Monday, April 28, 2014

AT LEAST 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--A True Story10% 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 by Dan Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I so loved this book that I recommended it to my wisest and most spiritual friend. After a few pages I wrote, “I am looking forward to learn the conclusions of Dan Harris in his book about a life consumed by motivations and improved by meditation. Farther along I noted, “Dan Harris’ hair comes up – and others’ hair as well – in his writing. He stood in the airplane bathroom studying his hairline. He was 5’ 9” so long as he used his wife’s hair gel. He comments on Eckert Tolle’s assistant’s blonde hair, concluding the Tolle chapter, ‘It was as if he’d told me my hair was on fire, then refused to give me a fire extinguisher.’ I have no idea if this is of any significance, but I did notice it as I was reading this fun book.”
I noted, “Dan WANTS to know how to quiet ‘the voice,’ but has no clue as to how to do it. Tolle’s specific suggestions don’t compute for him.” I thought about phases of my life, wondering if they could be “integrated,” or if they were too diverse, representing “jumps” with no real continuity. Or could the only “real” continuity be the presence through it all of that narrator’s voice, the exact one that Dan Harris writes of trying to escape? When Harris finally mentioned “Monkey Mind” on page 91 I realized I had been waiting for him to appear.
A Bit of a Spoiler: I had the most unanticipated response to his description of “the last piece of the puzzle.” He says on page 207, “Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that… the final outcome is out of your control. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can.” HE JUST DISCOVERED THE SERENITY PRAYER! He continues, “When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome – so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.” For him this proves “a holistic answer to one of the central challenges for a modern meditator: How can you be a happier, better person without becoming ineffective?” (p. 208)
In an FAQ section at the back of the book Harris compares Hinduism based Transcendental Meditation (which I have practiced for six years) with Buddhist meditation that focuses on mindfulness and “being in the now.” What I most love is his comment, “The two schools tend to look down their noses at each other. However, even though I’m in the Buddhist camp, I’ve done enough poking around in the TM world to be convinced the practice has plenty of benefits.” (p.236) Blessed be a peacemaker!

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