Dear Dan Harris (and the crew at Ten Percent Happier)

I have been using your wonderful app for almost three years, listening to your podcasts, and I’ve read both of your books. Because of you and your work, I meditate daily and have the most amazing crew of teachers at my fingertips. You have probably done more to make Vipassana/Mindfulness accessible to an entire nation than any one person in a long time. 

For the entire time that I have been using the Ten Percent Happier app, I have often felt distressed by the many discussions of sugar (in all its forms), sugar addicts, and how to attempt to live without sugar. A while ago, on one of your weekly challenges, your guest suggested using behavior modification as a way to create distance from sugar intake. I remember thinking that as knowledgeable as this person is, she didn’t know or understand the definition of addiction. Yet, they seem to understand alcoholism and drug addiction. I’m quite sure that this same person would not suggest treating alcoholism by having one beer a day. The other day I heard Jeff W. talk about chocolate as if it were the same as getting a splinter (my words, not his). Maybe for him, it is. A small annoyance but not much more than that. Also, maybe for him, a small taste of chocolate is a genuine pleasure. I want to make clear that I know that no one on your show thinks of themselves as the one true answer or that they are “recommending” a certain kind of treatment. I am talking about the chatter, the back and forth of questions and answers, and the inadvertent throwing in of a substance, that in a listener’s mind, could be the same as permission if they just meditated enough. 

These smart, educated people still seem to think that letting go of sugar has something to do with willpower. Yet, in all this time, I’ve never once heard anyone on Ten Percent refer to a glass of wine (straight sugar), a beer (grains), an oxycontin, or marijuana in the same way as they talk about sugar. There is respect for the danger that those substances have on a whole group of people that you don’t seem to have for sugar. Just as you have a substantial group of listeners who are recovering from alcoholism, you also have a substantial group of people who are recovering from sugar and food addiction. I am speaking for this group of people.

I, personally, have not had sugar or grains in fifteen years. When I hear Jeff or Dan talk about chocolate, I wince but I’m not tempted to kill myself. Then I think of other people newly off sugar, listening to people who they consider experts talk about sugar as if it weren’t a life and death deal, as if you can let go one day, binge, and go right back to abstaining the next day. Back in the 1980s, I went to a one-day retreat with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock. One of the things we did that day was mindful eating. He had us put one raisin in our mouth and chew as slowly as possible. Many people got a great deal of pleasure out of this. Me, newly abstaining from sugar and hoping against hope that I wasn’t a sugar addict?, well it set off months of obsessive sugar thinking and binging. None of us knew any better at the time. But we do now. Jack would never have asked us to savor wine in our mouths without at least a warning that this is not appropriate for alcoholics. But I suspect, knowing Jack, he wouldn’t even take that chance. No one would. We know too much about alcoholism. Now we know about sugar addiction.

I’m not suggesting that everyone who listens to your podcasts and meditations reacts to sugar the way I do. Any more than all listeners of your show are alcoholics. Yet, you seem to respect that talking about alcohol in less than a serious way could easily trigger and harm a substantial group of your listeners, so you don’t do it.

I think you need to consider the impact that you have on your listeners when you talk about sugar. Sugar and grains are the same ingredients that are in alcohol. Why wouldn’t you give sugar the same respect you give liquid sugar and grains?

Dear Dan Harris et al, there are a ton of us out in the listening world who love you and what you are doing with Ten Percent; that you have expanded from the basics of meditation, to the teachings of Buddhist concepts, to offerings of western psychology. Why don’t you talk to us, the experts on sugar addiction? We are sugar addicts in recovery. We aren’t guessing, we aren’t opinionating, and we aren’t putting forth possible behavioral solutions unless we have personal experience. We’ve been to hell and we’ve come back. Many of us use the combination of twelve steps, meditation, and therapy to NEVER forget where we’ve been and could easily go back to. 

