Top critical review
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This book reads like a meditation journal.
on April 19, 2014
I just finished reading 10% happier, and I really wanted to like it. I didn't. Here is why:
- If you are someone who is actually seeking advice on meditation technique, DO NOT buy this book. Even if you are a type-A, work-in-high-stress-situations-type, you would benefit much more from an author such as Jack Kornfield, who actually gives you undiluted Buddhist technique written in an incredibly user-friendly way. Jack gives you clear directions and rationale for why certain meditation techniques work. You'll try a few and see which ones work for you, and not use the rest. This book does not give you meditation instruction that works universally.
- The book ends with a a list of mindfulness "how-to's." The problem with this list is that, unlike the list of a truly experienced meditator who has the ability to distill really hard stuff into universally applicable guidance, Dan's list is HIS list. It didn't resonate for me. "Don't be a jerk" - that's not something that'll pop up in my head when someone is cutting me off on the highway. "Hide the Zen." "Meditate." (Seriously??) "The price of security is insecurity" - this is something of a Harris family catchphrase, but has absolutely zero meaning to me. Reading this book versus, say, The Joy of Living is akin to the experience of going to an university-level calculus class that's taught by the best professor in the school versus a crappy TA. A great teacher can boil really, really hard stuff down to a level that anyone can enjoy. A bad TA has you falling asleep in your chair. This book was written by the TA.
- A massive amount of this story is about how Dan Harris found Buddhism. In the meantime, he tries drugs and speaks to a few uber-religious pastor-types and spiritual "gurus." This next sentence will save you 85 pages of reading: if you already know you don't like organized religion, don't take advice from leaders of organized religion, or anyone who calls him/herself a guru. If you are truly type A, you would probably not want to wade through 85 pages just to get to this point.
If you want real meditation advice, or are wading into 'spiritual' waters, here are some of the books that have worked for me (an overly driven and anxious individual who turned to meditation to calm the - down):
Anything by Jack Kornfield, but A Path with Heart stands out (for a meditation beginner, this book stands out)
The Joy of Living, Yongey Rinpoche Mingyur / Eric Swanson (not as much technique, but a solid read and incorporates research findings)
The Heart of Yoga, Desikachar (getting more into yoga, but yoga philosophy and meditation are fundamentally linked... this book can also give you a nice alternative in case vipassana Buddhist meditation is not your thing).