Introduction: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy.
Dan Harris: This is the lever that the data suggests is most important to pull if you’re trying to get healthier and happier.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Hi, it’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Now today’s podcast with Dan Harris explores the importance of mindfulness meditation for our wellbeing and happiness. And as part of our discussion, we talk about his recent trip to Dharamshala India to meet with the Dalai Lama, as well as his free online 10 part series on meditation and Buddhism. Now, after this podcast was recorded, a widely watched viral video of the Dalai Lama was released online that was highly disturbing to many who watched it. Now I’ve seen the short video, which is an excerpt from a much longer video that was initially published online by a Tibetan journalist. Now, the excerpt taken out of context was widely promoted and distributed on Chinese social media platforms. Now, as many of you listening may know, I majored in Buddhism at Cornell and have spent much time in Tibetan, in India with exile Tibetans.
And I like to provide a little context and an explanation of the events that day and the underlying meaning that was lost in cultural translation. You see, the event depicted in the video was a ceremony in India for graduates from a private school to receive a blessing from the Dalai Lama. Now, during the full video, which wasn’t shown online, the little boy, a child of one of the employees of the school asked the Dalai Lama for a hug, which he gave, and then the Dalai Lama gave a talk. And after the boy asked for another hug, which he gave, and then he asked for a kiss, which he gave. And then after the Q&A, he asked for yet another hug. That was the moment when the Dalai Lama stuck out his tongue and said, “Eat my tongue,” which sounds sexual and inappropriate and weird.
However, this phrase, “Eat my tongue,” which some people translate as suck my tongue, must be understood in the context of the Tibetan culture. While it is so true that many religious leaders have sexually abused children, and this is why the incident was so disturbing in so many, the true meaning of this is quite different. It’s a common phrase used by grandparents in the Tibetan culture when children keep asking for more and more as this little boy did. They jokingly stick out their tongue and say, essentially, “What? I’ve given you this and I’ve given you that, and I’ve given you this, and I’m giving you that. What do you want? Eat my tongue.”
At this point, the Dalai Lama stuck out his tongue laughed and then pulled his head back. It wasn’t a real request. The tongue is not considered sexual in Tibetan culture, and sticking your tongue is often used as a greeting. We saw that in the seven years in Tibet with Brad Pitt. The video was amplified by the Chinese to discredit the Dalai Lama. It worked in the West, but for Tibetans who live inside China, who understood the culture reference, this attempt backfired. See, the Tibetans have been prohibited from seeing a photo of the Dalai Lama for over 60 years, and they were overjoyed actually at being able to see image of them again. And I hope this brief background helps provide context for the misinterpretation of the event shown in the video. I know personally that this is deeply saddened Dalai Lama who has dedicated his life to the benefit of others, and it’s my hope that you can now enjoy my conversation with Dan Harris.
Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s farmacy with an F for place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve struggled with depression or mental health issues or wonder just how to be happier, I think you’re going to love this podcast. Because today, we have a very special guest, Dan Harris, who has really paved the way for us to think about happiness in a new way and has recently come back from a visit with a Dalai Lama who is really the king of happiness, I think and Dan is an author, a podcaster. He is an entrepreneur, and for 21 years he worked as an anchor and a correspondent for ABC News. He hosted Nightline and weekend in editions of Good Morning America. He’s been all over the planet. He’s covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s done investigative reporting in Haiti, Cambodia, Amazon, pretty much all the rough places after having a nationally televised panic attack, which you should all check out on YouTube on Good Morning America.
Dan discovered meditation. And then he wrote this amazing book called 10% Happier as a way to encourage fellow skeptics to give a second chance to practicing meditation because a lot of people go, “I don’t know about that,” but he really made it palatable and accessible. His first book was so powerful that he launched the 10% Happier App and he wrote a second book and then he created something called The 10% Happier Podcast, which is fantastic. Everybody should listen to it. He introduced celebrities, entrepreneurs, authors, scientists, and meditation teachers about how to do life better. So welcome, Dan.
Dan Harris: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Nice to see you again.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Good to see you again too. So we are in a serious mental health crisis in the world today. In America, particularly, opioid crisis, we’re all familiar with. We’re seeing increasing suicides among teenagers, increasing rates of psychiatric medication use. I think after statins, it’s the number one category of medications in America, and we’re struggling. And yet there’s an ancient tradition that is focused on happiness. We focus so much on outer success and not much on inner success. And I think there are cultures where they don’t have much outer success, but they have a lot of inner success. And I’ve been to many of those places, you’ve been to them, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, where they have, I think, gross national happiness quotient, which is pretty amazing. And there’s a science to happiness, which we’re going to talk about today. And I think it’s an important thing because most of us don’t know how to create happiness.
And we think, “Well, there’s a happiness set point.” Well, you’re just as happy as you ever were when you’re kind of a kid and that’s sort of your happiness set point. You revert back to it. But I think there’s a science of how do we deal with some of the challenges of modern life? How do we think differently about actually doing life better and creating more happiness for ourselves and those around us? So Dan, let’s talk about your recent trip to Dalai Lama because you went for two weeks to see him in India and you turned your conversation with him into this incredible documentary series called The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness, which everybody should watch. I watched it and I wondered what you sort of took away as the key takeaway from your visit with the Dalai Lama about happiness. Let’s start there.
Dan Harris: Let me try out a thesis on you. This visit to the Dalai Lama coincided with a book that I’ve been writing for many years. It’s not going to come out for many years, but so I’m still in the process of … Unlike you, I can’t write books quickly. This’ll probably take me seven years to write this book that I’m working on now. And so I’m kind of honing my thesis. And I think my thesis is also the answer to your question, which is what was my takeaway from my time with the Dalai Lama? So I’ll try it out with you and please, take shots at it. I think, for sure, people listening to this podcast, and I think most people are thinking a lot about how to be happier and healthier. We optimize for sleep, we obsess about what we’re eating, we try to exercise, maybe we meditate.
We’re pulling lots of levers to get happier and healthier and look better in the mirror and have our CVs look better. But the data that I’ve seen show that the most effective lever to pull for health and happiness, it is, and I’m going to use a big and controversial word here, but it’s love. The quality of your relationships as the great Esther Perel often says, the quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life on pretty much every level. I’m not saying you don’t need to eat healthy and exercise and sleep well, but if you look at the longitudinal studies, it’s people who have good relationships, who live long prosper in the fullest sense of that word.
