Exploring the convenient connection between mindfulness and sleep.
By Brad Beckstrom
“The Voice in My Head is an Asshole.” I laughed out loud when I read this line on the first page of a new book by Dan Harris called 10% Happier. I got a few funny looks on the airplane with the laugh. It was the day before Christmas Eve and the overbooked flight was delayed. There weren’t a lot of happy people on this plane.
I was happy. My family was on the plane and, even though our flight was delayed in Houston, our final destination was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I had a decent seat, a cup of coffee, and was on page 1 of what looked to be an interesting book.
Dan Harris’s book is all about silencing the voices in our head and reducing stress. Even before I bought the book, I knew where it was going — mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, assorted gurus, granola, and yoga instructors.
I’d read about meditation before. I understood the benefits. I’d learned how everyone from Silicon Valley CEOs, soldiers dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder, athletes and coaches, Nobel prize winners, all reduce stress and up their performance with daily meditation. Phil Jackson a winning coach with 11 NBA titles. He got entire NBA teams to sit entirely still and focus on building mental toughness through meditation. That cannot be easy.
In fact, meditation is not easy. I had tried it, I approached it as mindfulness, doing breathing exercises to clear the mind, simply by focusing on breathing. In and out, in and out. It didn’t work for me. I’d find myself thinking about everything, and basically unable to sit still for more than two minutes.
I believe this is where most people struggle. They get all set up, turn on the timer, start their breathing exercises, try to clear their head. That’s when the voices start reminding you of all of the other things you have going on, are worried about, or should be doing.
Turning off the Monkey Mind