Guest Post by: Phil Batzner, Marquette University student
I first picked up the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris and wrote it off negatively. “This is going to be another bullshit book I’m going to despise reading,” I thought. The front cover made me seem like I had a serious issue — “How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works – a true story.”
Cool, I didn’t know I signed up for a self-help class. Was this going to be counseling? It was pretty obvious I was not a fan of this book from the get-go.
I read through the first section assigned and didn’t think much of it. I went through the motions during class — participating in discussion, coming prepared with questions, paying attention, etc.
It wasn’t until I was in the Milwaukee airport, by myself, two carry-ons, miscellaneous items scattered in the corner near my baggage, with a few hours to spare before my trip to San Francisco + Palo Alto for fall break that things resonated with me.
I’ve never been a huge fan of reading or reading for fun, yet alone reading for academia. Tuesday October 14th, something was different. I knew I had time to kill so I figured I would knock out some homework.
As I read I became mesmerized. Every word seemed to make sense and I understood this whole mindfulness thing. Before I knew it I lost track of time, in the pages of a book I practically wrote off, with a sense of satisfaction. I didn’t care about the random passengers passing my gate, who was texting me or even how much I had left to finish in the reading.
I hoped mindfulness could help me with self-love, considering we could all use a few pointers every now and then with such a tough topic. Harris points out a remark Mark Epstein, his idol, made at an event in the Sheraton Towers in Midtown Manhattan. “People come to me a lot feeling like they ought to be loving themselves…Mindfulness gives us a way to examine our self-hatred without trying to make it go away.” (p. 111)
So instead of trying to make it go away, if I was mindful of this self-hatred things could improve, even the tiniest bit. Maybe 10% even. I tried out mindfulness and noticed improvements in my life. One of the largest successes was that my self-hatred started diminishing.
Another astonishing anecdote Harris makes is with the Bible. He notes, “St. Paul, the notorious murderer of Christians, had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus…Mine came in a stolen moment on the floor of a beach house.” (p. 99)
This conversion is something I am yet to experience, but I eagerly wait. I believe with mindfulness this conversion can occur, to anyone, regardless of their past, because I will be present in that moment. It won’t have to be on the road to Damascus or the floor of a beach house, but can happen at any time. With mindfulness, I would be able to examine the conversion and fully experience it.
Mindfulness and 10% Happier taught me more than what I imagined back in August when I first received the book. For Harris it made him 10% happier, but for me it cannot be explained in one blog post. Rather, mindfulness improved my life and made me 100% happier. 10% Happier by Dan Harris provides invaluable insights and thoughtful tips for all.