Dr. Mark Hyman: I think that’s true. I think that’s something I learned as I was exploring the research around longevity and went to visit the Blue Zones where they had tremendous sense of connection, belonging, community. And in Okinawa for example, they have little groups of form as kids where they put people in little groups where they have four or five people who have their back throughout their whole life and go through the entire journey with them. And last night I was on my men’s group, which was basically a group of guys who’ve known each other for 40 years since college. And we just gather every week for an hour and a half on Zoom, and wherever we are, we drop in. Not everybody makes it every time, but it’s an amazing feeling to have that sense of connection and belonging. And I know Richard Davidson on your happiness program that you created, the Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness, he said being lonely and isolated is a bigger risk factor for death than obesity.
And sometimes I’ve heard people say it’s equivalent to smoking two packs a day. Loneliness is probably one of the biggest killers. So social isolation is a huge issue. So it’s hard for people though to think about how do I build those relationships? How do I create that connection? And in some ways, there’s a way of being that allows that to happen. And in some ways, I think maybe you weren’t fully talking about this in your series, but there’s a sense that the more you are able to show up and be present with somebody and give someone your presence, the more you’re able to pay attention, the more you’re able to connect with somebody, the more you’re able to do those things, the richer your relationships are. And being able to do that is predicated on you being connected to yourself and being aware of yourself and having a level of own happiness within yourself. So it’s like a double-edged sword. In order to actually have community connection, you have to actually be someone who you want to hang out and connect with.
Dan Harris: Yes. Yes. Okay. You just put your finger on a lot of … Do you give me permission to give a long-ish answer here because you just said so much-
Dr. Mark Hyman: Go, go, go, go. This is all about you.
Dan Harris: Well, no, I’m going to talk about myself. I’m going to just build on the ideas that you just, I think, phrased in quite intriguing ways. One is, the first idea is just in terms of why this is so important is just think about evolution. Think about how we are designed. We did not, as a species, become the planet’s apex predator, for better or worse, because we are the strongest. We’re not the strongest. The elephants are stronger, gorillas are stronger. But what we are good at is cooperating, communicating, collaborating to take down the stronger animals and eat them. And we have babies that require a ton of care. They sometimes call it the fourth trimester after they’ve exited the womb. We are designed to be in relationship with each other. As I’ve heard one scientist say, our very nervous systems are designed to be in communication with other nervous systems.
So loneliness on the savanna in our evolutionary days was deadly because if you were outside of the pack, you were very vulnerable to being killed and eaten by somebody else. And so our body now reacts very poorly to social isolation. Listeners may be thinking, “Well, I’m not lonely. I’ve got friends.” And some of you may not be thinking that, and we can talk about how to address that. But I think there are a lot of people who might look around and say, “I’m doing great. I’ve got a social connection.” But you can actually be technically lonely and surrounded by lots of other people, or you might not be technically lonely, but the relationships in your life are frayed and not as strong as they could be. And if you’re an optimizer, if you’re looking to get healthier, if you’re listening to the doctor’s farmacy with an F, you probably are. And I’m saying this is the lever that the data suggests is most important to pull if you’re trying to get healthier and happier. Okay, that’s my …
Dr. Mark Hyman: No. You’re a hundred percent right. I think this is ancient hardwired stuff like a little naked, skinny human running around on the savannas isn’t going to survive very long. And I think there’s a wonderful book, you might’ve seen it called The Social Conquest of the Earth by E.O. Wilson, where he talks about our evolutionary drive for altruism and that we have to be collaborative. We have to be connected in order to survive from whether we’re ants or whether we’re humans. And I think that’s a really important thing, and it’s not something our culture really prizes or values or prioritizes. And I think it really is a very important piece. I think in Buddhism, and we talked earlier that I studied Buddhism in college. There’s three pillars of enlightenment, which is the Buddha, which is the symbol of someone who can be enlightened. So the possibility of waking up in this lifetime.
The second is the dharma, which is the teachings of how to do that, and that those are the practices and meditation and certain structures of thinking and awareness. And then there’s the sangha, which is the community as the key pillar to hold you accountable and to be there for you to actually live a vibrant life. So I think those are really important for us to think about. And I personally am I prioritize this more and more in my life. I spent many years of my life working really hard, raising a family, running around the world, trying to change the world, change medicine.
And in some ways, I sacrificed a lot of relationships. But now at this point in my life, I’m doubling down and I think it’s important. So when you were with the Dalai Lama, you’re hinting at something now that you kind of highlighted quite well in the Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness, which is this idea of altruism. And what’s interesting is you kind of wrote this article in the New York Times, which seems like the opposite of altruism, which is the benefits of wise selfishness. So I’d love you to unpack what is wise selfishness and how does that work, and what is this all about? Because it doesn’t seem that it’s a good idea to be selfish if you want to be in community and connected.
Dan Harris: Right. So this is why selfishness is one of, in my opinion, for my money from my perch as a western extremely privileged guy, one of the most useful concepts from the Dalai Lama. Now, there are many people who might disagree with that, but for me, why selfishness is what has had a huge impact on me. And just to say words like altruism and compassion, or if you want to get even more Buddhist about it, loving kindness, to me, they land in a kind of empty, preachy way. It’s the kind of concepts that you see knit onto a throw pillow or used as a hashtag on Instagram or whatever. And so I’m an ambitious guy, I’m a skeptical guy. I like humor. So words that don’t really land with me. And I also I think on some level, and now it’s quite conscious for me-
Dr. Mark Hyman: Although, Dan, you did start the podcast by saying the most important thing was love.
Dan Harris: Yes, yes. But I did it with some sheepishness. The working title for this book that I’ve been working on is Me, a Love Story. And it’s just a joke, but it’s not a joke. I’m trying to reclaim love.
Dr. Mark Hyman: It sounds like a story about Trump. I don’t know.
Dan Harris: Exactly. Exactly. It goes right to wise selfishness. It’s a play on this binary that I think many of us have, which is either I take care of myself or I’m taking care of other people. And that may not be a binary that we’re conscious of, but I think on some level you’re either selfish or you’re selfless. But what the Dalai Lama’s point is actually some level of selfishness is absolutely necessary. You need to take care of yourself in order to be useful to other people. And now here’s where things get interesting. If you’re truly selfish, if you’re really wisely selfish, you will understand how we evolved. And that is to have good relationships so you will care about other people because that redounds to your benefit. And so this is instead of being a binary, this is, I think I use this phrase like a beneficial double helix.
You take care of yourself, you have a good relationship with your own mind, with your own body, and that better prepares you to help other people, which then redounds to your benefit. And then that makes you happier, and that makes you more willing and able to help other people. And that is what I’ve often called the cheesy upward spiral. And that is where you want to be in life. And I’m not saying this from the mountaintop as a perfect person because I still retain the capacity to be a schmuck in a million ways. And I’m not talking about this as some religious leader preaching at you. I’m just saying, look at how we’re designed people and follow that.
Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s really beautiful. I think it’s interesting when you look at the neurobiology of altruism, which is doing something selflessly for others, it actually creates a biological response of pleasure in our brain in the same center that is reacting to heroin or cocaine or sugar. So you can either eat a sugar or you can do something good for somebody else. And it actually creates a positive effect. And it sort of reminds me of Adam Grant’s philosophy of how you would get ahead, and I think it’s what I followed most of my life, which is collaborative sharing. So people always ask me, I’m like, “Sure, if I can do it, I’ll help you, even if I don’t directly get anything back from it.” And what I’ve noticed is that this creates this virtuous cycle in my life where it just creates more and more goodness and as opposed to, “No, I can’t help you because it’s competitive or I’m going to lose something by sharing or giving.” It’s actually not the way things actually work. And there’s a very bit of science about this too, which is pretty interesting.
Dan Harris: It’s beautiful. And I mean, it’s beautiful that there’s so many problems with the humans. There’s so many problems we can talk about. But at the core, this is incredible feature, not bug to the human design, which is that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to help other people. That’s incredible. And that’s the way out of all of these messes, in my opinion. That’s not to say we don’t need structural fixes for big problems like bigotry and inequality and climate change. Yes, we do. But I think those structural changes are going to be brought about by people. And I think we want people who are, again, to use a loaded term, more loving, a word I’m trying to reclaim and make less cheesy. Yeah. I mean, something I often say to people is pay attention in a moment where you hold a door open for somebody. It’s a small thing. You just hold the door open for somebody. We do this type of shit every day. If you’re paying attention, that feels good. That feeling is infinitely scalable.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s interesting as this is all happening, this conversation around meditation and shifting our focus from this sort of ego-centric culture to a more compassionate culture and creating a culture of more love, which just sounds great, I mean, for all of us, we’re also kind of in this dynamic where we’re sort of learning about the things that are in our way that are creating that. And I think, from my perspective, the amount of stress we have, our diet, which by the way is a biological stressor where sugar, actually creates high levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and it makes you feel like you’re running from a tiger or want to attack somebody. All these things are driving us away from a sense of being able to actually connect with somebody or relate to somebody in a loving way or to have those positive behavior changes.
So we kind of have this ideal, but how do we access that? And this is where I think your work around meditation is so important because we have a lot of science around how to fix our body, diet, exercise, sleep, but how do we fix our mind? In your little docuseries with the Dalai Lama, you talked about bicep curls for your mind. I love that analogy because most of us don’t know how to train our minds. And you shared a little bit about the Buddhist notion of monkey mind, which the Buddha talked about 2,600 years ago, and now it’s like a thousand times worse with the cellphone and social media. Can you talk about how you actually can train your brain and how that works and what happens over time? Because happiness doesn’t just happen, right? Love doesn’t just happen. Ability to be compassionate or to be altruistic doesn’t just happen automatically if we’re living this sense of separateness and disconnection and isolation.
And I want you to talk about that. And I think one of the things that’s really interesting is when you look at the minds of meditators who meditate for a long time, they’re very similar to the states of mind that you see with psychedelics, which actually suppress this area of the brain that makes us feel separate and disconnected, called the default mode network. So it’s kind of interesting that we have this psychedelic renaissance now, which may be kind of a shortcut. And I don’t know how the Dalai Lama would think about psychedelics or if he’s ever tried them. I’d love to see what would happen if he tried them. But I mean, how do we bring together the sort of need to retrain our brain with the mass obstacles that are in our way to do that? And what do we know about using the method of meditation and other practices that you’ve learned to actually help fix the problems with our weak brain and our monkey mind?
Dan Harris: I mean, there’s so much to say about this, and this is such a cool thing that you’re teaming me up to talk about. First, just to say, yes, I am unabashedly a meditation evangelist, but as I’ve moved increasingly toward just thinking about overall health in the holistic sense of that term, as my career has progressed, and I’m not a meditation fundamentalist. In other words, I think there are many levers you need to pull in order to be as happy, as healthy as possible. And so you’re absolutely onto something when you talk about the importance of food as medicine. And then, of course, there’s exercise, access to nature, getting enough sleep, having good social connections. You really do need to work on all of these things. But in terms of meditation, what I think is so amazing here is we now have a couple of decades of data about what short daily doses of meditation will do to your brain and the rest of your body.
And the results are really intriguing that it can lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, and literally rewire key parts of your brain that are associated with stress and self-awareness with compassion. And to whittle it all down to a headline, a really, I think, earth-shattering headline, honestly, is that happiness, which I think a lot of us assume, either consciously or subconsciously, is dependent on exogenous factors, external factors like the quality of our childhood or the quality of our work life or our marriage. All of those, by the way, are very, very important. However, what the science is showing us is that truly happiness is a skill that you can take responsibility for and practice via meditation. And so what we know now is the … We used to think that the brain stopped changing after 25. That was the received wisdom in neuroscience.
Now, we know that’s not true. Dr. Richard Davidson, who’s featured prominently in my podcast series in video series on the Dalai Lama, who’s a longtime collaborator with the Dalai Lama, was one of the first people to really use neuroimaging to look at the brains of meditators showed that, in fact, what’s actually true about our brains is something called neuroplasticity. The brain changes. It’s the organ of experience. It changes based on our experiences. And so if you are systematic about giving the brain positive experiences a workout in the form of meditation, well, you can change the brain.
And so these states that we want, well, at the end of the day, all we really want at the most fundamental level is positive, or all we really want are positive mind states. We do lots of things in our life. We work hard, we get married, and those result in concrete actions and phenomena in the world. But what we really want is to feel a certain way. And these feelings of calm connection, compassion, happiness, joy, generosity, gratitude, these feelings are not factory settings that are unalterable. They are skills that are trainable. That is huge. And so I’ve dedicated much of my life to spreading that. I mean, I quit my job at ABC News to get more and more focused on that news.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So it’s such an important insight that we actually can change the structure and the function of our brain and aren’t sort of subject to its fluctuations that cause us unhappiness and misery and often help us to screw up our life if we don’t fix it. And it is kind of a muscle. Instead of exercise, I call it innercise. How do we innercise and train our brains? And it’s one of the things that guides everything in our life. And without it, I think our lives are poor and our lives are more messy and are more unhappy. And the truth is they’re really fixable. I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day who has climbed every peak on every continent who’s skied across Antarctica by himself, who rode a boat across the Drake passage with 40 foot seas, the Antarctica.
