Join us for a discussion of chapters 4, 5 and 6 of 10% Happier. Not reading along? No problem — you can still join in!
Self-help. The term has always turned me off. The rows of shelves at my local bookstore dedicated to the genre smacked of broken promises and questionable motives, too many exclamation points and bright white teeth. Their authors smiling beatifically from hardcover jackets. The same ideas spun this way and that, regurgitated for new generations and different audiences all seeking the same thing: better lives. I steered clear, yet stayed curious. As I read though “Happiness, Inc”, chapter 4 of 10% Happier by Dan Harris, I saw the same doubt reflected in the author’s own journey. As Harris begins to delve into Joe Vitale, my thoughts instantly turned to when The Secret first came out, its praises sung from nearly every glossy magazine and promoted by talk show hosts everywhere, and then quickly forgotten. A flash in the pan. When a book catches rapid fire like that, I instinctively take some distance, suspicious of anyone promising quick and easy salvation. The Secret‘s ludicrous claims were no exception. A the time, the pragmatist in me knew just thinking about something wasn’t going to bring it about. There’s work to be done, things to be fought for, and often it’s the fight that makes it all worthwhile.
And so Harris continues his fight for answers right into chapters 5, “The Jew-Bu”, and 6, “The Power of Negative Thinking”, where he actually gets some clarity on his behavior thanks in part to the source of many of these modern day guru’s “knowledge”: Buddhism. A practice that you don’t actually have to pay for. As I read these chapters, I felt a sort of kinship with Harris, as I imagine, many would. How many of us as teenagers, in a quest for some sort of spiritual life, or at least spiritual rebellion, adorned their bedrooms with images of the Buddha and maybe a garden sculpture or two? How many attempted to “meditate,” crossed legs and chants of “ohmmm” and all? Our collective search for meaning and spiritual connection starts at an early age, shapeshifting and morphing into a quest for “mindfulness” and “connectedness” and all other kinds of synonyms for the same thing. Like Harris, I’m searching for the same “be present” attitude that all too often eludes, the present moment traded for what comes next, slowly learning that meditation isn’t just palms-on-knees-shavasana.
As we comb through the shelves, looking for the next great self-help guru to lead the way, perhaps it’s wiser to look back. At the spiritual texts that have been around for thousands of years from which these modern-day experts draw their knowledge, no book deal to speak of, no multi-city tour, it would be difficult to argue that Siddhartha wasn’t sincere.