10% Happier (book review)


10% HappierCan a national television anchor find some semblance of peace through the practice of meditation?  Dan Harris answers this question and more in his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story

I liked how real Harris is in the book.  A prominent television personality with ABC News, Harris is very open about his rise in the TV News business and the obstacles he deals with along the way (such as his struggles with drug abuse).  Haunted by self doubt, Harris writes, “The voice in my head can be a total pill. I’d venture to guess yours can, too.”

“The voice comes braying in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air horn,” Harris relates.  “It’s a fever swamp of urges, desires, and judgments. It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now.”  Hmmm.  This isn’t the first book I’ve read about that nagging voice (check out Michael Singer’s Untethered Soul).  It was a comfort to know others have critical voices in their heads like me.  So what to do about it?

Meditation will quiet the voice and make you “10% happier”, says Harris.  “It’s a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose,” he writes.  “What I’m attempting to do in this book is demystify meditation, and show that if it can work for me, it can probably work for you, too.”

I enjoyed reading Harris’ journey through the self help field.  As ABC’s Religion reporter he tells stories of interviewing the likes of Eckhard Tolle, Ted Haggard, and Deepak Chopra.  He approaches each with a skeptical eye, yet finds some value in what they have to say.  “There is something there,” he relates after an encounter with Deepak, “although I’m not sure Chopra is the best example of it.”

Eventually Harris does find a meditation technique that works for him.  “(I) read a few books about what Buddhist meditation actually involved, and learned that you didn’t need to wear robes, chant Sanskrit phrases, or listen to Cat Stevens,” he writes.  “In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now—anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever—without getting carried away by it.”

If you are curious about meditation, Harris’ book is a good introduction to the practice, written in a fun, conversational style.  If you have meditated for years, like I have, 10% Happier can give you new insights into making your practice more effective.

Categories : Book Reviews, meditation

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