Ten Percent Weekly
Ten Percent Happier’s free weekly newsletter, the Ten Percent Weekly, features original essays by our teachers on happiness, meditation, and the mindful life, plus updates on new content in the app, new podcast episodes, and upcoming events. Enter your email to subscribe – your address will not be shared with anyone else.
The Zen of Therapy
I first tried meditation nearly fifty years ago, and I have practiced psychiatry as a therapist for nearly forty. In that time, I’ve written several books comparing, contrasting, and translating the ideas of one into the language of the other, all the while continuing to see clients and attend regular silent meditation retreats.
And yet, while my encounter with meditation has been the most important influence on my work, it was never something that I could describe easily. Meditation has taught me, changed me, and shaped my life. But how do I use it—or how does it use me—in my interactions with patients? I know meditation has taught me how to sit still and listen non-judgmentally, but are these the only ways it has contributed to my process? How do the teachings of mindfulness show up in my day-to-day sessions? What seeps through from my meditative experiences into conversations with my patients?
One of the most common core beliefs that people in our society hold is that we are unworthy. We may hear it from others or we may hear it from ourselves. We may have gotten the message from the culture or from people in our families. And it can be very tender to contemplate when we turn our attention to it.
Thanksgiving and Enoughness
As we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of the word “Enoughness.”
‘Enoughness’ is an awkward term, but it’s used a lot in meditation circles, because it refers to a sense that frequently comes about through meditation: that this moment, this body, even this life can feel like “enough,” even if it might be less than perfect.
What is Dread?
It’s not just you – dread is on the upswing.
Whether it’s world events like political polarization or climate change, or personal anxieties like meeting new people or speaking on camera, more and more people are reporting experiences of dread: the uneasy feeling you get when you think that something you really don’t want to have happen, is going to happen.
We know this not only because we're feeling it ourselves, but because of the overwhelming response we got when we asked our community to tell us about their dread experiences.
The Practice of Voting
This week, with the control of both houses of Congress at stake, Americans will head to the polls for a crucial election.
Or will they?
Midterm election turnout is always lower than in presidential election years, and even in 2020, with the highest voter participation in decades, only 66% of eligible voters actually cast a vote.
And when people don’t vote, there are consequences.
Building a Refuge from Fear
Editor’s Note: We’re proud to feature this exclusive excerpt from Koshin Paley Ellison’s new book, Untangled: Walking the Eightfold Path to Clarity, Courage, and Compassion, which is being published this week. Please note this essay has themes that some may find disturbing.
I grew up in a home that held violence and fear: an unstable, unpredictable home. I was raised by loving, ethically idealistic people with, at times, a huge gap between their values and how they actually functioned in the world.
The Joy and Dread of Autumn
Here’s how bad I am at mindfulness.
At this time each autumn, as leaves begin to fall in earnest here in the Northeastern United States where I live, I actually feel a desire to somehow paste them back onto the trees.
So much for “being in the present moment” and “letting go” and all the other things mindful people are supposed to do.
And I actually love autumn! I love the weather, the looks, the smells, even the dreaded pumpkin spice. But I know that, as the Starks were warned, winter is coming. For years, I’ve suffered from seasonal affective disorder, and while I’ve learned that mindfulness jujitsu of both accepting and mitigating it, still, I know it’s coming. Even if the autumn leaves are riotously beautiful, the bare branches of February are bleak and dour.
Don’t Be A Jerk (to Yourself)
A few years ago, I signed up for something called a 360 Review, which is an anonymous survey of your friends and colleagues to get a panoramic sense of your strengths and weaknesses. I opted for the colonoscopy version, which also included my wife, my brother and two of my meditation teachers.
Why? Because after three years of meditating regularly, I wanted to get a sense of whether my inner work was having outer results. Was meditation making me a better person, or just helping me feel less stressed inside?
Well, I got a big surprise.
Mindfulness and the Election
The next several weeks, as we in the United States enter a highly contentious election season, will ask all of us some challenging questions: How do you remain engaged in civic life, even if you’re tired or frustrated? How can we connect to something larger than the small-minded views the world may be pulling us toward? How do values of compassion and mindfulness impact the actions we take in the public sphere?
I’ve spent the last four decades working to help people cultivate the inner capacities of mindfulness and lovingkindness through meditation and other practices, so naturally I think these practices have some answers to those questions.
Too Stressed to Meditate?
Here’s a problem with stress. We know—and the research backs me up on this one—that mindfulness and meditation can really help reduce stress. But sometimes, you might think, as I sometimes do, that sitting down to meditate when the mind is spinning so fast is, itself, a non-starter. So what to do?
Fortunately, there are many ways to practice mindfulness, even when sitting down and following your breath might just feel like too much. You just need to think outside the box.
Your Greatest Wound Is Your Greatest Gift
Meditation saved my life when I was a teenager. I was bullied for six years for being perceived as queer in my small mountain town in Colorado. I wasn’t out yet, even to myself, but I was taunted, physically harassed, teased, and manipulated by peers who perceived something different about me. Beginning meditation in high school taught me focus, revealed an inherent goodness in me regardless of what was happening around me or being said about me, and showed me a spaciousness inside that could never be taken from me.
Three Steps Toward Self-Compassion
Most people struggle with self-judgmental thoughts. It’s really very common! There’s a curious thing about these thoughts: if someone else were as mean to us as we are to ourselves, we would not let them get away with it. And yet, not only do we allow these self-judgments to be internally spoken – often, we believe them.
It is possible, however, to cultivate more kindness for yourself, even accepting yourself no matter what—even if you mess up, even if you're imperfect.
Learning to Stress Better
We can't change the fact that there are stressors in the world and that there are things that are going to make us upset. We're going to have illnesses. We're going to have difficult periods in our lives. But we can change our response.
Sebene Selassie and Dan Harris discuss how to focus on the body as a way to reduce stress.
Becoming a Better Listener – And Talker
When was the last time you had a thoroughly satisfying conversation? A conversation where you felt really in sync with the other person—where you thought they really got you. And maybe they even told you they felt the same.
Dan Clurman and Mudita Nisker share how mindfulness can enable more satisfying, authentic conversations by helping you balance talking and listening.
Anxiety is Not the Problem
For twenty years as a clinical psychologist and researcher at Harvard, Dr. Luana Marques has helped people build a healthier relationship with anxiety, from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to single mothers in poverty and individuals coming out of jail. In this week’s newsletter, Dr. Luana shares a simple, self-assessment process she calls the TEB cycle.
Accepting Life’s Ups and Downs
Recently, we asked Ten Percent Happier app subscribers what topics they most wanted to hear about. One of the responses we received the most, in various forms, was “how can I be more accepting of life’s ups and downs?”
To me, this simple-on-its-surface response says quite a lot about the relationship of meditation to, well, just plain advice. And why, at least in my experience, meditation has a lot more to offer.
The Mindful Way to Healthier Habits
You want to exercise more, sleep better, or eat healthier, and you do, for a little while. But it’s hard to keep up a new habit, so you flake a little. And then, if you’re like me, you might resort to drill sergeant mode, operating on the assumption that the only route to success is white-knuckled willpower.
But that kind of willpower doesn’t work.
Compassion is Where Pain Meets Love
In the Buddhist tradition in which I trained, cultivating compassion is the whole point of meditation. As we have experienced this past week, compassion can also hurt.
To face suffering in the world, and allow yourself to feel pain in response to it, requires a kind of fierceness and bravery that is very different from how compassion is often depicted.
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