Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ten Percent Happier

Recently as a part of the process of trying to find a fix for my Panic attacks, or more accurately make myself more healthy and balanced, I've taken what can only be described as a wispy interest in meditation. Any time you google "anxiety" or "panic attack" its impossible not to wind up reading an article on or at the very least a passing mention of meditation and/or yoga.

I probably shouldn't admit this but when people have mentioned meditation to me in the past I would have a tiny internal panic that they might start talking about their spirit animal at any moment or use phrases like "one with the universe" and that I would somehow have to act like I knew what they were talking about.

Living in southern California, you are more of an oddity if you don't meditate than if you do. Everyone here does yoga and is constantly raving about it.

Despite my experiences, I try not to be a closed minded person. I'm up for trying new things. So there have been two occasions when I decided I would give yoga a try. I figured it couldn't hurt to stretch and maybe relax.

The first time I was pregnant with Winnie. Throughout the class, the teacher kept saying things like, "Now feel HIM bringing you into HIS arms and protecting you and the child growing within you." In addition to having no idea who HE is and not wanting HIM to touch me or my baby, which I could have put up with to some degree but coupled with the fact that I got like zero exercise, it just wasn't worth it to me. I didn't go back.

Everyone I spoke to about my experience said that it sounded weird and not how their yoga class was. So I decided to try it again a few months ago in a class at the local gym. My mom came with me. We walked into a dim room. There was chimey type watery music playing and the teacher was talking in a breathy voice. I finally asked her where we should go and she told us where the mats were. Then she proceeded to give the class instructions in a voice as if she had been possessed by some sort of demon. I couldn't take it. I tried to control my laughter and keep it together for like five minutes. But the fact that my mom was there made it so much worse. I felt bad about bolting, but I figured it was better than having a laugh attack inside the class.

I do realize that I have now outed myself as being both closed minded and immature. Oh well.

I figured that yoga just  isn't for me. But I wanted to learn more about meditation.

Among many others, I ran across a 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 by Dan Harris who is a correspondent for ABC News.

What peaked my interest about this book was twofold. The first reason is because he had a panic attack and that is where his journey into mindfulness began. I could relate to that. Unfortunately for him it all played out on live TV on Good Morning America while millions watched.

The second reason is because I actually met Dan Harris once. Well actually I spent several hours with him in a really hot warehouse in the middle of summer in NYC with no AC. He was interviewing me for a 20/20 or a Nightline piece (I forget which) back in 2012 and he was a really cool guy.

He was truly empathetic, very friendly and took time to tell us the best places to eat in the city while we were in town. I guess its kinda hard not to like someone who you just poured your whole life story out to but I definitely felt that he was a warm person.

Anyway, I got his book and from the moment I began listening to it, I was completely hooked. I found myself interested the entire time to the point of not wanting to go to sleep at night.

To boot it was hilarious. Some of his stories still have me randomly busting out in a grin a few days later. He is raw, irreverent and yet honest, self depreciating and vulnerable. His curiosities and skepticism were so in line with my own that I was completely engaged throughout the entire book. He asked the questions that I wanted to ask except way better ones!

He presents investigations, research, various points of view, science along with his own personal experience and priceless anecdotes.  He has met with the gamut of experts from Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Mark Epstien to the Dalai Lama (to name a few) and was able to ask them his burning questions.

In the end despite his (our) skepticism, he totally sold me on meditation.  In fact, I am pretty excited about it.

I wouldn't say this is a handbook on how to meditate, it is more of a book that makes the case for doing it at all.

This quote really rang true to me, "Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one.” I am so guilty of this.

This one is probably my favorite from the entire book, "There's even science to back this up -- an explosion of new research, complete with colorful MRI scans, demonstrating that meditation can essentially rewire your brain. This science challenges the common assumption that our levels of happiness, resilience, and kindness are set from birth. Many of us labor under the delusion that we're permanently stuck with all of the difficult parts of our personalities -- that we are "hot-tempered," or "shy," or "sad" -- and that these are fixed, immutable traits. We now know that many of the attributes we value most are, in fact, skills, which can be trained the same way you build your body in the gym."

Such a hopeful statement, not only for me but what a great tool for my kids to grow up with. Like most moms, all I want is for my kids to be happy. I'm not overly obsessed with them being geniuses or star athletes.  I just want them to live happy and fulfilling lives which in my book need not necessarily involve being famous, a CEO, a doctor or getting rich. Sometimes intelligence and wealth comes with a price. What I feel gave me a sliver of peace of mind in this book is that it is that whether my kids end up being beach bums, CEOs or Scientists or chefs, happiness is a skill that they can learn no matter where they end up.

I just thought I'd pass this along as a book that I found very uplifting and informative in my personal journey and perhaps it can be for you too!

8 comments:

  1. So happy to hear this book helped. I think I will give it a try.:-)

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  2. So happy to hear this book helped. I think I will give it a try.:-)

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  3. Such a great review! Now I want to read this too :)

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  4. Jenna there is indeed a lot of clinical research to support the use of meditation in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Here's some research published within the last 4 years: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2011&q=meditation+treatment+panic+attacks&hl=en&as_sdt=0,11

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  5. One thing we never seem to hear about meditation is that there are risks - Google 'dangers of meditation'.James

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  6. an article about meditation dangers - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3092572/The-dark-meditation-mindfulness-Treatment-trigger-mania-depression-psychosis-new-book-claims.html

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