Once you get the hang of it, the practice can create just enough space in your head so that when you get angry or annoyed, you are less likely to take the bait and act on it. There's even science to back this up -- an explosion of new research, complete with colorful MRI scans, demonstrating that meditation can essentially rewire your brain.
This science challenges the common assumption that our levels of happiness, resilience, and kindness are set from birth. Many of us labor under the delusion that we're permanently stuck with all of the difficult parts of our personalities -- that we are "hot-tempered," or "shy," or "sad" -- and that these are fixed, immutable traits. We now know that many of the attributes we value most are, in fact, skills, which can be trained the same way you build your body in the gym.
This is radical, hopeful stuff. In fact, as I discovered, this new neuroscience has led to the flowering of an elite subculture of executives, athletes, and marines who are using meditation to improve their focus, curb their addiction to technology, and stop being yanked around by their emotions. Meditation has even been called the "new caffeine." I suspect that if the practice could be denuded of all the spiritual preening and straight-out-of-a-fortune-cookie lingo such as "sacred spaces," "divine mother," and "holding your emotions with love and tenderness," it would be attractive to many more millions of smart, skeptical, and ambitious people who would never otherwise go near it.
One of the questions I hear most often from skeptics is: If I quiet the voice in my head, will I lose my edge? Some think they need depression to be creative or compulsive worry to be successful.
For the past four years, I've been road testing meditation in the crucible of one of the most competitive environments imaginable, television news. I'm here to tell you, it's totally doable. More than that, it can give you a real advantage—and, not for nothing, it might even make you nicer in the process. Yes, as you will see, I did stumble into a few embarrassing pitfalls along the way. However, with the benefit of my experience, you should be able to avoid them.
What I'm attempting to do in this book is demystify meditation, and show that if it can work for me, it can probably work for you, too. The best way to illustrate this is to give you, as we say in the business, "exclusive access" to the voice in my head. All of us struggle to strike a balance between the image we present to the world and the reality of our inner landscape. This is particularly tricky for a news anchor, whose job is to project calm, confidence, and (when appropriate) good cheer. Most of the time, my external presentation is authentic; at baseline, I'm a happy guy who is keenly aware of his good fortune. But there are, of course, moments when my interior reality is a bit more complicated. And for the purposes of this book, I am going to put a magnifying lens directly on the knotty stuff.
The story begins during a period of time when I let the voice in my head run amok. It was during the early part of my career; I was an eager, curious, and ambitious cub reporter who got swept up, and swept away -- and it all culminated in the single most humiliating moment of my life.
The foregoing is excerpted from "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story" by Dan Harris. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers.