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Mindful : August 2014
August 2014 mindful 41 What do you think about the response to 10% Happier ? I wrote the book assuming nobody was going to read it. I used to say to my wife, “I’m going to work on the worst book ever written,” or, “Sorry, honey, I’m going to work on the book nobody’s going to read.” This running joke went on for four years as I wrote during vacations, days off, nights, and mornings. She was ver y patient with all of this, but neither of us thought it was going to do par ticularly well, because meditation isn’t the sexiest topic in the world, and I wasn’t sure people would want to hear this message from a T V news guy. I’m deeply surprised that the book is doing so well, and I’m really excited that lots of people are reading it. Why did you write this book? Mindfulness and meditation is the best stor y I’ve ever covered. And I think it’s under-covered. There’s a revolution brewing. Highly effective people are using meditation to become better at focusing on their actual work, and responding better to their emotions. Too often, though, mindfulness is talked about in a touchy- A skeptical TV newsman who was drawn to meditation despite massive misgivings, talks about just how much he has fallen for mindfulness—and how put off he still is by how people talk about it. Dan Harris: The Best Story of My Career feely way that’s offputting to a lot of skeptics. If I can play a small role in opening the eyes and minds of people who other wise would never go near meditation, that would make me ver y happy. How did you feel revealing your past cocaine and ecstasy use? I was ex tremely anxious about these personal revelations. I was so stressed in the weeks and days leading up to the book release that I almost got myself sick. I seriously considered pulling the book. But releasing it turned out to be quite a positive thing. I learned that what I thought was so impor tant about my past—the depression and drug abuse and having a panic attack on national television— other people found, like, mildly interesting. We’re all the stars of our own movies, and I don’t think people care that much about what happened in my life. What do you think of the language used in the mindfulness world? For mindfulness to reach a broader audience, we need to have ambassadors who talk about it in a new way, who don’t use terms like “sacred space” and “the goddess mother” or collect cr ystals and listen to Cat Stevens a lot. We need people who can talk about it in a normal way ever yday people can relate to. We also need to lose phrases like “clearing the mind.” Mindfulness doesn’t have anything to do with magically removing all the clamor. It’s about having a different relationship to the clamor. One of the great delicacies of mindfulness practice is the correct diagnosis of our inner lunacy. We’re bazonkers. We just are. Close your eyes and look at what’s happening in your mind. It’s going to be embarrassing. It’s going to be chaos. A frank acknowledgement of this fundamental truth is, in and of itself, funny and relatable. What’s your vision for the future of mindfulness? I would love if this becomes the next public health revolution. Meditation will join the pantheon of no-brainers like brushing your teeth, going to the gym, and listening to your doctor. There’s a real societal impact that goes beyond the benefits of past public health revolutions— like reduced tooth decay and improved cardiovascular health— because this can change people’s behavior. How does mindfulness practice benefit you in everyday life? The real fruit of mindfulness practice is not getting yanked around by your emotions. You have a kind of inner meteorologist who sees the outer bands of the hurricane before the eye of the hurricane makes landfall. I can notice when I’m star ting to feel angry—because my ears are turning red or my chest is buzzing—and maybe 10% of the time I don’t take the bait and do something I regret. This is not just something I’ve written a book about and I’m going to stop doing and go back to my regular life. I love this. I love this practice. It’s absolutely changed my life. And, when my TV days are over, I might just learn to teach others how to meditate. ● MINDFUL INTERVIEW PHOTOGRAPHBYSARAHWILSON