I mean, this guy’s serious dude. And he recently did a dark retreat. Now, something that Tibetans have done for years, and they’ll go into these dark rooms for often a month or more at a time and meet their minds. And he said after a week in there, he felt the happiest he’d ever felt, the most at peace he’s ever felt the most connected he’d ever felt. And think about being in a dark retreat. It’s like the forced ceasing of all the fluctuations that happen with our monkey mind and the settling of all that. And I’ve done 10 day meditation retreats, and it’s just amazing to see what happens after 12 hours of meditating a day for 10 days, what happens to your brain. It’s like, “Wow. Everything is like …” It almost was like taking psychedelics, honestly. Have you ever done a 10-day meditation retreat?
Dan Harris: I do them all the time. All the time.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. And don’t you feel like you’re on LSD or mushrooms? Not that you’ve ever taken them, but if you were …
Dan Harris: Totally. I mean, I’ve taken all the drugs. I’ve been very open about that. Yes. I mean, you brought up psychedelics before, and I do think there’s a connection here and that you can think of psychedelics as a shortcut, but there are drawbacks. Well, one of them is if you take psychedelics in the wrong setting, it can be a shortcut to, as my friend Sam Harris jokes, the summit of Mount Shame. And you can have all sorts of bad experiences if you’re not doing them carefully. The other thing is that since they’re shortcuts, it can be hard to integrate these big experiences into your daily life, whereas with meditation, it is an exercise, so you’re just constantly pounding the learnings into your neurons, and that’s a very compelling argument. So I’m kind of yes and, on all of that, but having done lots and lots and lots of 10 day meditation retreats, it does … And I’m not saying you have to do meditation retreats in order to meditate.
I think you could do a couple minutes every day and you’re good to go. But what’s interesting about these retreats and you know this, Dr. Mark, is that you get two things. You get a sense, especially early on when you’re struggling, because you will struggle most likely, that you get a sense of what your life is actually about. You think your life is about service or relationships or striving for excellence at work, but mostly your life is about what’s for lunch? Do I need a haircut? Where do gerbils run wild? It’s like your thoughts are chaotic and cacophonous and the vast majority of them are ridiculous and self-centered. And you really, on a meditation retreat, get a deep sense of that. And that’s helpful because the more clearly you see the ridiculousness of your own mind, the less the ridiculousness owns you. And that is the point of mindfulness meditation.
The second thing to say is once all of the mental churn, the volume of that goes down on a retreat, you see what the mind is capable of, which is actually dropping out of habitual rumination about the past or projection into the future, and seeing the extraordinary holy wowness of whatever’s happening right now, no matter where you are. It’s just incredible that we’re here at all. You know the causes and conditions that had to happen starting at the Big Bang in order for you to be alive right now, the amount of people that had to meet in the right places on the number of continents and all of the atoms that had to be in the right spot in order for you to be alive right now. It’s almost ridiculous and embarrassingly obvious to just say this, but when you can take that into your marrow, it is incredible. And that is quite similar to what happens on psychedelics.
Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s a miracle. You feel connected to everything in a way that it’s hard to describe. The Buddhists talk about being born in this incarnation as a human is akin to being a turtle swimming in all the world’s great oceans, finding one little life ring and popping its head up for breath in that life ring once in every thousand years or something like that. So it’s not a common thing to get to be a human. It’s a real blessing. And we get this whole range of experience. And often I feel like we kind of walk through it mostly asleep. And what you’re talking about, Dan, is a methodology, a practice, a science, and a whole sort of history of how to actually wake up. And not walk through life in this sort of one dimensional frame, which takes us away from ourselves and from others. So basically, meditation isn’t to get better meditation. In a way, it’s not really to do that. It’s to get better at life, right?
Dan Harris: Yes, you’re absolutely right.
Dr. Mark Hyman: The difference in your life from when you were a hard driving news anchor who had a full-blown panic attack on live national television to the current current Dan, who has a very different life. And what was that? Because you were at the pinnacle of what we see as success in our society. Not that you’re not now, but just that it was like, “Wow, that, look at that guy. He’s got it all.” And then you kind of came apart at the seams, and then you put yourself back together through this process of exploring meditation, which as a sort of skeptical journalist, you’re like, “This is kind of woowoo horse …” And actually found that there was gold in them their hills.
Dan Harris: Yes, yes. Yeah, no, you’re exactly right. I think you and I have discussed this before, so I won’t spend too much time on the backstory here. But as you said, yeah, for 21 years I was a correspondent at ABC News. After 9/11, spent a lot of time in war zones. And then I came home and got depressed after being in Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places. And I did a very dumb thing, which is that I started to self-medicate with cocaine. And that led to a panic attack on Good Morning America, which was pretty inconvenient.
And I wasn’t high when I was on the air, but my shrink later explained to me that my ambient use of drugs changed my brain chemistry in ways that made it more likely for me to have a panic attack. So that sucked and really changed my life and ultimately led me to meditation, which as you said, I was very skeptical of. I thought it was hippie nonsense, but I was very lucky that I started to get interested in meditation before the current massive hype cycle around meditation. So this was around 2008, 2009, and there was a lot of research that showed that meditation was really good for you, but it hadn’t been widely publicized yet. So I recognized that, well, this is a really good story, and spent many years really studying meditation and doing a bunch of retreats and getting to know many of the most prominent teachers in the west and the east. And then I put out a book in 2014 called 10% Happier, which turned into a podcast and an app and all that stuff. And ultimately-
Dr. Mark Hyman: And a life.
Dan Harris: And a life, right, yes. So this is where I’m going to start answering your, I think what you really wanted me to talk about, which is what has it changed for me? How has it changed me? The people sometimes say to me, especially meditators, they’re like, “You undersold it. 10%, it’s much more than that.” And that’s absolutely correct. It’s like an investment where the 10% compounds annually. These are skills, these positive mental states, and you just keep getting better at them. And it’s not physical skills where you’re contending with laws of physics. You really can develop these skills pretty far. And I won’t sit here and say that I’m enlightened, whatever that means. It’s just that I have been very consistent about practicing for a long time, and I am a much happier person than I was back then. And I think it’s multifactorial.
I married well, I’m more mature. I have a healthy eight-year-old son. And all of those things play into this. We tend to get wiser as we get older. But I would say meditation and Buddhist practice generally has provided a lot of benefits. And to get granular on what they are, one of them is mindfulness, which we kind of referenced without using that word, but it’s the self-awareness that’s generated through meditation that allows you to see your urges and thoughts and impulses without being owned by them necessarily. So in meditation, we usually sit and focus on our breath for a little while, and very quickly you get distracted. And a lot of people think, “I’ve gotten distracted a million times as I’m doing this that means I’m a bad meditator.” But actually-
Dr. Mark Hyman: It means you’re human.
