Book Review – 10% Happier

 
After reading Power of Now, I was in search of a book with practical advice on mindfulness. One of the suggestions was 10% happier. I started the book with a 10% increase in excitement to know how to implement the power of now. 
 
By the end of the first chapter, my excitement levels became neutral. I thought Dan Harris was introducing himself. But, near the end of the second chapter, I doubted if this book was about mindfulness or not. I wavered between giving up on the book and skimming through it. I felt it was not worth my time to read what Dan Harris did for a living and his experiences as a reporter were. There might be a lot of others who had that sort of free time to read about him and get to know Dan but I didn’t. My goal was clear. I wanted to understand how to live mindfully daily.
 
Luckily, I came across a page, how he sits up all through the night reading ‘A new earth’  by Eckhart Tolle. This reminded me how even I read Power of Now because I could not keep it aside. Finally, he gets to interview Eckhart, that is where the story gets interesting. Dan looks at Eckhart, the man who is spiritually awakened as an alien and whatever he says seems practically impossible. That is exactly how I felt about mindfulness as described in Power of Now. Later, when Dan meets Deepak Chopra, he realises how Eckhart was genuine and Deepak was just a fraud who claims to know it all but can’t practise the same in his life. While Eckhart has just one secretary, Deepak has an entire business product range to run. The funniest part of the story comes when Dan meets Vitale, who speaks in the DVD version of Secret. Vitale said that thinking should be coupled with action which is glaringly obvious. But they still made millions of dollars out of that.
 
In search of practical solutions, Dan gets introduced to works of Dr.Mark Epstein by his wife. After reading endlessly all the works of Epstein, he felt that Epstein conveyed the message in a more practical way than Tolle. As usual, Dan now goes on to interview him. Unlike the previous people he met, he found him human who just embraced Buddhism and implemented those principles in life. Through him, he gets introduced to meditation and a retreat program.
 
The crux of the book starts here. Dan goes on to describe the experiences he goes through in the process of meditating daily and how the retreat program went from undoable to bearable. Similar to Dan,I always wanted to go for a Vipassana retreat but I always feared it. I also went through a lot of arguments in my mind about meditation to make peace with it as it is today. In the next few chapters, as he talks about his journey I could empathize with him and felt that I am not alone in the journey of mindfulness and everyone else out there also goes through the same stages.
 
In the last few chapters, he talks about incidents how people took him to be weak and not so ambitious just because he is into spirituality. He beautifully explains and sets things right in his career by showing that going after mindfulness and being relaxed is not the same as being lackadaisical. 
 

Why should you read this book?


Throughout the time I was reading the book, there were multiple moments when I thought this is the line which my friends who think spirituality is pseudoscience should be reading.
 
You should read this book, if you want to understand how meditation has got nothing to do with religion or spirituality and how you can practise mindfulness as a normal human being. 
 
You should not read this book if you are looking for tips on how to meditate. This book is mostly about the journey of Dan. 
 
This book is best for those who are struggling to meditate and are not sure if they are on the right path. You will find a virtual companion through this book.
 
In case you plan on reading it, here is the Kindle version.
 
Happy becoming 10% happier!
 

Book Review – How to sit

Author : Thich Nhat
Print | Kindle
 
When you read the phrase ‘How to Sit’, it sounds quite funny. You have been doing this all your life and you wonder what is there to know about it now.
 
You should read this book to know how sitting in the right way can change your life. Thich Nhat explains the basics of where, how and why of sitting.
 
Where
 
You can sit anywhere. What do you do on your commute? Worry about every possible thing about life. Thich suggests that the best way to make use of commute time is by sitting.
 
How
 

  • Sit straight with your body relaxed.
  • Smile so that it relaxes your facial muscles.
  • Don’t sit with an expectation because you won’t be in the present moment then.
  • When you sit, you should be at ease, happy and relaxed.
  • You can use a bell to practise your attention on breathing.
  • Just sit daily. It will help you create a habit.
  • When you sit, you can name your feeling as a pleasant feeling and a painful feeling which is the first step in distancing the feeling from you.
  • Count one to ten for every breath, if you lose focus anywhere come back to one. This is not as easy as it sounds.
  • Use a clock and breathe with its rhythm.
  • You can use a notebook to write notes while or after sitting about thoughts or insights.
  • Sitting in a group helps in utilisation of collective energy.

Why
 

  • You need a stable posture to ground your mind.
  • An ease in sitting helps in nourishing the body and the mind.
  • Sitting and breathing mindfully will bring into your life – peace, clarity, compassion and courage.
  • It helps you weather storms like strong emotions.
  • It is not an obligation but daily nourishment like eating.
  • It develops concentration.

 
The book makes you ponder on whether there is so much to sitting. When was the last time you sat doing nothing? With no thoughts? Just sitting there and observing how you breathe?
 
He defines sitting as “sit in such a way that you enjoy sitting, to sit in a relaxed way, with your mind awake, calm, and clear.” Did you ever feel the union of mind, body and breath? Did you know that just by paying attention to your breath can make it calmer, deeper, and more harmonious all by itself?
 
The book doesn’t tell you something new but presents the known in a calm way. Reading the book itself provides a sense of calm and motivation to pursue meditation. The book doesn’t have long chapters. Just a paragraph or two in each chapter. You can finish the book in half an hour but the satisfaction it leaves makes you come back to it again. Because you feel that you lost something and there are certain concepts you have not mastered yet. 
 
It doesn’t talk about meditation as a tough affair. It asks you to just sit. Practise sitting without worry first. Then learn to focus on breath. Then provides tips on how to keep the focus and make it a habit and how to save yourself from the possible distractions. 
 
Once you are into sitting, Thich talks about how you should start sitting in groups to make the meditation easy and how just being there for others. The book ends with guided meditation and how you can create one on your own.
 

Quotations

“I like to describe sitting as enjoying doing nothing”
 
“People can try to steal many things from us, but they can’t steal our determination and our practice.”
 
“I have passed through many storms. Every storm has to pass, no storm stays forever. This state of mind will pass”
 
“ Every in-breath can bring joy; every out-breath can bring calm and relaxation. This is a good enough reason to sit. We don’t need to sit with an intention like getting smarter or becoming enlightened. We can sit just to enjoy sitting and breathing.”
 
“Sit in order to sit. Stand in order to stand. There is no goal or aim in sitting. Do it because it makes you happy.”
 
“In the present moment, we can be free from regret concerning the past and from fear concerning the future. Happiness isn’t possible without freedom.”
 
“When you sit, sit in such a way that you feel you have already arrived. To sit doesn’t mean to struggle”
 
“Breathing in, I know that this is only an emotion. It’s not the whole of me. I am more than my emotions.”
 
What is your favourite book on mindfulness? What other books by Thich have you read?
Happy Mindfulness!