Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali term “Sati” and it means focusing one’s awareness on the present moment without judging the quality of the experience.

While in this state the attention is focused on an object, usually the sensation of the breath as it comes and goes, while the thoughts, sensations and feelings simply fade in the background. When practicing mindfulness It’s important not to fight unwanted feelings, thoughts or sensations but simply to acknowledge them without judgment and let them pass while we go back to the sensation of the breath. The cultivation of this mental skill will eventually lead to a permanent sense of being present in the moment and being capable of accepting our experience as it is.

Mindfulness is a modern adaptation of the Buddhist practice of Vipassana, brought to the attention of the western world by Jon Kabat Zinn, who studied how this simple practice can be extremely beneficial for people in modern society. Mindfulness protocols have been proven to dramatically reduce stress, depression and anxiety, as well as other physical issues like high blood pressure, chronic pain and so on.

I’ve been practicing mindfulness for years and I found it extremely beneficial in my job as a software developer. For this reason, I would like to summarise some of the benefits mindfulness can have for this kind of profession.

Focus

We live in a world where we are constantly asked to be multitasking, always connected to information and restlessly jumping from one thing to the other. This is not only ultimately unproductive (we do many things but we don’t excel in anything), it also leads to stress, depression and eventually to burnout. Mindfulness increases the ability to direct your entire mental energy to one single task at a time and not be distracted.

Beginner’s Mind

Over time and through experiences we build our predefined system of knowledge, our problem-solving patterns and our strong opinions about software development. We think of ourselves as experts in a matter when in fact we are just holding onto a rigid interpretation of reality, which is just one of the possible ways of approaching the art of programming.

Through mindfulness we can learn to look at everything as if it was the first time we saw it and this will free us from the boundaries of our mental structures. By “thinking out of the box” we become able to see solutions that otherwise we would not see and we become open to adopt new, more efficient patterns, based on what the present moment requires.

Acceptance, Patience and Discipline

Mindfulness teaches us to accept our present moment as it is, regardless of the quality of our experience. This will make us capable of working on any task (even that boring bug-fix) without procrastinating or adding unnecessary frustration to the experience. We will be able to commit 100% to the task and simply let it go once is done.

Flow: The Programmer’s Momentum

This is for me the ultimate reward of applying mindfulness to programming:

By switching off distractions, preconceptions, procrastination, our personal attachments or resistance to tasks and by focussing 100% on the present moment, we can enter a state of complete absorption in what we are doing. This is an energising, rewarding and enjoyable experience — we feel completely connected to the act of programming and we have the sensation that what we are doing has a profound and special meaning. The practice of mindfulness will allow us to achieve this state more and more easily as we progress in the practice.

At Dalia we think that mindfulness is a powerful tool to promote wellbeing and workplace satisfaction and we have regular meetings where the employees can practice mindfulness together.

If you would like to join our team of mindful programmers, developers and engineers; visit the careers section of our website and send your profile.

Alessandro Caporrini
Backend Developer at Dalia Research