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In today’s nonstop society, we’re often led to believe that stress is just part of modern life. It’s not something to resolve, but rather something to endure. But with countless studies proving that stress is terrible for us, why are we accepting a stressful lifestyle as the status quo? Don’t the people in our lives—and we ourselves—deserve better?
Emily Fletcher thinks so. The founder of Ziva Meditation, an online and in-person meditation and mindfulness training program, Emily believes that stress physically and mentally breaks us down. However, by teaching our bodies and minds to properly rest, anyone can attain the stress-reducing benefits celebrated by meditation practitioners worldwide.
Ziva Meditation’s courses have been taught at corporations like Google and Barclays, featured in publications like Forbes, the New York Times and Vogue and raved about by thought leaders like Dr. Mark Hyman and Bulletproof’s Dave Asprey. So far, over 15,000 students have graduated from the Ziva program, including high-ranking CEOs, Oscar winners, NBA superstars and more. She’s also the author of Stress Less, Accomplish More.
When she started Ziva in 2011, Emily was at the forefront of the modern meditation movement after creating the first online meditation teaching platform. In fact, when she first launched, an internet search for ‘meditation in NYC’ would pull up Emily’s class—“and a lot of monks.” While studying meditation with legitimate Buddhist monks might be a dream for the dedicated, these traditional methods could scare off new practitioners.
Emily wanted to erase the stereotype that meditation means sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop surrounded by incense and spiritual silence. Instead, she wants people to know they too can meditate anywhere, from subways to airplanes to office chairs.
So how did Emily—a former actor who once scoffed at the idea of meditating—build an internationally recognized mindfulness brand and dedicate her life to spreading the virtues of being more present?
From Skeptic to Stress-Free
Like most people, Emily was a staunch skeptic when she first learned about meditation. She was in her early 20s living out her fantasy as a professional Broadway performer. But while acting in touring productions, stress ran Emily’s life. With the constant pressure to perform with perfection, she battled constant insomnia, sickness, anxiety and was starting to go gray at 26.
“It was confusing,” remembers Emily. “I was living my dream and doing the thing I had wanted to do since I was a child—but I was miserable.”
That’s when Emily took note of a fellow cast member’s relaxed nature. Emily noticed that she was able to stay relaxed despite playing an even more stressful role than Emily. Intrigued by her cohort’s calmness, Emily asked, “What do you know that I don’t?” She responded with “I meditate.”
“And I didn’t believe her,” says Emily. “So I just kept sucking at my job.”
Emily pushed her castmate’s wisdom aside and followed the same routine waiting for something to change, but nothing did. With little sleep and mounting stress, her performances began suffering. She knew her way wasn’t working. At her wit’s end, she decided to give meditation a shot and signed up for an introductory course. On the first day, she finally meditated.
“I was in a different state of consciousness than I’d ever been in before,” Emily says “And I liked it! I slept through the night for the first time in 18 months, and I have every night since. That was 11 years ago.
“I stopped getting sick. I didn’t get sick for eight and a half years,” Emily recalls. “I stopped going gray. I’m going to be 40 in March, and I have one grey hair … I stopped getting injured. I started enjoying my job again.”
Meditation opened up a new, healthier take on the world—and Emily couldn’t get enough. A year after experiencing meditation for the first time, she traveled to India, intent on furthering her practice and learning to teach. Emily spent thousands of hours as an apprentice, meditating and transcribing Sanskrit by hand.
After graduating the course, Emily found herself in Los Angeles still juggling an acting career and her new passion as a meditation teacher. Though she still loved acting, she knew her heart—at least right now—wanted to spread mindfulness to the masses.
Finding Her Inner Entrepreneur
Emily didn’t find her entrepreneurial spirit in spite of acting. She found it because of acting. “You have to be an entrepreneur to be an actor,” says Emily. “You’re running your own business as an actor. You’re the marketer, the product, the admin, the talent. You’re all of it when you are acting.”
