Hardened spirituality skeptic Dan Harris set out on a quest to tame his mind, stumbling upon meditation to find to his shock he actually felt more calm and in control. He decided to share his discovery with the world, starting with better understanding the science of meditation so he could convince fellow skeptics to join the meditation band wagon. Readers are taken on a journey through self help and science through interviews with self help experts, the military and the scientific community to better understand why meditation is so effective and how they can also reap the benefits.
“10% Happier” takes a magnifying glass to your everyday life. It targets that incessant driving force keeping you so busy. Dan Harris’ self-help book preys upon the doubters, the cynics, the pessimists. It challenges the common mindset that meditation is just absent-minded people sitting cross-legged and chanting “ohm”. It does all this, but keeps you laughing. It’s an elegant combination of Harris’ personal journey, and overwhelming scientific evidence for the efficacy of meditation in the modern-day world. The book ends with a so-called “meditation for dummies” section; a beginner’s guide.
My key Takeaways from “10% Happier" by Dan Harris
Takeaway #1 Manage Your Ego To Manage Your Life
For most people, the ego is a source of self-serving behavior that is unconcerned with the welfare of others. It's the place of pride, conceit, and supposedly self love. It balances our morality and our base desires. It's the voice in our head that comments on our actions. It thrives on negative emotions and is never perfectly happy or content, always wanting more, always assessing, always dwelling on past events or dreaming of the future. It must be tamed so that a happier, healthier life can be enjoyed.
Takeaway #2 Use Meditation to Achieve Mindfulness and Manage Your Ego
Mindfulness can be found through meditation, the simple act of sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, drawing your mind back to your breathing when it wanders off. It gives us a chance to lower the blood pressure, lower our stress levels, leave the panic and worry behind and can be very beneficial for people battling depression, addiction, and many other health issues.
Being mindful allows you to be non-judgmental, to respond rather than react to surroundings, loved ones, and impulses by remaining in the present moment. It allows you to ask how you can improve your behavior rather than lashing out in anger because you feel attacked or threatened. Being more mindful improves decision making, improves compassion toward others, makes you more creative and productive and actually changes your biology.
Takeaway #3 Accepting Your Negative Emotions Will Tame Your Ego
You might think that you need to avoid negative thoughts and emotions at all costs if you want to tame your ego but the opposite is true. Acknowledge the feelings and simply let them be – Admit that you're feeling them, don't try to hide or run away from feeling angry or sad and don't judge yourself for feeling that way. The fastest way to let go of these negative emotions is to ride them out. First, you must recognize the feeling for what it is – Get specific and allow yourself to feel it, it's natural to feel worried or sorrowful sometimes. Then identify how this feeling is manifesting in your body, is it a tightness, a feeling in your stomach or chest, has your breathing become faster? Notice what the feeling feels like, and then practice non-identification with the feeling. Know that it will pass, that you won't feel this way forever.
Key Points From 10% Happier
- The ego is greedy. It spurs you on, and keeps you hungry. But it stops you from being grounded. You’re always looking ahead. It could be the ego’s critical voice getting you down. To be 10% happier, learn to manage it.
- Mindfulness is the key to gaining mastery. It brings you back to the present. Meditation is about being comfortable, and focusing on your breathing or other bodily sensations. When your mind wanders off, gently bring it back to center
- With meditation, you can control your physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.
- Practicing mindfulness changes your brain structure. It encourages healthy life choices, and increases your creativity and productivity. You’ll become more compassionate and less selfish.
- Don’t shy away from the negative thoughts and feelings, run head-first into them. Use Brach’s four-step method to achieve this.
10% Happier Chapters
Chapter One - Air Hunger
Chapter Two - Unchurched
Chapter Three - Genius or Lunatic?
Chapter Four - Happiness, Inc.
Chapter Five - The Jew-Bu
Chapter Six - The Power of Negative Thinking
Chapter Seven - Retreat
Chapter Eight - 10% Happier
Chapter Nine - "The New Caffeine"
Chapter Ten - The Self-Interested Case for Not Being a Dick
Chapter Eleven - Hide the Zen
Best Quotes from 10% Happier
“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”
“When you have one foot in the future and the other in the past, you piss on the present.”
“What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, “respond” rather than simply “react.” In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.”
“There’s no point in being unhappy about things you can’t change, and no point being unhappy about things you can.”
“Pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.”
“Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, 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. 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.”
“But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head—the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember—was kind of an asshole.”
“Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.”
“Your demons may have been ejected from the building, but they’re out in the parking lot, doing push-ups.”
“Everything in the world is ultimately unsatisfying and unreliable because it won’t last.”
“May you be happy. May you be safe and protected from harm. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease.”
“The Buddha captured it well when he said that anger, which can be so seductive at first, has “a honeyed tip” but a “poisoned root.”
― Dan Harris - 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found a Self-Help That Actually Works
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Editor and Founder
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.