Who here has experienced the uncontrollable rush of a panic attack? If you’re lucky maybe it happened in private or in front of someone you trust. Sometimes, unfortunately, it erupts without warning and you just so happen to be right out there in public. Well, at least you’re not Dan Harris. On June 7, 2004, the ABC news anchor had an on-air panic attack in front of an audience of approximately five million people.
For years Harris climbed the corporate ladder in network news, hungry for success and willing to say yes to any opportunity to get him further. In his book 10% Happier, Harris recounts the not-so-mindful decisions that led to his publicized meltdown and his winding journey towards achieving “enlightenment” (which he’s not sure he fully believes in). His humorous and slightly self-deprecating tone was what had me hooked. The honesty and transparency he so willingly demonstrated are what held my attention to the last page.
Along his ride full of peculiar experiences and offbeat characters, Harris is introduced to the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. With a strong distaste for anything associated with hippies or the new age, the hard-headed news anchor took a while to warm up to the idea. In his go big or go home attitude he eventually decides to dive into a 9-day silent meditation retreat, hilarity ensues.
In one of my favourite chapters titled: The Self-Interested Case for Not Being a Dick, Harris highlights something the Dalai Lama spoke about that stuck with him. Expressing compassion not only benefits the recipient, but also the one who expresses it. Harris refers to a study that notes “the pleasure centres in the brain light up when we donate just the same as when when we receive a gift”, proving that expressing compassion is a win-win. He learns that meditation creates a mindset in which compassion(instead of judgement) more easily becomes your default setting.
A great read if you’re looking for a light and approachable introduction to meditation, or an entertaining review of its benefits. With the help of neuroscience, accomplished meditation gurus, and Harris’s willingness to take us along for the ride, this book provided me with helpful insight for creating a more mindful life.
If anyone needs me I’ll be on the floor with my eyes closed trying to find enlightenment.