Please give sugar, all that white stuff, grains, liquid and hard ingredients of alcohol, the respect it deserves. As you, Dan Harris, have said many times, “sugar is poison”. When was the last time you had to use behavior modification to convince someone that it is not healthy to put cyanide in their tea? 

Just askin’

With gratitude for your app and how you have devoted your life to our betterment. Can you take the next step? I realize this is just my opinion but having lived with food and sugar addiction for all of my life, I do feel strongly about it.

Thank you for reading,

Sara Somers

Author: Saving Sara; A Memoir of Food Addition (SheWritesPress 2020). Psychotherapist in California for thirty-five years before moving to Paris.

Food Junkies Podcast: 

and many other interviews I’d be happy to provide if interested. Out My Window: My Life in Paris

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Watching the World Cup and knowing next to nothing about Soccer/Fûtbol

I have lived in Paris for nine years as of Nov. 5th. Before that time I had not really paid attention to Fûtbol for more than a couple of hours. Many people have mistaken me for a sports fan. This is because I’m crazy about baseball. In California, I was an Oakland A’s season ticket holder and went to 50-55 home games a season (plus one or two road trips). I knew (still know) statistics backward and forwards and loved talking baseball anytime I could.

This does not make me a sports fan. I dislike American football. The concept of grown men charging each other, getting concussions, and entire campuses spawning criminal activity is beyond my comprehension. Basketball is too fast. It requires 100% focus for the entire game. I’ll leave the Olympics out for now. What I love about baseball is that it is like a dance, a ballet. It is teamwork. It is blue skies and a summer day. It is sitting with your baseball family and shutting out the world.

Here in France, there is Fûtbol, Rugby, and Tennis. Tennis I could watch in the States but don’t. Rugby, I still think of as an English game that I’ve never taken to—although it does make more sense than American football. Then there is the world’s most popular game known by many names depending on where you live: soccer, fûtbol, le fût, etc. Les Bleus (France) are one game away from being repeat champions of the World Cup 2022.

After all this time, (and maybe missing baseball), I finally wanted to know what is going on down on the field. I found Soccer for Dummies in my virtual library. Beyond the obvious, that the team with the most goals wins, I’ve learned that there are eleven players on the field. One is the goalie. The other ten are the ones talked about: defense, midfielders, and forward. Watching a game, I couldn’t have told you who was who until I watched Morocco vs France. For the whole month leading up to the semi-final, Morocco had let one goal in. Their defense is incredible. They seemed like worker ants buzzing around the enemy blocking all means of entrance, defending their goalie and their net. It was a thing of beauty. I realized that soccer is also like a dance. I could like this game. Kylian Mbappé, the twenty-three-year-old star of Les Bleus, moves with such grace. While others fall and feign agony, Mbappé never does that. Mbappé, once a midfielder and now a forward can go on the attack scoring goals. These players never stop moving for ninety minutes with a time-out at half-time. Ask an outfielder for the Oakland A’s if he could not stop moving and running for ninety minutes. Well, I don’t know what he would say but I know what he should say.

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On Sunday night, 4 pmCET. THIS WAS INCORRECT IN ORIGINAL POSTING. France will play Argentina for the World Cup Championship. There is a true superstar playing for Argentina who also happens to play for Paris Saint-Germain for a living. Lionel Messi. I gather this will be his swan song World Cup and many are saying he should be given all the awards: Best Player, most goals. There are others besides Messi and Mbappé who are teammates during the year and it must take a true professional to play next to a teammate who just took the World Cup away from your country. In trying to understand what to expect and why someone is great, I read this in the Guardian about Lionel Messi “A major part of the problem is knowing where Messi will spring up. He will almost certainly be part of a front two, alongside Julián Álvarez. But he drifts on the periphery of the game, suddenly appearing, perhaps centrally, perhaps on the right, perhaps deep, perhaps high up. At various times, he will flit into the zones for which Theo Hernandez, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and Adrien Rabiot (or Youssouf Fofana) are responsible. But how you stop somebody such as Messi, who can confound a player as good as Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol with his dribbling, or split a defense with a preposterous pass that nobody else could have seen, let alone executed, as he did against the Netherlands? It may not be possible by tactical means.”

