Omar Shehata

Notes on 10% Happier

From Omar's notebook.

These are my annotated excerpts from reading 10% Happier, a book about meditation & Buddhism.

This is intensely relatable as a main problem in my life: the "craving to be otherwise, or to be elsewhere". Apparently it's possible to live without constantly feeling this way:

Here are examples of a concrete positive change from mindfulness:

It helps you "respond rather than react".

This is 100% how I feel about eating and this feels like a huge thing. Like if mindfulness can help me resolve just this one thing my life would be so much better.

I love this so much - "the only way out is through". This feels so incredibly helpful in my life. So many things that I avoid because I think that'll make things better, because they are bad/painful. But if it's something that won't go away by avoiding it, then just going through it is the only choice I have. And this reminds me to just do it.

This goes along with my principle of "Do not indulge". The idea that we will be happy if we maximize our pleasure seems obvious, but it's woefully misguided. And has taken me a long time to realize it just doesn't work:

It's NOT about removing all desire and not seeking any pleasure. It's just about accepting that no pleasure is lasting. And expecting it to last is the source of suffering.

I think meditation is partly about practicing "not taking the bait" when you know you don't want to:

Here he's on a silent retreat and talking about this "wound of existence", which I think is another big benefit/goal of meditation. Teaching yourself that it's OK to just sit with "simply being" and not having to be seeking your next pleasure. And accepting this I feel like has been really valuable for me, that if I'm having a day where I'm not feeling happy, that's OK. I don't feel the need to "fix it", I can just be satisfied with this state for a while and work towards whatever meaningful things I want to be working towards.

This makes me really want to try a silent retreat sometime:

This also really makes me want to do this silent retreat. This idea of actually taking a look at how your mind works. It feels crazy NOT to do this, that most people don't know this. That I've lived so long and don't know this.

Here he describes "choice-less awareness" which is kind of a epiphany he has on his silent retreat. I especially love the realization he has at the end about "how do you stay in the present moment" since it was a question he had been struggling with throughout the whole book/his life:

I love this explanation of the Buddhist signature phrase "Life is suffering". This feels like an incredibly valuable technique for lasting happiness/fulfillment. Accepting that you will never find fulfillment through life experiences. Letting go of that goal feels so freeing. It actually makes it easier to enjoy life because you know everything is fleeting, and you're not fretting about making it last. You enjoy it while it's here, and you are not sad when it is gone, because it was never going to last.

It applies to relationships too for me, and I feel like this has really helped me enjoy my time with people without pain or clinging.

This just makes so much sense. I've taken for granted that it's "obvious" that the way to be happy is to seek pleasant experiences. And I continually fall into dismay and despair when it doesn't last, and I am left fumbling to find the next thing.

But life doesn't have to be this way. It can be far more enjoyable.

This feels so incredibly powerful: learning how to be happy "before anything happens". I would love to experience this.

I've been trying to do this more, "put the fork down in between eating" and only pick it up if I genuinely want another bite. It feels like it makes such a big difference for me personally.

I love this anecdote about how brushing your teeth and exercising were not seen as things that were important to do for a very long time. It kind of strengthens my resolve that you can figure out how best to live your life, even if the thing you feel you need to live a good life isn't common practice.

Finally it's important to remember that meditation is not a magic bullet that can solve everything. Here the author spends 24 hours in solitary confinement as part of some news story they're working on, and concedes that meditation doesn't help make this experience any less horrible.