Follow One Skeptic’s Path to Meditation in “10% Happier”

Television journalist Dan Harris was reading news headlines and stories for Good Morning America one June morning in 2004 when something scary happened to him: he had a panic attack on live national TV. Millions of people watched him stumble through his words and they then saw him end the segment early and awkwardly.

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Harris was not new to the world of television or being on camera. He’d been working for ABC News for over just four years at that point, writing, producing, and taping segments for shows like the Peter Jennings-anchored World News Tonight. He had reporting experience in war zones, including Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and Afghanistan, where he dodged gunfire in the mountains near Tora Bora. He was competitive and driven to succeed in the cutthroat field of TV news.

Operating near exhaustion for years, not acknowledging trauma that developed from his war-zone work, and dabbling in illegal drugs here and there to mask his feelings, a crash of some sort seemed inevitable. The fact that it happened during a live national broadcast was, to put it lightly, a wake-up call for Harris. He had to figure this out or his beloved chosen career would undoubtedly be finished.

He began seeing a psychiatrist, and around the same time, started covering the religion beat for ABC, at the request of Jennings himself. He was not the spiritual type, but would find a solution to his problems in an unexpected place when he interviewed author Eckhart Tolle, which led to Deepak Chopra, which would eventually lead to Dr. Mark Epstein. He, in turn, would lead to Harris exploring Buddhist meditation. And it is meditation that would be the answer for Harris, allowing him to (paraphrasing the book’s subtitle): “tame the voice in his head, reduce stress without losing his edge, and find self-help that actually works.”

Harris is certainly not alone in adopting meditation. His book recounts the scientific evidence for meditation’s many psychological and even physical benefits. As well, several large companies, including General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Target, and Aetna now offer guided meditations or meditation rooms for their employees to de-stress during their workday. Meditation, it’s safe to say, is having a bit of a moment, but for good reason.

Harris is funny and self-deprecating and about as opposite of “new-age” as a person could be. He’s a perfectly skeptical guide, then, for a book about meditation. “Well, if it works for even him…,” you find yourself thinking. It’s a good read for anyone the least bit curious about this age-old practice.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/2015/08/book-biz-a-tv-journalist-finds-solace-in-an-unlikely-place/)

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