10% Happier


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
Categories: Biography, Happiness
Author: Dan Harris
Genre: Self-Help
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Published: 12/30/2014
After having a nationally televised panic attack, 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.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

About the Author

Dan Harris was born on July 26th 1971 in Massachusetts to Nancy Lee Harris and Jay R . Harris. Harris graduated from Colby College in 1993 and embarked on a long and checkered career in journalism. Staring as an anchor for WLBZ, Harris joined ABC in 2000 and has worked there since then. He appears on ABC’S Nightline as a co-anchor and Good Morning America on weekends. Harris is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller, 10% Happier. In 2014, he won the Living Now Book Award for Inspirational Memoir.  Having worked in a highly competitive industry, Dan Harris realized that meditation is an effective way to do almost everything from lowering blood pressure to rewiring the brain. Harris identifies himself as Buddhist even though he has Jewish heritage. 10% Happier is a do-it-yourself manual with instructions on meditation that are practical for everyone.

Synopsis

Have you ever wondered if meditation works or if it is just hype and mysticism? 10% Happier is just the book to answer your questions. It introduces meditation in an easy-to-understand manner. Harris does an excellent job showing the benefits of meditation for skeptics who may want to dismiss it as bad science. If you want to live a stress free life and better understand yourself, this book is a goldmine full of information. Using lessons from personal experiences, Harris shows that the root cause of most problems stems from the ego, and he goes on to show how meditation can help mediate the ego.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One: Meditative Pervasiveness

-The same way that computers require software upgrades is the same way our brains need meditation as a software upgrade.  Meditation is pervasive in society with numerous studies showing its usefulness in improving test scores, the immune system, and stress.

-The mind can change according to the science that supports meditation.  Meditation helps to deactivate certain sections of the brain where negative thoughts originate and replaces them with positive thought patterns.

-The way a software upgrade changes how computer hardware operates is the same way meditation changes the brain and allows people to create new modes of thinking. This allows you to become a new person with practice.

Chapter Two: Mindfulness

-The human brain is wired to be mindful of feelings such as anger and pain without getting overwhelmed. People typically accept, reject, or ignore their emotions. Buddha offers a fourth option of being mindful in which one can view the contents of the mind in an impartial way. This means acting more like a neutral outsider looking at your own brain without making judgment.

-Why is mindfulness important? Mindfulness frees the mind from being a victim of impulses that are habitual. For example, when Harris panicked and broke his voice in front of a live TV audience, his reaction was to over-react to try to control his voice. Harris reacted like most people by rejecting his feelings of anger and reinforcing negative thinking.

-Mindfulness takes practice and reduces negative thinking while promoting positive thinking. It helps to rewire the brain and creates responses that are more deliberate-no more knee-jerk reactions based on emotions!

Chapter Three: Skepticism

-The ego is the root cause of skepticism. It’s that nagging voice in your head in which most of its conversation is repetitive and negative. The ego is never satisfied and is literally the “trouble-maker” that incites us with thoughts that are compulsive and obsessive.

-The ego is skeptical and disillusioned and keeps alive grievances from the past. What about the future and the present? The ego is an enemy of the present and would prefer to live in a future made up of fantasy.

-The ego is more of the moral compass and is responsible for bursts of thoughts that are overwhelming. It is the source of misconceptions and preconceptions formed in our mind. So where does this lead us? The answer is simple--meditation helps to calm the ego which appears ever agitated. Slowing down the internal conversation through meditation creates room to reduce skepticism.

Chapter Four: Wisdom of Insecurity

-Stressful lives amplify our fight or flight reactions. Why is this so? Most people are driven by a desire for security and permanence. That means most people perceive a roller-coaster life as abnormal in the pursuit of happiness.

-Mark Epstein, a psychologist suggests that cultivating a new mindset of impermanence and insecurity leads to true happiness. We should start by asking ourselves what is security? Is the price we pay in pursuit of security worth the drama we subject ourselves to daily? If the answer is no, we should then embrace a new mindset and wisdom of insecurity.

