Toorcamp

I went to Toorcamp recently. I had the opportunity to lead a workshop there called “Meditation for Hackers: Breaking Out of Your Mind’s Jail”. I learned a lot, and I feel happy with how it went.

The good

A lot of people showed up for the workshop! Probably like thirty or so. And it seemed from people’s reports like they were really engaging with the practice. This surprised me a little, but it seems obvious in retrospect: the hacker scene is all about PoC||GTFO. The idea that in order to understand something you have to do it is embedded in us already. I’ve heard about a tendency in some meditation groups to spend lots of time thinking about practice, talking about how good practice would be to do, and generally doing anything but actually practicing—I’m happy to report that that didn’t seem to be a problem here.

I got lots of positive feedback afterwards. People told me they’d come to a greater understanding of practice and discovered ways of bringing it into circumstances they didn’t know how to before. Another common theme was a sense of relief at having some time to not have to do anything or be anyone else.

And the practice infused the rest of my experience of camp. I saw some old friends and made some new friends, and this practice clearly helped us connect more deeply than we would have without it. If we sat together down by the bay, danced together, talked together, hugged or kissed mindfully, or practiced together in any other way, thanks.

I also got a lot of benefit from an aspect of my current life almost completely unrelated to meditation: before I left for camp, I’d committed to another resident that I’d do Freeletics at some point. So I got up one morning, accepted the feeling of resistance at being the ridiculous-looking guy doing burpees at hacker camp, and ran down to the volleyball net to practice. Someone else saw me and came running up to join in. He dashed off afterwards, but we ran into each other a few more times, and by the end of camp we were inseparable. Exercise: it’s great.

The improvable

I made a bunch of mistakes, and learned from some of them. Among the many things that could’ve been better, these stand out:

I think I could’ve given more background on the Monastic Academy and our resident search up front to the group. Instead, I just casually mentioned it in passing, and fleshed it out later in individual conversations if it came up. I feel particularly strongly about this one, since finding new residents is our organization’s highest priority in the short run. (Have I mentioned that you can apply to be a resident?)

I actually feel happy and comfortable about not trying to sell this place more—despite what I’ve said about recruiting before, I’m realizing that it’s actually better not to try to convince people to join. If you’re called to this path, I couldn’t convince you to avoid it. If not, then being unable to convince you is the best case scenario. But giving background and details isn’t the same as convincing, and I think it’s possible that there were people who didn’t hear about it who should have.

The learning is that there’s something unresolved in me about talking about my current vocation, and that it’s of great benefit for me to spend some practice time examining that.

On another note, there’s one point I recall when I responded to a participant’s report unskillfully. I had a story that I wanted to tell, probably because I thought it was funny or something, and the report made me think of it, so I came from a place of “I want to share a funny story” instead of “I want to be of service you.” I don’t know what the impact of that may have been, but it didn’t feel good to me in the moment of doing it. In the future, I intend to come more from a place of wanting to be of service.

And lastly, I think I could’ve handled funding better. I’d set up a crowd fund to get me to camp before I knew I’d be presenting, and I decided to try to use it for donations from workshop attendees. But I didn’t tell people how to donate in person—only in email and in the workshop description. I made enough money overall to exceed my target, but only because of a small number of large donations from highly awesome people. That doesn’t yet give me a sense of sustainability, so I intend to put some more thought into this for the next time.

The rest

Who I am when I’m hanging out at NOPE camp and who I am when I’m on the cushion at the front are almost completely different people. As a hacker, I’m loud and sarcastic. As a teacher, I’m caring and gentle. I noticed the difference back at NOPE when I shot into a rant about how many countless young lives have been destroyed in order to make JavaScript do everything it currently does, and someone who’d been at the workshop earlier mentioned that that was more what they’d been expecting when they showed up.

This seems reasonable for now. There are different touches that help in different circumstances, and caring for people by teaching isn’t yet the same for me as caring for them by bullshitting about computers.

I like both of these people I am, but maybe there’s some nascent loud, caring, sarcastic, gentle hacker-teacher in me, still to be discovered. I actually think the closest I’ve gotten to that so far might’ve been the demo some friends and I did for Toorcamp’s Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon: