I want to call this book “life-changing”, but I’m not going to because reading it didn’t change my life. What I’m trying to say is, the book has the capacity to be life-changing. If someone handed me this book five years ago, for example, I think it would have changed my life.
The problem is, five years ago, I wouldn’t have read this book. Such was my conviction against woo-woo crap. A title like 10% Happier, read to me, like a neon sign saying “Deepak Chopra style word salad inside”. I thought this book was for “healing” crystal wearing hipsters and idiots, my perception was way off.
This is a book for everyone from the top shelf skeptics of meditation (that I once was) to the deeply determined silent meditator. What Moonwalking with Einstein is to memory 10% Happier is to meditation. It’s difficult to make this a review and not simply a love letter to a book.
If you’d been able to convince me to read this book five years ago, I think it would have been the catalyst that caused me to take up meditation. It’s incredibly well written, sharing the science behind meditation and the journey of the author. The combination of personal anecdotes and medical literature citations is clearly the way to convince me to try something.
My Journey Into Meditation
I started meditation about two years ago, after seeing a study showing meditation’s association with lengthening Telomeres. Telomeres are the cell caps at the end of your DNA, protecting DNA from damage. That was enough to convince me I should learn more. Eventually, I decided to try meditation for a month and have not stopped for more than a few days since.
My journey into meditation followed a path very similar to Dan Harris’s, even involving many of the same cast of characters. Granted, for me, those people were virtual. And for my first anxiety attack, I was driving a car; not live on television. I’ll let you decide who had a more frightening experience.
People Dan Harris (full name to avoid ambiguity) mentions like Sam & Annaka Harris, Terra Brock, and Mark Epstein, are people from my journey of learning how to meditate. Even Dan Harris was a part of the journey, making it strange it took me so long to read this book.
Keeping Your Edge
Besides being an enjoyable read, how to not lose your edge, as Dan Harris puts it, was a major take away for me. In avoiding conflict, even before I started meditation, I became overly docile. As a mentor of mine told me “I avoided conflict like alcoholics avoid bars. I can do no confrontation or go to war, the difference between Bruce Banner and the Hulk”
In the beginning, meditation made it easier for me to be docile. Knowing when to say, “Hey, not acceptable!” rather than just saying “Hey, everything is a matter of experience occurring moment by moment” is still something I’m unclear on. Dan Harris’s description of this problem resonated with me and I’m testing a few of his proposed solutions.
Did This Book Change My Life?
While this book didn’t directly change my life, we’ve seen a culture that has evolved around meditation. In the west the practice of Buddhist monks (who I always respected). And of Birkenstock wearing Berkeley dwellers (who I sometimes found disingenuous). Has become something that corporate leaders claim they do on lists of their morning routines. Basically, meditation is now so acceptable that it moved from the fringes to something that is virtue signaled.
Looking at my own timeline around discovering meditation caused me to realize that this book did, in a way, change my life. The culture around meditation changed, in some part because of this book. I don’t think I would have ever evolved past a guy who mocked meditation as “hippy crap” to someone who does it daily without that cultural shift.
So this book didn’t directly change my life, but indirectly, I think it changed the world. Leading to a set of circumstances that caused me to change my life for the exponentially better. And there are some people that were a part of my journey who are owed a thank you.
So, Sam Harris, Terra Brock, Dan Harris, Rhonda Patrick, Joe Rogan, Timothy Ferriss, Joseph Goldstein, Annaka Harris, (I’m surely missing a few names) thank you. The work all of you have done in promoting meditation, has clearly helped western culture become more accepting. You have all been instrumental in getting me to the positive place I now find myself, because of meditation.
Another worth reading book in this vein is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin review by my mom.
Header Image via the Joe Rogan Experience