ideas, intuition, and that sense of connectedness.
Ben: So I think the way that I've heard this described before is, I believe it's called lateral thinking. Being able to make that connection between like left brain problems that require kind of like an analytical approach, but the ability to apply like creativity to that analytical approach.
Emily: Yes. I've not heard lateral thinking before, but that is what I'm talking about. It's like using left and right brain as they are needed and allowing them to talk to each other. I also like to talk about like a simpler way to think about it is you want both Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock on board, on deck at the same time. And most people have been using their Mr. Spock brain, the data, the logic, the analytics, and reviewing the past, rehearsing the future. Most of us are very strong with that part of the brain. But the Captain Kirk part of us, which is just that gut instinct, that like I-don't-know-why-I'm-doing-it-anyway, like that part of us is not as strong. And I don't think it's either, or. I don't think that one is better than the other. I think nature gave us 50-50 for a reason. Like if you look at a human brain, it actually splits down the middle, 50-50. And I don't think nature makes mistakes. And I think that most Americans are too, they really strengthen left brain and the right brain is atrophying. So what I'm interested in is starting to balance out both parts of the brain and then strengthening that corpus callosum that allows you to have access to both of them when it's go time.
Ben: Yeah. It's like doing push-ups for your brain.
Emily: Exactly. And what I think, like the next phase of meditation is actually going to be like cross training for your brain. Meaning that you'll have the rest-type meditation that we at Ziva, and you'll have the present moment-type awareness that you're doing when you're sitting in the woods so that you're practicing and strengthening different parts of the brain, just like we do cardio and strength training. I think meditation of the future will be multiple different styles happening in a day.
Ben: How would that look exactly?
Emily: Well, I mean I don't know yet, but I think it would, if I were to design it right now, you'd probably wake up and do a very restful practice like I do at Ziva, and then throughout the day, like if you find that you have a high-demand situation, then you would do either breathwork or you would do guided visualization, which is going to wake up a different part of the brain. So like in mindfulness, or guided visualization, you wake up a very small part of the brain, but it burns very, very bright. Like if you look at a brain scan, it's a smaller piece of the brain that lights up, but it lights up really bright. Whereas what I teach at Ziva, the whole brain lights up, but not as bright. So there's sort of, they're visual indications of how the different styles are different.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. Cool.
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We know that meditators, and I knew this before we even talked today, that meditators have more gray matter. They literally have like larger brains than people in control groups who don't meditate. And now what you're saying is they not only have bigger brains or more gray matter, but they also have stronger connections between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. Now when you're talking about, you've said this a few times, you've talked about Ziva meditation, like your form of meditation. How is your specific flavor of meditation that you call Ziva any different than any other forms of meditation out there?
Emily: Good question. So at Ziva, we're all about meditation for high performance. That's really what we highlight in the teaching, that's how we structured our course, that's the type of people that we draw. And so the foundation of what I teach is this restful practice, it's this Nishkama Karma yoga. But I also teach people, so it is a little bit, I guess what I'm saying is that it is a little bit of this cross training for the brain, which is what I think will be the future of meditation. So in addition to this practice, which is the foundation, and it also being twice a day, I give people some mindfulness techniques. At the front end of the practice I have them do something called “Come to your senses”, which is a simple but very powerful technique of waking up all of your senses to bring you into the present moment. And that's an easier way in for people to surrender into that restful meditation practice. And then at the end, we do the gratitude practice. And then we've also worked in some positive psychology, meaning that I give people tools to help them to figure out whether they are motivated by moving towards the positive or away from the negative, and then I give them, I make them actually assign themselves goals, and then have them write letters to their future self, and then we mail it to them.
So if you're someone who likes to move towards the positive, then I have them figure out, “Okay, well if you meditate every day, twice a day for the next three months, like how do you want to incentivize yourself?” Or if you are someone who moves away from the negative, if you miss one meditation in the next six weeks, how do you want to, I don't like the word punish, but like how do you want to hold yourself accountable to that? And I actually have them go through and set it for themselves, and then we help them to implement that. We have accountability partners, we have online communities. So it's not just about “here, take this practice and go”, and it's not about “here, be addicted to my apps so that you can keep using it every day so that my investors want to invest more money in my app”, it's basically giving people the keys to the car, giving them the driving instructions, and providing a really powerful tribe so that they actually stay committed to it long term.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And by the way, if you're listening in, I'll put a link to Emily's page if you just go to the show notes for this episode. I'll include everything that we talk about, but go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/ziva, that's bengreenfieldfitness.com/ZIVA, and I'll link over to some of the meditation apps and resources that Emily's built. Okay. I want to dive into…
Emily: I just want to mention that…
Ben: Oh, go ahead.
Emily: For your folks, a discount to our online training if they want to do it. So if they go to that link, or zivameditation.com/ben, then they'll get $51 off of our online training.
