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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

How to Create Solitude in the Context of Relationship

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
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Photo Credit: John Fowler

Solitude is necessary for my existence just as water is. Without it, I wither and become listless in my desiccated state. I am not, however, a hermit. I am in a committed relationship, married in fact, and must negotiate my needs for solitude within this relationship.

Unlike Fenton Johnson in his recent Harper’s article, I feel that we can attain hydrating solitude within the confines of a committed relationship. This feat requires cooperation. If your partner also needs solitude to water themselves, that is a helpful start. But we are not all married to other introverts. Asking for time to oneself is an easy sell to an introvert partner and a much harder one to an extroverted one who may not get, intuitively, the ask for time alone. Here are some steps to consider:

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  • Ask
  • Explain why it is necessary (feel free to use my thirst metaphor)
  • Commit to taking the time
  • Maximize the soul-nurturing quality of that time (meditation can accomplish this; so, too, can creative endeavors)
  • Be fully present during the times when you are with your partner

Seeking solitude is a self-care habit as assuredly as drinking water. We can certainly forget to drink half our body weight in ounces of water each day and survive. Likewise, you can ignore your solitude needs and survive, but thriving may be out of the question. Over time, we will just become weary, disconnected, and life may feel colorless. We may become irritable. And we may take refuge in the low hanging fruit of an ersatz solitude — the television. Mindfulness practice is better.

You can find more about relationships and solitude in the Awakened Introvert: Order your copy now.

 

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Three Reasons Why I Wrote the Awakened Introvert

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

AwakenedIntrovertCF.inddI am excited to announce that my next book, The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World, is just about to be released! I am happy that this workbook will soon be available to help my fellow introverts in the world to bring a greater measure of sanity to their lives.

I am thinking about why I wrote this book. This book was a labor of love. I was really writing to myself and through myself. Three reasons come to mind:

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1) It came out of my own awakening to the bias against introversion (some of this bias self-imposed). For years I knew about introversion as a psychological concept and I readily identified myself as one. However, it didn’t realize the prejudice that I and other applied to this introverted way of being. I felt guilty that I wasn’t more “out there,” “on,” and “positively cheery” all the time.

I thought something might be wrong with me. “Maybe I’m depressed or self-sabotaging,” I would wonder. But then I realized that, indeed, my reserved quiet was an introvert asset rather than a liability. It was endemic to who I am as a human being and it is the starting point on my path to spiritual awakening.

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This discovery, if you will, is the main thrust of the book. I share what I know about being an introvert in an extrovert-dominated world and then provide a series of contemplations, exercises, and practices that can actually make a difference in how you cope moment-by-moment, day-by-day in the world.

2) I realized that my decades long mindfulness path was in some large measure facilitated by being an introvert. People often ask me how I got into meditation and I never have a clear answer for them other than the fact that meditation has also held an intuitive appeal for me. I like to be quiet, I value stillness (even though it can be challenging to realize), and I know how difficult it is to manage my ADD-like mind.

Meditation is a natural fit for introverts because it embodies quiet, stillness, and provides a technology that can actually change our brains likely increasing our capacity to withstand stimulation such that it is no longer experienced as aversive. It also gives us tools that we can use to better manage our energy.

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3) The Buddha was an introvert (likely so). The Buddha recognized that the path to awakening was an inside job. It didn’t come about by impressing others, doing amazing feats, or being loud. Instead, his enlightenment happened in the quiet solitude of meditation and this is what he advocated for his followers 2500 years ago. The path of quiet is just as relevant and necessary today as the world becomes more and more self-preoccupied with attention-seeking. His basic teachings, included in the book, are a roadmap for introverts (and those intrepid extroverts, too, willing to do the inner work). I’ve devoted my life to trying to understand and live these basic teachings, and it is my honor to share them with you.

The Awakened Introvert is unique from other books by and for introverts because it is a workbook. You can work through the issues in writing, which is often a helpful way to make sense of things, connect to material, and to hear yourself thinking.

Pre-order your copy now and you’ll get it soon! Don’t let the extrovert circus tell you how to live. Claim your place in the introvert revolution by embracing mindfulness and the Buddha’s wisdom.

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The Interovert Revolution (no this is not a typo)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

BS07059I recently misspelled introvert in a draft of an article I was writing. While I was correcting, I read what I had written: “interovert.” It was an easy enough fix, just remove the “e.” However, interovert has meaning on its own.

Mindfulness practice builds our capacity for interoception–the capacity to know what is happening in the body. Interoception connects us to our bodies and through our bodies to the present moment. When introverts practice mindfulness they become interoverts. The same would hold for extroverts. When they practice meditation they can become interoverts too.

