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Why I think meditation makes you a better programmer

codingmindfully profile image Daragh Byrne 惻3 min read

Meditation and a coder's mind

Apart from breathing, eating and sleeping, my two most enduring interests in life have been programming and meditation (physics is a close third).

As someone who uses his mind to make my living - which is a fundamental truth of coding life - I'm fascinated by how my mind works, and sometimes doesn't work as well as I'd like, and what I can do about that. Meditation is part of my exploration.

I've coded professionally for around 18 years. I've practiced meditation for around 13 years in some form or another and have been teaching it to programmers for the last five. Below I'll tell you why I think meditation can make you a better programmer.

(Aside - as a programmer, I think of meditation as a tool to train certain qualities of your mind - in particular your attention and awareness. You don't need a particular spiritual outlook to benefit from meditation. I consider that question in detail on my blog here).

An extended version of this article, with a complete picture of how all of this happened, can be found on www.codingmindfully.com.

You learn how to handle distractions

There is no such thing as a distraction free life. As a programmer, I have to deal with distractions from two sources:

  1. external distractions - co-workers and other humans, slack messages, emails, random noises, world events, youtube. Many of these can be dealt with via removal of the source, but they can't be eliminated entirely
  2. internal distractions - generally, your own thoughts and feelings - the endless thought streams that you get caught up in, the way you feel about coding (frustrated, lost, angry, joyful and so on). These are a little harder to escape.

The standard meditation algorithm basically looks like this.

The Standard Meditation Algorithm

When meditating, your attention wanders off countless times, and you restore it countless times. As a result, meditation teaches you the cognitive skill of re-focusing your attention when it wanders. A typical meditation session is really about learning how to do this (people think it's about staying focused; it isn't, it's more about learning that you're distracted and pulling yourself back - such a valuable skill in this distraction crazy world)

You learn how to release stress

Meditation helps you handle stress. An excessively stressed body and mind are (a) not sustainable (b) not the best condition to be in while trying to produce your best work.

A little stress can help you focus for a short while. A lot of stress over a long time, has the opposite effect, scattering your focus and killing your productivity.

Meditation works to soothe the nervous system, often leaving the mind and body more relaxed than before.

Read more about stress in this article on my blog here.

You become more creative

I'm pretty sure most of us have had the experience of being stuck on a horrible coding problem, leaving it aside for the day, and somehow it solves itself overnight/while doing something else/in the shower - right? That's creativity in action, and it is definitely related to focusing on something else for a while.

I've taught meditation to hundreds of people and a common reflection that I hear is how often meditation makes people feel more creative - especially when it comes to seeing the solution to problems in their life.
Meditation helps you tap into your inner creativity. Ideas often flow, problems seem to solve themselves.

You'll become easier to be around

Because meditation works to soothe your jacked-up nervous system, meditation helps you better able to handle your emotions, meaning you can handle frustration and anger in a more graceful way, meaning you'll be less of a jerk to co-workers and those you love (including yourself).

I have been learning about meditation for many years. It's the only other activity apart from coding (and maybe physics) that has captured my attention for such a long time. I practice pretty much every day, and have been teaching people how to meditate for around five years. I'd love to help you learn too.

If you visit my site, and sign up for my list, Iā€™ll send you three things completely free:

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Meditation for Programmers
  2. The Coding Burnout Checklist.
  3. Three guided audio meditations

Discussion (5)

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arjunauop profile image
Arjuna Bandara

Definitely meditation has a lot of effect.
When you stucked on a problem, you may end up with stressed or headache. As I experienced, meditation has made me feel so good in most cases.

Thanks for sharing this. šŸ‘

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akemimeka profile image
akemi

i've recently fell for meditation as well. since just siting alone and being aware of my own thoughts was hard enough, i started with guided meditation. what a difference! for the first time in my life being quiet and playing attention to my breathing was pleasurable. i started to be more aware of my emotional and psychological patterns, and it's really helping me to learn how to code.

thanks for bringing this up, i'll definitely read your guide and your other articles. :)

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne Author

Yes it definitely helps to have guidance as you learn! And it's incredible how such a simple act can contain so much pleasure. Noticing your psychological patterns is solid gold - there's no way you can start to make changes unless you know where you are currently at!

I'd love to hear what you think of the guide, feel free to email any time!

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akemimeka profile image
akemi

i'll surely read it! so excited you want feedback from a beginner programmer and meditation practioneer :D

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne Author

Absolutely - I want to create something really useful!

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