Would you like to be 10% happier? It’s not something that’s often offered is it? Usually we hear more concrete promises like, “Change your life!”, “Find true happiness!”. These are all eye catching but never deliver do they?
We are sold these statements with the hope that we’ll buy the book or product that promises these. In “10% Happier”, Dan Harris claims meditation can make you 10% happier and I think that’s a pretty good return on investment.
I was first exposed to meditation when I did a Vipassana retreat in Thailand back in 2013. I found the main teachings so helpful for dealing with a lot of my internal conflicts. A lot of the advice felt like it was made for me because these were the exact issues I was having. One of the most impactful effects of meditation is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to get better at responding as opposed to reacting.
Reacting Vs Responding
You’re in traffic and someone cuts you off. You lose your shit and frantically beep and wave at the guy who did this. The whole process results in you getting stressed out of your head. Meanwhile the guy who did this is oblivious to you. You are the only person who caused yourself the stress as a result of your reaction.
In a responsive state when you get cut off you don’t instantly feel angry because someone cheated you. You may feel compassion for the driver, who may be in a rush and realise that you have done the same many times in the past. The important thing to understand about mindfulness is it doesn’t make you a pushover, it makes you more compassionate in situations which leads to less scenarios causing stress.
How many times do you react like this day in day out? “But I don’t want to be a pushover” or “lose my edge”. This is one of the biggest fears when we are exposed to this new way of thinking.
The thing to realise is that there’s a huge difference between having something happen to you, not accepting it and taking it personally to accepting it 100% and showing the person compassion. Option one will result in you feeling like a push over. Option two allows you to embrace the suck and accept impermanence.
Harris recommends using the R.A.I.N. principle when situations like these arise.
RAIN = Recognise – Allow – Investigate – Non identification
- R – recognise and allow the thought
- A – Allow: Let the thoughts be and/or go.
- I – Investigate: how are these feeling affecting our bodies. Are you feeling tense in the neck and shoulders, flushed in the cheeks?
- N – Non-identification – Just because that thought made you feel angry or jealous does not make you an angry/jealous person forever. They’re just passing states of mind like cars on a freeway.
Switching from reactive to responsive isn’t something that will happen over night and even when you have a better hold on it you’ll still revert back to reacting. The key is to reduce the occurance of these daily reactions and become a more responsive individual.
Life is stressful enough without adding in extra stressors each day. A simple starting point with meditation is Headspace. You can try their free “Take 10” course which is only 10 minutes a day for 10 days. If you are close to a meditation centre I’d strongly recommend to attending some group sessions where possible.