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From Skeptic to Meditator

Dan shares how he ‘tamed the voice in his head’ and how you can too.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And with me today, I'm really delighted to introduce you to Dan Harris. Dan is a news reporter and he's also the co-anchor for Nightline, and Good Morning America. And the reason that we're talking to him here today is because he's written this book called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found A Self-Help That Actually Works, A True Story. Now this book is really the story of how Dan went from being really, really skeptical about meditation to being not only a meditator, but a very public advocate of meditation.

So Dan, thanks so much for spending this time with us. Thanks for having me. So as we just mentioned, you were really quite skeptical about meditation. And so I'm curious to know your story of how somebody who was so skeptical really even ended up opening your mind to giving meditation a try. Could you tell us the story about that? Well, there's a bit of a backstory I'll try to tell it in as concise manner as possible.

I had a panic attack on national television 11 years ago. And after the panic attack, I went to a doctor to try to get to the root of the problem. And he asked me a bunch of questions and one of them was, do you do drugs? And my answer was somewhat sheepishly was yes. I had spent a bunch of time in war zones as a young year reporter. And I had gotten depressed and I started self-medicating with recreational drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.

And the doctor explained that even though my drug use was reasonably intermittent, it was enough to artificially raise the level of adrenaline in my brain and prime me to have a panic attack. So that was, that was step number one. I really realized at that point I needed to kind of get my act together. So I quit doing drugs and started seeing a shrink. But then there was something else that happened, which was, I was assigned to cover faith and spirituality for the broadcast network that I worked for, which is ABC News, not to be confused with your ABC news.

American Broadcasting Company. And I was a lifelong atheist and I still am really, but through covering faith and spirituality, I ended up stumbling upon an Eckhart Tolle book. I'm sure your viewers will know who that is. I had no idea who he was, but he was the first person I ever heard talk about the voice in the head or the ego which was a real, which was a real wake up call for me. So I went and interviewed him, found him to be very, very frustrating, fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.

I didn't, he didn't seem to have any sort of actionable advice for dealing with the voice in the head. And so then I kind of thrashed around for a little bit and some, and then I, and I heard about Buddhism and meditation. And I always thought meditation was really just for hippies and freaks and weirdos and people who are like live in a yurt and are really into whatever. But I then heard about all of the science that shows it can, you know, boost your blood pressure and excuse me, reduce your blood pressure and boost your immune system. And on some, some days it boosts my blood pressure.

And, you know, rewire key parts of your brain and all that stuff, I don't want to over-hype the science, but it certainly strongly suggests, it's compelling. So, so I just started. I started doing it. And this was about six years ago. So well, after my panic attacks, I started doing it.

And I'm, and I've just found it to be really beneficial and I feel like at least in my country, it has a big PR problem still. And so I thought that if I talked about it from my vantage point as a Type A, ambitious, a person who swears a lot that maybe some people who otherwise would reflexively reject it might get interested in it. Right. And you talk about, you know, when you encountered Eckhart and kind of came maybe for the first time into this noticing of the voice in the head now, This reminds me in your book, you, you were actually thinking of an alternative title for the book, right? Which was The Voice In My Head Is An Asshole. Now this, first of all, that's a catchy title.

Second of all, it speaks to something about our human experience that I think is worth noting. And so I was interested in whether you could explain what your experience was like of, what's it like to have a voice in the head that's an asshole? What kinds of things does it say or how was that affecting your life? Well, I think everybody, the voice in everybody's head is an asshole. And when the Buddha, the Buddha's first utterance, you know, in his four noble truth was life is suffering, which is a mistranslation. Suffering doesn't really mean suffering as we consider it in English. It basically means that life is unsatisfying.

It's just another way of saying the voice in your head is an asshole because nothing is good enough, we're always, you know, no, no amount of pleasure we get ever truly satisfies us. We're always thinking about the net, the 18th cookie or the next job promotion. We're always ruminating about the past or fixating on the future to the detriment of whatever's happening right now. And that suffering and that's the voice in your head being an asshole. I think mine was particularly bad because it was actually the voice, as one of my friends that joked, the voice in my actual mouth was an asshole too.

So, I mean, I was a really ambitious young, oftentimes arrogant and brash guy. And I, you know, I like to joke that my wife thinks that I should retitle the book 90%, Still A Moron, because you know, I, I, it's not solved all of my problems. And that's part of the PR problem around meditation is that, you know, it's sometimes, it's sold as this panacea, you know, quick enlightenment. It is not that at all, which is why I named my book 10% Happier. I think it's, it can make you incrementally calmer, more focused and less yanked around by your emotions.

And that's a huge value add, but it's not, it's not a silver bullet. Yeah. And so, you know, in the title of your book, there's two things that I, that I'd love to ask you about. So the first one is, you know, seeing that you've, you've tamed the voice in your head to some degree, and so how is the relationship with that asshole voice in the head changed? Yeah. I mean Is it the way you relate to it that's different or is it the actual content that's different? How has that changed over time? Great question.

So the, the title may be a case of overstatement because it depends how you interpret the, the, the term tamed. I, it's not like I took a lion and made it into a domestic short hair. So it's not thoroughly tamed. I think it is by degrees tamed. And I think what's interesting is that the first thing that happens in meditation practice, at least in my experience, is that not that the voice says different stuff, just that your relationship to it is different.

You have a lens, an internal lens, some sort of ability to see the contents of your own consciousness so that you aren't blindly yanked around by the voice. The second thing that seems to happen, at least from people I've talked to and in my own experience is, is over time, once you clear up a little bit of space, it does make room for different thoughts and ideas to emerge. And so I think it's a two-fold process, but the first part is the big one, which is, you can't expect that when when you start meditating, you're no longer going to be self-critical, you're not, you're no longer going to be judgmental of your neighbor. What you may be better at is noticing when anger arises, and then not saying the thing that ruins the next 48 hours of your marriage, or not checking your email in the middle of a conversation with your kids. That, that is the, I think the initial benefit and really a huge game changing skill available to everyone.

Yeah. And actually, you know, I think in your book, I feel like you illustrate that so well, the, the facts that you would sometimes have a judgmental thought about somebody and kind of, you know, box them into one frame. And then in your book, you really illustrate quite well the process of noticing that thought and then questioning it and saying, well, hang on a second. Maybe that's just a judgment and not the actuality of the situation. So I think that's really, yeah, really an empowering thing as well.

Yeah. I mean, I think I'm like the anti blink, you know, that Malcolm Gladwell book about the, this, the sort of wisdom of the subconscious. My first impression is usually so, totally wrong. My subconscious is not wise at all. So in the process of the book, in the book, it's basically me, you know, misjudging people and then realizing that they were right all along and I was the idiot.

And then that process, well, maybe not. I can tell you that process has not stopped. I mean, it continues to happen to me all the time. I think I'm a little bit better at not taking so seriously the initial judgment. So the, the other thing in your book title that I really wanted to ask you as well is the part about reducing your stress without losing your edge.

Now, most of my friends are entrepreneurs, CEOs, definitely A types and I know that this is a concern that comes up for so many of those people. They, I think, have a concern that if they start to meditate, that they're going to calm down too much. And perhaps there's even a, a subconscious belief that maybe the stress, the anxiety, the competitiveness and the drivenness that's what makes them great. And so they're afraid if they stop, you know, that whole area of their life they're going to fail. So what would you say to someone, Dan, if they were sitting across from you and they said, look, Dan, I'm not going to do meditation because I'm, I don't want to lose my edge.

A couple of things to say that first of all, I understand the concern. It was exactly the concern I had. I think when people assume that if they get happier or calmer, that they're going to be ineffective. They're actually mistaken. They're confusing happiness with complacency and they're not the same thing.

It doesn't, I think people think that they're, when they picture themselves happy, they're reclined with 17 women waving palm fronds at them and feeding them grapes. That's not the deal. Happiness is, I mean, first of all, what's interesting about the English language is that we, we have our conflicted feelings about the concept of happiness are reflected in the etymological roots of the term. Happ, HAPP is the same root of the word haphazard or hapless. It means luck or haphazard.

It, in that reflects our view that somehow happiness is dependent upon exogenous factors. In fact, this, the, what, what is so radical and empowering about the science around meditation is it shows that happiness is actually a skill that you can develop in just the way you can develop your bicep in the gym. As to on the job effectiveness, you know, I, I talk about this in the book, but I, I was raised by a very ambitious dad. He's still ambitious in the seventies, who had an expression, which is the price of security is insecurity. You know, the more you worry, the better you're going to do.

And I embraced that with gusto. And to be honest, I still think that's true. However, we tend to make our suffering worse than it needs to be. Yes, it is true that if you're going to be great at anything, there's, there's a certain amount of worrying and plotting and planning and stress, I think, inherent in the endeavor. But, but we tend to go down the rat hole of useless rumination and I think that with mindfulness, the great gift of mindfulness to an ambitious person is that it can help you draw the line between useless rumination and what I call constructive anguish.

And so maybe on the 17th time, you're wondering about how well you, you, that a spreadsheet came out or whether you're going to miss your flight or whether somebody else is going to get the job you want, maybe on the 17th time that you're worrying about that you can, you can ask yourself, is this useful. Right. And I've found that that makes you less miserable, easier to live with, easier to work with and work for, and less caught up in blind reactivity and hatred so that you're making better decisions. Right. And don't just take my word for it.

There's a reason why meditation is now being practiced in the executive suites at Twitter, Google, Aetna, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, the people who make Hamburger Helper. And it's now being done by professional athletes, Novak Djokovic, who won the Wimbledon recently, is an avid meditator. Entertainers, lawyers, scientists, very ambitious people in our culture are doing this, because again, it goes right to some core attributes needed for leadership and achievement, which are focus and emotional reactivity or emotional intelligence. And anyway, so that's my take. Yeah.

And so how long have you been meditating now for, Dan? So the book was written, is it five, is it five years that you've been meditating now? Six years? Six years. Yeah. Six years. And you've also done some retreat time in that time. So you've had your regular practice and you've done some retreat time.

So I'm, I'm curious to know, you know, what kinds of benefits have have unfolded in that time? What kind of insights and realizations and, and, you know, as time has gone on, you know, is it a continuing journey? Is it, has it crescendoed? What's the journey like these days? So if anything, I'm more into the practice itself than I've ever been now. One of the things that I was looking forward to after finishing the book was to doing more practice and doing less writing about the practice. And so that didn't happen as quickly as I wanted, because to my great satisfaction, the book did reasonably well. And so then I had a lot of invitations to go talk about it and stuff, which was great, but obviously not really conducive to practice. So now that things are slowing down, I've definitely increased dramatically my daily sitting time.

After a couple of years of not being able to go on retreat, I'm going on a 10 day retreat in the Fall. And. You know, I have a teacher who I studied with, Joseph Goldstein, is very well well-known speaker who offered to be my teacher and I read a lot and I take a, I take a class, I, excuse me, I listen to a lot of Dharma talks. I read very frequently. And I also have been taking a class through a great place called the Buddhist, the Barre center for Buddhist Studies.

They're in Massachusetts, which is in the United States and they offer an online class, which I signed up for. They just started doing this and it's about early Buddhism and what the texts do and do not mean. And, and so for me, going beyond 10% Happier and getting into sort of, what I would refer to as the deep end of the pool has become really a primary preoccupation for me in recent months. And it's, I think endlessly fascinating. It may be where I lose my audience, but it is what is happening.

Hmm. Interesting. And so the, the sort of just, you know, the benefits in your work-life, in your relationships, in any other sort of concrete, are you more productive? Do you, is it affecting your relationships? What's, what are those kinds of things like? It definitely has affected my relationships. The most important being the one with my wife. We had a good relationship to start with, and she was in fact the one who, although she doesn't meditate interestingly, but she was the one who, after, during my post Eckhart Tolle confusion, she was the one who did this key thing of giving me a book by a Buddhist author named Dr.

Mark Epstein. And that is what turned me on to meditation. And so I think with practice, I'm definitely much less of a, the voice in my mouth is much less of an asshole than it used to be. Although again, I retain the capacity to be a schmuck, but I, I feel like it's less frequent. So our relationship definitely benefits from that.

We had a kid eight months ago and, and, and I do think that having the daily training of trying to focus on one thing, getting lost and starting again, which is basically one description of meditation, has really helped me just pay attention when I'm with, the times when I'm with my child, as opposed to thinking about what am I going to do next or what's, what's that email I didn't answer, et cetera, et cetera. No, I still do some of that. No question. I think I'm just better at it than I would otherwise be. And I, so I would say right now the biggest benefit and the most important benefit is my external relationship in many ways.

It, it's certainly not perfect. I have definitely once in a while, will fire up in ill-advised email or say something I wish I hadn't said, but I think my, my, the amount of time I spend angry is, is vastly reduced and my apology time quicker. Yeah. Okay. Is there anything else that you'd like to, to add? Anything else you'd like to share before we close? So what would I say in closing, it's worth it.

Stick with it. The one thing that's really, one of many things that's really helped me is, is making sure I do it daily. And I often employ something called, that I just called the accordion principle. which is, even on a really bad day, I still do something even if it's two to five minutes. And I find, I, I, I see people who get really excited about practice, they say they're going to do 30 minutes or 60 minutes a day, and then they get on a bad stretch and then they fall off the wagon and they're discouraged.

And that's it. So I just, for me, one of the things that maybe will help be helpful to other people is just do something every day, because it really is in my view, the daily collusion with the asshole in your head that helps you fend off its shitty suggestions, you know? And so that's, that's, that's what I, I guess one practical piece of advice I'd close on and, and, and yeah, keep it going. I think it's worth it. I, I, I don't know anybody who, who has started a meditation practice, stuck with it and feels like it's a waste of time. And I just have one more closing question that I've been asking everyone who's taken part in this summit.

And that is, you know, they say that mindfulness has gone mainstream. I really think, you know, what's happened is it's, it's entering mainstream culture as an idea. It's certainly being de-stigmatized thanks to a lot of people like yourself. If mindfulness would have truly hit critical mass, I'm talking like, you know, maybe 50% of the world's population was practicing, how do you think that would change things? I think it would be amazing. You think, I think it has the potential to, to have a genuine impact on the way society functions.

So if you think about public health revolutions of the past - oral hygiene, physical exercise, those both were major public health revolutions of the 20th century. They had lots of great benefits - fewer cavities, increased cardiovascular fitness. This is something that speaks, however, to not only to the physical health but behavior. And so if mindfulness were to take off in a, in a big way, imagine the impact on bullying, on road rage, on parenting, on workplace discrimination, on discrimination at all in the world, on politics on journalism. I, I think that it would, on business, on the climate, on all of these problems where, and many of these problems, especially the climate, where it's a sort of a tragedy of the common issue where nobody really has the incentive to, to, to make a change unless everybody else does.

I think that mindfulness has the potential to have a real benefit. I, I, I hate the idea of being super naive or over hyping it. But I've run this scenario through in my head so many times and just extrapolating from my own experience. I think even if it wasn't 50%, even if it was whatever the percentage of people who like belong to a gym now, you know, maybe that's 20 to 30%, that's a lot of people having a real effect in the world. And it makes me very optimistic in a, in a world in which I get a front row seat at many trends that make me pessimistic.

This is a good news story. Well, Dan, thank you so much for sharing your time with us here today. And I have to say I absolutely loved reading your book. It is so well-written and I highly recommend all of you who are tuning in to check it out. It's a really great read.