Then I read this about Kylian Mbappé: Just as the first question for any side facing Argentina is how to stop Messi, so the first question any side facing France must ask is how to stop Kylian Mbappé. As with Messi, there is a sense that once he gets the ball, he can do almost anything, as his two goals against Poland demonstrated. But Mbappé, brilliant as he is, is a more conventional talent than Messi. His pace is his greatest asset, so one option is to sit deep against him and deny him space to run into, as Kyle Walker did in the quarter-final.

But what Morocco showed in the semi is that Mbappé can be transformed into a (temporary) weakness. Achraf Hakimi took Mbappé on, surging down the right to link up with Hakim Ziyech. Only after Marcus Thuram had been introduced and Mbappé moved to the middle was that avenue closed down. Mbappé rarely tracked Hakimi and that left Hernandez, not the most natural defender, exposed. Argentina’s Nahuel Molina is not an attacking right-back in the manner of Hakimi, but he was the recipient of Messi’s brilliant pass against the Netherlands; he can get forward. It’s a gamble, and it’s understandable why full-backs would be wary of deserting Mbappé, but at least at times it’s probably worth calling his bluff and trying to create overloads against Hernandez”

I will not be able, in this game at least, to be able to see someone run, think through his options, and perform at the skill level of these two. But I will be able to appreciate that I am watching greatness.

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A bientôt,



Walking the Talk

(To my readers: this is longer than my usual blog but well worth your reading!)

Mathieu Yème is the oldest son of my friend, Barbara. I’m writing about him today because he is a remarkable man and I’m going to ask you to help him out this Christmas season. 

Mathieu was born in Paris and raised, bilingual, in the Burgundy area of France. He studied engineering in France and Brazil and holds a degree in Engineering. He also speaks five languages! Until a few years ago, he worked in Aachen, Germany as a well-respected engineer with projects all over the EU (pre-Brexit). He took a year off with the blessings of his workplace (who paid him a stipend), and traveled the world with his then girlfriend. They would stay in countries long enough to work somewhere, usually as volunteers, learn the culture, how they grew food and sustained their lives. You can read about their amazing trip at

With all this information knocking around inside of him, Mathieu decided to do what many of us would love to do but don’t have the courage.

He quit his job to be a better citizen on our planet.

Mathieu Yème

After some self-questioning about how to best use all that he has learned, he landed in the Périgord-Limousin region of France.  He bought land with nine other like-minded people. They are growing food without using machines, without chemicals, and with huge love.

Although this is a collective, there are individual projects that each person is responsible for. Mathieu has decided to concentrate on berries, to build a business that could possibly begin to support them. 

Why berries? Because berries are delicious and who doesn’t love berries?

The following is an interview with Mathieu. He has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to get started on planting this Winter. If he can raise enough funds, he can buy the shrubs and get them in the ground by February. Mathieu is a committed, dedicated and humble man. If he says he will do something, he will do it. I hope that you will consider a Christmas gift to him and his collective. His success could inspire more people to do what they are doing and wouldn’t that be wonderful for our planet? Go to:

(Mathieu has written in French and English. If you are an English speaker, scroll past the French. There are several sections explaining the project in detail).

In return, you will benefit when the berries come to fruition. Pun intended! Mathieu says when you are in France, you are always welcome to visit them and get a tour.

The land waiting for the shrubs!!

These are Mathieu’s words. I have only edited for grammar and conciseness.

1–Why is your berry project important in our society today?
I think it is important because my project is part of a bigger collective endeavour. Ten of us bought a common piece of land. We cooperate together to lead good lives in our territory. To do so, we acknowledge that speaking about ethics and values is important, embodying our values to make it happen for real is essential. Since example is often the best teacher, we perhaps need more true stories to push us to action. We want to share that story with you one day. A story of cooperation, abundance, autonomy and resilience, good life, sharing…

2–You used to work as an engineer.  How has engineering informed your decision to devote your life to “working without machines, with living soil, on small surfaces and with a lot of love”

I want to work without machines because machines harm the soil. I want to take care of the soil because the soil takes care of our plants and therefore of us. As I also want to take care of myself, I will focus on smaller surfaces to limit the damage. Smaller and slower solutions fit my values and vision better.
I guess my inspiration came more from my permaculture training, travels, and several experiences on farms than my engineering training. For sure, engineering helps me do the math, understand the pros and cons and thus decide rationally what solution is a priori technically best within a given context. But brain work is not sufficient. My inspiration comes from my guts and my heart. Brain, guts and heart agree on working without machines, with living soil and with a lot of love.
Last but not least, it also makes the berries grow healthier and taste better.

3–Is this similar to what the hippies did back in the 70s when they lived on communes and lived off the land? How is it different?
Good question and hard for me to say, since I was not there back in the 70s. Nevertheless, my project and our collective initiatives do not appear from nowhere. I am sure the hippies inspired us in a way. Communes inspire us. As a matter fact the ten of us met through an association named “la Commune Imaginée du Bandiat” ( Many real stories inspired us all.
What might be similar is the collective action and the dreams for a free and brighter future.
What is different is this context/ I want to hope. I think our society also needs hope. To be perfectly honest, as far as I am concerned, it is not easy nowadays to be 100% optimistic when it comes to our collective future. Ecological destruction, social injustice, biodiversity collapse, resource depletion and related increasing scarcity, tensions on energy supply, authoritarianism and war… The list goes on and I do not want to give up on hope. We feel a compelling urge for action and for change.

4–Why did you choose berries to begin your new model of making the existing one obsolete?
I chose berries, not so much to make the older model obsolete but because I still have a foot in the current model. In the current social model, money plays a substantial role. I will cultivate berries to generate income. I want to share this income to support our collective initiatives and concretely participate in the dynamics of our local economy. In return, our local economy -economy in a broad sense- allows us to depend less and less on money. When money plays a secondary role in the definition of our material conditions of existence, we depend less and less on the current model, we make it obsolete.

5–What is the most important thing that you want your investors and friends to know about you and this project?
I want you to know that it is possible to say “STOP”. When I quit my job, I knew I wanted to meet others, find land, and grow towards more autonomy, resilience, reconnection, regeneration, and federation. Everywhere, people of good will inspire us to love and act, to prefer care and cooperation to hate and competition. And yes, we can do it so let’s do it. 

6–Are you using any existing models either in France or the US as examples to guide you?
The forest inspires me a lot. Permaculture inspires me a lot; it is so wide, so complex. Farms and the collectives I visited all over the world and had the opportunity to do volunteer work for, also inspired me a lot. The next inspirations will come from careful observation and interaction with the land.

7--Why should people who don’t know you give you money?
If you have money, you can spend it. When you spend money, you also make a decision, a decision that influences the world we live in. If you feel we have values in common and you also hope for a brighter future, I offer you the opportunity to support a grassroots project that embodies our values to progressively realise our dreams. You can humbly choose to make dreams come true.

8–What have I not asked you that you would really like people to know?
Your questions are really good! Under other circumstances, I would take a longer time to answer such questions. I did my best to keep my answers as short as I could. Obviously, what led me to answering your questions today is a long process, several years of exploration. If people want to know more, I would be more than happy to dive into more details!
Meanwhile, please know that you are more than welcome in our green Périgord-Limousin.

If, after you have read this and the crowdfunding site which is full of information, you would like to know more about Mathieu or contact him, please write me in the comments and I will forward on to him. Meanwhile, let’s help make his dreams come true.There will be delicious berries in our future!


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A bientôt,


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