Chances are, if you have any sort of problem, someone at some point has told you to try meditation for it. And maybe you even decided to give it a try, but quickly gave up when you were instructed to “empty your mind.” Perhaps you decided to try visualization instead, but kept populating your tranquil gardens with velociraptors when you got bored.

Or maybe I’m just talking about myself. Meditation and I have a rocky history. One memorable bad experience was signing up for what I thought would be a dance class but turned into a 1.5 hour long guided movement meditation with our eyes closed… and I couldn’t sneak out because I was in the opposite corner from the door.
I’m a pretty skeptical, non-spiritual person and I have a busy mind that’s always thinking about story ideas or problems I’m working through or dogs I’d like to pet. Or food. I’m pretty much always thinking about food.
So when my new therapist suggested I try meditation, I tried to brush her off. “Been there done that,” I said. “It’s not for me.”
Then she mentioned she was reading a book called Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris (with Jeff Warren and Carlye Adler). Well, Fidgety Skeptic is a pretty apt description of me so I decided to give it a try.
Harris, Warren, Adler, and the rest of their 10% Happier team are on a mission to make meditation accessible to everyone. Science has shown that meditation and mindfulness have tons of benefits, but a lot of people aren’t interested. There’s a lot of reasons why people don’t want to meditate:
-Lack of time
-Bad past experiences
-The idea that it might not gel with their religion
-Concerns that meditation is only for touchy-feely hippies
-Worries that their brain will just never stop moving at a mile a minute
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics attempts to bust all of these myths, while providing helpful meditations to work into your every day life. There’s even one called “Taking Back Lazy” that’s designed to do while vegging out on the couch, maybe snuggling with a loved one and/or pet.
If you’re looking for a book that gets deep into the scientific proof for the benefits of meditation, this is not that book. The assumption here is that you already believe meditation is good for people, you’re just on the fence about whether it’s right for you.
I enjoyed Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics because it has a light, self-depreciating tone. The authors are pretty aware of how ridiculous meditation can feel, especially for a beginner.
This book is built around the framework of a road trip the authors took to promote meditation and get material for their social channels and the book itself. Each chapter focused on a stop on the tour, and a meditation challenge they encountered from someone they met along the way. The chapters also include example meditations.
As an added bonus, if you have a smart phone you can get all of the meditations in the book (and then some) on the 10% Happier app.
I really like the guided meditations on the app because they take a similar tone to the book. I had tried another meditation app and it was too stereotypical. Too much tranquil voice, too much visualization. Most of the meditations in 10% Happier feature Jeff Warren, who talks like a normal guy. It feels more like listening to a podcast or Ted Talk.
I’m pleased to say that thanks to the book and app, I’m coming up on 3 weeks of daily meditation.
The big takeaways from this book is that you don’t have to sit and meditate for an hour, and you don’t have to empty your mind. The key isn’t to not think, it’s to acknowledge your thoughts and not dwell on them. As such, instead of feeling like you’ve failed every time you catch yourself thinking, you feel like you’ve succeeded, because the goal isn’t to not think, it’s to get on track after you think.
If you’ve wanted to give meditation a try, or improve your existing meditation habits and feel like you’re not finding a lot of common-sense advice, give Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics a try.
Pros: An easy, fun read with practical advice.
Cons: Light on the scientific facts, only covers mindfulness and not other forms of meditation.
Conclusion: This is a great guide for anyone looking to learn to meditate without also taking up a spiritual practice.
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