Dan Harris is a reporter for ABC News, and co-hosts the weekend edition of Good Morning America and Nightline. He also just wrote his first book called, "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"(HarperCollins, 2014).
Harris is a colorful guy. He is brutally honest about his past drug use, his on-air panic attack, the internal dialogue in his head which keeps making him afraid his career will fall apart and he'll have to move to a flop house in Duluth. He openly admits to having been a jerk at work, throwing papers around, and letting his ego run away with him. He seems competitive in a highly competitive business. He copes with reporting from war zones, not completely understanding the impact it's having on him. In one war zone, shots ring out near him, and his first thought is that he hopes the film crew kept the camera running, because it will be great footage for the news.
He seems like a regular guy, and has a nice self-depreciating sense of humor. He's open about his experiences in therapy. He gets assigned the job of being a spirituality reporter, even though he's an agnostic. He ends up interviewing Christian evangelicals, as well as new-age experts like Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle. On his journey, he also gets to meet and interview his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Next, he meets experts in mindfulness and meditation, including Mark Epstein, M.D., who becomes a mentor and friend.
So what does a skeptical, stressed-out, agnostic reporter do with all this information? He tries out meditation, including a 10 day silent meditation retreat. In a hilarious, self-effacing way, he chronicles his struggles to learn to be mindful, and do meditation and compassion meditation. Amazingly, it helped. Harris learned to calm his 'monkey mind' and be more present. He feels he is 'less of a jerk now', overreacting less. In the process, Harris demystifies the practice of meditation.
I liked that Harris is relatable as an average man, and that he gives us an inside view that makes trying meditation much more simple and inviting. He actually breaks down the basic steps of meditation, into something any of us could do for five minutes a day, sitting quietly and focusing on our breath. He encourages the reader to be more self-accepting and less self-critical. If your mind wanders off, just guide it gently back to the breathing.
"10% Happier" is an easy and fun read. His language can be a little colorful, but his inside view of the television news business, and his skeptic's view of the useful practice of daily meditation to quiet our minds and build compassion is well worth reading. His explanation of the usefulness of learning to detach from outcomes, and ask ourselves "does this really matter?" when we are worked up and upset is something most of us can put right to good use. It might just help us be 10% happier, or even more.