Dan Harris: … seeing distraction … it means you’re human and it means you’re a successful meditator because the whole point is not to get into some bulletproof bliss bubble where all thoughts evaporate. That may happen at the deep end of the pool, but for most of us, it’s a process of continuous humiliation where you’re trying to focus on one thing, usually your breath, and then you get carried away by your ego over and over and over again. And the whole point is to start to see how ridiculous your ego is so that you’re not owned by it in your daily life. And that’s mindfulness.
And so now, when I’m hit by an urge to say something that’s going to ruin the next 48 hours of my marriage, or if I’m hit by an urge to eat a sleeve of Oreos, I’m way better at just letting that come and go. It’s not repressing it. It’s just seeing it arise and pass. And that is a huge benefit of meditation. Another huge benefit is focus, because this practice of trying to focus on one thing, your breath, and then getting distracted and starting over and over and over again, every time you start over, that is, and you referenced this phrase before, it’s like a bicep curl for your brain. And we see it changing the part of the brain that regulates attention, and that part of the brain has been under assault for many, many years via technology and specifically social media.
And so this is a great way to counter program against that. And then finally, I think there’s so much compelling evidence, and this is what I’m really spending a lot of time writing about these days, so much compelling evidence that it can make you warmer, more compassionate, dare I say, more loving and not only towards other people but yourself. And of course, the line between you, Dr. Mark, and the world. We feel like isolated egos, fretfully navigating a hostile world, but the line between you and the world is porous. We are constantly taking in thoughts and food and air from the world and then putting stuff back out via noises coming out of our face. And we’re in this dialogue with the world all the time. And so getting more loving towards other people and yourself is, again, it can sound kind of schmoopy and cliched, but I’m really on, my new mission is really to make this accessible and intriguing and attractive to all sorts of people, specifically skeptics.
Dr. Mark Hyman: I love this because the side effect of happiness is love. I mean, if you’re happy, you’re just filled with more love and joy and you want to share it. And it just creates this virtuous cycle. I think it’s beautiful. I think one of the things that is so important is the actual practice, being in the gym and meditating is sort of like going to the gym for your brain. But there’s also another piece to it, which is the framework with which we sort of understand the world. And most people think Buddhism is a religion and it has become a religion, but it really it’s not a religion. It’s actually a description of how the mind works. It’s a phenomenology of the mind, if you will. It’s a way of thinking about the nature of our perceptions, the nature of our misperceptions about the nature of reality, because things seem a certain way, but they’re actually not. We seem separate, but actually we’re not. We’re, like you said, very porous.
And all of our atoms and energies are all intermingling and in a very real and direct way that are measurable. So I think the challenge is how do we bring in not just the simple practice, but also the teachings which help us reframe the nature of our minds? And I think one of the things for me that was just one of the biggest insights I ever had was that stress is the perception and with the emphasis on the word perception of a real or imagine threat to your body or your ego.
So it could be you’re in a war zone and it’s a threat. A bomb’s going to drop on you, and that’s a real threat to your body. Or it could be that you think your wife’s cheating on you because she came home 10 minutes late from work or something, and that’s just the total fabrication, and it creates the same biological response in the body. And so Buddhists really have a very interesting framework of understanding that our mental states are determined by the interpretation of our world. And so how does Buddhism help us reinterpret the world to reset our ideas of the sort of otherness that we kind of typically live with?
Dan Harris: I mean, there’s so many ways in which Buddhism does that. Indeed, you’re right, by the way, Buddhism is practiced as a religion in a quite beautiful way by millions of people. It’s the fourth largest religion in the world, and that’s all amazing. But the Buddha himself, from what we know about him, I don’t think he was setting out to create a religion per se. The word Buddhism didn’t even come up. That word, it was invented by colonial scholars in the 1800s, I believe, who were went to India and found some of the original texts. The Buddha was creating, the word you used before, is sangha, a community of people who were practicing this science of mind that he discovered by doing many, many years of meditation and study. And so what does this teaching, this dharma, this science of mind, show us about how to kind of view the world through a different frame.
There are a number of things. I would say one easy concept for people to understand is impermanence. We know, everybody knows, it’s obvious that everything’s changing all the time. As my meditation teacher likes to say, if you ask somebody on the street, is everything changing? They’ll say, “Yeah, of course.” But we don’t act that way. We are programmed for denial. We don’t live our lives, most of us, with the knowledge really centered in our mind upfront that we’re going to die and that everybody we know is going to die. And all the dramas of our lives are just absolutely fleeting, to use a Buddhist expression, like bubbles in a stream. This is all going by very quickly. And if you don’t get comfortable with this uncomfortable reality, you’re going to suffer. And that’s the other big concept that the Buddhist, there are three really main tent poles to Buddhist philosophy, and one of them is impermanence.
And the second is, if you’re acting as if things aren’t going to change, if you’re clinging to things that won’t last in an impermanent and entropic universe, you’re going to suffer. And by suffering, it doesn’t necessarily … That’s a big and unpleasant word. It’s not like you’re going to be chained to a cliff and some crows are going to peck out your innards. It’s more like it’s going to be unsatisfying. If you think that every lick of an ice cream cone is going to do it for you, that’s not actually going to work.
So instead, we just are chasing dopamine hits all the time. We eat more and more and more. We shop more and more and more. We gamble more and more and more. We scroll more and more and more. As again, to quote my meditation teachers, a guy named Joseph Goldstein who likes to ask people, “How many lattes have you sipped? How many vacations have you gone on? How many purchases have you made? And are you done?” Of course not. We’re insatiable. And that’s one aspect of suffering in the Buddhist worldview. And then the final is, and this one can get a little esoteric for people, but it’s the idea that our self, our ego, this inner sense that you have of being a solid entity, a solid mark, actually is an illusion on some fundamental level.
Now, I’m not saying I’m looking at you, Mark, in a digital space version. It’s not a Zoom room, it’s Riverside, I think is the name of the program we’re using. And you and I look like almost exactly the same person, two white guys with slightly graying hair and blue button down shirts on. It’s ridiculous. So I’m looking at you and I’m looking at myself, and we are real on some level, we’re real. Just the way the chairs we’re sitting in are real. But if you were to take a high-powered microscope to the chairs, you would see that fundamentally it’s all spinning subatomic particles and mostly space-
Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s mostly empty space. Right?
Dan Harris: Yeah. So there is no core essence of chair, and there is no core essence of Mark. And you can start to see that when you put the mind under the high-powered microscope of meditation. That can sound hopelessly theoretical, but so what does it mean in your actual life? So there are a million practical benefits, but let me just give you one. Next time you get gripped by a strong desire or a big blast of anger, look for who is experiencing that. Look for the solidity of the anger. Can you claim it as your own? You can’t. It’s like a weather system.
It’s a coming together of atmospheric conditions. There is no core nugget of hurricane that I can grab. It’s just a coming together of conditions. And then they will disentangle, decompose and pass. And that’s a really useful way to see all of these things that dog us about our own minds as this anger that’s coming through isn’t my anger. I don’t need to view it as me. It’s just a passing weather system. As one great monk has said, “To claim these emotions as yours is a misappropriation of public property.”
Dr. Mark Hyman: I love that. I love that. Listening to what you’re talking about, it reminded me of this Viktor Frankl and what he said about the choice we have about how we feel and how we live our lives. And as he’s not a Buddhist, he was a Jewish guy in a concentration camp who basically realized that he had a choice about how to interpret his reality. And he basically said, in between stimulus and response, there lies of pause. And in that pause, lies our freedom. It lies a choice in that freedom, in that choice lies our freedom. And so I think we’re our freedom, which is what we’re talking about here, freedom from suffering, freedom from unhappiness, freedom from all these institutes of being a human being that make us miserable. And we basically torture ourself with, it really has to do with how we see our world.
And what I hear you saying, Dan, is that meditation and the practices that you’re sharing and that are in this beautiful Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness, which is really a beautiful 10 part guided meditation practice with a bunch of editorializing around, which was really fun with you and Dalai Lama and Richie Davidson and Joan Halifax, which are meditation researchers and meditation teachers. You actually can come up with a very different sort of way of feeling and being without having to go off the deep end, but it’s actually a very powerful sort of nugget that you’re sharing.
Dan Harris: I have to say, you do so much of a better job promoting my stuff than I do. I appreciate that. I love talking about esoteric Buddhist ideas and then really trying to help people apply them in their lives. But thank you. I appreciate that. I do want to address something that I could imagine listeners thinking right now, Mark, and you tell me if I’m onto something here. I want to be clear that you look at somebody like the Dalai Lama and you think, “Okay, well, that guy’s always laughing and smiling, and even though he has suffered so much in his life, but that’s not accessible to me.” I don’t know what enlightenment is per se. Most people don’t. I mean, I’m voicing, I think, the thoughts of a skeptical listener right now.
“What is enlightenment? I don’t even care, but it’s not going to happen for me. I got these daily problems and I’ve got shit I got to deal with.” And all of this can sound super theoretical and fluffy. I do come back to the notion of 10% happier. Perfection is not on offer here. I really do retain the capacity to be a schmuck in millions of ways. And I have lots of problems in my life, and we can talk about some of them. I still deal with panic, but you can get marginally happier and better, and you can compound those gains over time.
And that’s the news here that I really am excited to share. Whether it’s producing a course with a Dalai Lama or a podcast on which I’ve interviewed you and I’m about to interview for which I’m about to interview you again, whatever medium I’m working in or doing television, whatever it is, writing books, I’m really just trying to get out that message that there are mental skills, that there are simple practices you can integrate into your life, both formally in meditation and informally in your walking around life that will increase your happiness or reduce your misery. And that you can continue to build on these in ways that I think really do lead, if not in a steady hockey stick, unbroken rise up to the right. It’s more just like a gentle sloping, lots of zigs and zags, because life is filled with vexations and vicissitudes, but an overarching trend line toward more happiness as you get older. That, I think is very possible for people.
Dr. Mark Hyman: I think that’s a beautiful message. And I think you want to lean into thinking about what are the practices and tools we can use in our own lives to actually move that needle? And I think I’d just encourage you to check out the Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness as an app. It’s beautiful, it’s simple, it’s fun, it’s easy, and I really loved it. Honestly, it was so accessible and not woowoo. And it really gave people a roadmap to get started, which is often what people wonder, “Okay, this sounds great. I want to be more compassionate. I want to love myself more. I want to love others better. I want to not have my monkey mind running my life. I want to not be constantly buffeted about by the world. What do I do?” And this is the answer to what do I do? And it’s a beautiful doorway to help people to actually get access to that knowledge that’s really ancient, but it’s really …
We are so good at outer technology in the west, but Tibetans were a sealed off culture for thousands of years plus and developed a massive inner technology. And this is really what we’re talking about and the science around, it’s so powerful. The work of Richard Davidson to document the biology and the physiology and the neurobiological states of happiness and meditation is amazing. And there’s a book, actually, I’m sure you’re aware of, called Altered States by Richard and Dan Goleman, who’s a friend, and basically maps out for those skeptics how this actually works. If you do an actual bicep curl on regular enough basis, you’re going to build your muscle. Same thing with these practices. And they’re not inaccessible to us. The one thing I did want to talk about, which is I think about a lot, which is people have really struggled with severe trauma or issues that seem to be sort of beyond meditation.
And I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the work of a guy named Dan Brown from Harvard who recently died who was a psychologist, but he was also a Buddhist scholar. He spoke fluent Tibetan. He understood both worlds. And he realized that some things you just can’t meditate your way directly out of. And he created a model for people with severe personality disorders, people who’ve been sexually abused, traumatized, really horrible things, people with addiction, people with really complex trauma and with personality disorders, which, for my world as a doctor, are untreatable.
So is a narcissistic personality or dissociative personality or borderline personality disorder. These are things that just seem really recalcitrant when it comes to any kind of medical intervention. And yet, he found a model that incorporated meditation, but he used sort of a whole series of steps to break through those things. So I just wonder, when do people need to go beyond just meditation to work through some of those really deeper things that we suffer from? Because the giant pool of us are mostly just neurotic and screwed up, but then there’s ones who are really, really damaged and have really suffered.
Dan Harris: I mean, I think you’re onto something really important here. And I think early on in this conversation, I was saying I’m not a meditation fundamentalist, that I don’t think it’s the only thing you can or should do to boost your happiness. And there are so many people who have … I’m not one of them, I’m happy to say. I feel lucky to be able to say that I don’t have severe trauma, either childhood trauma or otherwise, but there are so many people who do. And for them, I think meditation can be very, very helpful. But I think, from what I can tell, and I’m not a mental health professional, but I interview mental health professionals for a living, from what I can tell, if you do it within the setting of highly qualified therapists, then it can be just another tool, another arrow for your quiver. And it’s not going to fix everything, but it can really be a key part of whatever you’re doing to feel better, to get better.
