Tag Archives: meditation

10% Happier,…a review

An Audible book review — 10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Stories have a way of capturing us.  Given that the author is in the story-making business, he creatively loops several facets of meditation, vis-a-vis a series of real-life tales, into a mainstream mindset.  Overall, I found 10% Happier entertaining and well worth the listen.

Admittedly, I didn’t know who the author was when I came across this book.  Being part of a major news network contributed a degree of credibility to the narrative, especially since he had the ability, and apparently, the desire, to interview a broad cross-section of leaders on the ‘spiritual’ side of the self-help business.  He, therefore, brings an objective, albeit at times somewhat inelastic, perspective to the concept of meditation.

It was slightly off-putting, for example, that he needed to dis Eckhart Tolle right out of the gate, even though Tolle’s book, A New Earth, which he admittedly read three times before he started his journey, opened the door into a life-changing, philosophical shift in his thinking.  His curious derision for Tolle seemed to be affected not only by concepts he evidently couldn’t grasp but also by his wardrobe.  Thankfully, Harris somewhat redeemed himself in the epilogue, reluctantly giving Tolle (some) credit.

At times, it seemed like he was writing the book for his colleagues at ABC, perhaps to explain spats of conduct as well as elucidate the logic for his path into the quasi-spiritual world.  Still, the book was highly engaging, with humorous bouts of self-deprecation and a partial inside view of the high-stress world of network news.

Apart from his highly skeptical nature — if there is no proof, and it’s not mainstream, then it borders fringe or beyond unless someone he respects provides scientific and logical evidence — Harris comes across relatively open, honest, with hefty doses of witty tongue-in-cheek, which adds to his likability.

For anyone wanting to increase their English vocabulary, I’d recommend the written book.  Because I listened to the narrated version, I was (slightly) better able to understand, if only in context, the abundance of unfamiliar flowery words and phrases peppered throughout.  Reading such a bounty of unusual words would have stopped me in my tracks more often than I would have liked (but that may be a good thing).

What I particularly liked about the book, besides the evocative anecdotes, is his method of spreading the value of meditation, which, because of his unique media role and presentation style, takes some of the mysteriousness out of an opaque topic.  I’ve been on the cusp of starting this lifestyle practice for too long.  After listening to the book, I’m a convert.  Meditation, as it’s evidently been scientifically proven, is an exercise with only constructive upside benefits.

Even though I was slightly annoyed about the Tolle dissing, (it was useful mindfulness practice anyhow), I found myself wanting more when it ended.  Hence, I’ve already pre-ordered his new guidelines coming out in Dec 2017.  I’m at least 10% more motivated.

Suggestion: Harris closed the book with a self-developed list of ten useful “precepts.”  I’d recommend changing #1 from “don’t be a jerk” to “be kind.”  It’s easier to be something than not being something.  Besides, jerk is relative, and kindness precludes jerkness.

transcendental ummph

Most of our bodily functions, under normal conditions, are either voluntary or involuntary.  Not many are both.  We can choose when to use the washroom (to a point), but we don’t choose our heartbeat.  We might choose to control our breath, but it’s an involuntarily action that will happen regardless.  For the most part, our functions are either/or.

One whopping exception is our thought process, which for most of us, is both voluntary and involuntary.  And the beauty, as humans, is that we have an opportunity that repeats itself every second to take voluntary control over the involuntary process.

It’s an incredible reality.  Every second of every day, we can decide what is processed through our “think” box, in addition to how we feel.  We can decide, every second, whether to feel happy or sad, grateful or frustrated, loving or not so loving, or whether to let garbage thoughts stream or stop them in their tracks.  The challenge is finding our transcendental ummph.

When I was 18 during my second semester of college in the early 70s, I sat in on an extracurricular course called Transcendental Meditation.  The concept sounded intriguing.  I guess the numerous LSD trips I had experimented with, although quite mind-bending experiences, were mostly joy rides and not so grounded in reality.  The TM practice though, was too slow for my young head after the psychedelic form of expanded consciousness.  Regardless, there was something about transcending the normal state of mind that was tempting.  I left both of them behind not long after that semester.

Recently though, the idea of transcending mental noise has once again become alluring.  But to be in continued control of what passes through the thought process seems to take extraordinary effort.  If only it were as easy as going to the gym a few times a week.  Life is full and busy for most of us — bombarding us with people and circumstances that challenge us from transcending anything.

Is getting to a form of permanent transcendence for yogis and spiritual masters only?  Can’t be, because we all have the power within us to think and feel as we choose, to make decisions about, and take responsibility for, our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Is it that simple?  Maybe so, as many have known this over the last couple millennia.  Perhaps it could be said then, that abdicating this responsibility of taking control over the involuntary thought process, of letting someone or something determine our emotional state, or permitting our thoughts run amok,  is like saying we are not the masters of our own thought box.

But what do I know.  It may be easier than I’m reckoning.  It could be that those hallucinogenic trials in my (more) youthful years knocked a few rungs out of my transcendental ladder.

Nevertheless, whether for a second, or perhaps two, simply recognizing that there’s always another second, one second away, provides an exciting prospect of almost unlimited opportunities for poking our heads above the clatter.  It’s possible because it’s an every-second decision.

Now I’d better get back to searching for a little of that ummph, the transcendental kind, which seems to continually evade me.