In 2004, Good Morning America’s Dan Harris experienced the last thing a TV anchor would ever want: a panic attack on live television in front of more than 5 million viewers. What many would have considered a career-ending event, actually set Dan on a path which led him to meditation and in turn to writing his mega-bestseller 10% Happier as well as starting his popular podcast which boasts respected guests like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sam Harris, the Dalai Lama, and many others. The obstacle is the way, right? Or as the Buddhists put it, the obstacle is the path. Dan is also the author of his new book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, which is out now.
We reached out to Dan and explore his views on mindfulness and meditation. Dan’s answers are both funny andy helpful—he gives specific tips to implement a meditation practice, how to reconcile ambition and spirituality, and what are the worst ways to get someone to meditate. Enjoy our interview with Dan Harris below!
Can you tell us about your story of what actually led you to write 10% Happier and all the adventures that you describe in it? Some readers might be surprised to learn that a big part was driven by a panic attack you had on national television?
Back in 2004, I had a panic attack while delivering the news on Good Morning America. In front of 5.019 million views.
So, yeah, that sucked. (If you’re in the market for a nice dose of Schadenfreude, you can readily find the clip on YouTube. Just search for “panic attack on live television.”)
The good news is that my public meltdown set me off on a weird, windy road that ultimately led me to meditation, which – while it is certainly not a panacea – has significantly improved my life.
It has been more than three years since you published 10% Happier. The book hit #1 on the New York Times list and currently sits at #12 on Amazon’s Most Sold list. The book has done really well and clearly resonated with a lot of people. Why do you think it provoked such a strong reaction? And looking back now, what are some lessons that you’ve learned since that you wish were part of the book?
I like to joke that my book contains no original ideas; my only innovation was to talk about meditation while using the word “fuck” a lot.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the reason the book caught on was that public interest was (and is) rising in the subject – due largely to the explosion of scientific research that sugg