On April 29th 2015, I had the opportunity to catch up with ABC News Anchor and Author, Dan Harris. Dan is the author of 10% Happier, a New York Times bestselling book that explores his discovery of meditation and mindfulness.
I asked Dan about the role that mindfulness can play in the lives of young people. He mentioned the clear benefits of mindful students being able to better maintain focus, while improving behavior. He stressed that mindfulness can help kids be less emotionally reactive. In particular, we spoke about the recent developments in Baltimore. He cited the Holistic Life Foundation as an organization in Baltimore doing incredible work teaching mindfulness in high risk, urban environments. He stated that there has been an economic divide within the mindfulness community, with some people feeling that mindfulness is largely an upper middle class pursuit, but that he sees diverse socioeconomic communities embracing the practice more and more. Dan went on to share the insight that practicing mindfulness can help take the bias out of decision making. With mindfulness practice one can better see how things truly are, getting past stereotypes and preconceived assumptions.
I asked Dan about how his life might have been different had he learned mindfulness meditation when he was younger. Dan said that he would have been a better student growing up and that it would have helped him focus. He also said that he probably would have been a little less obnoxious to teachers. Later as a reporter, mindfulness would have helped him make more reflective decisions before venturing into war zones. Upon return from covering conflict zones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, he expressed how mindfulness could have helped him be more self-aware and perhaps avoid depression related to those often traumatic experiences.
Next, I asked Dan whether he thought that mindfulness could compete with drugs and alcohol on college campuses. He said that college will probably always be a time for experimentation with drugs and alcohol, but that mindfulness can play a role in reducing binge behaviors and sexual assault on college campuses, while also helping to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. We spoke in particular about his alma mater Colby College, where he recently addressed students. After concluding his talk there, a handsome, big, charismatic male student got up and made an announcement about an upcoming event for the “Colby Mindfulness Club”. Dan said that that never would have happened when he was a student there.
I went on to ask Dan about how mindfulness connected to his work reporting for ABC’s Good Morning America and Nightline. On Good Morning America he mentioned how he often tries to use his mindfulness training to be more aware. He is able to deeply listen to his co-anchors, slow down the moment, and be fully present in the now. For example, there are times when he is able to notice when someone on the show is being ignored. He went on to say that this isn’t something he is always able to achieve, but that he certainly makes the mindful effort. As a reporter in the field, mindfulness has made Dan more sensitive to others and a better listener. This sensitivity in turn, has translated into him being a more careful, accurate, and mature reporter.
My last question for Dan was focused on Global Citizenship. I asked him if he felt a sense of responsibility to parts of the world outside of our nation’s borders. He cited three levels of mindfulness practice: personal practice, interpersonal practice, and global collective consciousness. He said that he has made real strides in his personal and interpersonal practice, and that his opening up to a global interconnectedness was a work in progress. He went on to share that the third practice of global collective consciousness, if achieved by many, can contribute to improving the overall happiness of the world.