Bodhi for the Bitcoin Set

SXSW Interactive keynote speaker Andy Puddicombe on finding happiness through mindfulness

SXSW is a marathon, and just like any other race, it's foolish to start without stretching. But a typical techie doesn't need to be limber in the legs so much as in the mind. That's where Headspace comes in.

Headspace is an unlikely start-up success story that focuses on, well, focus. For a monthly membership fee, Zen seekers gain access to a broad database of audio meditation exercises designed to improve overall mental wellness. The site was founded by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, who serves as the literal and figurative voice of the service and will be delivering the closing Interactive keynote address about finding happiness through mindfulness.

"It is not a question of whether we can find the time to meditate," he says. "The question is, can we afford not to? As an entrepreneur, the demands on the body and mind are often extreme. If we do not take the time to look after our most precious resource, the mind, eventually it will let us down."

Skeptics may scoff, but Puddicombe points to plenty of concrete benefits. Research backs up his claims of reduced stress, improved sleep, and increased recovery time. Although there are no studies about meditation's effects on SXSW's most debilitating pitfall, the dreaded hangover, anecdotal evidence shows that sitting quietly for 10 minutes can do wonders for a throbbing headache. Even the biggest unbeliever would have trouble arguing with his elevator pitch.

"If there was a pill that was scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; enhance sleep, focus, and productivity; and improve relationships with those around us, would you take it?" asks Puddicombe.

Meditation also serves to combat another terrible side effect of SXSW, the tendency for otherwise reasonable people to morph into opportunistic jerks. In such a professionally charged environment, it's easy to fall into a trap of egotism, which makes staying centered even more important.

"One of the least talked about, but arguably most important, benefits of meditation is the ability to be comfortable in our own skin," says Puddicombe. "When we let go of all those ideas of who we think we should be and quit trying to project this image of someone else, we discover our authentic self."

Keynote Address

Why Happiness Is Hard and How to Make It Easier
Tuesday, March 15, 2pm
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D

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Andy Puddicombe, Headspace, SXSW Interactive 2016, meditation, mindfulness

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