Ben: Okay. So the online training, is that like a monthly thing that people sign up for?
Emily: No. So the online training is, it's a derivation of what we teach in person. It's eight days, it's a matriculation. It's about 30, 35 minutes a day for eight days, and it's again designed to give you the keys to the car, the driving instructions, and this community. It's an online community that people have access to. But once you move through the training, you have a practice to take with you for life. It's designed to make you self-sufficient. But once you graduate, you can come back and sit in on the training again if you want. Like you can watch the course again, you have access for the life of the training, but it's designed to make you self-sufficient.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Cool. So it's just like a mini-course that you do?
Emily: Yeah. I wouldn't even call it mini. I mean I think it's, if people really do it, if they do the training, and they do the homework, and they are involved in the community, it's a pretty robust matriculation that designs people to be self-sufficient so they have it to take with them for life.
Ben: Okay. Cool. I want to dive into the nitty gritty of what some of these sessions would actually look like. So first of all, I've seen you say on your site or in an article that you wrote that you can use meditation to increase focus. I think a lot of people think of meditation as a way to relax, or as a way to fall asleep faster, or something like that. But let's say that I'm tired, let's say it's the afternoon, I've got brain fog, maybe I've had four hours of sleep the night before, I need a pick-me-up. How could meditation be used for something like that? Like what would a typical session look like for something like that?
Emily: Okay. Good question. So I have two answers. Like one, I'll talk about how like once people have a meditation practice and they know how to use it, I'll talk about how that could give you a pick-me-up. And then because it takes me longer than just a few minutes to teach meditation, I can give you like a breathwork exercise. I can teach people a tool they could use as a pick-me-up, it just would be different than what I teach at Ziva. So in the style of meditation that I teach, your giving your body rest, it's five times deeper than sleep. So this is not an insignificant point because when you give your body the rest that it needs, it knows how to heal itself. And so basically it's like taking a supercharged power nap, and then on the other side you don't have a sleep hangover, and you're more awake, you're more alert. This is actually the talk I gave at Google, at the Google headquarters here in New York. It was called “Why meditation is the new caffeine”. And obviously they're different things, but caffeine is molecularly very similar to a chemical called adenosine, and adenosine is what the brain produces to tell you that you're tired. So it's not that caffeine is really giving you energy, it's basically blocking the body's ability to feel tired. And the trick there is…
Ben: It's blocking the adenosine receptor so that adenosine, which would normally make you tired, can't bind to those receptors 'cause the caffeine molecule is taking up that space instead.
Emily: Yes. Thank you for clarifying that. So, yeah. So it's like masking your body's ability to feel tired. And the trick is that once that caffeine leaves the adenosine receptors, then all that adenosine that your brain has been producing in the meantime starts flooding in, and then you feel more tired afterwards. So there's a little bit of a price to pay there. And so my argument of why meditation is the new caffeine is that it takes about the same amount of time to leave your desk, to go to the coffee shop, to order a coffee, to come back, to sit down and drink, takes about 15 to 20 minutes. But if you simply steal away and meditate in a coat closet, you're giving your body this deep supercharged rest. And on the other side, you don't have a sleeping over, and you've actually given yourself this hit of energy, and productivity, and focus, and it actually becomes something that is increasing and helping your brain verses over time, making you dependent or addicted to an external substance.
Now that's not to say that caffeine is necessarily totally bad for you, like I know a lot of people drink one cup a day, and it's great, and they think it's a bit of a performance drug. I'm personally not a caffeine person, but this is not saying don't do coffee and I'm not saying don't do any drugs. I think if you want to do drugs, great. Just know what it's costing you and know what the alternatives are. And so what I've found is that when I do my second meditation in the afternoon, afterwards I have this hit of energy, and creativity, and productivity, and I'm so much more energized, and I don't have the shakes, and I don't have that come down that I would get from coffee.
Ben: And that's a 22-minute session that you were talking about?
Emily: Yeah. That's what I would do in the afternoon. Or for people who do zivaMIND, which is our online training, then it's only 15 minutes.
Ben: And this is the same thing where you've got your mantra going, and you're sitting in a quiet location doing your mantra over and over again in your head?
Emily: Well, you're not doing your mantra over and over again. That's a bit of, it's a subtle difference but it's an important one. You're not focusing on a mantra, and that's why it's important that people have training, 'cause if they try and do that, they're going to give themselves headaches. And the other cool thing is that you don't have to be in a quiet location. Ziva was really designed to be done anywhere, anytime. So you could do this thing in your cubicle, you could do it on a subway, you could do it on a plane, on a bus, on a train. Anywhere that you can sit down, you can do this style of meditation. But yeah, with zivaMIND or with Ziva, you'd be using your mantra and kind of drifting out into what almost, in and out of what almost feels like sleep, but it's not actually sleep. And then at the end, you would do some of this gratitude and some of the love bomb, which is stuff that we've added in. So that's that. Now if you want, I'm happy to teach you guys or walk you guys through an exercise that you could use, even if you never decide to do any meditation training, I can give you an exercise that will help give you a little afternoon boost or pick-me-up.
