“You are not a meditation failure; you just haven’t been taught yet.”
A few months ago, I followed up on a book recommendation and read Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance. I was intrigued by the title but also by the high-profile endorsers (such as Mark Hyman, M.D.) and the fact that the author, Emily Fletcher, was a Broadway actor who experienced what many art-makers, conductors included, experience in a stressful, performance-based world.
Meditation is at the root of the yoga practice and more and more, an important part of wellness initiatives in schools, corporate environments, and in people’s personal lives. That said, it is easy to be sporadic and a little unclear about “the whole meditation thing,” which is where I think this book can help.
The author spends several of the early chapters making the case for “why meditate,” with the emphasis on how stress impacts our sleep and our immune system and on how “stress makes you stupid” (indeed, the impact of stress on the brain is significant, something research continues to make clear). And speaking of research, Fletcher manages to find a way to include a fair amount throughout the book without making it feel like an academic tome. She writes clearly and conversationally, with a good bit of humor, which makes the book a fluid read and a convincing encouragement for giving meditation a go.
Fletcher’s conviction that getting our seat in a chair twice a day for 15 minutes will change your life for the better and her plan for what to do when you get there are powerful motivators. But so are the applications of this practice to the rest of “real life,” as humans and leaders and performers of any type. She shares her own story of curing an 18-month bout of insomnia which had negative impacts on her health and work as an actor and she aims everything in the book towards the goal of “up-leveling” our performance and manifesting what we really desire. Not only on the stage but in every aspect of life, as we return to or become the best version of ourselves.
One of my most influential yoga teachers would talk often about that precious time in the morning that she carved out to sit—and how different the day went if she did not take that time because of interruptions or temporary houseguests or just not following her own good habits. I get it now. On the days when I have scheduled these sit sessions with myself I must admit that life—all of life—looks better. It is decidedly different to launch the day or end the day from a more objective perspective, detached from activity (for at least 15 minutes) and open to hearing our inner voice that always knows best when it is freed from outside expectations or the pressure to be like everyone else. You are not like everyone else, but how will you know that and be clear enough to encourage your uniqueness in creativity and leading and life unless you meet that person where you sit?
This is the time of year we are often busiest as conductors, which makes it the perfect time to add this practice to our day. Too attached to the outcomes of the upcoming concert? Trying to up-level based on sheer grit? Too frenzied balancing holiday celebrations with work and health commitments? Incorporating meditation into our day can save us time in the long run by allowing the clarity that comes in quiet. And it can create a stillness of heart and mind that enables us to enjoy our busy lives just that much more.
Dr. Ramona Wis is the Mimi Rolland Endowed Professor in the Fine Arts, Professor of Music, and Director of Choral Activities at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and the author of The Conductor as Leader: Principles of Leadership Applied to Life on the Podium. Dr. Wis is a 500-hour CYT (Certified Yoga Teacher) and a certified Brain Longevity® Specialist, a research-based certification on yoga and integrative medicine for brain health and healthy aging. Reach her at: or ramonawis.com.
Emily Fletcher, Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance. https://a.co/d/efOIwhV