Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - 10% Happier by Dan Harris. 10% Happier is 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.
What you'll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain. It's a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose. [...] In my experience, meditation makes you 10% happier. That's an absurdly unscientific estimate, of course. But still, not a bad return on investment.
Our inner chatter isn't all bad, of course. Sometimes it's creative, generous, or funny. But if we don't pay close attention - which very few of us are taught how to do - it can be a malevolent puppeteer.
Broadcast news is a tricky beast, though. Aside from the high-minded stuff about holding powerful interests accountable and using the power of the medium for good, there is also something deeply and irrationally affirming about getting your mug on TV. Watch how excited people get at baseball games when their faces flash on the JumboTron. Now imagine doing that for a living.
The great blessing of being a journalist is that you get to witness world events - to interface with the players, to experience the smells and tastes of it all.
When you have one foot in the future and the other in the past, you piss on the present.
I'd been sleepwalking through much of my life - swept along on a tide of automatic, habitual behavior.
Nothing lasts - including us. We and everyone we love will die. Fame fizzles, beauty fades, continents shift. Pharaohs are swallowed by emperors, who fall to sultans, kings, kaisers, and presidents - and it all plays out against the backdrop of an infinite universe in which our bodies are made up of atoms from the very first exploding stars. We may know this intellectually, but on an emotional level we seem to be hardwired for denial.
When I opened my eyes, I had an entirely different attitude about meditation. I didn't like it, per se, but I now respected it. This was not just some hippie time-passing technique, like Ultimate Frisbee or making God's Eyes. It was a rigorous brain exercise: rep after rep of trying to tame the runaway train of the mind. The repeated attempt to bring the compulsive thought machine to heel was like holding a live fish in your hands. Wrestling your mind to the ground, repeatedly hauling your attention back to the breath in the face of the inner onslaught required genuine grit. This was a badass endeavor.
The net effect of meditation, plus trying to stay present during my daily life, was striking. It was like anchoring myself to an underground aquifer of calm. It became a way to steel myself as I moved through the world.
There is a point to sitting around all day with your eyes closed: to gain some control over the mind, to see through the forces that drive us - and drive us nuts.
I looked into it and found there was science to suggest that pausing could be a key ingredient in creativity and innovation. Studies showed that the best way to engineer an epiphany was to work hard, focus, research, and think about a problem - and then let go. Do something else.
Mindfulness, I now realized, was the best and potentially most impactful story I'd ever covered. In many ways, it was my craziest act of gonzo journalism. If it could help a monumental skeptic like me, I could only imagine what it could do for others, and I thought that if I could find a way to make it more broadly appealing, that would be a real service.
Striving is fine, as long as it's tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control. If you don't waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome - so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.
When you don't dig in your heels and let your ego get into entrenched positions from which you mount vigorous, often irrational defenses, you can navigate tricky situations in a much more agile way.
All successful people fail. If you can create an inner environment where your mistakes are forgiven and flaws are candidly confronted, your resilience expands exponentially.
Mindfulness, happiness, and not being a jerk are skills I can hone the rest of my life - every day, every moment, until senility or death. And the payoff is less reactivity, less rumination, and - who knows? - maybe stream-entry. I have willingness and curiosity. I have confidence and trust.