2017-05-22

Dan Harris 10% Happier #meditation vs #schizophrenia

5.21: co,web/psy/meditation/Dan Harris`10% Happier:
. "happy Sunday!" I greeted a coworker;
. from listening to a radio preacher today,
I was revisiting the idea that our thoughts
-- which we assume to be our self --
are actually influenced by the god or devil;
just like I saw on a cartoon once,
where the character has a devil and an angel
perched on each shoulder,
telling him different ways to react:
a supernatural game of good vs evil.
. I might like a book about handling thoughts:
Dan Harris`10% Happier:
How I Tamed the Voice in My Head,
Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge,
and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story
-- it's about the benefits of meditation,
and quitting drugs and alcohol.

. the primary benefit of meditation
is mindfulness -- being aware of your thoughts
objectively without automatically reacting.
. I do have some experience with meditation;
at times when I feel too toxic to work or sleep
I try to control my breathing and
and that becomes my only thought.
. however,
what I found most useful for mindfulness
was not meditation but schizophrenia.

. schizophrenia literally means split mind:
the mind typically divides itself into
thoughts of self and thoughts of others
brought into your own head via telepathy.
. after feeling like some of my thoughts
were being authored by the supernatural;
I then had to question all my thoughts:
are my own thoughts really selfish
if they could be inspired the supernatural?
. I began to suspect that all my selfishness
was really a game of demons against humans:
getting the humans to trouble each other.
. of course you could believe instead
that there is no god or other supernatural;
there is only the brain pretending to be a god.
. but a belief in the supernatural
has been good for teaching me mindfulness.

. evidence that supports my belief
is that minds have been known to make
predictions about things that
they have no physical way of knowing about.
see Rupert Sheldrake's The Sense of Being Stared At:
And Other Unexplained Powers of Human Minds.

5.22: web:

Dan being interviewed by abc:
. he got started when his wife gave him a book
about Buddhism and meditation;
it had a good description of the human condition:
we have this racing mind, always wanting and judging;
and it said the antidote was meditation;
. just 5 minutes a day of trying to still the mind,
and you'll be in the habit of
looking at your thoughts and quieting them
rather than being carried away by them.

Dan Harris`Talks At Google:

. after 9/11 he was working overseas
to cover the resulting war zones;
and, after coming home from that
he got depression without realizing the symptoms
(trouble getting out of bed,
low grade fever all the time)
at which time he started to self-medicate
with cocaine and ecstasy;
although he did them only sporadically,
and never at work.

. he had a panic attack on national tv,
causing him to say this:
"one of the world's most commonly prescribed medications
may be providing a big bonus;
researchers report people who take
cholesterol lowering drugs called statins
for at least 5 years
may also lower their risk for cancer;
but it's too early to prescribe statins
slowly for cancer production.
-- uh, that does it for news,
were going back now [to the main anchors
of Good Morning America]"
. if he were not able to quit early
he would have been seen going into a flop sweat
and a tourettic outburst, the end.

. after the panic attack,
the doctor doctor blamed it on drugs;
he said that even occasional use
is enough to raise the adrenaline in your brain,
and prime you to have a panic attack;
so Dan quit doing drugs and saw a psychiatrist.

Peter Jennings was his mentor
and gave him an assignment he did not want:
covering faith and spirituality.
. the only religious thing his family had ever done
was give him a bar mitzvah;
they weren't into religion:
his mother told him there was no god.
. but this spirituality assignment
turned out to be a great thing for him:
he spent the next decade in megachurches
and mosques and Mormon temples;
he made some really good friends.
and developed a deep and biding respect for
those having a world view that
transcends personal interests.

. however his personal life was not affected
until one of his producers in 2008
recommend he read a book by Eckhart Tolle;
Tolle had a thesis about the human condition
that was quite compelling:
we have a voice in our head
that we should be looking at:
it's always talking about the past or the future
instead of the here and now.

. what he didn't get from the book
and had to ask the author was:
what do you do about the voice in the head?
Tolle's reply: take one conscious breath;
what?
(breathing control is a meditation tool).
. Dan didn't get much help from books about
the power of positive thinking either;
but, his wife remembered a book
by Dr. Mark Epstein, about the intersection of
Buddhism with psychology.
the Buddha had a cure for the "monkey mind":
meditation.

. there is scientific evidence emerging
that "mindfulness meditation"
can lower stress hormones
which can boost immune function;
it can lower blood pressure,
and reduce various mental illnesses
including depression; it may also
"mitigate age-related cognitive decline".
. the military is looking into meditation
as a way to relieve PTSD.
. meditation causes brain changes:
it shrinks the stress section,
and grows the sections related to
compassion and self-awareness.

. in mindfulness meditation,
you focus your attention on your breathing;
when you lose attention,
simply get back to thinking about breathing.

. we assume that happiness is a natural reward
that happens in response to external events;
but happiness is a skill.

. he had a conversation with a blogger
Sam Harris, "taming the mind"
where he talks about non-duality?
-- not quite as popular as mindfulness.
. non-duality is the idea that what you think is you
doesn't exist in the way you think it does:
"you" is an illusion that the real you is creating.
[ this reminded me of schizophrenia:
just like the mind builds voices of demons
it can also build the voice of your own self;
not in a way that reflects the true self,
but the way a programmer designs a game character;
so if the real mind is influenced by the supernatural
then we are pawn in a gods' game,
lead not just by emotions but also our very thoughts.]

Dan has a course with Joseph Goldstein.