-Meditation helps us to sabotage that internal desire of being on edge and competitive at all costs. It reduces anxiety, stress, and worry.

Chapter Five: RAIN

-RAIN stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-identification.

-Start by acknowledging your feelings. Don’t avoid pain--on the contrary, flow with it.  Proceed to investigate how you feel. For example, ask yourself am I overeating because I am stressed or truly hungry? Non-identification allows you to see that you may be overeating because you are temporarily stressed--you are not a glutton.

-Meditation helps you to understand that people go through temporary phases which should not be misconstrued as their new identity. For example, while grieving the loss of a loved one, one may get depressed. Depression does not define their identity--it is a passing phase.

Chapter Six: Enlightened Self-Interest

-One argument people offer about meditation is that letting go of the ego reduces competitiveness and makes people simpletons. Is this true? Absolutely not. Look at it this way--there is a big difference between being simple and being a simpleton. Meditation tampers ambition with compassion and makes the world a much better place to live.

-Meditation allows people to have materials without having attachments to them. This means you can own something but it does not own you. For example, one can have wealth but wealth does not control the person. If one loses wealth, he or she is strong enough to bounce back and succeed again.

-The ability to bounce back in life through meditation is what Harris terms “enlightened self-interest:” knowing that we are not in full control of life’s outcomes. We have the choice to be selfish and wise or selfish and foolish in life.

Chapter Seven: Meditation Retreat with Goldstein

-It is possible for one to achieve enlightenment using meditation. This is not as easy as it appears and can be confused with self-illusion. Harris shows that with practice, anybody can achieve Enlightenment.

-Meditation is not an abstract idea that is beyond the reach of ordinary people. There is nothing magical about it. It simply assists people to deal with real problems. For example, one can learn to pause and think before acting and make better choices in the future.

-Meditation helps people to analyze simple truths at a deeper level. This has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. There is wisdom through meditation--it teaches us that worrying does not change situations and is, therefore, not useful.

Chapter Eight: Don’t Multitask

-Harris is audacious to state that only computers are designed to multi-task. But isn’t multi-tasking a desirable skill in the modern workplace? Apparently not according to Harris who shows that our brains are wired to do one task at a time.

-When people do several tasks simultaneously, the mind sends signals to remind us of tasks that are incomplete. This creates what Harris describes as a state of “continual partial attention.” For example, when one is driving and talking on the phone, the mind is partially attentive  and this may result in an accident.

-Harris shows that the answer to partial attention is to engage the mind in “purposeful pauses” to slow down the reminder signals of tasks that are incomplete. Meditation allows the mind to relax and allow the unconscious brain to work. This calls for one to get comfortable with mental states of ambiguity that allows the mind to let go of problems and do other things.

Chapter Nine: Life is Suffering

-Buddha coined the word “Dukkha” to mean “life is stressful.” What does this mean? Buddha meant that life is ultimately unsatisfying since it is temporary. We live in a state of perpetual anxiety and anticipation for the next big thing. For example, one has a car and plans to buy a new one; there is an anticipation of enjoying the new car.  Lesson: human beings are never satisfied and therefore never truly happy.

-We live in a primordial state of looking for happiness in material things.  The feelings and emotions we experience are temporary and so is the happiness produced.  Ask yourself, even if you were to be given everything you have ever desired, would you be happy? The answer is yes,  for a while, before you start desiring new things.

-Harris concludes by showing that meditation helps us to break the cycle of insecurity about the future and makes us fulfilled with simple things. This is what he refers to as making people 10% happier though meditation.

Conclusion

Harris offers a straight-forward approach to meditation without the bad science and mysticism associated with it. This book appeals to even the most skeptical of skeptics in its practicality. Harris shows that there is more to the pursuit of happiness than material things and striving for success.  Try meditation-- become simple but not a simpleton.

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