Ryan Seys

engineer at verily / google life sciences
postsprojectstalkstwittergithubemailresume
∙∙∙

Learning to live, by learning to breathe

March 31, 2018

“You Are Now Breathing Manually…”

When someone tells you this, your initial reaction is to likely try to fight the urge to think about your breath, and soon you’ll realize that the more effort you put in to fight it i.e. the more you try to not think about thinking about your breath, the more you’re unlikely to be successful in doing so. It’s only by completely letting go, giving up your sense of control of the breath, that you’re able to get it to return to its natural rhythm and fade into the background of your mind.

One of the funny things about the mind is that it doesn’t like being told what to do, despite it being the one telling it what to do.

For the past 4 months (starting last December), I’ve been exploring this idea and the inner processes of my own mind through daily meditation. This practice initially started as an attempt to try to calm my own mind from the sporadic thoughts that tended to cloud my daily life, but has since developed into a daily routine that provides me so much joy and has helped build my ability to feel compassion and empathy toward others, and ultimately learn how to live more intentionally.

This term “meditation” gets thrown around a lot but it’s really just a fancy word for “focused awareness of what’s happening right now”. The idea around meditation is that by focusing your mind on what’s happening right now, your mind will become clearer and calmer. 

If I may entertain you for a few minutes more, I’m going to reflect and share with you a few things that I’ve learned and observed through this practice so far.

Be aware.

Before I started this practice, meditation to me was a foreign idea, something I thought only monks did, or certainly wasn’t for a “regular” person like myself. I also thought meditation was extremely difficult to do, and even if I could convince myself to try to do it, I figured it would require considerable practice to really get started. I’ll show you right now why all of these preconceptions were wrong.

Breathe.

No seriously, breathe right now. As you breathe in, feel it in your chest as your lungs fill with air. Focus on that feeling, letting everything else fade into the background. Don’t judge that feeling, just be aware of it. Now breathe out, continuing to hold onto that feeling. Breathe again, continuing to hold that focus. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the passing thought, and bring your focus back to the breath. Rinse & repeat.

Congrats, you just ~meditated~

Everything else you may hear about meditation these days: meditation pillows, meditation apps, mantras & sound bites, are only there to try to help you create an environment that is conducive to being able to sustain that focused awareness. At the end of the day, no matter what you do to create that mental space for yourself, don’t lose track of the real purpose of meditation: to simply be aware.

Which leads into the next thing I’ve learned…

Be awake.

Through the 4 months of logging my daily meditation experiences, one of the trends I noticed more than anything else was that the easiest way to make meditation more difficult and less effective for myself was to try to do it when I’m sleepy. This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but it certainly makes it more challenging, like trying to go to the gym in a state of physical exhaustion.

I typically do anywhere from 10–30 minutes of meditation per day (you can do as little or as much as you like), but even that small amount of time can seem like an eternity to your mind when you’re tired. 

One of the most effective ways that I’ve found to combat the possibility of falling asleep and to increase my awareness is to meditate right in the morning, after a shower & a cup of joe. At that point, you should be awake enough that you aren’t going to fall back asleep but it’s still early enough in the day that you can approach that time with a fresh, clean slate of curiosity.

Which leads me into my third observation…

Be curious.

Don’t take meditation too seriously. Meditation is just about being aware of what’s going on around you, so have fun with it and be curious about what you’ll find. Try not to think of meditation as something that is separate from your everyday life. Recognize that when you’re meditating, you’re living as fully as ever.

When thoughts inevitably pop up during your meditation practice, be curious about what they are, observe them and acknowledge them, but then let them go.

All in all, be sure to have fun, and…

Be deliberate.

If you’re going to meditate (as you should), don’t half-ass it. Be deliberate in what you want to achieve. Try your best in your meditation to bring your full energy and focus into that awareness, but recognize when your mind fails on that promise and find the capacity to admit it, forgive yourself, and try again.

The best things in life are usually those worth working for. Meditation is something you need to practice, but its rewards are worth the effort. By being deliberate, you can be sure that you are focusing your energy in the most effective way.

Concluding

I hope these few reflections help provide you with a bit of insight into what meditation is, and how you can get the most out of your practice. As you may note, the above musings could be applied to not only meditation but also to life in general. This shouldn’t really come as too big of a surprise given how meditation is simply living with more intentional awareness.

So go out there, and enjoy each breath. Happy meditating, happy living :)

∙∙∙

Hello, Verily

June 01, 2016

Exactly one year ago, I joined Google DevRel with the hope of helping improve developer’s lives, making them more productive and successful while building on Google’s developer platform. With an amazing team supporting me, I was able to deliver on that dream for products such as Android TV and Nest, and ultimately this success was shown through the delivery of a talk this year at Google I/O.

