Posted on February 2nd, 2015 by Seth Nickinson
Dan Harris is a prominent TV newsman. He was named co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline” in October 2013 and is also co-anchor of the weekend edition of “Good Morning America,” a position he has held since October 2010. Recently, and as a result of unexpected personal circumstances, he has become a a very vocal champion of meditation as a way to calm some of the crazy in your mind. Harris’ 2014 book “10% Happier” was a New York Times #1 Bestseller.
An on-air meltdown lead Harris to meditation. His panic attack happened ten years ago. As he puts it, “Shortly after seven on a sunny spring morning in 2004, I freaked out in front of five million people. I was overtaken by a massive, irresistible blast of fear. It felt like the world was ending. My heart was thumping. I was gasping for air. I had pretty much lost the ability to speak. And all of it was compounded by the knowledge that my freak-out was being broadcast live on national television.”
After spending time in war zones in the Middle East, Harris became depressed and had started self-medicating with drugs. According to his dictors, this made him more prone to anxiety attacks. To turn around his life, Harris turned to meditation
“My on-air meltdown was the direct result of an extended run of mindlessness,” Harris writes in 10% Happier, “a period of time during which I was focused on advancement and adventure, to the detriment of pretty much everything else in my life.”
Harris never meant to explore meditation as a solution to his problems. He knew he had to make some changes to get his life – and his brain – back in order, but he didn’t know what they might be. “I’d always had — and still have, really — an allergy to all things touchy-feely and New Age-y. ”
He relates: “By pure happenstance, and despite my lifelong agnosticism, my boss and mentor, Peter Jennings, had assigned me to cover faith. Thus began a strange little odyssey. Leveraging my position as a reporter, I explored everything from mainstream religion to the bizarre fringes of self-help to the nexus of spirituality and neuroscience. The accidental yet enormously helpful end result of all this poking around: I became a reluctant convert to meditation.”
Harris’ own words say it best:
“Meditation is a tool for taming the voice in your head. You know the voice I’m talking about. It’s what has us constantly ruminating on the past or projecting into the future. It prods us to incessantly check our email, lurch over to the fridge when we’re not hungry, and lose our temper when it’s not in our best interest.
If you try to meditate, the first thing you’re going to notice is that your mind is a zoo. You’re going to have a real, upfront experience with the truth of your life, which is that your mind is out of control, and mediation gives you a way to control it better.
To be clear, meditation won’t magically solve all of your problems. I still do dumb things — just ask my wife — but meditation is often effective kryptonite against the kind of epic mindlessness that produced my televised panic attack. When friends and colleagues ask (usually with barely hidden skepticism) why I meditate, I often say, ‘It makes me 10% happier.”
Harris was originally resistant. He doesn’t think meditation will change your life. But he does believe it is a scientifically tested method that will make you markedly and reliably happier.
In fact, he says, “I believe that if you start doing five minutes a day, you will change the relationship to the clamor that is your life, your mental life, and if it doesn’t work for you after a couple weeks, send me a note on Twitter and tell me I’m a moron, but I don’t think you’re going to be sending that note.” Harris’ Twitter: @danbharris
In this video, Dan Harris sits down with his colleague, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, to talk about the wake-up call that let him find more control over what makes him happy.
NPR Story – “How A Skeptic Learned to Love Meditation”