30. 10% Happier – Chapter 6 Part 2

First of all, pretty crazy that I have made it to 30 blog posts – gold star for me.

From www.amazon.com
From http://www.amazon.com

The rest of Chapter Six was more of Harris educating himself on meditation and mindfulness.

  • Two job opportunities came up, and the first thing he did was come up with all of the worst case scenarios.
    • As I have said before, this is my go-to response to uncertainty. But I am learning the need to combat that.
  • He had a job interview for these two new roles, but was given no certainty about the outcome. Harris saw this uncertainty as a good chance to practice mindfulness. He was still struggling with the idea of not focusing fully on his uncertainties, because he still had a belief that looking at a problem from every angle could give him some kind of edge. At the same time, he also realised that continued worrying could give him a mental breakdown
  • Harris Booked himself into a 3 day Buddhist conference
    • Mark Epstein was one of the speakers
    • Talked about the power of negative thinking, that examining the negative thoughts and being mindful of them could be liberating
    • Another of the speakers Tara Brach spoke about a technique of Mindfulness with the acronym RAIN:
      • R: Recognise
      • A: Allow
      • I: Investigate
      • N: Non-identification
    • So for Harris’ job offer situation, recognize meant to acknowledge his feelings and allow meant to let it be, or let it go. Investigate was to think about how the feelings are affecting the body e.g. hot face, fast beating heart, sweat. Lastly, non-identification meant realising that the feelings of fear or worry were passing states of mind, not forever parts of personality.
  • He met again with Mark Epstein and he talked about the idea of responding (after being mindful), not reacting (mindlessness) to situations and people.
  • Epstein suggested that he went on a ten-day silent retreat to practice meditation, because mindfulness was a skill that could improve with time. He recommended that he went to a retreat with a teacher called Joseph Goldstein (this retreat was so popular that they had a lottery system).
  • Around the same time he found out he hadn’t got one of the two jobs, and that it was uncertain when he would find out about the second job.

So this chapter finishes with the scenario where Harris has got into the 10 day retreat, and is in a state of uncertainty with his future job prospects (he calls it purgatory).

I am really enjoying reading this book because I find that certain things I am thinking and discovering are very similar to the journey that Harris is on. My blog post 29 fits in really well with the ideas that Harris is grappling with at this part of the book. Sometimes it is just refreshing and calming to know that someone else out there is going through similar things as you.

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26. Goals Recap

It has been two weeks since I made my goals, so I want to check how I did with these:

Goals for this fortnight:

  • Spirit – Meditate each day in a spot outside
    • 12 out of 14 days (the other two days I meditated inside)
  • Body – Exercise for 30-40 minutes each day and set up a daily exercise plan
    • Set up an exercise plan
    • Exercised 13 out of 14 days
  • Mind/Body/Spirit – Do four 20 minute yoga sessions per week
    • I ended up doing more than 4 per week. I did 10 sessions in the fortnight.

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25. 10% Recap – Chapter Six- Meditation

From www.amazon.com
From http://www.amazon.com

In this chapter, Harris explores meditation.

Epstein was a proponent of meditation for taming the mind but Harris had no intention of doing that:

  • He had experience with kids yoga, forced upon him by parents
  • He pretty much imagined meditation to be every cliché of eastern philosophy rolled into one – bells, ‘ommmm’ hum noises, cross-legged positions and so on
  • He considered himself to have a low attention span

His therapist suggested he read book about the medical benefits of meditation. He found that it:

  • Decrease stress
  • Lower blood pressure

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24. Worry

I have a natural tendency to worry. I am not sure if that is just human nature, but it is certainly in my nature. It is my go-to emotion, in times of uncertainty.

Because life is so uncertain at present, I have plenty I could worry about. But I also realise more and more that it doesn’t help.

I am doing my best to stay in the present, but it is a daily, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour challenge, to say the least!

Hopefully, the more and more I practice meditation and mindfulness, the easier it will be to snap out of worry and get back to the present. That is the plan at least!

20. 10% Recap – Chapter Four

From www.amazon.com
From http://www.amazon.com

In this chapter, Harris interviewed Deepak Chopra, who he described as “another self-help superstar.”

  • He didn’t find him particularly helpful and was sceptical of the genuine-ness of a lot of his claims.
  • He also met two of the people involved in “The Secret.” I remember hearing about this book from seeing it on Oprah at some point, and to be honest, it sounded like a load of rubbish to me – “Put out into the world what you want and you will get it…” – Um… no.
  • Harris was equally sceptical of “The Secret” authors and found, through meeting them, that he had real reasons to be. During the time he interviewed them, one of them was arrested for manslaughter.
  • He also got to meet some of the people who were “followers” of this way of thinking – poor people who were trying these philosophies and actually just getting into huge debt without any of “The Secret” success.

I am enjoying reading the journey that Harris is going through to find out how to tame the voices in his head. BUT I would like him to get to the part where he actually finds the solution sometime soon! Four Chapters down and he has crossed a lot of things off his list, but I don’t feel like he is much closer to finding any answers.

17. A Mindfulness Success

Just a short success story to share – last night I had completed most of my goals but I still had 20 minutes of exercise to complete. However, by about 7:30pm I found myself in a bit of a slump mood. Usually if I found myself in this mood, I would think, “Oh who cares about doing exercise. Stuff it,” and just give up on my goals for the evening. Sometimes I would be disappointed that I stuffed up on one goal, and just give up on all goals completely.

Last night I made a change to this pattern. I decided that instead of being a quitter, I would be a winner. So even though I didn’t feel like it, I got up and I did my exercise. I focused my mind on the present activity I was doing, not my emotions. I had made a commitment to do exercise, and I needed to stick to it – and I did.

So that was my little random success to share.

It is good to see that even when I am in bad mood, or find myself in a bad head space, I can practice some mindfulness, clear my head and get on with the present.

13. 10% Happier – Chapter One

From www.amazon.com
From http://www.amazon.com

As I am reading the book: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story I thought it would be a useful exercise to take some notes about what I am learning from it, or what I want to remember. You can buy this book here.

Chapter One: 

  • It is refreshing to read a book where it is clear the author has left their ego at the door. Harris is honest about his intentions, his embarrassments, his flaws
    • I admire someone who can be that honest. It is how I am trying to be these days. 
  • He talks about how he had a head full of mindlessness – packed full with worry, fear, ambition, drive, regret, embarrassment, and a lot more.
    • I can relate to this. I may not be a TV reporter/anchor, but I have worked in industries where I felt the pressure (from myself and others) to always be “on”, to be busy, and pushing forward, and looking for the next promotion and the next advancement. My mind was full but I was not being mindful. 

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