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 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:29 pm

This book is from my friend, Dan Harris, who is a co-anchor on ABC News Nightline... and a serious vipassana meditator.  He will be doing some on-air interviews and discussion about the book - and I will post them as they air.  JB

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 Hardcover - by Dan Harris (Author)

Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable.

After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, 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, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.

We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in – but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.

10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.

Dan Harris

Gretchin Rubin interviews Dan Harris about 10% Happier


I met Dan Harris when a mutual friend suggested that we’d enjoy talking about habits, happiness, and meditation. We had a great discussion, and in fact, Dan was one of several people who inspired me to try meditating. 10% Happier is his hilarious, thought-provoking book about his experiences with meditation. I knew Dan had done a lot of thinking about the relationship of habits and happiness, and how to use habits to foster happiness, so I was eager to hear what he had to say.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Dan: I never in a million years thought I’d be the type of person who’d say this, but my answer is … meditation.I had always assumed that meditation was for robed gurus, acid-droppers, and people who keep yurts in their backyard. But then I heard about the explosion of scientific research that shows the practice has an almost laughably long list of health benefits, from lowering your blood pressure to boosting your immune system to essentially rewiring your brain for happiness. I started with five minutes a day, and very quickly noticed three benefits: 1. Increased focus, 2. A greater sense of calm, and 3. A vastly improved ability to jolt myself out of rumination and fantasies about the past or the future, and back to whatever was happening right in front of my face.Over time (I’ve now been at it for about four years and do 35 minutes a day), an even more substantial benefit kicked in: I created a different relationship to the voice in my head. You know the voice I’m talking about. It’s what has us reaching into the fridge when we’re not hungry, checking our e-mail while we’re in conversation with other people, and losing our temper only to regret it later. The ability to see what’s going on in your head at any given moment without reacting to it blindly—often called “mindfulness”—is a superpower.I’m certainly not arguing that meditation is a panacea. I still do tons of stupid stuff – as my wife will attest. But the practice has definitely made me happier, calmer, and nicer.

Gretchen: What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Dan: A neuroscientist friend of mine once told me, “The brain is a pleasure-seeking machine. ” Usually, we do what makes us feel good. What I know now about habit formation that I didn’t know then is that I generally cannot create or break habits unless there is compelling self-interest involved.So, for example, with meditation, I was motivated to start the habit by the science that says it’s good for you—and I’ve been able to maintain it because, while the act of meditating is often quite tough, the “off-the-cushion” benefits are so readily apparent to me.

Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Dan: Two biggies:1. Multitasking: I’ve seen all the studies that say our brains are not capable of concentrating on more than one thing at a time and that multitasking is a huge drag on efficiency and productivity. And yet, I still frequently find myself flitting between email, Twitter, phone calls, and whatever work I’m actually supposed to be doing.2. Mindless eating: I try very hard to eat healthfully, but I am a huge sucker for pasta, cheeseburgers, and cookies—and when I get into a feeding frenzy, it’s hard for me to stop. These episodes are almost always followed by a shame spiral.In theory, meditation should help with the above, since it teaches you to pay careful attention to whatever you’re doing right now. Alas, I still struggle. Hence the title of my book.

Gretchen: Have you ever managed to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how?

Dan: In my early thirties, as a young reporter for ABC News, I spent many years covering wars. When I got back from one particularly long and hairy run in Baghdad, I became depressed. In an act of towering stupidity, I began to self-medicate, dabbling with cocaine and ecstasy. In hindsight, it was an attempt, at least partly, to recreate some of the thrill of the war zone.A side-effect of all of this, as my doctor later explained to me, was that the drugs increased the level of adrenaline in my brain, which is what, in all likelihood, produced a panic attack I had on live television in 2004 on Good Morning America. The shrink I consulted about this decreed in no uncertain terms that I needed to stop doing drugs—immediately. Faced with the potential demise of my career, breaking this habit was a pretty obvious call.

Gretchen: Have you ever made a flash change, where you changed a major habit very suddenly?

Dan: In the summer after I graduated from high school, I did experience a “flash change. ” I was in my car, driving to go see some friends, and I decided—seemingly out of nowhere—that after years of being a mediocre high school student, I was going to truly apply myself in the next phase of my life. The next year, when my father saw my first college report card, he nearly cried.Interestingly, the fact that I did well in college has had zero practical impact on my career in television news. I don’t think any of my employers has ever asked about my grades. But that flash change established a long-lasting habit of hard work and ambition. Which, it must be said, has sometimes been to my detriment. It was, I now believe, my fervent desire to excel at my job that led me to plunge headlong into war zones without considering the psychological consequences—which, in turn, led to the drugs and the panic attack. I’ve found that meditation has really helped me strike a better balance between striving and stress.

Reviews

Startling, provocative, and often very funny . . . [10% HAPPIER] will convince even the most skeptical reader of meditation’s potential. (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)

10% HAPPIER is hands down the best book on meditation for the uninitiated, the skeptical, or the merely curious. . . . an insightful, engaging, and hilarious tour of the mind’s darker corners and what we can do to find a bit of peace. (Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus)

The science supporting the health benefits of meditation continues to grow as does the number of Americans who count themselves as practitioners but, it took reading 10% HAPPIER to make me actually want to give it a try. (Richard E. Besser, M.D., Chief Health and Medical Editor, ABC News)

An enormously smart, clear-eyed, brave-hearted, and quite personal look at the benefits of meditation that offers new insights as to how this ancient practice can help modern lives while avoiding the pitfall of cliché. This is a book that will help people, simply put. (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love)

This brilliant, humble, funny story shows how one man found a way to navigate the non-stop stresses and demands of modern life and back to humanity by finally learning to sit around doing nothing. (Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man)

In 10% Happier, Dan Harris describes in fascinating detail the stresses of working as a news correspondent and the relief he has found through the practice of meditation. This is an extremely brave, funny, and insightful book. Every ambitious person should read it. (Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith)

A compellingly honest, delightfully interesting, and at times heart-warming story of one highly intelligent man’s life-changing journey towards a deeper understanding of what makes us our very best selves. As Dan’s meditation practice deepens, I look forward to him being at least 11% happier, or more. (Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself)

10% Happier is a spiritual adventure from a master storyteller. Mindfulness can make you happier. Read this to find out how. (George Stephanopoulos)

Dan Harris - Biography


Dan Harris is a correspondent for ABC News and the co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America. Before that, he was the anchor of the Sunday edition of World News. He regularly contributes stories for such shows as Nightline, 20/20, World News with Diane Sawyer and GMA. Harris has reported from all over the planet, covering wars in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine and Iraq, and producing investigative reports in Haiti, Cambodia, and the Congo. He has also spent many years covering America's faith scene, with a focus on evangelicals -- who have treated him kindly despite the fact that he is openly agnostic. He has been at ABC News for 13 years. Before that, he was in local news in Boston and Maine. He grew up outside of Boston and currently lives with his wife, Bianca, in New York City.
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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:03 am

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:25 pm

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:04 am

Dan's book is now #2 in the country.
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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:22 am

Now Dan's book is #1.....
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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:20 pm

7 Lessons (Some Embarrassing) I Learned After Writing A Book About Meditation
By Dan Harris  - January 5, 2015 6:00 AM EST


In 2014, to my vast surprise, I became a public evangelist for meditation. I published a memoir called 10% Happier, about an ambitious, agnostic anchorman who reluctantly embraces mindfulness meditation after a drug problem, an on-air freak-out, and an unplanned "spiritual" journey.

I wrote the book in order to convince fellow skeptics that meditation is not, despite its PR problem, only for people who wear patchouli and use the word "Namaste" un-ironically. In the nine months since the book came out, I have learned some valuable lessons, many of which involved having my own advice shoved back into my face.

I list them here because if you're thinking about setting meditation as a new year's resolution, you might find some of these lessons useful, or at the very least amusing.

1. Don't forget the basics.




This is a picture of me having my meditation skills tested by neuroscientists. I didn't do so well. Every time I was supposed to be shutting down the so-called, Default Mode Network of my brain — the regions that fire up when we're thinking about ourselves, ruminating about the past or projecting into the future — I was achieving just the opposite. My DMN was lit up like a Christmas tree.

After doing scores of TV appearances, radio interviews and speeches in which I lectured people about the value of meditation, it turns out I had forgotten the most basic instructions. The whole game is to try to focus on your breath and then when you get lost, to gently start again. And again. And again …

Instead, I was getting all overheated and self-lacerating about the inevitable wanderings of my mind.

In my defense, it's hard to relax when you're wearing a stupid-looking skullcap, and being scrutinized by a team of researchers. But still, it was an important reminder. As my friend and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg later advised me, when it comes to meditating, "It helps to have a sense of humor."

2. Science is the gateway, not the path.




In making the case for meditation, I rely heavily on the explosion of scientific research that — while still in its infancy — strongly suggests a long list of tantalizing health benefits. Studies have shown meditation can do everything from lowering your blood pressure to boosting your immune system, to literally rewiring key parts of your brain for happiness.

However, I've come to see that while science is a great tool for roping in those who might otherwise reflexively reject meditation as New Age poppycock, it only goes so far. People may start meditating because of the science, but nobody continues to meditate because they think their prefrontal cortex is changing; they keep doing it because they find themselves calmer, more focused and less yanked around by their emotions.

3. Proselytize with care — or, better yet, not at all.

While I have no compunction about preaching the benefits of meditation in front of large groups, I try never to do it one-on-one. For example, my wife still does not meditate consistently (even though she really appreciates the fact that the practice has made her husband less of a [banned term]). Whenever I'm tempted to urge her — or anyone, really — to meditate, I try to bear in mind a recent cartoon from The New Yorker, which features two women ordering lunch at a restaurant. One of them says to the other, "I've only been gluten-free for a week, but I'm already really annoying."

4. Happiness is not complacency.




A few weeks after my book came out, I was invited to do an interview at the last place on Earth I thought I'd ever talk meditation: Fox News. The anchor asked me a great question — something along the lines of, "If I get too happy, won't I end up like Rocky from Rocky III?"

For those of you who haven't seen this Sly Stallone classic in a while, it opens with a montage of the boxer, fresh off of winning the championship, signing autographs, shooting TV commercials, and gamboling around his mansion with his wife and son. These scenes are intercut with images of a vaguely psychopathic-looking Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) training hard and drubbing his opponents. By the second round of their fight, Rocky is on the mat, bleeding and unconscious.

The Fox News guy was worried that meditation would leave him vulnerable to leaner, hungrier opponents. But this is to confuse happiness with complacency. The proposition of meditation, at least as I understand it, is not that you should abandon stress. A certain amount of plotting and planning is inherent in striving for greatness in any arena — from your career to volunteer work, to parenting and art.

But we tend to make our stress worse than it needs to be. As I like to say, meditation helps you draw the line between "constructive anguish" and useless rumination. That, my friends, is a game-changer.

5. Meditation is more than self-improvement.



I made this argument in my book, but I feel even more strongly about it now. All the hard work and mind-wrangling of meditation (the image above was briefly considered as the cover art for my book) is not just to make you better at your job; it should also make you a nicer person — which, by the way, can also make you more successful.

Let me unpack this. Of late, there has been something of a backlash in Buddhist circles to the mainstreaming of meditation. Critics call it "McMindfulness." One of the gripes is that selling meditation as a way to make more effective soldiers and corporate samurai, denudes the practice of one of its central components: compassion.

Despite the fact that I am a vocal cheerleader for mainstreaming, I happen to agree with the critics on this point. But here's the thing: it's possible to make the case for compassion in a way that appeals to self-interest, as opposed to finger wagging and moralizing.

Studies have shown that compassionate people are healthier, more popular and more successful. Moreover, there's research that suggests a meditation can actually make you nicer. This is the ground upon which the mainstreamers and the McMindfulness critics can and should meet. As I call it in 10% Happier, it's the "self-interested case for not being a [banned term]."

6. It's not about you.

The events of the past year have been amazing. Beyond amazing. I've been given the chance to talk meditation on Colbert, at Google, and to a gaggle of billionaires in Aspen. I've also been invited to speak to social workers, cancer survivors and inner-city high school students. You might think this kind of run would be an egotistic rumspringa. And while it has, of course, been validating, it's also been truly humbling.

To be clear, I usually get suspicious when people use that word — humbling. When Hollywood types get up to accept an Academy Award and prattle on about how "humbled" they are, it never fails to set off my [banned term] meter.

By contrast, what happened to me was, I would argue, genuinely so.

Actually, at first, it was mostly just terrifying. In the book I reveal that, after covering wars for ABC News, I'd gotten depressed, and then self-medicated with recreational drugs — all of which culminated in a panic attack, live on Good Morning America.

I worried that telling this story might derail my career. However, when I finally shared the secrets that I'd been hiding for a decade, I came to the following realization: people don't really care that much about me. We're all the stars of our own movie. These personal details that I thought were so heavy were, in the end, just mildly titillating to the rest of the world.

What people really wanted to know was: "What do you have for me, Harris?" And on that score, I feel increasingly confident. The more I travel around and talk about meditation, the more convinced I am that this is something truly and universally useful.

7. 10% is an understatement.


When I came up for the title of my book, I knew it was an absurdly unscientific estimate. But I liked it because it's true enough — and it also sounds like a good return on investment. However, the more I meditate, the more I've come to believe that the 10% compounds annually.

I'm clearly pulling this out of my rear end, but bear with me. The graph to the left (which I drew) describes how I think this works.

Psychologists believe we all have a "happiness set point." When good things happen, our happiness spikes; when bad things happen, our happiness dips.

But overall, we tend to gravitate back to our set point. In my view, meditation makes the good stuff better, because we are able to be awake and present enough to enjoy it. And it makes the bad stuff less bad, because we have learned how to cut short the useless rumination.

Meanwhile, meditation raises our set point to an entirely new level. Again, I'm just making this [banned term] up — but it certainly feels true for me, and for the people I know who meditate.

In closing, one final, personal note:

On December 15, 2014, I got a major dose of the "good stuff" when this little dude came into my life:

Meet Alexander Robert Harris, our new baby boy.

After he was born, a colleague of mine from ABC News sent me this revised book cover, which pretty much says it all.
Images courtesy of the author
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: 10% Happier - new book from ABC news anchor Dan Harris - on his spiritual journey   Wed Jan 21, 2015 10:23 pm

I loved the book. His cheery attitude dispels the OBC-style gloom the permeates Zen, at least the Zen I experienced.
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