Ben: Yeah. I would love that. I have one question for you before you teach us that. You mentioned that meditation can allow you to get many of the benefits of this deep sleep cycle without going into sleep. And the sleep nerd in me has to ask, like is there like, you know how sleep has certain phases right? Like we have our phase one, and then we have our rapid eye movement, and we have our non-rapid eye movement sleep, and all sorts of different sleep stages that we go through. Is there a stage that that type of meditation would be correlated to? I mean, is my brain actually shifting into a state similar to what it would be at if it were in, say, like deep sleep, or delta wave, or theta wave production? Or is there some definition of what phase you would be in when you're meditating versus sleeping?
Emily: Okay. Really good question. So every time the brain transitions between waking and sleeping, we move through a little 30 second window of what I would call “the bliss field”. But it's basically a verifiable fourth state of consciousness, different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. And in this state, your mind is actually very alert but your body is getting sleep. So I actually think it's not similar to a specific stage of sleep. It's not like REM, or it's different than that. And it's different because if we go back to that saber-toothed tiger 10,000 years ago, let's say you're in an encampment, it's 10,000 years ago, you have a saber-toothed tiger roaming around, it's time for you to go to sleep now. If you've ever watched someone as they're falling asleep, in the beginning their breathing is normal. And then when their brain clicks over into sleep state, their breathing changes and suddenly it's [makes a snoring sound]. We start revving quite highly, we start breathing quite deeply. Now the reason that that happens is that if your brain is in blackout sleep state, you need your heart, and lungs, and blood to be oxygenated so that if that tiger comes in, by the time you wake up mentally and realize there's a tiger, you're ready to launch into fight or flight. Your blood, and heart, and lungs are ready to rock.
Now when we meditate, the opposite is happening. Your body is getting very deep rest. Metabolic rate drops, which is the rate at which the body consumes oxygen. Your heart rate slows. Your body temperature cools. Now here's the thing: nature will not let you rest that deeply physically and be in blackout sleep state mentally at the same time. Because if that tiger were to come in, by the time you wake up mentally and realize there is a tiger, and then your metabolic rate has to speed up fast enough to launch a fight or flight, you're tiger snacks. So basically one or the other has to be on guard. So when we're sleeping, brain is chilling, body's on guard. [makes a snoring sound] When we're meditating, in this style, your body is chilling, your body is getting deep rest, but your brain is actually on guard, which means that you're in this state of wakeful restfulness. So it's like your mind is alert, but your body is resting, which makes it safe enough to practice in public. Like you wouldn't do a thing on a subway if your brain and body were totally blacked out because that would be dangerous.
Ben: Yeah. I think the stage that you're referring to, if we're to correlate this to sleep stages, which I've studied a little bit, would be more like a stage one where you're producing a lot of theta brain waves. Because when you get into delta sleep, I know that you really do become a little bit more dead to the world, so to speak, and I haven't seen much evidence that meditation produces a lot of these delta brainwaves as much as like the, to a certain extent, you get some of what I think a lot of people are familiar with, which would be like getting into the zone, producing alpha brainwaves, but then I think what you're referring to is a little bit more of that relaxed theta wave production that you might experience during something like a power nap. But of course during a power nap, you are a little bit dead to the world versus during meditation, you're not. But both would give you similar benefits in terms of that relaxed theta wave production that allows you to come out of it and feel rested and restored without having been dead to the world.
Emily: Yes. That's exactly right. And I do like to call it sort of like a supercharged power nap. It is basically like a more efficient nap. And I do think it's interesting that back in the day Einstein, these techniques hadn't been introduced in the West yet, but he used to take 20 minute naps. If he couldn't figure out a problem, he'd go nap for 20 minutes, and he'd come back and he'd be able to solve it. Or Edison, he used to sit, and he would nap sitting up with brass balls in his hands so that when he would fall asleep, the balls would fall on the ground and it would wake him up. So basically without any meditation training, he was cognizing his own way to induce this state. So like this style of meditation is not the only way to get to this state, it's just once you have a mantra and some training, you start to curate it and you start to cultivate it in a way that the benefits accumulative when you do it every day, twice a day. It's not just like an accident, like, “Oh, I just happened to find myself in flow state today.” It's like no, you're actually curating it.
Ben: Right. Okay. Cool. So walk us through what this would look like for one of these kind of like pick-me-up-style meditation sessions that would allow us to overcome brain fog in the afternoon, for example.
