Book Club Discussion, 10% Happier Pt. 3: Expectation + Outcome

Join us for a discussion of chapters 7 & 8 of Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier.

“Is this bullshit, or is this the real deal?”  The question is posed in chapter 7, “Retreat”,  but really, it could be applied to most things in life. How many times have you experienced something profound, only to have your subconscious question the validity of the moment, making it all crash down? After embarking on a meditation retreat and finally, after much mental work and overcoming preconceived notions and crushing self-doubt, succumbing to the moment, Harris still can’t keep the thought at bay. Are we as humans doomed by our own expectations?

Admittedly, I’m not sure I could do what Harris has done. Embark on a 10-day meditation retreat that features, among other things, no talking. Would I be willing to do the work? Or am I putting the brakes on out of fear? Sure, amazing things can happen, as they did for Harris, when you spend that much time with yourself and your thoughts, but what happens when the real world comes rushing in and we’re confronted with email and expectation and obligation? As humans we seem to be on the constant quest to separate from the animal side of our brains. The side that seeks pleasure. The side that’s always thinking of the next best thing, whether it’s lattes or our weekend plans or even fretting over the not-so-great things in our future. Flight cancellations, difficult conversations. We get so caught up in escaping our thoughts that we end up obsessing over them… maybe 10 days of silence and introspection wouldn’t be so bad, after all. After being in the bubble of the retreat for those 10 days, the real world becomes a crash course in putting the teachings that Harris learned to use. How do we reconcile our thoughts and realities, with our desire to live more freely from them?

After reading Harris’ day-by-day account of his retreat experience, I was interested to see how it would effect his day-to-day life once he reentered the real world. While I haven’t attended the same kind of retreat, I have had the experience of going to a conference, feeling profoundly inspired by what I learned there, and then completely fizzling out once I returned to my regularly scheduled programming of home-work-gym-home. Would it be the same for Harris? I appreciated that he admitted to diving gleefully into his email as soon as he left, but no, Harris is mostly successful in putting what he learned to practice. The same expectations are there, the same stressful and demanding work environment, but with the knowledge of meditation, he’s better able to navigate it all. While we may not all have the opportunity to attend a meditation retreat, we can learn from Harris and the way he doesn’t concede his new-found meditation habit once he returns to his life. Rather than blasting head-first through life as he once had, Harris now makes the time for meditation, carving out a bit of his day to devote to something that enriches him. In our stressed out, all-or-nothing, #lovethehustle world, we could all stand to take a page from his experience in chapters 7 and 8 and make time for ourselves and the things that make us feel most human, in the best way possible.

Chapters 7 + 8 discussion questions:

+ Would you ever consider attending a meditation retreat?

+ Do you think it’s the human or animal side of ourselves that is constantly seeking pleasure? Why do you think that is?

+ What activities or habits enrich your own life? How do you carve out time for them with a busy schedule? Why is this important to you?

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  1. I would consider a meditation retreat for a weekend, but not ten days. Yes fear comes into play here in investing that much time and money into something I’m not sure I would get anything out of or be able to full appreciate. I think it is our human side that seeks pleasure and to inflict pain. Our animal side is more into basis like surviving i.e. food, safety, protecting young or tribe. I feel it is humans that want it all and have a sense of entitlement. Activities and habits that enrich me are reading a good book, getting outside and exploring new things. Hence this book club. Thank for this new experience.

  2. I’m loving this book, it’s such a good read and it really encourages you to reflect on how this applies to yourself in a really meditative way… For me, something that enriches me is yoga, which I try to do every day, and writing. These provide me with the opportunities to not only be in the present, but to reflect and to learn from my experiences.

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