Today I’m excited to announce I’m starting my next adventure, this time outside of Google --- but still within Alphabet --- to help improve the lives of all those affected by disease. Today, I’m joining Verily to help develop tools and technologies that can detect diseases earlier, understand them better, and intervene more precisely.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this decision. Working with such an incredible team within Google DevRel this past year has made this switch difficult to come to terms with, but I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life, with the ultimate dream of discovering the truth behind nature and disease.

Heart

∙∙∙

Google I/O 2016

May 20, 2016

At Google I/O 2016, I presented a talk with Wayne Piekarski on how to bring your Android app to Android TV in minutes. Watch it below.

∙∙∙

Keepy

May 10, 2016

A cute little write-only Google Keep app.

Keepy

Keepy was created out of a need to take notes in Google Keep without the constant distraction of the sheer number of notes piling up.

Created on Electron, a cross platform framework for creating desktop apps with web technologies, Keepy looks and feels exactly the same on all major platforms, all the while built and run from a single code base.

Try it out!

Download and Install

Source Code

Available on GitHub.

∙∙∙

Big Android BBQ 2015

October 22, 2015

At the Big Android BBQ 2015, I gave a talk / instructor-led codelab on Automated Performance Testing on Android using tools such as systrace, monkeyrunner and the Espresso testing framework.

Unfortunately the talk was not recorded. Attendance for the talk ranged from 100 to 200 people.

The codelab that was presented is available here.

∙∙∙

Contribute to READMEs

May 17, 2015

Open source development is booming and many people, developers or otherwise, are eager to jump onboard! Lots of people have approached me asking how they can get involved in open source projects and how I stay afloat in the ever-changing ecosystem of open source. My answer is: “by editing READMEs”.

Large reach. Large importance.

READMEs, especially those that exist in GitHub projects, are one of the first things that users and developers see when coming across a project. Tom Preston-Werner, the Cofounder of GitHub, even suggests README Driven Development. This means that the README is one of the most highly viewed documents in any repository and so its quality can make or break whether the project receives any further attention.

Having a good README shows that care went into the project and that documentation is treated as a first-class citizen in the project. Your contribution will impact all those that read the README. That’s huge!

In addition, GitHub, one of the world’s largest respositories of open source projects, makes this super easy. You’re only a couple clicks away from making your first contribution to your favourite open source project.

Click to edit

Valuable and harmless.

Many people are intimidated by editing real code in projects because they feel that their code contributions might be heavily scrutinized, or introduce bugs into the project which will reflect negatively on them. Many highly technical developers constantly struggle with imposter syndrome, especially outside the comfort of their own projects. I suggest editing the README of a project first because it’s hard to break things in a static document. Whether you’re fixing a grammatical mistake, spelling error, missing documentation or adding links to important related resources, contributions to READMEs vary widely and can be as small as a single character diff.

Technical and non-technical.

Both technical and non-technical people can contribute to a README equally. Although many open source projects focus heavily on code, a README comprises of both technical and non-technical parts and both are equal playing field when it comes to contributions. As mentioned previously, even grammatical issues are fair game when it comes to legitimate edits.

Gauge project health.

Eat it

One of the most important reasons that I suggest you edit READMEs is that your small edit can quickly establish a relationship with the maintainers of the project and allow you to evaluate how they proceed to handle your contribution and the overall health of the project.

For example, if your contribution to their README is never addressed in any form, the project is likely carelessly maintained and you should be careful when contributing to other aspects of the project to ensure that it will receive any attention at all. In this case, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on further contributions until I’ve established a closer relationship with the maintainers to ensure that my time isn’t completely wasted on a project that has been silently abandoned. If this happens, at least you didn’t spend countless hours carefully adding a new feature complete with tests and documentation only to be given the cold shoulder.

On the other hand, if your contribution is quickly addressed by the maintainers, you can further gauge how they handled your contribution. Were they friendly? Did they give you advice on how you can further expand on your contribution? Did they accept it and thank you for the contribution? All these things can give you hints as to how the maintainers will treat you in the future if you continue to contribute to the project.

Get comfortable with the project.

There are many ways to learn about a project but one very effective way is to read the current README and learn from what has already been wrote, then investigate the project and cross-reference what the code says versus what the README documents as truth. Here you can find gaps in the documentation that you can fill, or errors if changes were made to code but the README was neglected (a very common issue I see). Another idea is to follow links in the README, both to get familiar with the various documentation external to the repository but also to potentially find dead links. All of these are important to maintaining a healthy and happy open source project and allow you to start contributing today!

Need a repo to get started? Edit my README on GitHub.

Happy contributing!

∙∙∙