Emily: Okay. Cool. So this is actually a breathing technique. So it's not really a meditation technique, but this is a great breath trick you can use for a pick-me-up mid-afternoon. And you could use it also for better performance, like if you're about to walk on stage and you're nervous, or if you're about to propose to someone, or if you have a pitch meeting. And it's cool because you can use it fast or slow. If you're quite tired in afternoon, if you do the breathwork fast, it's a nice pick-me-up. Or if you're nervous before you go on stage, if you do it slow, it's a nice way to ground. So people can use this in multiple different ways. And I like to call it balancing breath because it helps to balance the right and left parts of the brain, and we do that by closing the right and left nostrils. So it's based on an ancient, like just called alternate nostril pranayam, [0:54:17] ______ into yoga.
Ben: Yeah, I'm familiar with alternate nostril breathing. For sure.
Emily: Okay. Cool. So I'll teach you, your listeners, and then I'll teach them like ways to use it fast and slow, and there's a couple little tricks that can optimize it. And it's simple. It's just we want to start with an exhale on the left-hand side, and you always want to end with an exhale on the left-hand side. So if everyone takes their right hand, use your right thumb and your right ring finger, so you use the same hand, just thumb and ring finger, and you can close your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril.
Ben: Okay. This is great podcasting. I've got it.
Emily: Inhale through the left nostril.
Emily: And then switch, closing your left nostril with your ring finger and exhaling through the right. Inhaling through the right, and then closing your right nostril with your thumb, exhaling through the left nostril. Inhaling through the left, switching, closing the left nostril with your ring finger and exhaling through the right. Inhaling through the right and switching sides, and people can start to take this in their own time. The pattern is simply out through the left, in through the left, and then you switch sides, out through the right, in through the right. So you can close your eyes, and simply out through the left, in through the left, switching sides, out through the right, in through the right. And what you can start to imagine as you do this is that you can imagine that your breath and your energy are coming in through the base of your spine. And as you fill your lungs, this breath and energy are traveling up the spine. And as you exhale, you start to send that breath and energy right out through the middle of your forehead. So you're using your imagination, you're using a visualization technique. But as you fill your lungs, imagine the breath coming into the base of the spine, waking up that creative energy. And as you exhale, you send it right out through the middle of your forehead. So it's like a circular breathing of sorts. And as we close the right and left nostrils, we're helping to balance the critical mind and the creative mind, the masculine part of us and the feminine part of us.
Ben: So when we are doing the alternate nostril breathing, could you say that you're enhancing your ability to connect the left and right hemispheres?
Emily: Absolutely. And then because you're only able to breathe out of one nostril at a time, it actually slows down the metabolic rate, which is the rate with which the body consumes oxygen. So it's almost like hacking your way into meditation a little bit because you're starting to slow your breathing, which is one of the things that happens in the meditation. So that's what you can do like if you're about to walk on stage and your [0:57:10] ______, then you could do that slow, light left and right. But let's say you're really tired and you want a pick-me-up, then you can do the same thing, out through the left, in through the left, and then switch sides, out through the right, in through the right, you just do it fast. And I'll do it a few times just so people can hear the rhythm of it, but it sounds like this. [makes quick breathing sounds]
Ben: Wow, you're switching really fast from left to right.
Emily: Yeah. It's pretty fast. So it's out, in, switch, out, in, switch, out, in. [makes breathing noises]
Ben: It's almost a like a Wim Hof style, breath of fire power breathing, except doing it with alternate nostril.
Emily: Yes. Exactly.
Ben: Okay. How long would you do that for like energized focus?
Emily: I would say 30 to 45 seconds to start.
Ben: Okay. So not that long.
Emily: Not that long. And if it feels nice, then the next, you could build up to about a minute. And the next day, a little bit more. But you wouldn't want to do the fast one for more than two to three minutes, unless you're very advanced 'cause you could actually pass out. But let's say starting with thirty seconds to a minute would be awesome. And actually if you want, I have a video. ‘Cause I know that's tricky to learn just with audio, but I can send you a video, it's just a YouTube video that we have and you can post it in the show notes if you want.
Ben: I'm curious if you ever mess around with measuring your heart rate variability, your HRV, especially when you're doing these type of breathing techniques. Have you ever used like an app or anything like that for measuring that part of your nervous system?
Emily: So I think I might be a little rudimentary when it comes to this. I mean people send me things all the time. People send me gadgets to try out, and I'm actually advising a new company, it's a new body data monitoring ring, and they do have HRV built into it.
Ben: Which ring are you measuring? ‘Cause I actually use a ring myself.
Emily: Oh right. I think that's how we reconnected. It's the OURA ring.
Ben: That's exactly what I use, yeah. So, yeah, the OURA ring, they're still working on the function in the app that allows you to take a deep dive into your heart rate variability. The ring is really good for things like body temperature, and activity, and it has really super accurate sleep data. But for heart rate variability, one of the things that I do in the morning is I strap on a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor and I use an app called NatureBeat to measure the strength of my sympathetic, that fight and flight nervous system you were talking about, and then my parasympathetic nervous system, and I can see what the interplay between the two is like, like how strong each one is at the beginning of the day. It's just a little bit more geeked out data than something like the ring allows me to get. So I just do that for five minutes when I wake up. But one thing that I'll do sometimes on while I'm lying on bed…
Emily: Can I ask…
Ben: Oh, go ahead.
Emily: What do you do? Like when you have that on, what are you doing and are you looking to see if it changes from the beginning of the activity to the end? Like please teach me because I…
Ben: So for something like a morning heart rate variability measurement, all I'm doing is I'm watching the numbers. I'm not really attempting to manipulate them, although I'll get in to why I'm bringing this up in a second, but all I'm doing is I'm looking at the numbers and I'm saying, “Okay, is my sympathetic, is my fight and flight nervous system beat up as I'm lying here?” And usually, it's reflective of the previous day's activities or the previous night's sleep that would influence that number. And if it is really beat up, I might skip my hard workout that day and do yoga or an easy walk in the sunshine instead. Or vice versa. Like it might be really, really robust and my score is through the roof for both elements of my nervous system, and that's a good day for me to go and, for me, 'cause I think like an athlete because I'm still racing competitively, I'll go out and do a really hard workout that day because I know my body is just like primed and ready for a high amount of stress. And so you can use it to make decisions on the fly about how you're going to approach that day based on how robust your nervous system is.
But the interesting thing is that even if it's kind of low, like let's say your heart rate variability is low, or especially like your parasympathetic nervous system is very beat up, you can, and I've done this before, lay there in bed in the morning and do, for example, alternate nostril breathing. And within about 60 seconds, you can watch the score go up a few points just from doing that form of breathing. It's pretty profound how quickly it acts on the body. And it's still going to be, this is kind of confusing to people, they're like, “Well if you can manipulate the number right there while you're laying in bed, then why don't you just manipulate the number to get it higher, and then go out and do your hard thing?” But the fact is that even if you manipulate that number by doing something like alternate nostril breathing while you're laying there, it's still going to be lower than it would normally be if you weren't as beat up. So you kind of got to do testing for several days or several weeks in a row, kind of get to know your numbers and realize that even if you're doing some breathing exercises, you're laying there in bed, if you wake up and it's low, that's still a warning sign. So that's kind of what I do. But, yeah. It's just a very simple five minute morning measurement. That's it. Just while you're laying there on your back in bed.
Emily: I love that.
Ben: So speaking of laying on your back in bed, how about when you're doing that at night. Let's say you wake up at 2 AM and you can't go back to sleep, which happens to me sometimes. I'm sure it doesn't happen to anybody else, but let's just say that I wanted to meditate during that time. Or I'm laying there at 10:30 PM at night and I can't seem to fall asleep. What would be the form of meditation that would be best for something like that?
Emily: Okay. So good question. So I would actually not recommend doing Ziva meditation at that time. Like you wouldn't want to do it at 2 in the morning, you wouldn't want to do it at 10 PM because it is so restful. If you did 15 or 20 medication, because it's the equivalent of about an hour and a half nap, then you're going to have all this energy, and you're going to have all these great ideas and no one to tell him to but your cat. So instead, like we really want to do Ziva first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon. Now as part of zivaMIND, we created a guided visualization called zivaSLEEPS, and it's not, I wouldn't even call it meditation. It's more of a visualization, and it's designed specifically to help people fall into a deeper, more restful sleep. And it's more of a mindfulness practice. And I think a really simple version of that is simply a body scan.
So basically you're basically going from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet and you're asking yourself, “What's the most prevalent physical sensation happening right now? What's the most prevalent tactile sensation happening in my body?” You're not judging it or trying to change it, you're just gently letting your awareness to rest there, letting it talk to you, letting it say whatever it needs to say, and then that sensation starts to dissipate, and then you scan the body again. “What's the next most prevalent sensation?” And then you do that a few times, three, four, five times, and then you're usually back in your body, and you're usually asleep. So it's a nice way to move towards the positive versus a lot of things, a lot of times the reason that we're awake is that the body is stressed. And by stressed, I mean your left brain can't stop reviewing the past and rehearsing the future. And so instead of moving away from the past and the future, instead of moving away from the stress we instead start to move towards the present moment. And we do that by scanning the body and actually putting attention on whatever it is that's talking to us, whatever it is that's feeling wherever that stress is showing up.
