Found in 15 comments on Hacker News
moosedev · 2022-07-03 · Original thread
This isn't an attempt at complete answer to your question, and I'm not an expert, a teacher, or anything besides a human who has dabbled with meditation and read a lot about Buddhism (and derived more-or-less secular frameworks such as mindfulness), depression, anxiety, neuroscience, spirituality, etc. over the last 15-20 years.

I'm speaking to two of your points, I think:

1) "isn't our whole life a sequence of meditations? Because we always focus on something"

2) "aren’t we doing [sit peacefully and observe your thoughts] anyway on a regular basis without introducing a word for it?"

In my direct personal experience, sitting in awareness, noticing thoughts and sensations, etc. is simply a materially different experience from... the rest of my time when I'm not doing that. It's materially different from when I'm focusing on an activity like coding (perhaps in a deep state of focus or "flow" [0]) or just habitually/pathologically scrolling through HN.

Did you ever get fully engrossed in a coding session and "lose time"? And eventually you "came around" or "landed" and realized you were "back" and 2 hours had gone by in deep focus? Did you ever realize that you'd been ruminating about some stupid thing for ages? E.g. repeatedly going over a difficult interaction from earlier in the day, or thinking about a difficult interaction that's coming up tomorrow and imagining how it might go? Did you ever snap out of that?

That feeling of "huh... I'm back - here I am." - that's what I am recruiting when I deliberately practice mindfulness. And then I get distracted... and when I notice, I bring my attention back... repeat.

To the second point of yours I quoted, i.e. are we doing this "anyway" on a regular basis? Maybe you are. For me, regular moment-to-moment thinking is generally not the same as mindfulness. I'm thinking, but I'm basically lost in the thoughts. I'm not observing them, I'm just thinking them - or they're thinking me. (And not just thoughts - this all applies equally well to emotional, interoceptive, and sensory experience.) Mindfully observing my experience is materially different, although I do get flashes of it throughout the day without reaching for it deliberately. Whether that's something I had before I started sporadic practice and just didn't have words for, or something the practice has unlocked for me, I can't say, because I can't faithfully recall what my moment-to-moment experience was like that long ago.

Maybe you're experiencing mindfulness frequently throughout your daily life, so you don't notice anything different when you set out to practice it deliberately. Maybe when you practice it you are getting lost in thought and not noticing. We'll never know, given the subjectivity of the experience and our limited tools for communicating about it, but I enjoyed the attempt :)


bumbada · 2021-04-06 · Original thread
I recommend that you read about flow then.

The original idea of flow(in the zone) comes from this book and author, but is obsolete now:

I recommend this book and audiobook about gammification to understand flow better.

Whatever breaks the game in your work, stops the flow. For example, instant feedback is very hard to get creating software unless you design for it(like using REPLs and reusing almost everything).

Other things that the book mentions break your game too(not having clear rules, being alone)...

Another important thing is thinking too much rationally. The logical mind is so slow getting results that you break the instant feedback.

Also working too much in low level has way slower feedback than working with higher level languages. I metaprogram lower level languages for this reason, I am orders of magnitude faster.

>The zone isn't about stress per se.

Sorry, I was not eloquent enough. when I talk about stress I am referring to stress in general: Mental, emotional, or physical stress.

That is, if you are doing something difficult mentally, you stress your brain.

For every stress you need time to recover.

You can do 10 hours without recovering if the stress is low. If the stress is high, you will only be able to do 4 hours.

It is very easy to understand, you can walk for 8 hours, but you can not run for 10 hours. A marathon is about 4 hours or less.

What I am telling you is that if you run for 4 hours hard mentally and do not recover, you will not be able to work another 4 hours of hard work, unless you rest.

Nothing will do, no technique will do unless you rest.

Of course you need to do right lots of other things too. But don't say it is impossible just because you can not do it.

arun_dev · 2021-02-19 · Original thread
Focus can be accomplished by shifting consciousness in which you bring order to tasks that you do (sometimes daily) and can bring pleasure to your life, thus satisfaction and it called flow.

