Mindfulness and Computing Workshop

Poster for Mindfulness and Computing Workshop.

Emily Schleiner and Rez Khan have created a 6 night workshop to address issues that create barriers to entry for budding programmers and address challenges that long-time programmers and computer users face. This workshop will take place one night per week from the beginning of October through mid-November of 2017. Each workshop session starts with a 15 minute lecture. They then will walk people through a meditation for another 15 minutes. They follow this up with a programming or other technical activity wherein students can practice putting some mindfulness skills/tools into practice.

 

 

Schleiner and Khan have created this series in an attempt to bring mindfulness to an arena where it can profoundly help people work through difficulties that are intrinsic to the programming profession. After all, they say "Programming or other computing work can be fantastically interesting and rewarding. However, at the same time it can be daunting, stressful, and lonely. Senior engineers at Google and other top tech companies have recognized these difficulties and, in response, built mindfulness programs to help remedy stress and other ills that challenge their employees. Secular mindful practices like these are based on scientifically tested methods and have been used in stress clinics for over thirty years. In the context of programming or other computing work, these practices can transform difficult situations into joyful, creative opportunities and increase mental and emotional plasticity."

 

The following contains a schedule of workshops and a short descriptions. For more details, browse the Davis Makerspace calendar:

http://www.davismakerspace.org/event

 

  • Tue 7pm Oct 3rd: Introduction to mindfulness (Beginner) On this first night of the workshop, we will address preconceptions about mindfulness and talk about what mindfulness is like for different people. We will also talk about meditation, techniques for navigating difficult feelings, posture, and breath.

 

  • Tue 7pm Oct 10th: Encountering Computers With a Fresh Perspective (Beginner) On this second night of the workshop, we will address technology and programmer culture, techniques for staying calm and asking specific questions, ways to see failure is opportunity, techniques for coping with frustration, techniques for accepting emotional dips and peak throughout a development process, and cultivating kindness towards the self.

 

  • Tue 7pm: Oct 17th: Living Bravely with Uncertainty (Intermediate) On this 3rd night of the workshop, we will talk about how to navigate feelings that arise from perceiving a project to be overwhelming. By acknowledging fears at the outset of a technical project we might later be able to see that living in a world of uncertainty can be a potentially a fruitful state of mind. Uncertainty can unleash all kinds of feelings, but just on the other side of those difficult feelings can be a fountain of potential strategies and solutions. Learn to remap anxiety by understanding the human fight, flight, or freeze impulse and to cultivate compassion for the self when you need it the most.

 

  • Tue 7pm Oct 24th: Competition and Interdependence (Intermediate) On this 4th night of the workshop, we will talk about the nature of competition and inter-dependance in the context of programming and other computer-focused work. Competition is often an issue because from a young age people learn to compete with each other, and to coach themselves through challenges with and ego-boost. Ego-boosting can work in the short run but problems do crop up eventually. This session will focus on how we can calm our over-active survival instinct and work together mindfully.

 

  • Tue 7pm Nov 7th: Physical Awareness and Care (Advanced) On this 5th night of the workshop, we will talk about physical awareness during lengthy computing sessions. After hours of hyper-focus at our computers, many of us experience physical tension and muscle stress. This kind of physical stress can dim the fun of programming, put us in a state of on-going low level anxiety, even make us doubt whether we have the physical stamina for a career in programming or computer science. In this session we will go over work habits that include taking breaks, how we can stay aware of our physical response to certain kinds of stress, and practice a type of meditation called a 'body scan' meditation.

 

  • Tue 7pm Nov 14th: Vision and Big Picture (Advanced) On this 6th night of the workshop, we will talk about how to zoom between the big picture and the small minutiae of everyday work. In order to brainstorm solutions and keep moving forward on projects that take place over lengthy periods of time, we are often creatively, technically, and motivationally challenged. How can we get into and remain in a state of 'flow'? Techniques like meditation, writing exercises, new environments, project management systems, recruiting supporters, friends, and experts, can all be ways of working that take us to the next level of enjoyment, sophistication, and gratification in our projects. What amazing things are we capable of when we incorporate the small picture into the big picture ...mindfully?

 

They further explain: "You don't need to have a specific level of computer literacy to attend, however some beginner folks may choose not to participate in the Intermediate or Advanced practice time if they feel it is detrimental to their growth. You may skip some sessions and attend others. However, we recommend attending all the sessions to get the most benefit. (This is the kind of skill set that builds from the ground up.) "

 

This workshop series is geared for people who would like to overcome problems that arise when they work on computers for long periods, improve their quality of life, and ultimately connect the creative sides of their personality with the technical and analytical sides. This series may even help people grow to a new level of skill and enjoyment in their careers.

 

This workshop is led by:

 

Emily Schleiner:

a Davis, CA-based artist, web developer, and thinker with a Masters in Performance and Interactive Media Arts at Brooklyn College, CUNY. She works for Parallel Design.

Rez Khan:

a physicist with a PhD from The University of Texas at Austin who has studied the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging, and leads the group ‘Austin Mindfulness’.

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