Mutating & Mindfulness
Two things happened at C4Q this week: we had a mindfulness workshop and we leveled up in intensity, moving from building simple math mini-programs in XCode playgrounds to full-blown applications. A third thing is I may or may not have cried (quietly, to myself) in class after said leveling up when I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to even start building a simple numeric Guessing Game. After blowing my nose on my lunch napkins and taking some deep breaths, I was able to turn down the volume on the nagging, critical voice in my head that screamed “EVERYONE GETS IT BUT YOU! YOU’RE FALLING BEHIND! DON’T ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE THEN EVERYONE WILL KNOW HOW USELESS YOU ARE!” It’s not a nice voice (though voice is the wrong word, is more like a Feelings/Negative Thoughts Cascade). But like I said, deep breath, gentle heart. I was able to try to focus and remember what I did know. I knew loops would be involved, maybe a for in loop? I more or less remember for in loops. So I started there.
And then I invented a game that just drains energy and memory infinitely but, y’know, baby steps.
I think the benefits of a mindfulness practice (I’ve been in a weekly therapeutic mindfulness group for just over nine months now) comes through in moments like this, rather then during the actual practice itself. For me, mindfulness isn’t about chasing peak experiences or anything spiritual except in the broadest sense (e.g., “loving kindness might not be a bad idea sometimes”). Rather, it’s about practicing listening to myself (by which I usually mean my body—sometimes my emotions) so that I can be more present both with others and with my environment. That way I don’t miss out on my life and sometimes make better choices.
For example, sitting in class trying to program a Guessing Game is somewhat stressful but I was beating myself up for letting my circumstances get to me enough to make me upset. But after a few deep breaths I was able to soften my heart to the experience I was having and think about how the thoughts I was having were making me feel. Not good. Were the thoughts true? No. But did they feel true in this moment? Yes. So, considering that, it made sense that I would be upset. But it also made sense that I didn’t have to stay that way. If the thoughts weren’t true, then I should be able to remember something from my three weeks at C4Q. Eventually I did, and I let that be enough proof that the thoughts I was having weren’t true and from there I was able to start to calm down and get to work. In that moment, being mindful of my situation in its totality (both inner and outer weather), really helped.
In pods on Friday, the Mavericks (my pod) discussed the benefit of exercise when it came to our studies. Later that night I came across this article on Medium that went more in depth re: the benefits of exercise. I think it’s true that seeing that you can work through physical discomfort will help you later on when working with the mental discomfort that can come up during periods of intense focus on a problem and/or studying.
But there’s also benefits in learning to be present in your body during periods of stillness, and joy, and sadness or fear. This whole C4Q project would be simpler if being in a bootcamp was just about buckling down and grinding out work and other things we associate with (masculine) toughness. But I don’t think it’s that one-sided. We’re also here to learn what we may need to take on to go on and what we can let fall away or release for a season or two. Taking on an intense form of education like a dev bootcamp can be about softening yourself without also losing yourself, your critical thought, and your engagement with the world. In fact, I think softening yourself can allow you to engage the talents that got you here on a deeper and more truly productive level—not to mention open you up to all the amazing people we’re lucky enough to be surrounded with in our cohort.