10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Worksby Published 11 Mar 2014
|10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.pdf|
7 hrs and 50 mins
Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable.
After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
We all have a voice in our head. It's what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we're not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we're stuck with this voice that there's nothing we can do to rein it in but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It's a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it's something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.
10% Happier takes listeners on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America's spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.
©2014 Daniel Benjamin Harris (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
"10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works" Reviews
I fucking loved this book. It's the most compelling introduction to meditation I've seen, after spending hundreds of dollars buying books on the subject. I have a therapy practice that is mindfulness-based. I often recommend informative-but-boring mindfulness-related books to people that they don't often finish. They'll almost certainly finish this one. It's terrific.
This bestseller annoyed me over and over. It's more of a memoir than a book about learning to meditate - something I do. But to read this book you must read about the life of this privileged rich white guy who has no social conscious and little interest in the people around him other than what he can exploit for a story. His arrogance is present in the subtitle - he reduced stress and kept his edge. But he never had an edge as far as I could tell. While the encouragement to meditate is positive, he has nothing new to say about the process. He mostly hates it until he has these wonderful break-throughs. I didn't like the author and, since the book focuses every page on the author, I didn't like the book.
He does a great job of demystifying meditation. In an enjoyable way he recounts his own experiences, from skepticism to belief in, & explains what he's learned from others along the way.
Dan Harris is a bit of a jerk. You don’t have to take my word for it. He says it himself, more than once, in his book. A lot of 10% Happier is about Harris trying to be less of a jerk.
Among his other journalistic accomplishments, which include more than a few in-country assignments in hot-fire war zones, hosting gigs on Good Morning America and Nightline, and scoring interviews with some very scary people, Harris is known for a live on-camera meltdown that was seen only by close family members, co-workers and oh, maybe 5 million viewers. I have added a link at the bottom.
This is a road trip of self-discovery tale, and the path Harris takes is extremely interesting. Of course the self he discovers is still a self-centered jerk, but a jerk who can really, really tell a story, fill it with fascinating, meaningful information, add in considerable dollops of LOL humor, much at his own expense, and emerge with what, for himself and many others, is a life-changing way of going about his life.
Dan Harris - photo from ABC news
One of the nifty things about the book is that Harris is a seasoned media pro and can deliver a snappy line with the best of them
I might have disagreed with the conclusion reached by people of faith, but at least that part of their brain was functioning. Every week, they had a set time to consider their place in the universe, to step out of the matrix and achieve some perspective. If you’re never looking up, I now realized, you’re always just looking around.Of course this presumes that everyone who is looking up is seeking something celestial and not doing so merely to fit in with the pack, or being distracted by a passing drone. Still, my cynicism notwithstanding, the man has a way with words. And that makes this a very easy book to read. He is a charming guide on this search for a better way and you will meet some familiar names and learn of some others who should be.
Harris offers small bits on Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer, among other ABC news folks. No surprises are to be had there. Jennings assigned the young Harris to the religion beat, over his (silent) objections, just in time for the post 9/11 world to give a damn about religion as news fodder. Harris covered a range of stories while on this gig, and met many interesting people, but was very impressed with Ted Haggard, who, off-camera, comes across as a pretty reasonable sort, which was surprising. Of course Haggard, who publicly preached against same-sex relationships, was practicing the fine art of total hypocrisy, as he was enjoying the company of a paid male escort. But he comes across as having much more substance than his gawker-headline downfall would lead one to suspect. Harris meets with a few more folks in the self-help biz, whether of the religious, secular, or woo-woo sorts. The up-close and personal here is riveting.
But the business at hand is not just about getting a fix on people like Deepak Chopra, it is about Harris trying to find his way past his personal limitations. He does a bit of a pinball route, bouncing among several of today’s self-help gurus in search of a way to quiet the inner anchorman who offers running commentary during every waking moment. The first step, of course was to realize that the ego was on camera all the time, offering a live feed, an internal, personal, and less than wonderful 24/7 personal news channel. One of the first people whose work he found illuminating was a weird but compelling German, Eckhart Tolle, who offered a take on how to live in the now.
It was a little embarrassing to be reading a self-help writer and thinking, This guy gets me. But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head—the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember—was kind of an asshole.He finds elements of Deepak Chopra illuminating as well, but with reservations.
Chopra was definitely more fun to hang out with than Tolle—I preferred Deepak’s rascally What Makes Sammy Run? style to the German’s otherworldly diffidence—but I left the experience more confused, not less. Eckhart was befuddling because, while I believed he was sincere, I couldn’t tell if he was sane. With Deepak it was the opposite; I believed he was sane, but I couldn’t tell if he was sincere.What he arrives at is meditation. In particular a state called “mindfulness”, in which one observes the thoughts and feelings that are occurring, but at a remove, so that one can respond without relying on immediate, visceral and ego-driven reactions. There are different forms of meditation, but he finds one that does the trick for him. And puts it into practice. How he goes about this is sometimes LOL funny, particularly when we are privy to the snarky ramblings of his ego while he is attempting to not lose his mind during a lengthy meditation retreat.
At end he learns a very useful skill, and even offers a very accessible step-by-step set of directions for having a go yourself. No beads, sandals, incense or robes required, really. Corporations and even the Marines are promoting meditation among their people. Turns out there are real-world benefits. It is probably worth at least a try.
There is an old saw that goes “Sincerity, if you can fake that you’ve got it made.” I do not think that Harris is faking anything here. He is definitely into meditation, and tells lot about the very real benefits to be had. Of course, as a self-centered jerk, it is the self-benefits that get the air-time in his book. There is another realm, which involves compassion. While Harris does talk about this, it is pretty clear that meditation is a way for Dan Harris to do better in the world for Dan Harris. And while there are collateral benefits for those around him as a result of his evolution, the whole compassion thing remains for Harris a means to an end.
In 10% Happier, a term he came up with to explain the benefits of his mindfulness practice and stop people from looking at him as if he were an alien, Harris offers a revealing portrait of himself as far, far less than perfect (his meltdown, for example, was made possible in large measure by considerable intake of cocaine and ecstasy), tells a tale of personal seeking and growth, and shares with us the very concrete techniques he has gleaned. So, while self-interest remains the beneficiary of his new knowledge, and while Dan Harris remains, IMHO, a jerk, he is a curious, articulate, and entertaining jerk who has shared some useful experiences and knowledge with the rest of us. Nothing jerky about that.
Review posted 11/21/14
Links to the author’s Twitter and FB pages
Dan Harris’s vid on how to Hack Your Brain's Default Mode with Meditation
Harris's on-air report about the book on ABC
Harris is interviewed on Colbert
Somehow it seems wrong that people are using meditation as a networking tool. Check out this 11/21/14 NY Times piece, How to Find a Job With Meditation and Mindfulness, by Laura M. Holson.
Check out this interesting short item from the NY Times Wellness section - How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body By Gretchen Reynolds - 2/18/16
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius.