September 23, 2019

Mindfulness & Meditation

#72 – Dan Harris: 10% happier – meditation, kindness, and compassion

"Mindfulness is the ability to know what's happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it." — Dan Harris

Read Time 29 minutes

In this episode, Dan Harris, correspondent for ABC News and co-founder of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app, speaks openly about his struggles with self-centeredness, addiction, depression, emotional volatility, and the deep-rooted insecurities that drove him to career success. He tells the story of how a panic attack on live TV lead him down a path of self-discovery culminating in a meditation practice which has since transformed his life—in terms of his own personal suffering, his relationships with those closest to him, and his ability to be kind and compassionate (which has its own selfish advantages). Dan also shares some very practical advice and tips for new meditators, dispels some of the myths around meditation, and gives people some things to look forward to as they progress with their practice. Last but not least, we talk about the importance of not passing shame and trauma to our kids and the role that mindfulness and meditation plays in that. 

Want more content like this? Check out our interviews with Kristin Neff on the power of self-compassion and Esther Perel on the effects of trauma.


We discuss:

  • Dan’s meditation book, and the panic attack on live TV that started it all [8:00];
  • Addiction: the spectrum of addiction, the socially acceptable forms, and Dan’s own battle with addiction and depression [13:30];
  • Dan’s drive for self-protection, a defining moment of childhood, and how his upbringing shaped him [20:30];
  • A selfish reason to be kind and compassionate [28:30];
  • Using mindfulness to avoid being controlled by your emotions such as anger and grandiosity [36:15];
  • How Dan found meditation, and how he went from skeptic to someone willing to try it [40:45];
  • Advice for new meditators, misconceptions about meditation, and the difference between changes in state vs. changes in trait [48:00];
  • Difference between being “mindful” versus being “present” [55:00];
  • The overlap between psychology and Buddhism, who is the real Buddha, and a Buddhism 101 lesson [57:45];
  • What convinced Dan to finally try meditation, and how did his first session go? [1:05:30];
  • Lessons from Dan’s 10-day silent retreat: “You’re trying too hard” [1:12:30];
  • How Dan’s meditation has evolved over 10 years of practice [1:27:30];
  • Dan’s 360 Review: A painful process illuminating his selfishness, and putting him on a path to more kindness and compassion [1:30:45];
  • How to quiet mental suffering in tough times, and how meditation has helped (and not helped) Dan get through some of the hardest moments of his life [1:41:30];
  • How Dan’s practice has made him a better husband [1:47:45];
  • How to prevent the transference of trauma and shame to your kids [1:50:45];
  • Does past trauma drive successful people? Can a person be successful professionally if they give up that negative insecurity that is driving them? [1:56:00];
  • The pillars of emotional health, and how to help yourself when you feel insecure [2:08:30];
  • Why it’s important to let your kids see that you are a flawed human [2:11:30];
  • Learning from the incredible (but flawed) Peter Jennings [2:15:15];
  • When is Dan’s next book coming out? [2:21:15]; and
  • More.


Dan’s meditation book, and the panic attack on live TV that started it all [8:00]

Dan’s book

  • Peter says Dan’s book, 10% Happier, has “almost single-handedly been responsible for my interest in meditation
  • Peter comments on how he likes the title because it doesn’t “overpromise”

The embarrassing event that started Dan’s journey towards mental health

“A few seconds in I just lost the ability to breathe. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, my lungs seized up, I just couldn’t talk.”

  • While filling in as the “newsreader” on Good Morning America, Dan had a panic attack on live television
  • The audience was 5 million people
  • This incident led Dan down a path of trying to figure out WHY this happened


Addiction: the spectrum of addiction, the socially acceptable forms, and Dan’s own battle with addiction and depression [13:30]

Dan’s time as a reporter in war zones

  • After 9/11, Dan spent a lot of time in war zones 
  • Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Gaza, and Iraq
  • When he returned home, he got depressed
  • Having trouble getting out of bed and felt sick a lot
  • At this point, he didn’t really know WHY he felt depressed

Cocaine use

  • One night out, someone offered Dan some cocaine …

{end of show notes preview}

Would you like access to extensive show notes and references for this podcast (and more)?

Check out this post to see an example of what the substantial show notes look like. Become a member today to get access.

Become a Member

Dan Harris

Dan Harris is a correspondent for ABC News, co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America, and formerly the co-anchor of Nightline. He has reported from all over the world, covering wars in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, and Iraq, and producing investigative reports in Haiti, Cambodia, and the Congo. He has also spent many years covering religion in America, despite the fact that he is agnostic.

He wrote the book 10% Happier, a #1 New York Times bestseller, then launched the Ten Percent Happier podcast and co-founded the Ten Percent Happier meditation app. He is currently working on a new book about kindness and compassion with an estimated release date of 2021.

ABC NEWS - Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC News' NIGHTLINE and GOOD MORNING AMERICA: WEEKEND EDITION. (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute)

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.
  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I thankful for Dan Harris, because of him and Jeff Warren I’m up to a minute/week of meditation. Several years ago I did a 12 day silent Vippissana meditation (not really silent — cuz participants are forcefed a video every evening with Goenka rambling about on meditation and Buddhism) and I left thinking this just isn’t for me. I think I’d been better off going to a meditation retreat like Harris cites – Insight meditation centers, they used to have great web resources but they’re harder to locate now with revamped website but I think this is it.
    I fell asleep e v e r y s i n g l e t i m e that I tried to listen so I never got past day 1.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this and have shared with some men in my life. You just might reel them in with the “Fletch” reference. Dan, I found you to be humble and relatable. Thank you Peter for sharing him with us. -Tina

  3. Would have liked to have heard if Dan attended Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering 28 hour program. When Dan interviewed him on his podcast, it sounded a bit gimmicky, how he couldn’t really describe the meditation, so you just have to attend, but everyone is crying at the end.

  4. I am a huge fan and subscriber, Bummer I couldn’t get through Sam Harris podcast, because of copious amounts of swearing. Mindfulness, meditation, happiness are synonymous to peace and tranquility Swear words are crass and unneedful, wish he could tone it down, it’s easier on the ears

  5. You touched on this only briefly late in the interview. Would you loose your edge of you adopted mindfulness early in your career? Clearly it works for athletes however I think that for some professions it takes a particular type of single mindedness to become technically proficient. Can you imagine a surgeon not ruminating about a surgical outcome. As a dentist in his 50’s I am now trying to adopt these calming techniques. Not sure I’d be as proficient without some early anxiety though. Perhaps you indeed can have it all.

  6. S.N. Goenka was a businessman suffering from migraines. If a doctor claims genuine interest both in medicine and meditation, he should explain exactly why no treatments available at Goenka’s time in various countries cured this, and only Vipassana meidtation did, instead of making from meditation another one bs crunch for cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon