Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"10% Happier": Meditation 101

It's been awhile since I've been able to write (so this will be a long entry), because my life has become a chaotic blend of boxes, upheaval, packing, unpacking, letting go, moving on and reentering in a new location.  People move across the country every day, but no one ever really talks about the physical and mental toll that it takes to do it.  Brene Brown included moving as one of the one of the "great unraveling journeys" in her book "The Gifts of Imperfection" (which I am currently reading).

Somehow through my "great unraveling journey" from our home in Pennsylvania to our new one in Illinois, I have kept a mantra in mind: "I am exactly what I need, exactly when I need it."  Through our epic moving adventure, that mantra has worked beautifully.  We put our house up for sale and got two great offers within the first 48 hours it was on the market.  We found a new home in our new location on the street that we wanted in less than 24 hours.  We made it through the appraisals and inspections, the loans and approvals, the paperwork and the legalities unscathed.  Even our cross country trip with our 10 year old pug who hates cars, our 14 year old cat who hasn't been out of our house in 12 years, our 9 year old daughter, and our 5 year old daughter went well.  We only hit traffic in Chicago the whole 12 hour journey.

So here we are.  In a new home.  In a new neighborhood.  Everything is new.  Everything is possible.  It's scary and exciting.  Frustrating and wonderful.

With each new moment (today I was so proud to find my new grocery store!) I keep my "I am exactly what I need, exactly when I need it" mantra in the back of my head.  I think of all the "self help" books I have read or books like "The Alchemist" that teach when you are open to the universe, the universe opens up to you. That's how I feel about Dan Harris's book "10% Happier." I needed to read a book about someone else's journey to find their calm center in a world of chaos and uncertainty.  It helped as I went through my own "unraveling" by giving me hope that if I just stayed focused and open to the universe that I would be okay.

Dan Harris wrote his book "10% Happier" to explain his experiences and spiritual journey to daily meditation.  Harris co-anchors "Nightline" and the weekend edition of "Good Morning America." After deeming the voice in his head "an asshole" he decided to find out how to get more centered and stumbled into the realm of meditation which he believed was everything that he hated - sitting still, being calm, being present, and even occasionally chanting surrounded by people that smell like feet.  His years of covering various extremist religions left him skeptical about anything remotely spiritual, so his journey really speaks to the every day person who is fed up with feeling stressed all the time but doesn't know what to do about it.

I loved this book from the very beginning.  I thought Harris's narrative of his early news anchor frenetic days and his out of control substance abuse, his journey to spirituality all rang true and pure.  He showed me reasons why meditation works and reasons why he and many others doubt the validity of meditating, but how the tides are turning.  I also loved that he offered practical advice for those just starting out with meditation (there is a nice guide to meditation for beginners in the back of the book).  Mostly, I loved how he met the gurus along the way like Eckhart Tolle and how he explains their philosophies on life and meditation.

I needed this book to help guide me through my "great unraveling journey" and direct me to a calmer place.  When Harris attends a Joseph Goldstein meditation retreat, his thoughts on the days spent in quite meditation really resonated with me especially when he raised his hand and asked how to not worry about things since there are genuine things to worry about like missing planes.  Goldstein answers, "But when you find yourself running through your trip to the airport for the seventeenth time, perhaps ask yourself the following question: 'Is this useful'?"

During my moving journey, I continually asked myself that question.  Is it useful to worry about my buyer's buyer's loan? Is it useful to worry about whether or not we will make our closing date in our new home? Is it useful to worry about how my animals will react to a long car ride? Every time I answer the same thing: It is not useful to worry.  I still worry, but now I remind myself that it isn't useful to do it.

I mostly love that Harris doesn't propose that meditation is the answer to happiness.  He claims in his own life that it has made him 10% happier which is a great percentage.  Who doesn't want to be 10% happier?

I know I do.