But again, to have it embedded within … I’m all for when it’s working with qualified people, therapy, medication, if it’s indicated as you talk about so much and so helpfully working on issues around what kind of food you’re taking in. And as I’ve mentioned before, obviously, sleep, nature, the power of your relationships, this all kind of adds up to what I sometimes refer to as a pantheon of no-brainers. And we should all be pulling all of these levers, whether we’re just the sort of worried well, the garden variety neurotic, or we’ve got real trauma that we have to work through. These tools are available to all of us. And it’s about figuring out what works best for you.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, right. Well, there’s two other things I wanted to talk to you about now, because they were highlighted in your series, the Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness and they’re kind of related. One was self-criticism, and the other is judgment of others basically. And what they do to our biology and how certain practices like meditation can help us work through them. Because if we were to actually say out loud what our inner, I call it our inner … is saying to ourselves, people would think we’re crazy, or if we’d said it to our friends as if it were them, we wouldn’t have any friends. We do that all the time to ourselves. And that has real consequences. Actually, I don’t know if you know the word abracadabra obviously, but know where that word comes from?
Dan Harris: No.
Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s Hebrew and it means I create the world through my words. Basically, I speak the world into being. In other words, you say this … to yourself and you actually reinforce it. So talk about that sort of self aspect. Then I want you to talk about all the people in our life who drive us crazy and how they can actually be a seed for good in our lives and teachers.
Dan Harris: One of the biggest, most powerful and impactful changes in my life has come over the last five years, I would say. So I started meditating in 2009, wasn’t really until 2018 or ’19 that I started to get into something called self-compassion, which can sound, I don’t know, either masturbatory or plain boring. But self-compassion is a very interesting field of study right now. Yeah, I think you could even use the word self-love, which is even more annoying but …
Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s all right. I don’t mind it.
Dan Harris: You don’t? Okay, good. Well, I do because I’m a jerk. So I’ve never liked terms like self-compassion or self-love-
Dr. Mark Hyman: Wait a minute, isn’t that just self-criticism? I’m a jerk. Didn’t you just do that?
Dan Harris: Yes. Tongue in cheek. Tongue in cheek. Although I used to say things like that and mean it. So this goes to my answer to your question. I was intensely self-critical and still am. And I think this is very common, especially among ambitious people. And we think we have, I think this assumption, again, either conscious or otherwise, that we need an inner drill sergeant, an inner cattle prod in order to get anything done. But the work of the pioneers in self-compassion, including Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, the work of these two geniuses has shown that actually if you can gently escort the inner drill sergeant off the stage and replace them with an inner coach, you are more likely to succeed.
An inner coach who has your back and is completely willing to point out when you’ve messed up, but is not running you down and telling you that you’re worthless every time. And there are many, many practices for self-compassion, including specific forms of meditation or just deliberately trying to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a good friend or in my case, noticing the difference between the way I talk to my eight-year-old son and the way I talk to myself. And then trying to talk to myself in ways that are much closer to that than my habitual self laceration.
By the way, you can accompany talking to yourself in a supportive way by putting your hand on your chest or on your heart, which I long rejected as irredeemably goofy, but actually again, a ton of data to support that this can really help. And so if you can develop these self-compassionate skills, you are more likely to be effective in your life and achieve your goals and happy. And this goes to the second part of your question, Dr. Mark, which is, what does this have to do with other people and it has everything to do with other people. Because we live in this constant exchange with the world and this feedback loop. What I’ve learned is that all the ways in which I’m making myself miserable show up in my relationships with other people. I’m too hard on them. I’m snarky. I have this kind of serrated humor. I’m emotionally guarded. And as I got inner weather-
Dr. Mark Hyman: It sounds like a [inaudible 01:00:56] humor. It sounds like a knife.
Dan Harris: Yes. That’s what I mean. As my inner weather has gotten [inaudible 01:01:05], my relationships have improved and then my inner weather gets even nicer and my relationships improved even further. And that’s the cheesy upward spiral I was talking about before. And you can apply this to very, very annoying people. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a doormat or you have to invite these people over for dinner or accept the things they’re doing that are unacceptable. It just means you don’t have to walk around saddled with rage and resentment, which is not going to help you anyway, as is often said. That kind of attitude in the mind is taking poison and hoping the other person dies.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, exactly. When you begrudge your resentment, it’s like that. You think you’re making something bad happen to them, but actually, you’re just causing harm to yourself.
Dan Harris: Absolutely. And so we want to be able to take affirmative action in the world. We want to be able to be useful and helpful in the world and stand up for things that we care about. But what mind state do you want to be operating out of? Fear, rage, stress or caring for yourself and others, even the people you disagree with. You might be able to see and increasingly, I’ve been able to see that if I came out of that womb and was subject to the conditions of the life of the person with whom I disagree, I might be doing the exact same thing. And so I don’t have to agree with them, but I don’t need to demonize them, which only just adds extra weight into my pack, which I don’t want to carry. And so all of this I’ve found is really helpful. Just having a better relationship with myself, improving my relationships to other people, all of this. And I’m not perfect at this, but it’s very beneficial when I can practice it.
Dr. Mark Hyman: And the beautiful thing about it, it’s free. You don’t have to buy supplements, you don’t have to get a gym membership, you don’t use anything. I mean, your online app I think is free. The whole thing was free online. Right?
Dan Harris: The Dalai Lama thing is totally free. If you want to go deeper, we’ll charge you but not that much. And my podcast like your podcast is totally free. So yeah, it shouldn’t cost you much money and it can be totally free. And that’s like many of the best things in life.
Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s beautiful. Okay, so how’s your practice changed in meditation over the years? And then I want to talk about your experience being with the Dalai Lama and what actually is his secret? What are his practices? How does he get to be the way he is? Because he’s very funny. He’s really always full of joy and always happy. And despite having his culture smashed and destroyed by the Chinese and just seems like he is full of joy.
Dan Harris: He is. And I’m such dyed in the wool skeptic. My whole training is a skeptical newsman and question everybody. I first met him back in 2010, and I know you’ve spent time with him too, but the first time I met him I went in there thinking, “This is the guy with the goofy laugh. And everybody gets all sentimental around him and he’s a religious figure and I’m an agnostic.” And so I came in pretty skeptical and every time I come back to interview him, I always come back with a little bit of that journalistic remove that my conditioning often pushes me in the direction of approaching everything that way. And every time I’m like, “No, this guy’s incredible.” And it’s not like he’s in denial about the pain and suffering of the world or the pain of suffering he’s endured.
