Book Club Discussion, 10% Happier Pt. 4: Trial + Error

Join us for a discussion of chapters 9 & 10 of Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier

Well, I did it. After reading almost all the way though this book about meditation, I finally dove in and tried it myself. She-who-does-not-take-her-own-advice finally did so. And guys, it’s hard. Like, really hard. I can empathize with Harris, at least a little. Up until now, my version of meditation always included some kind of action: cooking, working out, cleaning. The kind of activities that require a specific kind of concentration, where the rest of the world fades into the background. While my version of meditation is nice, I’ve always craved the sit-down-and-breathe kind that Harris describes in his book. But, outside of the kind of meditation-dabbling one might do as an angsty teenager (you know, cross-legged, dramatically chanting “ohm”, lots of candles…) I’ve never had much success. So this week I started. I just did it. And it was — and I presume, will remain to be — difficult. Sitting on the floor with my back against the couch, before the sun has peeked above the horizon, my mind is racing while simultaneously attempting to shut itself down. It makes lists. Shuts off. It obsesses over some small misfortune. Shuts off. Obsesses over breakfast. Shuts off. When the alarm I’ve set for myself finally rings, my attempts to slowly come “back to the moment” are completely overridden by the memory that coffee exists, and I practically leap from my spot, knocking into the cat, who’s stationed himself in a similar, albeit much calmer, position in front of me.

It’s a journey, folks.

But if there’s anything I’ve gleaned from this book, it’s that if a forty-something male news anchor with a frenetic past can meditate, well then, so can I. If the military can meditate, so can I. The long list of meditation’s benefits are listed in chapter 9, “The New Caffeine”, but these days it seems you can’t go online without unintentionally bumping into an article extolling the virtues of meditation and mindfulness. The focus on health and wellbeing is largely positive, but as Harris points out in his book, there are reasons for concern. As meditation gains traction, the opportunities to capitalize on it grow. Much like any one thing that has the power to create positivity in a person’s life, one must approach with caution and dive into its origins. Seek the truth, as Harris does here.

Which brings us to chapter 10, The Self-Interested Case for Not Being a Dick (this one wins best title in my book). As we seek balance in our own lives, as books titled Mindfulness for Dummies pop up on bookstore shelves, as we follow book clubs like this one devoted to the discussion of meditation, is what we’re really seeking compassion? Compassion by way of allowing space for ourselves to just be, compassion bestowed by us to our surroundings, thereby making our surroundings — and the world — a far better place to inhabit. I’m not saying that one person’s meditation will change the world, but it could change their world. It certainly seemed to change Harris’.

And so I think I’ll continue, at least for now, to seek a quiet mind in those early morning hours. I could use more compassion in my life, towards myself and others, and could certainly stand to be less stressed out. How about you?

Join us next week for the final discussion of 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

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