Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics (2017) is a down-to-earth beginner’s guide to meditation – especially for those skeptics among us who think that meditation is a lot of new age hooey. Dan Harris presents readers with a firsthand account of how even people with restless minds and no time to spare can start experiencing the scientifically proven benefits of meditation.
There are still a lot of fast-paced, city-dwelling professionals who think that meditation is a lot of new age nonsense. The author, Dan Harris, understands this feeling rather well since, not long ago, he was one of those people. If someone had told him in his twenties that one day he’d be promoting the benefits of meditation, he’d have laughed so hard that beer would have shot out his nose.
But life is full of unexpected twists and turns, some of which can be brought on by times of extreme stress.
For Harris, a big change came in 2004, when he was working as an anchorman for ABC News. While live on air, with an audience of five million viewers, the author suddenly began to stutter and slur his words – he was in the grip of a panic attack.
Like most panic attacks, however, this incident wasn’t an isolated event. In Harris’s case, it was the result of years spent reporting from war zones, the horrors of which had led him to sink into a state of depression. Yet, being the busy man he was, he’d failed to recognize or appreciate the symptoms he’d been experiencing.
These included trouble getting out of bed in the morning and a feverish feeling that never fully went away. After a brief attempt at self-medicating with cocaine and ecstasy, the on-air meltdown was Harris’s personal rock bottom.
But this turned out to be a good thing. It was the wake-up call Harris needed to make some much-needed changes in his life. And it’s what led to him discovering the benefits of meditation.
Like a lot of people, Harris was what you’d call a “fidgety skeptic” about meditation. But after doing some research, he was surprised to find a wealth of solid, scientific evidence showing the practice to be a proven stress reducer. It’s benefits included lowering blood pressure and helping people recover from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Harris also found legitimate data indicating that meditation both strengthens the immune system and rewires the neurons in the brain to improve attributes like self-awareness, endurance and compassion.