I mean, remember, this is a guy who was driven out of his own country by a Chinese invasion and has watched his people get traumatized in some profound ways and is very tuned in to all of the world’s ugliness, and yet, is just really lighthearted and rubbery when you’re around him. And so how does he do that? And I think the answer is, from what I can tell, is this counterintuitive magic of compassion. What is compassion? And it’s a psychological term and technically, the way it’s thought of is empathy, which is feeling other people’s feelings. This is naturally wired into us. We have these mirror neurons in the brain that help us feel the feelings of other people around us. However, if you do that in the wrong way-
Dr. Mark Hyman: Unless you’re a sociopath.
Dan Harris: … you get burned out. Well right, exactly. Those guys, they tend to look at people as objects, but most of us are not sociopaths or psychopaths. And so we feel other people’s feelings. But if you do that in the wrong way, you can get burned out or you can shut yourself down because it’s painful. But compassion is empathy plus the desire to help. And this is a skill. So when you add on the desire to help, it puts you in an ennobling empowered position, even if there’s nothing you can do to help, it’s just the desire to see the suffering of people around you alleviated. And so compassion is a skill that can be generated through meditation where you do practices, where you just envision the people around you or suffering and you repeat phrases like may you be free from suffering, may you be free from pain, may you be free from anger. And this may sound like a forced and somewhat trickly exercise, but it is another kind of bicep curl for your brain.
And it’s the kind of practice that Dalai Lama has been doing since, I don’t know, age seven or eight, so 80 years now. And when you’re around him, you can tell something is different. And I was really struck, and you can see a little bit of this in the video series we produced, but you actually hear quite a bit more in the companion podcast that we produced for my podcast where you really hear people around the Dalai Lama while we were with him, we spent about two weeks in his orbit. You hear people like losing it in his presence. And I’m not talking about just Tibetan followers of his. I’m talking about people on my team, my cameraman who I’ve worked with for 20 years and covered school shootings with and wars and political campaigns, Tommy Kay, the Irish guy from Delaware, didn’t know anything about the Dalai Lama.
First day we spent with the Dalai Lama, and you can hear all of this in this little podcast series we did, he’s shooting with the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama is doing a public audience where he’s greeting people, locals who were coming by to get a blessing from him. And Tommy is standing there just shooting it for a couple of hours. And when he is done, Tommy, this unflappable cameraman who’s seen it all, puts the camera down, comes over to me, is shaking and crying and gives me a hug and says, “Thank you for bringing me. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
And that was just one story. And I think that it goes back to the thing we talked about right at the top here, which is that we are wired for compassion. It is the central feature of the human experience, compassion or love or whatever, just the capacity to give a shit. We are wired for that. And when you’re around a pure beam of it, when you’re around somebody who’s been practicing for 80 years, and if you believe Tibetan faith, 14 lifetimes, it can undo you. And it’s very powerful and it’s a thing we may not realize we need, but this fundamental human need to be seen, understood, cared about. When you’re around somebody who is just that good at it, it’s remarkable.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So like the Michael Jordan of happiness.
Dan Harris: He is, and just to fully answer your question, I promise is the last thing I was going to say is just that how can you be happy in the midst of that suffering? It’s because you’re doing the empathy plus the desire to help and that’s compassion. And that allows you to be with the suffering of the world and feel okay because you are, you’re training the mind toward altruism, not shutting down. And by the way, that also leaves you more open to the many awesome things about being alive. Like the Dalai Lama likes little cakes and tea, he likes his big breakfasts and he makes jokes about going to the bathroom. And so it kind of opens you up for all of it.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, Danny, when you’re talking about with compassion, because as a doctor, it is what I do every day is. Be with the suffering of others and get it and try to help them. The most profound experience I think I’ve ever had of just bliss, and it sounds crazy to say this, and really deep, profound happiness was when I went to Haiti after the earthquake. We were the first medical team on the ground in the main hospital in Port-au-Prince,there were 300,000 dead, 300,000 wounded. The scale was just unimaginable, far more than any war you could imagine. I don’t know how many people died in all the wars and in the US history, I think it’s like 600,000 or something. And this was like 600,000 in a day. And I got there and we just had to dive in and start to help people and we’re working 20 hours a day and it was horrific.
People had lost everything and lost their homes, their limbs, their lives, their families. But just getting out of my little Mark world and being in service and helping others, it was a weird experience of being in this horrific environment and yet feeling a deep sense of joy and happiness and peace. And it was kind of a weird paradox, even to say it, it sounds strange. Like what are you talking about? How do you go to a place like that and feel good? It was really because I was just sort of immersed in the act of helping and serving and being compassionate and having these beautiful moments with people. And it was just so moving to me and to see how humans respond in that way and how they helped each other. And it’s sort of what life’s about. And I think we started the podcast talking about love. I think we ended talking about love because, at the end of the day, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney said love is all there is.
Dan Harris: I’m a huge Beatles fan. I used to be super skeptical about that. Love is all you need. What do you mean? You need to go to the dentist too. And there’s lots of other things we need, but actually going to the dentist is an act of love. It’s a self-love. You’re taking care of yourself. Love is all you need if you understand love properly. And what you said about Haiti is beautiful. I was there too as a journalist and it was horrifying. But I can see exactly how that worked for you because in heightened acts of service, there’s no room for the existential crisis. There’s no room for the Mark neurosis. You’re just helping people. And it goes back to what we were talking about before. It’s like this incredible … We talk about all the bugs in the human design, but this incredible feature, which is what is good for us, is good for other people and what is good for other people is good for us. And that’s why selfishness and …
Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s why selfishness. Yeah, there you go. And I think next time reach for that cookie or that cigarette or that bottle of alcohol, just think that maybe you should stop and do something good for somebody else and that might give you the same joy and pleasure without all harmful side effects. So Dan, thank you. Amazing for your work. Your work is just, it’s just so beautiful. You’re just such a perfect voice for this message and you’re bringing it to so many people and your latest iteration, the Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness is accessible, easy, fun, funny, and anchor everybody to check it out.
It won’t take long to go through it, and it might just be the beginning of a much happier life for you. Also, check out Dan’s podcast, 10% Happier, which is awesome. And his book, 10% Happier and his new book, which is coming out hopefully in the next a hundred years, maybe called Me, A Love Story or maybe something else. Keep an eye for it. We’ll have you back on the podcast to talk about that. And I’m just so grateful for you and what you do in the world.
Dan Harris: I’m grateful to you. Thank you. And I’m looking forward to you being on my podcast very soon.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Thank you. And okay, everybody, if you love this podcast, please share it with everybody. I think everybody in the world needs to hear this and leave a comment how you use meditation or mindfulness practices to enhance your life. What did you learn from it? And we’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Closing: Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.