Category Archives: Brain science

Book Report – “10% Happier” Teaches Meditation For Most of Us

Bronze sculpture of meditating woman, Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico. Photo by Margaret Lukens
Bronze sculpture of meditating woman, Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico. Photo by Margaret Lukens

“Meditation is a waste of time, like learning French or kissing after sex.”

— Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin), 30 Rock

By now, you have probably heard about the scientific studies that conclude that if you aren’t meditating, you certainly should be. Meditation’s documented health benefits are so many and so varied, they sound like snake-oil promises:

And these few studies just scratch the surface of the breadth of benefit claimed for meditation.

There are scads of books promising to introduce meditation techniques and help you become a meditator. They’re written by giants in the field, including, in no special order: Joseph Goldstein, Pema Chodron, Daniel Goleman, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Soren Gordhamer, Eckhart Tolle, Sylvia Boorstein, and many others. I’ve read a few; maybe you have, too. But a new book captured my attention last month.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris, is one of the very few books on meditation written, not by professional meditation teachers, but by a guy who has a high-stress job, including relationships with non-meditators. You may recognize Harris’ name. He’s a former war correspondent, now co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline and a long-time figure in network news. He suffered an infamous on-air panic attack (later revealed to be associated with his self-medicating use of drugs including cocaine and ecstasy), which sent him on a skeptical journey into meditation.

Harris describes his trouble giving himself over to a meditation practice. First, he had to overcome his distaste for the non-scientific, woo-woo language used by some teachers, those who “invite” rather than instruct, as in “I invite you to close your eyes,” and those who want to “raise your vibrational level.” If you’ve ever found it hard to connect to this kind of talk, Harris is for you. He manages to write a whole book on meditation without inviting you to do anything or messing with your vibrational level in any way.

Then he dealt with his fear that he might lose his edge in the competitive field of television journalism. Like a kid learning to ride his very first bicycle, there was some wobbling as he found the right balance between a desire for being more Buddha and a need to grab ratings.

But ultimately he had to wrestle to the ground the relentlessly chattering voice we all hear in our heads. (This is why 10% Happier had the working title of The Voice in Your Head Is an A**hole.)

One after another, scientific studies are pointing to a simple, short mindfulness meditation practice as a miracle cure for health, peace, and productivity. The investment of time is so small (five minutes a day) and the rewards so desirable, we owe it to ourselves to make it a priority. By leading us through his hesitations and hurdles, Dan Harris’ book provides an inspiring and informative companion to begin or deepen a meditation practice.

Do you meditate? Does it impact your productivity? If you have a meditation practice, how did you learn to meditate? Leave a comment below.

Worth Repeating – July 2014

I recently tried out a new time and calendar management app called mynd. (It’s beautifully designed!) When I finish with all my appointments, it greets me with a message: “Free At Last! (You have no more events scheduled today.)” As we in the United States celebrate our nation’s independence, I hope this month finds you… Continue Reading

Are negative self-talk and unexamined expectations holding you back?

Ten years ago, when I began working with clients to solve their productivity issues, I didn’t imagine how much attention I would end up paying to the latest research in psychology. I came prepared with insights on running a business, I read organizing books, consulted the best time management gurus, taught classes at the Small… Continue Reading

Why You’ll Want To Stay Off Your Computer After 7 P.M.

No, it’s not due to legitimate fears of vodka-fueled facebook posting. It’s all about protecting your productivity. Our bodies need sleep — seven hours or more in order to be optimally productive. To get sleepy at the right time and wake up at the right time, our bodies release hormones. The trouble is that the… Continue Reading

Relief From Time Change Trauma: Sleep Cycle App

We’re coming up on the weekend when most of the United States will return to standard time, and therefor much of the population will feel confused and groggy for several days, wondering what time exactly it is. It’s like having jet lag without the airport security pat downs. Is there anything that can help that… Continue Reading

Women Entrepreneurs of the Bay Area: Want More Time?

You know how it can be: You have an overwhelming to-do list as long as your arm, and it never gets any shorter. There are some things you want to accomplish, but weeks, months and even years slip by with no progress. You are tempted to laugh out loud when someone suggests adding daily exercise,… Continue Reading

Floss One Tooth: How Tiny Habit Changes Can Make All the Difference

There are three ways to change your behavior. You can have an epiphany. If you know the story of Byron Katie’s remarkable turn-around, you have an example of an epiphany. These are hard to engineer, so looking for one to show up can be a long and frustrating wait. You can change your context. When… Continue Reading

Copyright © 2009-2014 Margaret Lukens