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The following is excerpted from "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," by ABC's Dan Harris. Initially I wanted to call this book "The Voice in My Head Is an A-----e." However, that title was deemed inappropriate for a man whose day job requires him to abide by FCC decency standards. To be clear, I'm not talking about "hearing voices," I'm talking about the internal narrator, the most intimate part of our lives.
But then came a strange and unplanned series of events, involving war zones, megachurches, self-help gurus, Paris Hilton, the Dalai Lama, and ten days of silence that, in a flash, went from the most annoying to the most profound experience of my life. Meditation suffers from a towering PR problem, largely because its most prominent proponents talk as if they have a perpetual pan flute accompaniment. Once you get the hang of it, the practice can create just enough space in your head so that when you get angry or annoyed, you are less likely to take the bait and act on it. This science challenges the common assumption that our levels of happiness, resilience, and kindness are set from birth. One of the questions I hear most often from skeptics is: If I quiet the voice in my head, will I lose my edge? For the past four years, I've been road testing meditation in the crucible of one of the most competitive environments imaginable, television news.
What I'm attempting to do in this book is demystify meditation, and show that if it can work for me, it can probably work for you, too. The foregoing is excerpted from "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" by Dan Harris.
Discovering their power is a powerful thing you just -- -- harris' report about his journey to -- -- mind and improve his life through meditation now earlier I sat down with Dan on the -- that I asked him how he made his transition to meditation. Part 1: How an on-air panic attack led ABC's Dan Harris to dive into America's self-help subculture.
ABC's Dan Harris explains the benefits of meditation and how the relatively simple activity can affect your life. The voice comes braying in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning,nand then heckles us all day long with an air horn.
I assumed, given the constant looping, buzzing, and fizzing of my thoughts, that "clearing my mind" wasn't an option.
As a result of all of this, I came to realize that my preconceptions about meditation were, in fact, misconceptions. If you can get past the cultural baggage, though, what you'll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain. There's even science to back this up -- an explosion of new research, complete with colorful MRI scans, demonstrating that meditation can essentially rewire your brain. Many of us labor under the delusion that we're permanently stuck with all of the difficult parts of our personalities -- that we are "hot-tempered," or "shy," or "sad" -- and that these are fixed, immutable traits. In fact, as I discovered, this new neuroscience has led to the flowering of an elite subculture of executives, athletes, and marines who are using meditation to improve their focus, curb their addiction to technology, and stop being yanked around by their emotions. The best way to illustrate this is to give you, as we say in the business, "exclusive access" to the voice in my head. It's a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose. We now know that many of the attributes we value most are, in fact, skills, which can be trained the same way you build your body in the gym. Meditation has even been called the "new caffeine." I suspect that if the practice could be denuded of all the spiritual preening and straight-out-of-a-fortune-cookie lingo such as "sacred spaces," "divine mother," and "holding your emotions with love and tenderness," it would be attractive to many more millions of smart, skeptical, and ambitious people who would never otherwise go near it. More than that, it can give you a real advantagea€”and, not for nothing, it might even make you nicer in the process.
All of us struggle to strike a balance between the image we present to the world and the reality of our inner landscape. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers. 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.
And it did seem to have the diagnosis of the human condition that I thought sounded right that we at this racing mind always wanting commenting judging consider -- that are. Most of us are so entranced by the nonstop conversation we're having with ourselves that we aren't even aware we have a voice in our head.
This is particularly tricky for a news anchor, whose job is to project calm, confidence, and (when appropriate) good cheer.
But it said that the antidote was meditation I thought that's completely -- except it's gotta -- time he's not going not not -- just that I -- associated with you know. I certainly wasn't -- at least not before I embarked on the weird little odyssey described in this book.
It's what has us reaching into the fridge when we're not hungry, losing our temper when we know it's not really in our best interest, and pruning our inboxes when we're ostensibly engaged in conversation with other human beings.
It won't make you taller or better-looking, nor will it magically solve all of your problems. Most of the time, my external presentation is authentic; at baseline, I'm a happy guy who is keenly aware of his good fortune.
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.

You should disregard the fancy books and the famous gurus promising immediate enlightenment. 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. So how many minutes a day do you think somebody could benefit from meditation you needed now -- if not five minutes now. And for the purposes of this book, I am going to put a magnifying lens directly on the knotty stuff. But if we don't pay close attention -- which very few of us are taught how to do -- it can be a malevolent puppeteer.
Five minutes you'll start immediately developing a different relationship without voice in your head.
We had a great discussion, and in fact, Dan was one of several people who inspired me to try meditating.
You'll you'll be doing battle waited for five minutes it's like holding a -- -- your hands. The Buddhism of many today is perfectly compatible with neo-liberal capitalism, while for others, Buddhism demands socialism, anarchism, or a profound commitment to social activism.So scholars like myself are left scratching our heads. 10% Happier is his hilarious, thought-provoking book about his experiences with meditation.
All of a sudden when it starts telling you to do crazy things you might some percentage of the time. 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.
And to the extent that he espoused ideas such as karma and rebirth — he explicitly told his followers to take them or leave them. Do it every day and again you'll develop -- different relationship with the voices now really inspiring great luck with the book to and I appreciate him.
There is a philosophical structure to the Buddha’s thought that did differentiate it from other religio-philosophies of his day.
Just as with other aspects of Buddhism, how obvious you find this structure and how important you think it is to your own practice will vary from person to person.
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. And if you are worried that practicing Buddhism will erode your preexisting religious beliefs, it’s worth noting that many people of faith say Buddhist meditation has helped them cut down on the mental noise and thereby feel closer to God. 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.
If so, how?Dan: In my early thirties, as a young reporter for ABC News, I spent many years covering wars.
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.
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. 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.ReviewsStartling, provocative, and often very funny . As Dan’s meditation practice deepens, I look forward to him being at least 11% happier, or more.
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. 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.
Don't forget the basics.This is a picture of me having my meditation skills tested by neuroscientists. 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 … 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. As I like to say, meditation helps you draw the line between "constructive anguish" and useless rumination.
Meditation is more than self-improvement.I made this argument in my book, but I feel even more strongly about it now. Of late, there has been something of a backlash in Buddhist circles to the mainstreaming of meditation. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.

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