Monday, June 2, 2014

10% Happier, by Dan Harris

This is a surprisingly interesting book! Mr. Harris is a TV reporter / anchor who at the time of this writing works on Nightline. I've never seen him on TV (I try to stick with NPR and PBS for my non-financial news). But the title was interesting. 80% of the book is an amusing auto-biography that orbits around Mr. Harris' search for a means by which to quiet the critical and annoying voices in his head - those of his inner mind telling him unhelpful things.

I'm reminded of the book Crucial Conversations .  It describes a process by which we observe events and tell ourselves a story to map to the events, one which dictates our response.  That book, serving business people by helping them to have more productive conversations with colleagues, bosses and subordinates, points out that the story we tell ourselves about a situation is often unreasonable, and that if we consider that another story might map to the facts just as well, we can defuse an otherwise explosive encounter.

Along the way, Mr. Harris was exposed to a number of self-help folks.  It is worth reading the book if only for his honest and amusing description of some of these people.  Meanwhile, he stumbles into meditation.  His approach is really that of "I am uncomfortable with the idea, with the people who promote it, with the promises, and with the associated spirituality, but fine, I'll try it out."

The title comes from his realization that he could avoid getting "oh, now you're weird" reactions from folks who learned about his meditation if he just described it as a way to get 10% happier.

Mr. Harris describes how he first heard the RAIN acronym: recognize, allow, investigate, non-identification, as part of his meditation practice.  This resonates with me as an addendum to the Crucial Conversations notions of re-thinking the story.

Mr. Harris is very open about his struggles, his drug use, and his panic attack on air while doing Good Morning America.  These descriptions don't seem contrived, but rather support the tone of his book as authentic.

I recommend this book even if you have no intention of meditating.

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

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