Tag Archives: Meditation

10% Happier – Book Review

This is my book review on 10% Happier by Dan Harris.   The subtitle is “How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress, without Losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.”
10% Happier

Before I start, I am empathetic to Dan Harris’ journey to find “more” happiness (at least 10% more).   After leaving the Air Force, I lost clear purpose and struggled (struggle) with happiness.   Since, I realigned “integrity” in my life,  wonderful things have happened.  Purpose has morphed from serving my country to serving others in Leadership.   But leadership is elusive and complicated (actually, the  paradox is that I make it elusive and complicated).

In reading, I found it interesting that my journey has mirrored his, coming in either direct or indirect contact with many of the same cast of characters.   His journey began as an assignment by Peter Jennings to report on US spirituality, which guided him toward many different religious leaders, in which he found meditation in Buddism.  My journey was to find a way to teach happiness (as an outcome of leadership) and make better leaders.   Both of these paths lead to mediation as a tool to teach us to respond vs react to difficult situations that arise in our humanity while becoming more compassionate, focused (mindful), and “consciously” aware of what “is”; and additionally, a path to be closer to God.

Quotable Quotes:

(Harris p19) – “When you are cut off from your emotions, they manifest in your body”

(Harris p88) – “Therapy often leads to understanding without relief”

(Harris p89) – “We suffer because we cling to things that don’t last…nothing lasts, including us…the true route to happiness is the visceral understanding of impermanence.”

(Harris p90) – “let go and drop your attachments [which is key] to recognize the wisdom of insecurity.

(Harris p91) – “churning of the ego … monkey mind”

(Harris p112) – RAIN = Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification

(Harris p115) – respond rather than simply react

(Harris p135) – Metta – May you be happy, May you be safe and protected from harm, May you be healthy and strong, May you live with ease.

(Harris p145) – “Is this useful” a response to our need to look forward or backward in our lives based on reflection or planning.   When looking forward or backward no longer is useful, let it go.

(Harris p172) – Janice Marturano brought mediation to General Mills with the purpose of making you a better leader

(Harris p201) – “Praise Allah, but still tie your camel to the post”

(Harris p207) – “Striving is fine as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control.  If you don’t wast your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus more effectively on the ones you can” – let go of attachment to outcomes, not meaning you shouldn’t strive to succeed, just accept it might not turn out exactly as you want.

(Harris p210) – “There is no point in being unhappy about the things you can’t change, and there is no point in being unhappy about the things you can.”

(Harris p212) – litmus test of activity – “What Matters Most”

Finally, I caveat that I am a Christian and have found meditation extremely helpful in my own life.     I believe it creates a connection to calmness, and opens my mind in awareness and creativity, whatever that means.    One step further might be to say, prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening.

As a side note, as I coached another man, meditation is a great place to “fail” and practice “failing” and then accepting failure and setting it aside (I fail at not letting my mind wander, I fail at not scratching my nose, I fail at posture, I fail when I hear the dog barking next door, etc).    I don’t like failing.    However, failing is also another entry point toward creativity, pivots, and alignment.

I have been engaged in various neurologic studies and brain training which proves the incredible medical benefits of meditation.   And although I have been confronted by members of my religious community concerned about my spirituality and the perceived conflict of Eastern Religion and Christianity, I am undeterred.   Simply put, Philippians 4:8 & Joshua 1:8 (and many of the Psalms) imply that God wants us to meditate, reflect, contemplate, and focus on his Word, day and night.   Another comment below noted Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days to… pray & meditate.

Blessings – Pierre

Resistance Is Futile

I love this title. It reminds me of the Star Trek Federation’s nemesis, the Borg. The were assimilating everything in their path, telling those that try to undermine their effort, “resistance is futile.”   Interestingly, it is the futility of resistance that often prevents us from achieving the meaning, peace, and love we seek!

As I have progressed into meditation, one of the many benefits is the metaphors that Meditation highlights in our life.

I have been using a meditation app called Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/). Headspace is a Guided Meditation that helps build mediation skills (as self-diagnosed ADD, I have continued to tell myself that mediation is difficult of if not impossible for people that have limited attention).

One of the lessons that Andy, the guru, teaches us in Headspace is to let go of our resistance. He begins by having us take notice of our surroundings, connect to where we are sitting, and hear the noises of our immediate environment. Later, he also leads us in gaining awareness of our bodies tension, our emotional stressors, and finally, our spiraling thoughts. Eventually, through acceptance of these truths, we can move pass them toward the creativity, peace, or the spiritual connection we seek.

So, I was sitting in the Dental chair this week, and as I was being prodded, I became acutely aware of an incredible tension in my body.  My arms and feet were crossed, my glutes were tight, and my jaw was trying to clench down upon the hygienist’s finger.  The tighter I got, the more anxiety I felt.   In recognition of this state, I tried to let go. I consciously relaxed my body and loosened my jaw and then my mind.  Wonderfully, the next 45 minutes became, let us say, tolerable.

This metaphor plays into another blog post around “The Paradox.”

In summary, I believe and have been taught that, as humans, we often act in a manner that prevents us from achieving what we desire.

For example, I deeply want to be fit, but often find myself sitting and watching TV, or more psychologically meaningful example is if I deeply want to be loved, but fear not being loved or fear that I don’t deserve love, I keep myself isolated and protected from intimacy with others.   This could translate into the desire for a deep meaningful, authentic relationship with our spouse, but fear that vulnerability will be seen as weak or if I am authentic, she will reject me for my previous failings.

Imagine trying to get back to sleep in the middle of the night.   The more I want to sleep, the more frustrated I get and the less chance I have of going back to sleep (the paradox).

Applying the idea of accepting “what is” (stop resisting), when I wake, I grab my kindle and read in “low light”.  After 30 minutes, I struggle to keep my eyes open and return to the bed and soundly sleep the rest of the night; which is much better than the two or three hours of tossing I used to do.   By reading fiction, my mind stops spinning and starts to focus on the characters in thes books,  relieving myself of whatever ridiculous anxiety I am ruminating on.

To sum, when in paradox, I apply the exact opposite response needed and guarantee the exact opposite result that I desire.   And, it is my resistance to stepping away from these unuseful behaviors that prevents me from my desired outcome.

Where does this resistance come from? Obviously it manifests itself from our id, our shadows, or deep wounds that we use to protect ourselves.   Mine comes from a story I say to myself about “not being good enough.” Not good enough to be loved.  Not good enough to matter in the world.  Not worthy for success.

Imagine playing golf or tennis. When our body is tense or rigid, or our mind is stressed and frustrated, we can’t react or respond effectively. When I flew fighters in the Air Force, and got overwhelmed with input, my mind would darken and I could only react to what was directly in front of me.   This known issue was called “seeing through a soda straw or losing “Situational Awareness”.

Yet, when I am relaxed and engaged, I have the possibility of entering a “flow state” where time slows and my reactions are fluid and decisive.  An old commander used to say: “you need to get out of your own way.”

To sum, by letting go of my resistance, I am able to ease back to the true world and create the possibility of achieving what I really want. And for most of us, that includes creating personal meaning, being loved, or just living in peace and happiness.

As a side, I wouldn’t want to not discuss where resistance is appropriate.   I think this could best be summed as we should resist being taken off of our path toward personal integrity and mission. More on that to follow…

Blessings! – Pierre