Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

wylo , modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 4:37 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 4:34 PM

Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 166 Join Date: 11/18/11 Recent Posts
Im wondering does anyone here have a software development job or does alot of computer programming in general?

I fell out of meditation practice for quite a while, and I am looking to build up my motivation to begin again, I have started small and going to work from there. The problem is it feels like my job clashes with ever being an excellent practitioner. 

When coding, especially in a work/pressured environment you get stuck in a series of problems, quite often you have to build an entire model in your head and hold that thought for quite some time while solving a smaller problem within that model/thought. In other words you have to be good at believing the content of your mind and getting lost in it.

There is also an incredible amount of mental activity when doing alot of coding, constant ideas, thoughts, motivations , puzzles in the head etc, and the more you get into it the less quiet your mind is. Almost like you spend the entire day trying to work in the opposite way that meditation has your mind work.

This isnt an issue that arose over night, it took time for it develop, although it could be argued that part of that was that my interest in coding took a very strong lead over anything else for a while.

Can i ask is there anyone here in that line of work that practice too and consider themselves highly skilled practictioners?
Dave sdfsdf, modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 5:38 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 5:36 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 216 Join Date: 11/4/14 Recent Posts
Im a coder and can relate. Not a skilled practioner. Ive gone into focusing on bodily awareess, yoga etc to break the habit of mental constructions. I model systems in the brain automatically, read tons of codes and creates abstract constructs etc, same with political, e onllic, religious systems, im an excellent system analyst and deconstructor.
In reggie rays touching enlightenment he writes that the usual suggestion on focusing on breath can have negative effect on progress for those that are very mind focused. It can reinforce the mental activities. He recommends body focus. In his course mahamudra for the modern world there is a focus on somatic practises. Breathing execercises, 10 point body awareness and what not.
SeTyR ZeN, modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 8:51 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 8:51 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 113 Join Date: 9/9/14 Recent Posts
Hi guys, i'm exactly and desperatly in the same position, and can correlate too;
Thank you Andreas for the body focus tip. 
Not Tao, modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 9:22 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 9:22 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Hey guys,

I'm a coder too (flash game designer emoticon) and I haven't had trouble developing the jhanas.  Thinking isn't an enemy, it's the stress that is.  You know that point when you're coding and you just can't figure something out?  ( My dad calls it "thrashing about" haha...) That's a great opportunity to learn patience and how to "be here now" - it's the desire to have a solution that causes the stress, not the search for it.  I really used to bang my head against the wall with things, or get so tense.  That frustration is desire and clinging, itself.  You really WANT that solution, you know?  If that wanting goes away, you could search for it forever and be perfectly content, no?  So train yourself to spot it, and train yourself to let go of it, and then you can program quite serenely all day long.

Mindfulness isn't stopping your thoughts and maintaining a specific state of awareness - it's learning to watch yourself for stress and releasing that stress and clinging.

Also, when you're done with work, be completely done with work.  You don't need to be programming on your way home in the car, and in the shower before bed, and at 3:30 in the morning when you can't sleep, etc.
Steve, modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 10:18 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 10:13 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 24 Join Date: 12/31/14 Recent Posts
That is the closest to what I would say for myself.

There has been a lot of research that people often come up with spontaneous solutions after analyzing a problem HARD, then relaxing.   That has happened to me.  Meditation, walking or taking a drive with no distractions will give me that kind of solution producing relaxation.

I don't think the kind of mindfulness during your day that Thich Nhat Hanh recommends blends well with thought intensive work like programming.   

However, I've found that Ajahn Brahm style breaks of simply being in the present moment and doing nothing with your mind often helps.   A number of time during the day I might get frustrated.   That will prevent me from relaxing, slowing down and looking at code slowly, writing comments down and letting my mind work.   Other times, I will procrastinate doing a task that seems overwhelming.

During those times I will just stop, fix my eyes at a point on my screen, and mentally "do nothing".   If thoughts popup I will let them pop into my head without resistance, knowing that my mind will settle on its own, like cloudy apple juice in a glass.  I try to let go/relax.  I may do this for 5 minutes a number of times a day.  Sometimes as long as 15 minutes when things get bad.  That may sound like a lot, but it is nothing compared to surfing the web (which usually fries my brain more, with switching back and forth between tasks ) or going to chat with a friend.

Sometimes I will go to the mens room and when I am done site there for a few minutes relaxing, letting go, and doing nothing with my mind.

On really tough days I will take my lunch break in my car and meditate for 20 minutes ( it only takes me about 10 minutes to eat ).

In any event, you get the idea.  Instead of trying to be mindful all day long Thich Nhat Haht style, I just stop when I need to, let go, relax, and let my mind do nothing.   This usually refreshes me, helps slow down my thoughts, helps me see solutions, and helps me go home in a calmer, better mood.  The key is to RELAX and not try to do anything. Do with your mind what you do with muscles in your arm when you let them go lax.

Ajahn Brahm has a quote I like in this regard:

"If you want a strong body, exercise it.  If you want a strong mind, keep it still"

Resting your mind, exerting no mental effort, just being here in the present moment give you energy, clarity and strength of mind.

All while sitting in front of your screen at work looking like you are deep in contemplation emoticon
Steve, modified 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 10:48 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/25/15 10:47 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 24 Join Date: 12/31/14 Recent Posts
FWIW, Leigh Brasington is a jhana master and made his living as a programmer while getting there.  He has a book on the jhanas coming out in the fall.
Dave sdfsdf, modified 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 6:45 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 6:45 AM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 216 Join Date: 11/4/14 Recent Posts
Could also install an app that reminds you to take breaks and exercise every hour. Doing minor stretches etc. Could combine that with meditation.
John P, modified 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 11:34 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 11:33 AM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 155 Join Date: 1/24/12 Recent Posts
I also am a programmer and buddhist practicioner.
I would recommend to take breaks often (every 30 minutes or so).
Just enough to relax, stretch your wrists, drink some water, and related things, and especially to remind yourself to practice.
Meanwhile, meditate everyday, and get your concentration higher, even if this means you have to wake up earlier to do it. While meditating, don't forget to follow the basic advice of leaving "wolrdly thoughts" aside. That's important to be able to "be done with things" when the day is over, as suggested by another user here.
Also, I recommend reading pali suttas everyday for inspiration. There is an app for that!
Alexander M, modified 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 5:10 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/26/15 4:53 PM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
I'm a programmer, but not a skilled practioner.

I think meditation and programming doesn't perclude each other, and in fact there are some common things. Maybe you've experienced times when you are fully immersed in task at hand. Data structures, algorithms, object interconnections and code layout are all loaded, mind operates on them with high speed, precision and clarity, new code flows out as if by itself. World around fades and distractions disappear as all available attention is redirected to coding, maybe even to a level when you don't have a feeling of where you are physically located. It doesn't take effort to sustain this state, the thing just keeps going by itself, and while this level of activity is very demanding, at the same time it's rather pleasant on level of immidiate experience. Often this state ends when an unsolvable problem comes up, or task gets completed, or if the task flows into a less demanding stage, e. g. you have to set up some packages or testing environment. Or some interruption comes up that can't be ignored (meeting, boss, etc.). So, this state is known in psycology as "flow", and rather closely matches descriptions of jhana states, at least first and second: single-mindedness / narrow focus to exclusion of surroundings, pleasure, no effort required to support the state.

Same thing, I guess, applies to other activities that require high degrees of concentration to achieve good results. Math, science, etc. I don't like math in general, but in uni days I found out that after half hour of solving ODEs, integrating or doing some linear algebra stuff, some wierd type of pleasure kicks in.

That said, I don't know if this helps in practice or not. In my experience those kind of states don't arise very often, since a lot of things have to be present: task must be interesting, it must be complex enough but not impossibly difficult, there should be feeling that nobody is going to distract you for several hours until you are done, and most of required knowledge and mental constructs should be already in place so you won't interrupt yourself looking stuff up. So it doesn't looks like it can be used as primary means to get into absorbtion in everyday practice. Though I think that may give a feel how jhana might look like and what to look for when doing breath meditation. In comparison following breath looks much easier -- what's difficult in that, no complex concepts, data structures, interrelations, just breath. And when things are simple, "flow" doesn't happen. I guess solution is to look very closely, with as much depth as possible, trying to reach levels of concentration and applied processing power as they happen with coding.

Doing mindfullness part of meditation while coding is more difficult, at least for me. There are some useful related functions that are on mindfullness part: knowing that mind is tired and got inefficient and needs to rest a bit, nothing good will come out of pushing it futher. Recognizing that dead-end is reached and concentration is too narrow-focused and lacks perspective to see this. Solution should be searched in another dimension of the problem, and for that some relaxation is required.

I guess that's all programming-specific aspects I can think of now. Of course general things about setting aside time for formal meditation, trying to be mindfullness though the day, etc. apply too.
Simon T, modified 8 Years ago at 1/27/15 10:45 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/27/15 10:45 AM

RE: Coding/Computer programming has been clashing with practice

Posts: 383 Join Date: 9/13/11 Recent Posts
For two years, my job as a computer programmer was pretty boring and tedious and didn’t involve much creativity. During that period, turning my job into a form of practice was almost a necessity to go through my day. It was a form of training in morality, so to speech, as it involved a lot of effort and frustration. I could even do noting practice during my work and body awareness. An advantage of that job was that once I was away from my desk, I didn’t think about it at all.

Now that I am back doing a programming job that is more stimulating and involves more creativity, the dynamic has changed. I find myself much more absorbed into my work, I rely more on caffeine and adderal than before. Hopefully, my level of anxiety is much lower than it used to be and I don’t burn myself out too much. Also, the two years of my boring job have been quite formative in their own way. I don’t find myself thinking of work when away from my desk like I used to years ago. Still, I cannot really turn my job into a practice like I used to with my boring job.
I did a few personal projects outside of work out of interest and those were much more taxing mentally. I would find myself thinking of the projects all the time.

The most important part is to not let anxiety take over and not accumulate tension. My use of caffeine is a problem as it does have an impact outside of my work and I have to relax more, sleep more. I don’t take any on the weekend and usually end up sleeping all weekend.
Conclusion: get a boring job! emoticon