So all the best to you, Dan, and see you next time. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Talk

4.7

From Skeptic to Meditator

Dan shares how he ‘tamed the voice in his head’ and how you can too.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And with me today, I'm really delighted to introduce you to Dan Harris. Dan is a news reporter and he's also the co-anchor for Nightline, and Good Morning America. And the reason that we're talking to him here today is because he's written this book called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found A Self-Help That Actually Works, A True Story. Now this book is really the story of how Dan went from being really, really skeptical about meditation to being not only a meditator, but a very public advocate of meditation.

So Dan, thanks so much for spending this time with us. Thanks for having me. So as we just mentioned, you were really quite skeptical about meditation. And so I'm curious to know your story of how somebody who was so skeptical really even ended up opening your mind to giving meditation a try. Could you tell us the story about that? Well, there's a bit of a backstory I'll try to tell it in as concise manner as possible.

I had a panic attack on national television 11 years ago. And after the panic attack, I went to a doctor to try to get to the root of the problem. And he asked me a bunch of questions and one of them was, do you do drugs? And my answer was somewhat sheepishly was yes. I had spent a bunch of time in war zones as a young year reporter. And I had gotten depressed and I started self-medicating with recreational drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.

And the doctor explained that even though my drug use was reasonably intermittent, it was enough to artificially raise the level of adrenaline in my brain and prime me to have a panic attack. So that was, that was step number one. I really realized at that point I needed to kind of get my act together. So I quit doing drugs and started seeing a shrink. But then there was something else that happened, which was, I was assigned to cover faith and spirituality for the broadcast network that I worked for, which is ABC News, not to be confused with your ABC news.

American Broadcasting Company. And I was a lifelong atheist and I still am really, but through covering faith and spirituality, I ended up stumbling upon an Eckhart Tolle book. I'm sure your viewers will know who that is. I had no idea who he was, but he was the first person I ever heard talk about the voice in the head or the ego which was a real, which was a real wake up call for me. So I went and interviewed him, found him to be very, very frustrating, fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.

I didn't, he didn't seem to have any sort of actionable advice for dealing with the voice in the head. And so then I kind of thrashed around for a little bit and some, and then I, and I heard about Buddhism and meditation. And I always thought meditation was really just for hippies and freaks and weirdos and people who are like live in a yurt and are really into whatever. But I then heard about all of the science that shows it can, you know, boost your blood pressure and excuse me, reduce your blood pressure and boost your immune system. And on some, some days it boosts my blood pressure.

And, you know, rewire key parts of your brain and all that stuff, I don't want to over-hype the science, but it certainly strongly suggests, it's compelling. So, so I just started. I started doing it. And this was about six years ago. So well, after my panic attacks, I started doing it.

And I'm, and I've just found it to be really beneficial and I feel like at least in my country, it has a big PR problem still. And so I thought that if I talked about it from my vantage point as a Type A, ambitious, a person who swears a lot that maybe some people who otherwise would reflexively reject it might get interested in it. Right. And you talk about, you know, when you encountered Eckhart and kind of came maybe for the first time into this noticing of the voice in the head now, This reminds me in your book, you, you were actually thinking of an alternative title for the book, right? Which was The Voice In My Head Is An Asshole. Now this, first of all, that's a catchy title.

Second of all, it speaks to something about our human experience that I think is worth noting. And so I was interested in whether you could explain what your experience was like of, what's it like to have a voice in the head that's an asshole? What kinds of things does it say or how was that affecting your life? Well, I think everybody, the voice in everybody's head is an asshole. And when the Buddha, the Buddha's first utterance, you know, in his four noble truth was life is suffering, which is a mistranslation. Suffering doesn't really mean suffering as we consider it in English. It basically means that life is unsatisfying.

It's just another way of saying the voice in your head is an asshole because nothing is good enough, we're always, you know, no, no amount of pleasure we get ever truly satisfies us. We're always thinking about the net, the 18th cookie or the next job promotion. We're always ruminating about the past or fixating on the future to the detriment of whatever's happening right now. And that suffering and that's the voice in your head being an asshole. I think mine was particularly bad because it was actually the voice, as one of my friends that joked, the voice in my actual mouth was an asshole too.

