The subtitle, How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story — was too long to put in my post title. But it’s worth noting that these benefits make a pretty strong selling point for meditation without getting New Age-y at all. .
In fact, ABC news anchor and author Dan Harris is quite repulsed by anything bearing an incense-ified scent of hippie-ness.
With a distaste for male clogs and the too-soft voices of meditation instructors, he delves head first into the subculture of Buddhism and meditation. By tackling the topic with an objective (even skeptical) outsider perspective, he creates an investigative report that sets out to demystify meditation, and up its PR game in the process. He states that if meditation can work for him, it can probably work for the rest of us.
It was Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose which kicked off his quest.
“It was a little embarrassing to be reading a self-help writer and thinking This guy gets me. 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.”
From there, he was determined to figure out how to deal with his unruly mind.
Which brought him to Buddhism:
“What I knew of Buddhism was limited to the following: it was from Asia somewhere; the Buddha was overweight; and his followers believed in things like karma, rebirth and enlightenment.”
He tried meditation:
“When I opened my eyes, I had an entirely different attitude about meditation. I didn’t like it, per se, but now I respected it. This was not just some hippie time-passing technique, like Ultimate Frisbee or making God’s Eyes. It was a rigorous brain exercise; rep after rep of trying to tame the runaway train of the mind.”
And then headed off on silent retreat.
On one of the retreat leaders:
“Spring [retreat leader], is the embodiment of everything that bothers me about the meditation world. She’s really working that speaking-softly thing. Ever s is sibilant. Every word is over enunciated. She wears shawls. She’s probably really militant about recycling.”
But Harris was the first to admit when he was wrong, or judgmental, which he did several times in the book. Slowly, he softened to the scene, but then came up against his next obstacle — getting too soft.
His notion of people who meditate was that they’re ineffective, and as a newly committed meditator…he needed to address this.
His story is shared with truth and humor.
Unfamiliar terms like “choiceless awareness” were explained while the concept of enlightenment gets more than an introduction.
Though he was an outsider looking in, Harris had access. He recounted experiences with leaders in the field of meditation and mindfulness including Deepak Chopra, Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn to name a few.
In the end, he said:
“People ask ‘So is your life better?’ And I like to say, It’s about 10% better. 10% is huge. I mean, if you got 10% of your money…it’s a good return on your investment.”
This book is a must read for anyone interested in meditation, but especially for those who think it’s weird or a waste of time. Even if you’re indifferent to the subject…it’s a good intro that’s easy to digest.
Buy the book Here