> Please read Flow ...

bcbrown · 2018-02-02 · Original thread
Read Turns out it's actually mostly about finding meaning in life.
jseliger · 2017-11-24 · Original thread
I expect to see many negative comments here, but I'll add that one of the most profound books I've read is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ( In it, he observes that it's also possible to create positive flow-like states even in tedious jobs; it's also helpful to try and re-conceptualize even mundane jobs as being part of and important to a greater whole.

I don't think he'd argue that doing such things is always possible, all the time, but I think he might argue that we should try to move in those directions, even when our lives and feelings sometimes feel like something out of Dilbert or Houellebecq's Whatever.

elliotec · 2017-07-06 · Original thread
This is some pretty odd advice. Basically it amounts to "stop doing things that you enjoy". Drop music, news, and video games? Not listening to music will not make you a better programmer. I agree about sugar in moderation and getting good rest (though the specific times seem debatable).

#2 is a serious misunderstanding of flow[0] and is against research arguing that flow states facilitate learning[1].

Flow is not easy-peasy non-frustration time, it is getting "fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity." To deny yourself that is blocking yourself from the most productive and rewarding of human experiences.

One of the fundamental ideas of flow is that when the task is challenging enough to break one out of the state, additional skills are learned to return to the flow state.[2]

In my opinion, to achieve your maximum potential as a programmer, you should be striving to hit a flow state as much as possible.




Baeocystin · 2017-02-25 · Original thread
Some of my best ideas have come to me after hours of twaddling away with no particular goal in mind in SimCity.

We as devs tend to seek optimal solutions as if they were a simple numeric quantity, where more/higher=better. We know this is not how things are, but the mental model is seductive in in its simplicity.

What I have learned over the years is that it is the constant change between different forms of attention and focus that drive me to be my best. Which means time, real time, away from what I do for work. And when I return to work after doing so, I appreciate it all the more.

You might be interested in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow, if you have not yet read it. Although it has nothing to do with game playing per se, it helped clarify many aspects of my thinking when it came to why I felt I was 'wasting' time while gaming, and why I was wrong in that assessment.

gt565k · 2015-06-12 · Original thread
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

It really has opened my eyes about how to deal with having a negative attitude and understanding the driving forces behind being in the "flow"

sharmi · 2014-07-26 · Original thread
I would suggest Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [1]

I have not read the book yet but it is on my reading list. I'm currently going through "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" [2] by the same author and it is illuminating to see the author examine a simple process such as enjoying a walk and reveal the intricate interplay of our consciousness, attention and self.



gtirloni · 2014-04-22 · Original thread
Disclaimer: I'm currently reading "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (

Perhaps you need to think a bit about your life theme, what you should concentrate in and how it unifies your ideas. This subject comes later in the book and my advice for you is to read the book from the beginning as it would give you lots of food for thought and might help to give you focus in your life as well as to your ideas (and what you worry about).

Regarding what do to with the multiple ideas, relax, you can't embrace the world. Focus on the ones that have a deeper meaning to you.

vlasev · 2013-05-17 · Original thread
If you really want to know what it takes to live a happy life, read the book Flow [1] by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It's the best book I've ever read on happiness and reading it has positively changed my life like nothing else.


dudurocha · 2011-12-09 · Original thread
The problem is the half-assed work/activities.

I think you have to be fully engaged in any activity you are making. If you want to relax, relax in a full paced way. Not worrying about the work you have to make. If you must work, work in a fast-paced way, and make the job done.

The worst kind of works is the one multi-tasked. You dont get in a 'flow' state that is necessary for the most jobs people here in hacker news makes.

Two books are very good in the matter, The power of full engagement and Flow

hucker · 2011-05-01 · Original thread
This reads like taken right out of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a book that has had tremendous effects on my day to day life. Actually trying to enjoy the stuff we do everyday, however menial it may be, makes us happy. This simple yet extremely effective idea has changed my entire view of the world to be honest. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

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