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Meditation: Finding Space Between Stimulus & Response


(Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with marketing or social media, I just felt like sharing a few thoughts from this book)

I recently finished reading 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, and despite the wordy title, it offered a fairly concise look at both the journey towards an actualized meditation practice and its benefits.

One point struck me as particularly relevant and useful in my own life... Harris says meditation "creates space between stimulus and response". In my own personal meditation practice this has been the goal - be less reactionary with regard to the barrage of stimuli that modern life throws at us. Throughout my life I've been an inherently emotional person, at times overly introspective, constantly analyzing whatever stream of thought I happen to be in at the moment. Meditation helps me to step outside of these streams of thought and see them for what they are while allowing them to pass. Harris uses the Buddhist analogy - "picture the mind like a waterfall... the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions; mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall".

Towards the end of the book, Harris says "It's not that I never got annoyed anymore. In fact, when you're mindful, you actually feel irritation more keenly. However, once you unburden yourself of the delusion that people are deliberately trying to screw you, it's easier to stop getting carried away". This space between actively feeling wronged and recognizing that a situation is irritating or upsetting is what I've found beneficial. Once you can, in a moment of stress or tension, still feel empathy and recognize that the moment is impermanent, you'll be better equipped to deal with the situation at hand. The added benefit of empathy is that you'll generally find people more willing to work with you to problem-solve.

Harris comes at meditation from solidly skeptical turf. For anyone looking for a primer on the topic that doesn't feel "too Zen" or "too New Age-y", this is your guy. With chapter titles like "Genius Or Lunatic" and "The Self-Interested Case For Not Being A Dick", he'll win you over with his self deprecating humor and arch narrative tone while laying out a convincing case for the benefits of meditation in modern life.

 

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