So, I mean, I was a really ambitious young, oftentimes arrogant and brash guy. And I, you know, I like to joke that my wife thinks that I should retitle the book 90%, Still A Moron, because you know, I, I, it's not solved all of my problems. And that's part of the PR problem around meditation is that, you know, it's sometimes, it's sold as this panacea, you know, quick enlightenment. It is not that at all, which is why I named my book 10% Happier. I think it's, it can make you incrementally calmer, more focused and less yanked around by your emotions.

And that's a huge value add, but it's not, it's not a silver bullet. Yeah. And so, you know, in the title of your book, there's two things that I, that I'd love to ask you about. So the first one is, you know, seeing that you've, you've tamed the voice in your head to some degree, and so how is the relationship with that asshole voice in the head changed? Yeah. I mean Is it the way you relate to it that's different or is it the actual content that's different? How has that changed over time? Great question.

So the, the title may be a case of overstatement because it depends how you interpret the, the, the term tamed. I, it's not like I took a lion and made it into a domestic short hair. So it's not thoroughly tamed. I think it is by degrees tamed. And I think what's interesting is that the first thing that happens in meditation practice, at least in my experience, is that not that the voice says different stuff, just that your relationship to it is different.

You have a lens, an internal lens, some sort of ability to see the contents of your own consciousness so that you aren't blindly yanked around by the voice. The second thing that seems to happen, at least from people I've talked to and in my own experience is, is over time, once you clear up a little bit of space, it does make room for different thoughts and ideas to emerge. And so I think it's a two-fold process, but the first part is the big one, which is, you can't expect that when when you start meditating, you're no longer going to be self-critical, you're not, you're no longer going to be judgmental of your neighbor. What you may be better at is noticing when anger arises, and then not saying the thing that ruins the next 48 hours of your marriage, or not checking your email in the middle of a conversation with your kids. That, that is the, I think the initial benefit and really a huge game changing skill available to everyone.

Yeah. And actually, you know, I think in your book, I feel like you illustrate that so well, the, the facts that you would sometimes have a judgmental thought about somebody and kind of, you know, box them into one frame. And then in your book, you really illustrate quite well the process of noticing that thought and then questioning it and saying, well, hang on a second. Maybe that's just a judgment and not the actuality of the situation. So I think that's really, yeah, really an empowering thing as well.

Yeah. I mean, I think I'm like the anti blink, you know, that Malcolm Gladwell book about the, this, the sort of wisdom of the subconscious. My first impression is usually so, totally wrong. My subconscious is not wise at all. So in the process of the book, in the book, it's basically me, you know, misjudging people and then realizing that they were right all along and I was the idiot.

And then that process, well, maybe not. I can tell you that process has not stopped. I mean, it continues to happen to me all the time. I think I'm a little bit better at not taking so seriously the initial judgment. So the, the other thing in your book title that I really wanted to ask you as well is the part about reducing your stress without losing your edge.

Now, most of my friends are entrepreneurs, CEOs, definitely A types and I know that this is a concern that comes up for so many of those people. They, I think, have a concern that if they start to meditate, that they're going to calm down too much. And perhaps there's even a, a subconscious belief that maybe the stress, the anxiety, the competitiveness and the drivenness that's what makes them great. And so they're afraid if they stop, you know, that whole area of their life they're going to fail. So what would you say to someone, Dan, if they were sitting across from you and they said, look, Dan, I'm not going to do meditation because I'm, I don't want to lose my edge.

A couple of things to say that first of all, I understand the concern. It was exactly the concern I had. I think when people assume that if they get happier or calmer, that they're going to be ineffective. They're actually mistaken. They're confusing happiness with complacency and they're not the same thing.

