I loved this book. It’s so nice to hear someone else talk candidly about what really goes on in our heads. The author, Dan Harris, wrote that he initially wanted to title the book, The Voice in My Head Is an Asshole. I’m sure we can all relate…
Harris described our internal narrator as “the most intimate part of our lives.” Intimate and savage. We all know what it’s like to hear the constant berating. The constant ruminating. The constant wanting. Harris stated, “It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now. ” It keeps us from being present. From being truly aware of what’s happening right now, in this moment.
This book takes you through the mindset shifts that occurred to change Harris from a fidgety skeptic to a full blown meditation advocate. He claimed, “If you can get past the cultural baggage though, what you’ll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain.” Harris discussed his drug use and the panic attack on live television, which ultimately became the catalyst to his mediation journey. His doctor told him, “When you’re cut off from your emotions, they often manifest in your body.”
Harris discovered Dr. Mark Epstein’s work. “Epstein totally nailed my habit of hunting around my plate for the next bite, before I’d tasted what was in my mouth.” He learned about Buddhism and summarized the main thesis as our suffering comes from clinging to things that won’t last in a world that is constantly changing. In a word, impermanence. “The Buddha wasn’t promising salvation in the form of some death-defying dogma, but rather through the embrace of the very stuff that will destroy us.”
Epstein explained that everyone experiences the full range of emotions, negative and positive. He claimed the only way to defeat the habitual tendency toward clinging was to meditate. Harris goes on to discuss his difficulties meditating. The insights he gained and the discovery of mindfulness, recognizing what is happening in your mind right now without getting lost in the story. He claimed it “represented an alternative to living reactively.” Epstein stated that, “Sitting with your feelings won’t always solve your problems or make your feelings go away, but it can make you stop acting blindly.”
Harris discussed going on a silent meditation retreat and the mental hurdles he faced. The issues he initially had with the meditation teachers, including Joseph Goldstein and Tara Brach. Despite the difficulties he had, he claimed “it was one of – if not the – most meaningful experiences” of his life. After the retreat, he discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and neuroplasticity.
Harris claimed that, “the voice in my head is still, in many ways, an asshole,” but mindfulness has helped quiet that voice. This book provided a great personal testimonial to how amazing mindfulness and meditation can be, despite the struggles along the way. I highly recommend this book to anyone who ever thought meditation wasn’t for them.
Rating: 5/5 Stars
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