Now I will say that, I mean as you heard from my story, the style of meditation cured my insomnia on the first day, and we've had like a 90% success rate with insomnia with our Ziva grads. And so what happens is because they start using these 20 minutes twice a day, or with zivaMIND 15 minutes twice today, because they start using that time as a time for stress release, they can actually start to use their sleep as a time for sleep, which means that the sleep starts to become more efficient so that they need less of it. So what I mean there is that for most people who don't have a daily meditation practice, their body has to use their sleep as a time for stress release, and that's why, especially if you track your sleep data, most peoples' sleep goes like light, medium, deep, wake up for 18 minutes, light, medium, deep, wake up, light, medium, wake up. And it takes them eight or nine hours, and they wake up, and they're pretty tired. Now what I've noticed with my students who track their data is that once they start a regular twice a day meditation practice is that their sleep signature changes to light, medium, deep for six hours, medium, light, wake up. So it actually becomes like a deeper, more efficient use of the sleep because they're using the meditation to actually get rid of the stress. And so that's why we have such a great success rate with insomnia. But that does take everyday practice. Does that make sense?
Ben: Yeah. So it's basically a body scan?
Emily: So, yeah. The technique that I would recommend if you're having insomnia, if you're not meditating during the day, yes, it is a body scan. There are variations of body scans. Like if you go and do vipassana, there's a type of body scan that you do there, but it's very much about focusing. It's like “here I am, I'm focusing on this part of my forehead, now my eyes, now my nose, now my chin, my lips”, and you're going piece by piece and focusing on each part. This is a little bit gentler and it's a little bit, it's more of like asking the question. It's gently going from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet and just asking the question, “What's the most prevalent sensation I'm experiencing right now?” And it might be your heart beating. And if your heart is racing, then great. You just let it race, and then you bring your attention to that sensation, and you let it talk to you, you let it communicate whatever it needs to communicate. I really believe that any pain in the body comes from a positive intention. It's trying to communicate something to your body and your brain. And if you listen, then you afford it the opportunity of talking softer. But if you start to dampen it, if you try to shut it up, if you try to be like, “Don't talk to me,” then it has to start yelling. And then it starts screaming, and then it starts wrecking the house. And so this is basically a way of closing the feedback loop [1:07:29] ______ body and starting to notice whatever that sensation is, letting it communicate whatever it needs to communicate, and then it allows it to dissipate. And you do that a few times, and then you're back in your body, you're back in the present moment, and usually people are well asleep by then.
Ben: So what you just described, if somebody wanted to, say, like watch a video, or download an audio, or read up a little bit more about how to do that, are there any good resources out there?
Emily: Yeah. So we actually created something called zivaSLEEPS, and it is a nine minute version of me walking you through that, and it just ends really gently so you can drift off into sleep, and that is a part zivaMIND. So that's included inside of our online training.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Yeah. Because I've done those body scans before where, and you can find like free videos on Google or on iTunes where they kind of like walk you through like head to toe, but what you're describing seems a little bit more intuitive and something I haven't tried before. So that's really interesting. I may have to try this out at some point. Okay. So another question. So we've talked about how to use it for energy, meditation, we've talked about sleep or insomnia. Now you also, on your website, say that meditation can help you to have mind-blowing sex, and that perked up my ears as well. I'm curious how you would use meditation for mind-blowing sex because I wouldn't imagine that during sex you'd be doing the finger on the nostril thing, alternating nostril breathing.
Emily: That is decidedly not sexy, and I do not recommend that people do that.
Ben: Right. I need my hands for other things during sex.
Emily: Exactly. And so what I'm interested in is not, I mean there are some techniques that people can use right before getting it on, but what I'm talking about in the article and what I'm talking about in the website is that if you start to develop an everyday meditation practice, that it's going to start to impact your performance in the bedroom as well. Now a couple factors here. The number one reason why 25% of cohabiting couples in America don't have as much sex as they want is because they're too tired. When they're surveyed, they list the number one reason why they don't have as much sex they want is that they're too tired. And so if we go back to this premise that meditation is giving your body rest that's five times deeper than sleep, then it stands to reason that you might have a little bit more energy afterwards, and so that might give you more energy and you'll be less sleepy so you could actually have sex if you want to. So that's one thing.
The other sort of classic old excuse is, “Well not tonight, honey. I have a headache.” Which is just an excuse, but actually we have a crazy success rate with migraines as well. So if people have stress-induced migraines, the medication can help with that. Now the other cool things, and it's a little bit more nitty gritty, is that when you're stressed, your adrenaline levels increase and your cortisol levels increase. And here's the trick is that when female cortisol levels get too high, women become actually physically incapable of orgasm. And when male adrenaline levels are too high, they become physically incapable of having an erection. And it makes sense because it's like if your body's in survival mode, if you're trying to actively stay alive, then procreation becomes way tertiary, it becomes a way back burner activity. So like it's the reason that your sex drive is not the most important function in the body if it's afraid of actually out running a tiger. So that was interesting.