It doesn't, I think people think that they're, when they picture themselves happy, they're reclined with 17 women waving palm fronds at them and feeding them grapes. That's not the deal. Happiness is, I mean, first of all, what's interesting about the English language is that we, we have our conflicted feelings about the concept of happiness are reflected in the etymological roots of the term. Happ, HAPP is the same root of the word haphazard or hapless. It means luck or haphazard.

It, in that reflects our view that somehow happiness is dependent upon exogenous factors. In fact, this, the, what, what is so radical and empowering about the science around meditation is it shows that happiness is actually a skill that you can develop in just the way you can develop your bicep in the gym. As to on the job effectiveness, you know, I, I talk about this in the book, but I, I was raised by a very ambitious dad. He's still ambitious in the seventies, who had an expression, which is the price of security is insecurity. You know, the more you worry, the better you're going to do.

And I embraced that with gusto. And to be honest, I still think that's true. However, we tend to make our suffering worse than it needs to be. Yes, it is true that if you're going to be great at anything, there's, there's a certain amount of worrying and plotting and planning and stress, I think, inherent in the endeavor. But, but we tend to go down the rat hole of useless rumination and I think that with mindfulness, the great gift of mindfulness to an ambitious person is that it can help you draw the line between useless rumination and what I call constructive anguish.

And so maybe on the 17th time, you're wondering about how well you, you, that a spreadsheet came out or whether you're going to miss your flight or whether somebody else is going to get the job you want, maybe on the 17th time that you're worrying about that you can, you can ask yourself, is this useful. Right. And I've found that that makes you less miserable, easier to live with, easier to work with and work for, and less caught up in blind reactivity and hatred so that you're making better decisions. Right. And don't just take my word for it.

There's a reason why meditation is now being practiced in the executive suites at Twitter, Google, Aetna, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, the people who make Hamburger Helper. And it's now being done by professional athletes, Novak Djokovic, who won the Wimbledon recently, is an avid meditator. Entertainers, lawyers, scientists, very ambitious people in our culture are doing this, because again, it goes right to some core attributes needed for leadership and achievement, which are focus and emotional reactivity or emotional intelligence. And anyway, so that's my take. Yeah.

And so how long have you been meditating now for, Dan? So the book was written, is it five, is it five years that you've been meditating now? Six years? Six years. Yeah. Six years. And you've also done some retreat time in that time. So you've had your regular practice and you've done some retreat time.

So I'm, I'm curious to know, you know, what kinds of benefits have have unfolded in that time? What kind of insights and realizations and, and, you know, as time has gone on, you know, is it a continuing journey? Is it, has it crescendoed? What's the journey like these days? So if anything, I'm more into the practice itself than I've ever been now. One of the things that I was looking forward to after finishing the book was to doing more practice and doing less writing about the practice. And so that didn't happen as quickly as I wanted, because to my great satisfaction, the book did reasonably well. And so then I had a lot of invitations to go talk about it and stuff, which was great, but obviously not really conducive to practice. So now that things are slowing down, I've definitely increased dramatically my daily sitting time.

After a couple of years of not being able to go on retreat, I'm going on a 10 day retreat in the Fall. And. You know, I have a teacher who I studied with, Joseph Goldstein, is very well well-known speaker who offered to be my teacher and I read a lot and I take a, I take a class, I, excuse me, I listen to a lot of Dharma talks. I read very frequently. And I also have been taking a class through a great place called the Buddhist, the Barre center for Buddhist Studies.

They're in Massachusetts, which is in the United States and they offer an online class, which I signed up for. They just started doing this and it's about early Buddhism and what the texts do and do not mean. And, and so for me, going beyond 10% Happier and getting into sort of, what I would refer to as the deep end of the pool has become really a primary preoccupation for me in recent months. And it's, I think endlessly fascinating. It may be where I lose my audience, but it is what is happening.

Hmm. Interesting. And so the, the sort of just, you know, the benefits in your work-life, in your relationships, in any other sort of concrete, are you more productive? Do you, is it affecting your relationships? What's, what are those kinds of things like? It definitely has affected my relationships. The most important being the one with my wife. We had a good relationship to start with, and she was in fact the one who, although she doesn't meditate interestingly, but she was the one who, after, during my post Eckhart Tolle confusion, she was the one who did this key thing of giving me a book by a Buddhist author named Dr.

