10% Happier by Dan Harris

10 Happier

Summary
  1. Dan Harris had a very public panic attack on air during an ABC news cast and this led him down a path he never thought he’d go. Harris helps demystify meditation and offers his own advice and steps to take in order to make meditation work for you. As the title suggests, meditation may not change your life, but it may just make you 10% happier.
Key Takeaways
  1. Learned how to realistically incorporate meditation in a “non-guru-like” fashion and this helps quiet one’s “monkey mind,” become responsive instead of reactive and realize that one’s inner voice are simply thoughts and not reality
  2. RAIN – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification
  3. Acceptance is not passivity.
  4. Meditation helps quiet the “surge of habitual impulses” which so many of us simply fall prey to and obey
    1. Meditation can be as simple as sitting with your spine relatively straight in a chair, focusing on your breathing and when your mind wanders (which it inevitably will) simply to forgive yourself and get back to the breathing. Can start with just five minutes and feel the effects
  5. It is perfectly fine to plot and plan, but only up to the point of it being useful
  6. “The real superpower of meditation is not just to manage your ego more mindfully but to see that the ego itself has no actual substance.”
  7. Through meditation, you don’t feel different feelings, you simply learn to detach from them
    1. Detachment allows for space between stimulus and response
  8. When a feeling overcomes you, be aware and notice how it manifests itself (clenched fists, raised eyebrows, shoulder shrugged, etc.)
  9. The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness
  10. In the real world, “hide the zen” or else people will take advantage of you. Can feel the calm inside but don’t need to show others or be too conspicuous with it
  11. Nonattachment to the result, not the process. Be ambitious!
  12. Striving is fine, as long as you realize that the final outcome is ultimately out of your control
  13. Brain is a pleasure seeking machine and through meditation you can teach it that being present feels far better than worrying about the past or the future
  14. Meditation is not about feeling a certain way, it’s about being mindful of what you are feeling
What I got out of it
  1. More than anything, a realistic, practical and helpful book on meditation and how to implement it into your life

  • Your inner voice can be a puppeteer if not properly trained. Meditation helps train and focus that inner voice so that you can become responsive instead of reactive
  • Although Harris achieved early success as a newscaster, he was soon diagnosed with depression and started using cocaine and ecstasy. Was able to balance his drug addiction and work for some time but it soon led to multiple panic attacks and an overall deterioration of his life
  • Soon was chosen as ABC’s respondent on all matters on religion. First taken aback since he never considered himself religion. However, as he became more involved and saw more of this world, he took some strength from religion and used it during some tough times
  • Read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and it opened his eyes. Realized that the voice in his head, his ego, is what often makes him do stupid things and this inner voice truly isn’t us. It is never satisfied, lives either in the past or in the future and compares our self to others.
  • Recognized for the first time that this voice is simply thoughts and not reality
  • His whole life he thought this inner voice, his “inner cattle prod” was his greatest strength but it was in fact his greatest weakness. It made him ambitious and pushed him to achieve great things but it made him desperately unhappy
  • Also interviewed Deepak Chopra who he thought had contradictory traits of self-promotion and guru-like qualities. Although very well-renowned, Harris found Chopra fake and flimsy
  • These gurus, Tolle and Chopra, were too much for Harris and he turned away from them and towards Mark Epstein. Epstein was more realistic and pragmatic and helped teach Harris about Buddhism, to accept and embrace impermanence and to tame the “monkey mind” – the mind that is always agitated and never at rest
  • Initially opposed to meditation but gave it a try anyway
  • In the modern world, our fight/flight response is triggered very frequently. Social ostracism perhaps the biggest trigger
  • Learned how to use down moments to focus on the breath and one’s surroundings. Aim for mindfulness – nonjudgmental remove is the alternative to living reactively
  • RAIN – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification
  • Acceptance is not passivity.
  • Respond, don’t react
  • Takes a 10 day retreat and although he really struggled he got a lot out of it
  • Finally recognizes and feels the impermanence of it all
  • Understands that Buddhism teaches that life is more about being unsatisfying than suffering (as is traditionally taught) because of this impermanence 
  • Hedonic adaptation – people adapt extremely quickly to new, higher baselines. People who win the jackpot quickly revert back to their normal happiness baselines
  • Harris struggled for a while with this idea of just letting everything happen as he is such an A-type personality and is so competitive. One of the biggest takeaways from the retreat was that it is perfectly fine plot and plan, but only up to the point of it being useful. Running through an event 17 times and planning every little detail and getting stressed out over it isn’t useful
  • Key is not to get carried away by desire, but to manage it with mindfulness and wisdom
  • Still feel normal feelings but get over them quickly and realize often not as serious as initially thought
  • Meditation now has scientifically proven benefits as they have shown that it helps rewire and change how the brain works. Happiness is a skill that can be trained through meditation
  • Humans incapable of multitasking – focus on one task at a time and do it perfectly
  • Take mini-mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Can work into your everyday routine such as when you stand up from your desk, go to the bathroom, answer a phone call, etc.
  • Compassion helps you just as much as it helps others
  • Harris made it a priority to be as nice as possible to everyone around him – selfish in a way because it made him happier too
  • “…everyone wants the same thing – happiness – but we all go about it with varying levels of skill. If you spend a half hour on the cushion every day contending with your own ego, it’s hard not to be more tolerant of others.”
  • Everyone experiences the subconscious illusion that somebody else’s success was meant for them
  • In the real, competitive world, “hide the zen” or else people will take advantage of you. Can feel the calm inside but don’t need to show others or be too conspicuous with it
  • Nonattachment to the result, not the process. Be ambitious!
  • Striving is fine, as long as you realize that the final outcome is ultimately out of your control
  • Brain is a pleasure seeking machine and through meditation you can teach it that being present feels far better than worrying about the past or the future. This will reinforce the behavior and make it easier and even more pleasurable over time
  • Offers simple instructions on different types of meditation – compassionwalkingopen awareness, cooking