An Unexpected Hackation Story

February 17, 2016
Gareth Gwyn

Reflections on an experiment in dissolving the work/joy dichotomy through hacking an app while meditating on vacation.

It’s productive and effective to bring distinct people together with a shared purpose to make fascinating creations. Combine that with merging the office space with a retreat center and conduct a vacation at the same time, now that is simply just brilliant.


The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and Consciousness Hacking shared an interest in developing a smartphone app to test for and experiment with psychic abilities. They also wanted to have fun doing it. Their approach was to recruit a targeted group of people and host a full-on Hackation.

At the same time I was giddy about getting to be a part of this weekend venture, I was also pretty nervous. Ok, really nervous. Not only did I doubt my lack of coding skills and knowledge about the science of consciousness, I had no clue what I could contribute to such a brilliant team.

One part of my mind asked another part of my mind questions such as, what if I’m a fraud? It was as if my brain part that asked was expecting some sort of solution-based response from it’s companion. No solutions emerged. Instead the mental banter just erupted into a vicious unproductive mind cycle of insecurity.


I remembered a commitment I had made to myself to never deny the information brought to me through my emotional senses. So I figured there was nothing to lose and I decided to own up to my fear-based state of being and spilled the beans about my self-doubt to the small group I was sharing a table with. The first breakthrough happened when a few others expressed they shared similar feelings of inadequacy. Yikes, I thought, now I’ve started a pity party. I’ve made things worse and now even more of us are distracted from productivity. And yet, that’s not what unfolded.


Julia, the director at IONS Innovation Lab, embraced it all. She started by offering words of encouragement about our talents. Her main message however, was when she explained that in order to unlock our best creative powers, it helps to first meet our own selves at a place of deep faith in our true worth to exist without any need to create anything. Then she basically detached us from any expectation of contributing to the project. Looking back, I see how this could have been risky. The Innovation Lab had assumed the costs to host this Hackation and she was literally telling this group we could just go play in the gorgeous grassy Petaluma hills.


Our small group continued the dialogue about self-worth, self-love and our existence not being based around the need to produce. Ironically, after this entire ten-minute experience was over, the level of energy had been shifted to one of exuberance.

Some of us did take a break for a bit, but ultimately what emerged was an unexpected wave of productive creativity. For example, I was able to design a storyboard for the coders so they’d have clarity about what the user experience involved.

What I had been unable to remember during the initial stages of fear was that I was around a bunch of people who enjoy working in the consciousness space because in addition to the goods and services explored, they also value being highly conscious themselves. This Hackation not only merged hacking + a vacation, it also merged meditation aspects of allowing every single experience to arise as sacred + work dynamics. And ultimately, the team produced in two days what often takes teams many months.

The underlying idea is that when internal emotional experiences are denied, numbed or suppressed – they block our creative expressions and also come back to haunt us again and again. If they are fully expressed with care and love, then they dissolve back into the field of infinite possibility and the body opens up and delights in creation again. Of course we dove into the physiology and science behind all this, but I’ll spare that part of the story here. Conceptually, this may not sound revolutionary, but executing this concept in a pressure-filled work environment in real-time is another matter. Not something I’d seen executed previously.

After the event ended as we continued to collaborate on Slack, I noticed someone express their gratitude for the event to the group by writing:

“The collective space had an awareness allowing me to stay grounded and see what comes up instead of rejecting the experience.”

Apparently others were experiencing the benefits of this unique environment too.

So that’s what I mean by:
Experiments in dissolving the work/joy dichotomy through hacking an app while meditating on vacation.

I’m filing it in my memory as a measurement of success. It also certainly aligns with my goals in converging love and work. And it’s way beyond solely focusing on the product outcome.

Gareth Gwyn is an intern at IONS. This blog originally appeared on, and was re-posted here with permission.

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