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Perhaps this is the goal of mindfulness practice–to transform introverts and extroverts alike into intereoverts–embodied beings moving through time in the present moment.

Interoception is largely the responsibility of the insula and the sensory cortices in the brain. It is not surprising and very encouraging that neuroscience studies reliably find changes to these parts of the brain.

This makes sense according to the axiom: neurons that fire together wire together. Since mindfulness practice involves paying attention the body it would tap into the interoceptive system of the brain activating the insula. The more the insula fires, the thicker it becomes as new neurons form and new connections proliferate.

The body is the path to presence. Instead of feeding the parts of our brain that manufacture stories, paying attention to the body connects us to oursleves and the world around us (that is really not separate from us). An interovert prefers the body over stories. Interoversion is the way of being in the world that is sensory, holistic, and integrated.

Enjoy your embodiment now by taking a mindful breath and letting that breath expand into the entire body. Just let the body breathe itself for a while and grow your insula!

 

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The Value of Unplugging

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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As you know from my last post, I was on vacation and while I was dealing with technology, I was also mostly unplugged, at least in a relative sense.

I contemplated the meaning of vacation and reflected on its purpose and why it can be so valuable–and so necessary–in today’s hectic world.

Life is demanding in the sense that it makes a lot of demands upon us. Work, family, and self-care are obvious requirements of life. Beyond these, the Information Age burdens us with others. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are becoming part of the fabric of life. There are expectations.

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If you are not producing and posting content, you don’t remain relevant. If you are not relevant in the social media universe, what does this say about your existence?

As an author, participating in social media is now a requirement and there is constant pressure to produce content. At least, this is how I experience it–as pressure. I confess that I don’t relish it. I often imagine what it would have been like to be an author thirty years ago before the Internet. I need to rouse myself from these wistful, nostalgic reveries to come back to the present. It’s time to make public content.

It’s hard to find solitude under these conditions. There is an aspect to social media that provides cover, especially for introverts. You can participate and participate on your own terms, when you feel like being online or in the app. It might be less burdensome than an equivalent number of face-to-face contacts. However, the fact remains that social media is intrusive, often delightfully so. At the very least, it imposes expectations, not only for content but also for being responsive. I’ve lost countless “friends” on Facebook because I am just not responsive enough.

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When I was away, my WiFi connections were so poor that connecting was difficult or impossible. I was, for all intents and purposes, unplugged. The fact that we can vacation–travel almost anywhere in the world except very remote locations–and find connectivity is a modern miracle. However, it deprives us of something very important–the relief that comes from being unplugged.

It may feel like a luxury to have no demands pressing upon you from embodied or electronic sources, but I believe this is more of a necessity. As a culture, we are starved for this kind of solitude and we continue down this path at our peril.

We all need–introverts and extroverts alike–to have downtime. We introverts are more sensitive to this need and are more likely to act on it. Extroverts may be unaware and yet suffer too, although not as intensively.

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As a culture we need to slow down. I am not a philistine and I enjoy (mostly) and depend upon my technologies. I am also acutely aware that I have to put it away for stretches of time along with most other media. These breaks are essential for the well-being of my soul. I am reminded of the lines from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets when he said, “I said to be my soul be still …”

Can you still your soul today? What does that look like for you? Of course, mindfulness practice can provide the unplugged solace that you need. Try some today.

 

 

 

 

Previous Posts

How to Create Solitude in the Context of Relationship
Solitude is necessary for my existence just as water is. Without it, I wither and become listless in my desiccated state. I am not, however, a ...

posted 5:50:36pm Apr. 17, 2015 | read full post »

Three Reasons Why I Wrote the Awakened Introvert
I am excited to announce that my next book, The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World, is just about to be released! I am happy that this workbook will soon be ...

posted 4:56:47pm Apr. 15, 2015 | read full post »

The Interovert Revolution (no this is not a typo)
I recently misspelled introvert in a draft of an article I was writing. While I was correcting, I read what I had written: "interovert." It was an easy enough fix, just remove the "e." However, interovert has meaning on its own. Mindfulness ...

posted 3:30:51pm Apr. 11, 2015 | read full post »

The Value of Unplugging
As you know from my last post, I was on vacation and while I was dealing with technology, I was also mostly unplugged, at least in a relative sense. I contemplated the meaning of vacation and reflected on its purpose and why it can be so ...

posted 11:32:26am Apr. 05, 2015 | read full post »

I Want my WiFi Now!
A recent adventure I had illustrates the limitations of the technology in certain places and how easily our expectations can give rise to a world of frustration. On Thursday March 12, I listened with great interest to Fresh Air that featured ...

posted 9:10:31am Mar. 24, 2015 | read full post »

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