Acting also made Emily particularly comfortable with rejection—an otherwise traumatizing experience both in the business and the entertainment world. If she could move on after losing out on a role, she could also face rejection while building her new brand. But although Emily was prepared for the worst, she would discover a pleasant surprise when trying to sell Ziva to potential clients—acceptance.
“When you’re putting all this time and energy [into acting], it doesn’t feel reciprocal. Then I shifted that energy into Ziva … and the return on investment was not only reciprocal. It was exponential. “And that was a little intoxicating.”
With a mission to provide students with practical tools to help anyone “perform at the top of their game,” people quickly responded to Ziva. Its lessons are easy to integrate into everyday life, and it’s not religious or pretentious. Ziva meditation is truly for anyone.
Growth Through Compassion
If you’re like most growth-focused leaders, the concept of running your team without rigid deadlines, revenue targets or precise objectives sounds absurd. How else can you define success? Emily Fletcher and her Ziva Meditation team believe they’ve found a better way—leading with passion and people first.
Unlike many entrepreneurs and CEOs, Emily doesn’t like strict goals or pressure to hit numbers by arbitrary dates. As long as Ziva’s growing and making more money than it costs to run her business, she’s content. She also believes that as long as you’re compassionately taking care of your people—which includes staff and clientele—and always innovating, the rest falls into place.
For Ziva Meditation, this mentality works. Since launching less than a decade ago, their reach has grown exponentially, with clients worldwide and Fortune 500 companies clamoring to teach Ziva’s mindfulness techniques to their employees.
They also practice what they preach in terms of focusing less on money goals and more on bettering humanity. Ziva Meditation donates 10% of all online course proceeds to Project Drawdown, which fights global warming. They also offer free courses to veterans, police and children, as well as offer scholarships to those experiencing financial hardships.
“The more you give it away, the more you get,” says Emily.
Releasing her book Stress Less, Accomplish More is another way Emily’s tries to make her teaching accessible to everyone. “Some people don’t have internet so they can’t do an online course,” Emily says “The book is another way of making this available to more people … I like having different offerings where people can help themselves regardless of what their income or level of commitment is.”
So whether you’re a retired billionaire with all the time in the world, or a cash-strapped student working multiple jobs to get by, there’s no excuse not to educate yourself on the practical life tools meditation offers.
Meditation For All
So what’s next for Emily and Ziva? More than anything, she wants meditation normalized as a healthy, daily practice for everyone. “I want meditation stations to be more common than coffee shops,” Emily says. Imagine seeing a Starbucks-sized line out the door—and then realizing it’s for a meditation studio. Doesn’t a society more focused on calmness over a caffeine buzz just sound better?
By envisioning a future where meditation is a regular part of our routine, Emily sees herself leading meditation in stadiums filled with spectators before sports games, concerts or other major events. “When we come together as humans,” Emily says “we should take a moment to connect.” It’s the perfect reminder to be present in every moment—together.
Emily’s journey mirrors how countless meditation converts found mindfulness, including me. It’s currently rarely a practice the average person is raised with. Most people are also unlikely to discover mindfulness during peaceful times, but rather when we’re at a stress-fueled breaking point.
For both Emily and me, discovering meditation was like coming up for air. We finally grasped the benefits of being present and learning to press pause. We’ve connected better with ourselves, our families and our businesses. That ultimately led to making better decisions, appreciating every moment and taking greater value in the things that matter most.
And really, what’s more important than that?
Want to hear my entire conversation with Emily Fletcher? Learn about the difference between mindfulness and meditation, how meditation got her through a miscarriage, why we should be asking better questions and so much more. Listen to the entire conversation on my donothing podcast.
Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne here. Learn about my mission to show business leaders how mindfulness can transform you and your business in my book donothing. Visit www.donothingbook.com for more information.
March 11, 2019 at 08:43AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs