Philosophy behind software, life and love

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last posted Dec. 17, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
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Inspired by flaper87, I'll also be sharing my thoughts on this subject.

The abstract has a powerful appeal. It's too easy for me to get carried away and lose track of many others aspects of my life. I think this is something that needs to be fought against, because software isn't the only important thing in my life.

More thoughts on this later.


More on mindfulness, before continuing with the disconnect:

10 Ways to be More Mindful

  1. Stop and breathe. Take in the moment and breathe.
  2. Look around - who do you see? What do you see?
  3. Stop thinking about how well you are doing. Do what you are doing.
  4. Stop thinking about what others are thinking about.
  5. Take a look at your hands. Take them in.
  6. Don't think about yesterday or tomorrow - think about now.
  7. Don't think about deadlines.
  8. Instead of avoiding what bothers you, accept it.
  9. Accept that there are things that you don't know - and that's okay.
  10. Sit. Do nothing.

There is a connection between mindfulness and the disconnect that comes from working with the abstract. It's something I'm going to explore here. For me, there's a tension between the two that I'm very familiar with. More on that tension later.

Part of the goal of working with mindfulness is to be more aware. More aware of my internal processes, how I feel, what I want, and who is around me. I believe this is important for keeping myself honest. If I don't know what I want, or how to analyze my emotions and what they mean, then it's easy for me to lose myself, and it becomes harder to come back.

That's been my experience.

With the abstract and programming, I can dive into exciting and interesting projects for hours and hours. It's happened before, where my wife was trying to talk to me, and it was obvious I wasn't there. My mind was off trying to solve a distributed parallel problem, and she was wondering why I didn't have an opinion on what she was talking about. I was listening to her, and I was responding, but I wasn't communicating effectively. I wasn't there enough to actually process what she was saying and connect it to my own experiences and beliefs. This has caused me some strife.

That's the disconnect.

That's where mindfulness comes in. How do I stop for a moment and bring myself to the now?

I did the list above as an opening to this post as an exercise. I wanted to see how much I could come up with if I stopped to think about mindfulness. It wasn't my effort alone, to be honest. I went as far as 4 before I started reading an article about mindfulness to get the juices flowing. Mindfulness isn't something I'm very experienced with.

I feel anxious about being in the now because it goes against what I've been taught and what I've been raised with. The very act of mindfulness means that for a time, I am in the now. This implies that I'm not working on improving myself (an action towards the future), I'm not trying to solve any problems, and I'm not avoiding my weaknesses. I live for that constant improvement. Yet...

If I spend all my time improving myself, it comes at a cost.

That's why I'm interested in mindfulness.


On Mindfuless and Navigating the Present

Flavio said on his ThoughtStream:

...being fully aware of what's happening won't help with making what will happen next any better.

I don't agree here fully. I'll share a story-ish to elaborate.

There have been many times in the past where I've allowed myself to throw tantrums (even as an adult!). I didn't stop to try to understand what or why I've been feeling. In the present, however, I've learned techniques to navigate what I'm feeling and to manuever through these difficult situations that are overflowing with emotional energy.

In order to do that, I needed to be as aware as I could be not only of what I was feeling, but also of what: 1) my wife was feeling, 2) about what I wanted, 3) and what I wanted to happen. I can't control the final outcome all on my own, but I am able to influence my own actions.

I'm not sure if this is called mindfulness, that ability to navigate one's self, but it's helped me. By pairing it up with writing like this, as well as some private journaling, I've made my own progress in an area that would freak me out previously!

On the Relationship Between Now, Then, and Previously

More from Flavio:

Is there actually such a thing as 'present' ?

"People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion" - Einstein

I love this concept - and I agree! It's something I've discussed with people close to me and that I'd like to think on further. So here are some thoughts:

Most of our society at this time is ruled by deadlines and schedules. We have to get to school at 7:30am or we'll be late. We have to delivery this software by Dec. 27th or it'll be late. If you get there early, you'll have more time.

Stressful. That's the first word that comes to mind. We're placing unnecessary constraints on ourselves in order to increase the likelihood of some event happening.

I've lived most of my life in this framework of time: deadlines, schedules, and appointments. Even my personal endeavors were tainted by these concepts, e.g., "I should only play Diablo 2: Median XL for the next two hours if I hope to finish this homework that is due tomorrow*".

I think the two things that have suffered the most in my life as a result are my ability to reach for a personal balance and my ability to identify what's really important to me.

Balance depends on choosing the things that you want to carry and commiting to them in such a way that you don't drop them. It's identifying that there's a subset of all the things that matter to you enough to keep them in mind. It's difficult, both keeping them balanced amongst themselves and protecting your commitment to them from external pressures.

Identifying what's really important comes with the prerequisite that you know yourself well enough to choose what you want. There's dangers here, too. The psyche is very vulnerable to subtle influences (Check out Thinking Slow and Fast for more on this!). The day to day influence of marketing, especially that which crops up every 10 minutes in standard cable television is poison. Without paying mind to these influences, you'll slowly be influenced to desire something that you didn't choose for yourself.

So that's the crux of it for me. Reducing the importance of time in life is powerful. I say reducing rather than eliminating, because I still live in a schedule-bound society.


Trust isn't easy.

It doesn't matter whether it's in relationships, secure system design, or what have you - it's the same problem.

No secrets. Be honest - to yourself, especially! Be aware.

There's no shortcuts, and doing the above still isn't 100%, both for gaining trust or for gauging the trustworthiness of another.