As someone who has written about mindfulness and the practice of meditation for going on six years now, I’m pretty fed up with all the over-the-top claims.
Mindfulness did have a significant positive impact on several areas of my life from my stress and anxiety levels to my focus, patience, and creativity. However, it doesn’t fix everything (nothing does) and, more than anything, it makes you better at dealing with life’s challenges more than it actually makes things go away.
That alone makes it one of the single most valuable daily practices I could ever recommend and why I’m so passionate about it.
But it’s not a panacea. And it’s not all you need to find happiness. It’s a critical piece, but all you need? Not even close.
This is why I love ABC News anchor Dan Harris’ take on the practice of mindfulness, and meditation in general, in his book 10% Happier.
As a counterargument to these salesy promises, Harris argues that mindfulness meditation will only make you a little bit happier. It will make it easier to handle your daily challenges and you more skillful in dealing with difficult emotions.
In his podcast of the same name, Harris later argues that he perhaps was holding on a bit too tightly to his skeptical nature, believing that mindfulness can have a more significant impact on one’s overall well-being.
However, he stands by his assertion that it’s not a cure-all. In fact, believing so is a misunderstanding of what mindfulness practice really is.
If you’re a healthy skeptic by nature, especially if this has kept you from trying meditation, this is definitely the book for you.
And if you prefer to read a summary of some of the best lessons it has to offer to see if the book is worth your time, you’re in luck because we’ve summarized some of the most valuable lessons from it below.
Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.
– Dan Harris, 10% Happier
Here are three lessons from Dan Harris’ 10% Happier.
1. Build an automatic defense system for life’s mental and emotional challenges
Have you ever watched a post-game interview with a professional athlete? Sometimes, there are specifics about their play and the game, however, more often than not it’s some version of “we did exactly what we were trained to do.”
The best in the world at what they do train constantly so that, when the time comes, that training can kick in automatically. And the same can be done with mindfulness practice to navigate the emotional and mental challenges we face throughout life.
Obviously, if you’ve never practiced mindfulness before you have no training at all. But that’s the easy part. Mindfulness requires more a consistent daily effort, even just for a few minutes a day, than it does some inordinate amount of sweat or strenuous effort.
This can be further supported by making the effort to live mindfully throughout the rest of your life, as you can do anything mindfully, but it’s not required in any way.
2. Mindfulness is about facing your problems and working through them, not avoiding
A lot of people misconceive meditation as being about emptying the mind and letting go of everything, a kind of unrealistic detachment from reality. Even some less experienced practitioners think this.
In fact, it’s nothing like that.
Mindfulness is about standing, rooted firmly in place, allowing life to hit you head-on and embracing it all with complete awareness. It’s about ceasing our often highly refined practice of self-denial and accepting everything, all at once, and for however long it takes.
As opposed to the typical image of meditation, this is more gritty, serious, and intense. Honestly, in my experience, while meditation can sometimes be a perfectly serene experience, it’s often more of the latter.
But that’s okay because it teaches us about ourselves. It helps us develop the skills to navigate our challenges more skillfully. And those are things we can take with us and use to find greater happiness for the rest of our life.
3. Strive for success, but let go of the outcome
To know that you can carve out your destiny with your very own hands is a powerful belief.
However, while you can control quite a bit, and can craft an incredible life for yourself with your own intentional effort, the outcome is ultimately not in your control no matter how hard you try.
Ambition, for the right reasons, does nothing but make the world a better place. It will make your life better and the lives of those around you better.
But, just as we set out to be mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations while meditating and can’t control where the mind wanders, you should strive for success without attaching yourself to the outcome.
More often than not, it’s simply that you must use a different path than you originally thought to accomplish your goal. Whatever the case, it’s important to know that you can find happiness regardless of what happens. But you can only do that if you can let go of the outcome and live fully with what life brings you.