Takeaways from 10% happier by Dan Harris

Recently Sriram got this book as a gift and I devoured it! The book that I borrowed from our local library, RLS' Treasure Island, Sriram is devouring it - tit-for-tat I suppose!!

In this book 10% happier, Dan Harris mainly writes about meditation. The book is about how a skeptical TV newsman embarks on an evolving journey of exploring meditation. For me however it was also about getting a peek into the insanely intense and the intensely competitive field of TV journalism.

I never knew these anchormen & women wrote their own stories. I always thought someone else did all the grunt work for them and all they had to do was look good and read from the teleprompter. It was a revelation for me that these people, even bigwigs like Barbara Walters wrote and edited their stories. I now have a newfound respect for what they do! And also a new found appreciation for how crazily intense and competitive this profession is. The amount of travelling, scripting, editing and all the leg work that is required to produce a single segment seems to be equivalent to producing a full blown movie in the time span of a single week! and this is done week after week!! that is how crazy this business is. To make things even more insane, there is this non-stop competition for air time. Apparently every day, for every show, these anchors have to pitch their stories. Every day they battle it out to get their stories selected and aired on TV. What exactly are these people made of - those that can thrive in a job so brutal?

In any case, the book is about meditation. So back to meditation...

Interestingly, it looks like to be in the "now" we might have to go through an arduous journey of self-exploration. Years & generations of conditioning have to be worked through to get back to being in the present moment fully. Perhaps this is what coming full circle means!

The author describes his own journey in great detail describing how he evolves as his meditation practice evolved. Dan starts out as a skeptic, then becomes an inquisitive explorer to a daily practitioner of mindfulness and then goes beyond mindfulness to embrace compassion. He then learns the need to balance his personal/spiritual growth with his everyday career demands. He goes much further and even grasps the import of "non-attachment to results" (Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana - the verse from Gita that we have heard since forever, the one which in spite of knowing the meaning I still struggle to grasp the essence). Finally he even begins to accept more esoteric concepts like karma & enlightenment.  This is the point, at the very end, where he seems to move on the path of regression...he begins slipping on his daily practice! I guess here is another full circle. And the journey continues....in circles :-)

As far as practical, useful information, the book is full of them for those who are interested in pursuing meditation. Among other things it contains:
  • actual steps. really simple steps on how one can start meditating.
  • brief, practical description of a few different types of meditations - body scan, walking meditation, compassion or the loving-kindness meditation etc
  • references to local, current day teachers/masters. I think this is extremely useful if one is looking for guidance. 
  • detailed description of the author's first hand experience attending a 10-day silence retreat. You get a rather good view of what this is all about.
  • suggestions on books one could read on this topic.
  • some information on scientific research and evidence that backs the many benefits of meditation.

So here's to 10% happier meditating!

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