I was heading out for some quick exercise, scanning the library audio books for something good when I saw it: Stress Less Accomplish More, Meditation for Extraordinary Performance (2019: William Morrow) by Emily Fletcher.
The title was 100% uninspiring to me. I’m retired. I have no urgency to stress less or accomplish more. As a longtime meditator, I wasn’t hopeful that Emily Fletcher could present me anything new. But I could think of several people I love who are under bone-cracking pressure as a result of pandemic constraints. I downloaded the book and set out on my walk.
After a while I fast-forwarded through seven chapters of testimonials and (what seemed like) a sales pitch for meditation. I wanted to see what in the world was so different about Fletcher’s approach, which she calls the Ziva Technique (or, in the abbreviated form presented in the book, the “Z” Technique).
I’m here to tell you the author is really on to something.
I suspect the first seven chapters are to overcome the huge objection to carving out two 15-minute time slots in an over-achieving day, which Fletcher says is the ticket to more ‘adaptive energy,’’or an ability to meet life’s demands with a unique kind of resilience, along with improved sleep, sex, healthier choices and more.
I returned the audio version and found the actual book, flipping ahead to page 125 where the action begins:
A meditator slides into a 15-minute Ziva session with a mindfulness exercise involving sensory awareness, then uses a mental mantra, and finishes up with a brief bit of gratitude and manifesting. If the word ‘manifesting’ makes your eyes roll as mine did, Fletcher walks you through it.
She then describes five possible thought tracks that can happen in meditation. Three are described as effective (a shallow meditation is as effective as a deep one) and two are ineffective. This alone demystifies meditation and throws out the idea that the object is to clear the mind (impossible!). No lotus positions or equipment needed. No need to ever wonder if you are “doing it right.” I found her entire approach so well-grounded with such little extraneous material that I understood how high-strung folks could dig right in and get measurable results.
I decided to give it a go.
After beginning Emily Fletcher’s Z technique, my sleep immediately improved. I mean, that very night.
After a while, I began collecting Fitbit data, which validated how my sleep had improved. My snooze scores of 85 or above (a great night’s sleep) rose from a crummy 10% for the five weeks previous to beginning this practice, to a lovely 71% for the following five weeks. I had resigned myself to poor sleep as a byproduct of aging. Now I wonder what else might improve.
Eventually I revisited the first seven chapters and found, amid all the enthusiasm, both scientific and anecdotal evidence. I learned that Fletcher had put in her time as a student of nishkam karma yoga, requiring “no effort, no concentration, and thankfully, no struggling to ‘clear the mind.’” I learned the difference (key, as it turns out) between happiness and bliss, and also how a mental mantra works during meditation.
Stress Less, Accomplish More makes a convincing argument for picking up that old meditation habit, refining the one you currently have or diving in for the first time.
Pam Holman is a certified life coach and retired teacher who lives with her husband and shares a bubble with her grandchildren in Rose Park.