Emily Fletcher was a Broadway performer living the dream.
Her hair was graying at 27, she was always stressed and had chronic insomnia.
One of her fellow Broadway performers was always super calm and confident. Emily asked her how she did it. The woman told her that she meditated. Emily rolled her eyes. Then she decided to give meditation a try.
After ONE day of meditation, her insomnia was gone. She was hooked. Soon after, she quit Broadway, traveled to India to study more deeply then became a meditation teacher and created something called the “Ziva Technique” which she’s taught to thousands of people.
In her book Stress Less, Accomplish More, Emily walks us through the science of WHY meditation is so powerful and then introduces us to the “3 M’s” of her Z Technique: Mindfulness, Meditation and Manifesting.
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a HUGE fan of meditation. I’ve missed ONE day in the last 12+ years. We’ve shared some wisdom in Meditation 101 and our Notes on books like Why Meditate?, Conquest of Mind, and The Relaxation Response.
If you’ve been looking for a book that will help you get started on your meditation journey and/or take your existing practice to the next level, I think you’ll love it. It’s a great place to start. (Check out the Notes, get a copy of the book here, check out Emily online here.)
Today I want to chat about one of my favorite distinctions from the book.
Emily tells us: “The single most important piece of meditation advice you can hold with you as you dive in is this: Thoughts are not the enemy. Remember that the mind thinks involuntarily just like the heart beats involuntarily, so please don’t try to give your mind a command to be silent. Instead, know that thoughts are okay—they’re actually a useful part of this process and now you have your trusty anchor, one, to come back to when you notice you’ve taken a mental field trip.”
I always love it when an author prefaces some wisdom with “The single most important thing you need to know about X is…” As we’ve discussed, IF that happens, THEN I sit up a little straighter (gently pulling that thread through the head, of course) and pay even closer attention.
Sit up a little straighter and pull that thread if you feel so inspired as we note: “The single most important piece of meditation advice you can hold with you as you dive in is this: Thoughts are not the enemy.”
Have YOU “tried” to meditate but felt like a failure because you couldn’t stop thinking?
Know this: You’re not SUPPOSED to be able to stop your brain from thinking. PERIOD.
Emily tells us that she’s NEVER (!) had a session in which she didn’t have a single thought bubble up. It’s not going to happen. EVER.
Why? Because, and I just love this line: “The mind thinks involuntarily just like the heart beats involuntarily.” ← Isn’t that a beautiful, empowering way to think about it?
The mind THINKS involuntarily just like the heart BEATS involuntarily.
Yes, you can slow your heart rate quite a bit by learning how to breathe deeply, training wisely and all that jazz. BUT… You can’t just flip the switch OFF.
SAME WITH YOUR BRAIN.
We can learn how to slow our thoughts down (interestingly, via the same mechanisms we use to slow our heart rates down: deep breathing, good sleep, exercise, etc.) BUT… We can’t just flip the switch OFF. ← Isn’t that empowering?
Knowing that, when our minds inevitably move away from our anchors, we can just say “Oh, well” like Herbert Benson recommends and get back to our practice—in this case, to allowing our mantra to gently bubble up in our consciousness as we deeply relax our minds and bodies.
So… One more time: Our thoughts are not our enemies.
In fact, a meditation in which we have a LOT of thoughts bubble up is actually, potentially, one of our BEST meditations because the process of sitting and calmly bringing ourselves back to our anchor allows us to “digest”/“release” those thoughts that would otherwise have remained locked up in our minds and bodies.
As Emily says: “Thinking during meditation is actually an indicator that some stress is leaving the body. This is where the healing happens. Better out than in, right? When you feel those thoughts coming up and out, know that it is stress exiting your nervous system.”
And: “If you remember one thing from this whole book, let it be this: A deep meditation is no better for you than a shallow meditation. I’m going to say that again for dramatic effect. A deep meditation is no better for you than a shallow meditation. I am defining a deep meditation as one in which time passes quickly, you have few thoughts, and you generally enjoy the sitting. In a shallow meditation, the time may pass more slowly, you may feel like you are just sitting there having thoughts the whole time, and you may not enjoy the sitting itself. Both are beneficial for you. A deep meditation means the body is getting deep rest; a shallow meditation means the body is releasing stresses in the form of thoughts. One is not better for you than the other. Write it on your mirror, make a T-shirt, tattoo it on your forehead. I know it sounds crazy and counter to everything you have likely heard about meditation so far, but it’s true.”
Here’s to just showing up and brushing our brains.