The new meditation

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The science supporting the benefits of meditation are so solid that it’s become mainstream. Now, committed meditators are looking to evolve their practices or get even more out of them. Enter: manifestation, an extension of meditation that can help you to practically apply all of the mental and physical rewards you’re reaping. “Just like yoga paved the way for meditation, I think meditation has paved the way for manifestation,” says Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation in New York City and author of Stress Less, Accomplish More.

Demystifying manifestation

Contrary to some popularized ideas around manifestation, it’s not simply dreaming of superficial things like having a Tesla or traveling to space. Instead, it’s about tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) via meditation which has been shown to lower blood pressureimprove sleep, and even physiologically change the gray matter in your brain so it responds better to anxiety. This primes your mind and body for manifesting pretty much any goal, since you’ll be in a more relaxed and less stressed state, says Michael Gervais, yoga instructor, creator of Equinox’s HeadStrong meditations, and director of group fitness talent and development in New York City. “If you sleep better, for example, you’ll likely perform better at work and land that promotion you were aiming for. It’s not mystical, it’s practical. You still have to put in the work.”

Getting started

Both experts agree that starting with meditation is key. Fletcher recommends spending two minutes immediately after your regular meditation session manifesting. “It’s a window of time when you want to keep your eyes closed anyway,” she says. But it’s also a good way to utilize that time in a more intentional and productive way. “Those few minutes post-meditation are powerful and a time that people will typically grab their phone,” says Gervais.

To try it, Fletcher says the trick is getting very specific about things that you want to achieve. Think: What exactly does ‘getting fitter’ or ‘getting stronger’ look like? In what areas in my life do I want to be more creative, specifically? “It’s about visualizing what you want to create,” says Fletcher.

You can also direct your thinking during a meditation session towards specific things you’re trying to cultivate, according to Gervais. For instance, you could choose focus, creativity, or physical performance (i.e. running a marathon PR or hitting a weightlifting goal).

Take focus as an example. It’s easy to understand how people can feel distracted in this world. From a practical standpoint, meditation is the antidote: It stimulates the PNS and creates positive changes in your brain. Try to visualize that happening. Then, you can try a breathing exercise like deep and shallow breathing before starting a physical body scan (starting with the soles of your feet and moving up through the legs and core, imagine that your scattered energy is coming together as it’s progressing upwards). “Returning to the theme of focus, your body scan would end with all the energy behind the forehead and eyebrows,” says Gervais. “That’s the part of the brain (the frontal lobes) that is responsible for higher-level thinking and decision-making.”

You can use the same set-up with a unique body scan ending for each goal, depending on what you’re aiming to cultivate. “If your goal was performance, your scan could end with awareness of the whole body (imagine the energy connecting the hands, feet, and the crown of your head) to emphasize physical vitality,” says Gervais. “For creativity, your scan should end centered around the lower abdomen/gut—what’s considered your other brain.

Setting up for success

Regardless of your approach, one of the best times to meditate and to manifest is at bedtime in a quiet space without distraction. “Most people manifest when they are drifting off to sleep and the reason that works is that you’re between two different states of consciousness and your thoughts are dancing between the right and left hemispheres of the brain,” says Fletcher. “It’s that sacred magical time where you’re not quite fully awake or asleep. You’re naturally more relaxed and you can quite literally visualize your dreams.” —Caroline Schaefer

Manifest focus

Meditate before bed, think clearly all day.

Manifest a fitter body

Try this 10-minute practice for sounder sleep and improved fitness.