And then the other cool thing that can happen, and then this a little esoteric, but I actually believe that meditation, it gives you access to your bliss and to your fulfillment in the only place that they reside, which is inside of you. And every spiritual text has been teaching this since the beginning of time. What you seek is in you. And that's great to get that is an intellectual concept, but it's much, much more powerful to be able to experience that viscerally every day twice a day. And within 30 to 45 seconds of starting this practice, your brain and body flood with dopamine and serotonin, which are bliss chemicals, which is quite literally giving you access to that fulfillment. It's making you feel more fulfilled. And then what that does is that it allows you to approach not only your relationships, but also your sexual encounters from a place of “what can I give to this” versus “what can I take”. And so you become a more generous lover, you become less needy in your relationship, which I think is sexy. I think detachment is sexy. I do not think that neediness is sexy. And so on a more like esoteric concept, you just become fulfillment looking for need instead of need looking for fulfillment.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. And basically what we're doing here is, especially in the case of like women who are having trouble orgasming, you're actually decreasing salivary cortisol or plasma cortisol levels, and in men who might have something like erectile dysfunction, you're decreasing adrenaline levels.
Emily: That's exactly correct.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. Sometimes, this also seems counterintuitive, you'd think that like you'd want a whole bunch of adrenaline and like [makes an aggressive growl] going into something like sex, but what you're saying is that in many cases, especially for like a guy for example, that type of aggressiveness and adrenaline can actually kind of come back to bite you in the ED department?
Emily: Exactly. I guess it depends what kind of sex you're into, but if you are having ED, it's something to look into is how high your cortisol and adrenaline levels, and is that having a counter-effect from what you want.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. Okay. So another question that I have for you is there are of course all these newfangled ways out there now that folks can meditate, like the Muse headband is one that folks talk about a lot, or you hear everybody and their dog now talking about like the 10-minute Headspace app. What are your thoughts on those?
Emily: I think they're great. I know Ariel, I've interviewed her before, I have wanted one of, they sent me a test one. I think Headspace has a great user interface, I think it's really friendly. And I think ultimately I'm really glad that so many people are talking about and trying different meditation techniques. The way that those techniques are different than what I teach is that they're much more mindfulness-based practices, meaning that they're guided visualizations, or they are real time feedback to tell you how focused you are while you're doing a mindfulness practice. And the reason why I want to make the distinction here is that mindfulness is more of a technique to handle stress in the right now, where it's like I'm feeling stress, I'm going to do this practice, and it's going to calm me down in the right now. It's going to handle that present moment stress. And what I'm really into is not so much giving people tactics to handle their stress in the right now, I'm interested in giving people a strategy and giving them a system to actually eradicate all of the stress that we've been accumulating in our bodies for the past few decades. And that is really where people start to see this huge shift in their performance capabilities. It's because you're literally giving, you’re freeing up brain space and you're giving your body back more energies that you have more of your mental faculties available to you for the task at hand.
So I think that all the newfangled stuff is great, I think that all the toys are fun for people to like be able to check themselves in real time, and I think that whatever it takes to get people to dip their toe into the water, great. Once they figure out, “Oh, maybe I can meditate. Maybe it's not so scary and I did enjoy this thing,” and then when people are ready to become self-sufficient, when they're ready to take things to the next level and they actually want a strategy in place to eradicate stress from their whole life, that's where Ziva comes into play. So I think it's all good, and ultimately all roads lead to Rome. But it's just a matter of “is this a meditation to handle my stress in the right now or is it something that's going to get rid of the stress from the past, which is going to help me perform better in the future”. Does that make sense?
Ben: Yeah, it does. I mean what I like about the type of meditation that you do is that you really can just kind of like whip it out and do it anywhere, and some of these other things, you need your phone and you need the special headband. I mean I'll be honest with you, I have tried a whole bunch of different forms of meditation, I've done TM, and sit spots, and candle meditation, and mindfulness meditation, and lots of different forms of yoga, and a whole bunch of kundalini, and the one form of brain training that has moved the dial for me the most has been neurofeedback where I literally I'm connecting a bunch of electrodes to my head and flying a spaceship with my mind using special software on my computer. I mean nothing has moved the dial for me as much as that. But at the same time, I can't do that when I'm like walking through the forest, or sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to leave, or at a park or something like that. So I think there's definitely something to be said in terms of the versatility of this type of meditation that you're talking about. But I did want to ask you about that. Like have you ever done this deal where you do like neurofeedback with electrodes? Like Dave Asprey has his 40 Years Of Zen-type of meditation, and the one that I was doing, and still I'm doing is with this place called the Peak Brain Institute in LA. Have you ever done that? Like hooked up the electrodes to your head and done meditation in that way?
Emily: I haven't yet, but Dave has been inviting me out forever and so it's on my to-do list, and I have some friends who've done it and really loved it. And again, like I think it's great, like I think anything we can do to start to utilize our full mental capabilities, let's do it. But at the same time like, not everyone can lock themselves in a cave for five days or have access to this technology. But the cool thing about this is that you're right, you can do it as you're taking off and landing on a plane and it will eradicate jetlag. You can do it when you're nursing your kid, you can do it on a 10-minute rest stop on a drive. And so I think they're different tools for different things. But I'm so glad that you've had that experience with it.
