Sunday 9 a.m.–10:10 a.m.

Tai Chi Principles for Mindful Programmers

Barry Warsaw

Audience level:


I've been playing music all my life, programming for almost 40 years, using Python for more than 20, and studying tai chi for nearly 15. These life-long pursuits continue to reveal their truths as fun and interesting vocations and avocations. My study of tai chi has had particularly profound consequences and in this talk I'll explore some of its applications to the world of programming.


Tai Chi is an ancient practice of moving meditation. Technically an internal Chinese martial art, most people study it today for its many other benefits and purposes. As an easy series of postures and exercises that almost everybody can learn and do regardless of physical limitations, its practice improves health, reduces stress, relaxes, and cultivates awareness of the present moment.

Many styles and forms of tai chi exist, often with differing physical guidelines, but with a common set of overarching principles. The longer tai chi is studied, the more these principles become evident in and applicable to everyday life. While programmers stressed out by deadlines and endless discussions that never resolve can benefit from tai chi practice, the principles embodied in tai chi can serve to guide and inspire our work even without dedicated study, bringing with them more joy, engagement, resilience, and understanding.

In this talk, I'll explore some of these overarching principles, with stories from my programming career, and especially with my 20+ year long love of, involvement in, and use of Python. I'll introduce you to tai chi and its principles, and we'll see if we can relate them to our programming world. You might even get a tai chi lesson out of it!