Mark Epstein. And that is what turned me on to meditation. And so I think with practice, I'm definitely much less of a, the voice in my mouth is much less of an asshole than it used to be. Although again, I retain the capacity to be a schmuck, but I, I feel like it's less frequent. So our relationship definitely benefits from that.

We had a kid eight months ago and, and, and I do think that having the daily training of trying to focus on one thing, getting lost and starting again, which is basically one description of meditation, has really helped me just pay attention when I'm with, the times when I'm with my child, as opposed to thinking about what am I going to do next or what's, what's that email I didn't answer, et cetera, et cetera. No, I still do some of that. No question. I think I'm just better at it than I would otherwise be. And I, so I would say right now the biggest benefit and the most important benefit is my external relationship in many ways.

It, it's certainly not perfect. I have definitely once in a while, will fire up in ill-advised email or say something I wish I hadn't said, but I think my, my, the amount of time I spend angry is, is vastly reduced and my apology time quicker. Yeah. Okay. Is there anything else that you'd like to, to add? Anything else you'd like to share before we close? So what would I say in closing, it's worth it.

Stick with it. The one thing that's really, one of many things that's really helped me is, is making sure I do it daily. And I often employ something called, that I just called the accordion principle. which is, even on a really bad day, I still do something even if it's two to five minutes. And I find, I, I, I see people who get really excited about practice, they say they're going to do 30 minutes or 60 minutes a day, and then they get on a bad stretch and then they fall off the wagon and they're discouraged.

And that's it. So I just, for me, one of the things that maybe will help be helpful to other people is just do something every day, because it really is in my view, the daily collusion with the asshole in your head that helps you fend off its shitty suggestions, you know? And so that's, that's, that's what I, I guess one practical piece of advice I'd close on and, and, and yeah, keep it going. I think it's worth it. I, I, I don't know anybody who, who has started a meditation practice, stuck with it and feels like it's a waste of time. And I just have one more closing question that I've been asking everyone who's taken part in this summit.

And that is, you know, they say that mindfulness has gone mainstream. I really think, you know, what's happened is it's, it's entering mainstream culture as an idea. It's certainly being de-stigmatized thanks to a lot of people like yourself. If mindfulness would have truly hit critical mass, I'm talking like, you know, maybe 50% of the world's population was practicing, how do you think that would change things? I think it would be amazing. You think, I think it has the potential to, to have a genuine impact on the way society functions.

So if you think about public health revolutions of the past - oral hygiene, physical exercise, those both were major public health revolutions of the 20th century. They had lots of great benefits - fewer cavities, increased cardiovascular fitness. This is something that speaks, however, to not only to the physical health but behavior. And so if mindfulness were to take off in a, in a big way, imagine the impact on bullying, on road rage, on parenting, on workplace discrimination, on discrimination at all in the world, on politics on journalism. I, I think that it would, on business, on the climate, on all of these problems where, and many of these problems, especially the climate, where it's a sort of a tragedy of the common issue where nobody really has the incentive to, to, to make a change unless everybody else does.

I think that mindfulness has the potential to have a real benefit. I, I, I hate the idea of being super naive or over hyping it. But I've run this scenario through in my head so many times and just extrapolating from my own experience. I think even if it wasn't 50%, even if it was whatever the percentage of people who like belong to a gym now, you know, maybe that's 20 to 30%, that's a lot of people having a real effect in the world. And it makes me very optimistic in a, in a world in which I get a front row seat at many trends that make me pessimistic.

This is a good news story. Well, Dan, thank you so much for sharing your time with us here today. And I have to say I absolutely loved reading your book. It is so well-written and I highly recommend all of you who are tuning in to check it out. It's a really great read.

So all the best to you, Dan, and see you next time. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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