Ben: Yeah. Where do you live?
Emily: I live in New York.
Ben: Oh, okay. I was going to say that this Peak Brain Institute has a whole bunch of clinics in LA and San Diego, but I don't think they have anything in New York. But what I did was I went there and trained, I went through like a three-day intensive where I learned how to use electrodes and which spaceships to choose for different levels of brain training, et cetera, and then basically took all the equipment back home, and now I just train at home with the electrodes and the computer. And you can use it for advancing sleep onset, or for increasing focus, et cetera, but it's kind of like, of course, a very, very geeky, bio hacker-y form of, I suppose you could call it meditation but really it's neurofeedback. But anyways, I was just curious about your take on things like that.
Emily: I do teach in LA, like two or three times a year, and so I'll have to check 'em out next time I'm out there.
Ben: Yeah. If you want, just e-mail me after we finish the interview and I can make an introduction to them. They're called the Peak Brain Institute. Anyways though, this is all really fascinating. And for those of you listening in, I have been taking notes, and I will link to some of the things that Emily and I talked about like the heart rate variability, and body scan, and then also Emily's website, the Ziva Meditation along with the discount that she's offering everybody who's listening in for going through one of the courses that she has on her site, because I really like how she has, like you said, Emily, you're not some like guru in a beard sitting cross-legged on top of a Himalayan mountain somewhere. You're actually kind of a real and accessible, and I think that's probably why folks like Google bring you in to teach them how to meditate. So I dig what you're doing, and I'm going to put all these links in the show notes for those of you listening in over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/ziva, that's Z-I-V-A. Isn't that an alcoholic drink too, by the way?
Emily: It was a malt beverage from the '80s.
Ben: A wine cooler or something?
Emily: Zima was the malt beverage where everyone used to put like Jolly Ranchers in. But Ziva is actually a sanskrit word that means “bliss”, and it's a Hebrew name that means one who is radiant or kind.
Ben: Okay. That makes much more sense than the wine cooler. Alright. So it's not Zima, it's Ziva. So bengreenfieldfitness.com/ZIVA is where you can access the show notes. And Emily, thank you for coming on the show and share on all this stuff with us. I think it's fascinating and I'm definitely going to be spending some time on your website, and I'd like to dig a little bit more into this specific flavor of meditation that you do.
Emily: It's my absolute pleasure. Thank you for doing the work that you do and thanks for bringing me on.
Ben: Alright. Cool. Well folks, until next time, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Emily Fletcher signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
Meditation for insomnia?
Meditation as an alternative to a cup of coffee?
Meditation for mind blowing sex?
My guest on today's podcast has cracked the code on what kind of meditation works for all these goals, and for many more. Her name is Emily Fletcher, and Emily is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of zivaMIND, the world’s first online meditation training. Her mission is to make meditation attractive and accessible to people who are ready to up-level their performance and their lives. Recently featured in The New York Times, named top 100 women in wellness to watch and regarded as one of the leading experts in Vedic meditation, Emily has been invited by companies like Google, Barclays Bank, sweetgreen, & Viacom to help improve company performance through meditation.
She began her ten years of training in Rishikesh, India and was inspired to teach after experiencing the profound physical and mental benefits meditation provided her during her 10-year career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers & A Chorus Line.
Emily has been invited to speak at Harvard Business School, Bulletproof Biohacking Conference, Summit Series, A-Fest and The Omega Center. So far, she has taught over 5,100 people to become self-sufficient meditators with this game changing practice to take with them for life.
Here is a Sleep zivaMeditation by Emily Fletcher:
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During our discussion, you'll discover:
-How Emily went from being a Broadway actress to meditation…[7:55]
-The new science of gratitude, and why you don't even need to think of something that you're actually grateful for…[12:20]
-Why Emily does “lazy man's” meditation…[16:25]
-How your body has a built-in mechanism to become less tasty to predators when you are stressed (and how this can make your skin ugly)…[21:10]
-Why stress makes you stupid, and what you can do about it…[26:25]
-The best way to do “cross-training” for your brain…[34:50]
-What a sample meditation session would look like for energized focus if you, say, didn't want to drink a cup of coffee…[43:42]
-How you can use meditation to get the equivalent of taking a power nap…[49:10]
-The best form of meditation for sleep or insomnia…[62:30]
-How to use meditation to help you have mind-blowing sex, and the specific chemicals that can inhibit female orgasm and erectile dysfunction…[68:40]
-What Emily thinks of all the newfangled ways to meditate like the Muse headband and the Headspace app…[73:00]
-How about neurofeedback as a way to “shortcut” the brain into meditation…have you ever experimented with that? [76:40]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode: