Tips for reluctant meditators
No time for mindfulness? This man can help. Tap to read how.
Ten Percent Happier Meditation
Find calm, insight, and sleep
When Dan Harris tells us that he’s meditated two hours every single day for the past two and half years, the first thing that comes to our admittedly un-Zen-like mind is, “OK, Dan Harris. Whatever.”
Harris – co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America, author of the bestseller 10% Happier and the recently released Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, creator of the 10% Happier meditation app, podcast host, husband, father and all around over achiever – is well aware of how annoying he sounds. Which is why he usually doesn’t mention it.
“If I tell people I do two hours a day, they’re either going to think, ‘This guy’s crazy’ or ‘There’s no way I’m getting to two hours a day so I’m not going to do this.”
But whether you’re trying to meditate for one minute a day or 120, the hurdle is the same. “There’s this perception of time starvation,” he says. “The biggest obstacle is finding the time, but I think a lot of that is psychological.”
When Harris evangelises the benefits of meditation to the harried who barely have time to brush their teeth before bed, his advice is to start small. The guided meditations in the 10% Happier app (which are led by some of the most respected meditation teachers in the West, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg) start at just one minute.
Watching the clock
“One minute of meditation does count,” says Harris. “And it lowers the bar in a way that makes adopting a meditation habit easier.”
They’re also the key to Harris’s hack for hitting two hours a day: He squeezes in short bursts whenever he can find time – in the cab to work, waiting to go on air, before bed – and tracks his running total using the Mindful Minutes feature in the Apple Health App.
Life in balance
Harris is nearly three years into his two-hour-a-day challenge, but he had a rocky start. “Frankly it caused a lot of problems with my wife, because I did a really dumb thing – I just started doing it, and we had a 6-month-old,” he says.
“It took me a while to figure out how to sneak it in so it wouldn’t take away from our family time.”
His secret to achieving work-family meditation balance? Being a ‘secret squirrel’ and only doing it when he’s not home or when his family’s asleep. “I’m aided and abetted by my kooky schedule. It works out, but the embarrassing truth is that I was not very skilful in the beginning.”
Harris didn’t undertake the challenge to achieve a specific goal, but it wasn’t long before he saw the payoff. “Calm. Focus. Mindfulness so your urges and impulses don’t yank you around. And compassion,” he says.
I’m a child of scientists and I’m married to a scientist, so I try to be very careful of any claims I make.
Despite spending roughly 8 percent of his day doing ‘nothing’, Harris found the practice helps him accomplish more.
“I’m a child of scientists and I’m married to a scientist, so I try to be very careful of any claims I make,” he says.
“The two hours has boosted my productivity and creativity in ways that allow me to take on a workload that years before I probably could not have handled.”
His advice to aspiring meditators is straightforward: experiment and see what works for you. And don’t give yourself any excuses.
“The mind is looking for excuses.”