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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Alone Time Requires Skill, Courage, and Planning

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
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Photo Credit Rachel Jaoquim

I read an interesting piece on spending time alone recently by Cassandra Bodzak. In a culture dominated by extrovert values, being alone might seem like alien territory and mostly to be avoided. Introverts crave it, but everyone needs it.

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Meditation gives us a chance to be alone with ourselves for at least a little while and this is, perhaps, why meditation is growing in popularity–it is tapping into our huge unmet need for time alone.

To be alone is one thing, to be comfortable in that aloneness is another. We tend to laud the connection we have with others and sometimes forget that even the closest connections require space.

When a child develops in a secure attachment relationship, the security of connection also involves time alone exploring the outer world and attending to one’s inner world. The better the attachment, the more capacity for being alone that develops.

Do you get enough time alone with yourself in welcome solitude? Chances are the answer to this question is, “no.”

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How can you bring more alone time into your days and life? It starts with recognizing the need and then arranging your life to make it so. Again, having a daily meditation practice builds solitude into the very fabric of your day.

Once you’ve recognized the need and made the arrangements, you may still need to grant self-permission to enjoy this time. It may feel selfish to withdraw from others in this way. You may have to set limits on others to get the space you need.

Now that you are alone with yourself you are not in the clear. Being alone and enjoying it requires solitude skills. Are yours honed? Are  you feeling disoriented by being disconnected from others and reaching for your phone to provide a bearing into the next moment?

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Sitting quietly alone is not always easy. For the same reason, meditation is not easy. The mind does not want to sit still and be quiet. It wants to do something–anything–other than sitting and breathing. People and information provide boundless distraction from the existential reality of this moment.

The invitation is to look within. Not necessarily deep within as the meditation image often suggests but just looking within without the usual distractions. We can find plenty right below the surface once the busyness has cleared.

Now we have something to work with. While this is an act performed in solitude it is still a relational act–we are attuning to ourselves. We are cultivating a relationship with ourselves and becoming more intimate with the energy of our life in this moment (and all the moments to come).

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This intimacy is based on open, clear, and non interfering perception. Whatever arises in our experience, we can greet it with curiosity, acceptance, and willingness to learn from it.

Being alone takes courage. Can you brave it today?

You can learn more about building solitude into your life in my book, The Awakened Introvert. Available now.

 

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Protect and renew your energy as seen on Oprah.com from the Awakened Introvert

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

4.1.1I am pleased to share that Oprah.com has published an excerpt from The Awakened Introvert.

It’s on the “Shift Your Life” section of Oprah that provides interactive ways to make changes in your life.

They took an excerpt from the energy chapter and provide an interactive energy chart that you can use to chart your energy throughout the day. It provides three sample work days and a non-work day.

I have found this tool to be very helpful in managing my own energy and I really plan my day around the predictable ebbs and flows.

You can enjoy it here on Oprah.com.

 

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Conversationally-Induced Comas

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

3b06654rA recent cartoon in The New Yorker portrays a couple having coffee on a sidewalk cafe. The female member of the couple is lying prostrate in her chair, being attended to by EMTs. One EMT says to the other, “She’s in a conversationally induced coma.” Can you relate?

This cartoon is similar to the 1878 Currier & Ives illustration of a man who was “talked to death.”

I remember a good friend of mine, a strong extrovert from Texas, loved to talk. We used to play hockey early in the morning and they guys would tease him for his chattiness. Unabashed, he replied, “I was born talking!”

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The type of talk matters. A few minutes of superficial banter can lay me flat more than an hour of purposeful conversation. This is typical for introverts.

Talking on the phone seems to amplify the energy-strain. I don’t know why this is, but talking on the phone can be stressful. I can feel that strain in my voice and sometimes it is hard to recover until after the call is made. Other times, I am relaxed. The energy says more about me and where I am at rather than who the caller is.

The Buddha went out of his way to make speech its own item on the Noble Eightfold Path. He could have subsumed it under action, since speech is a form of action but he didn’t. He cautioned against obviously harmful speech actions such as lying and he also included gossip and idle chatter (the Buddha revealing his true introverted preferences).

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I am fortunate that I have days where I don’t have to talk, at least to human beings. Do you have enough silence-of-speech respites in your day? It’s important to give the voice proper rest as well as the emotional energy reserves that fuel the voice. It’s also important to take care of the instrument of the voice itself.

Quiet-based self-care strategies for energy and voice are available in my workbook: The Awakened Introvert. Get your copy now!AwakenedIntrovertCF.indd

 

 

 

 

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Be Mindful and Be Lovely

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

camas_lilies2It is always a joy to discover a new poem that captures the spirt of mindful living.

The late poet Galway Kinnell said, “To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.”

I was recently introduced to the poem, “Callas Lillies” by poet Lynn Ungar. You can also find her on Facebook. Here is an excerpt:

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And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”

This poem captures the tension between doing and being. Our lives are busy and useful and rushed. There is little solitude in the demand to get it all done.

We have a choice, however. Like Neruda’s admonition in “Too Many Names” when he says,

Let’s not fill our mouths … with so much singing of papers

Ungar encourages us to to set aside the incessant doing to experience life directly–out in the field where we have the chance to bloom.

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Our bloom requires the blessing of self-permission.

It’s one thing to be productive, useful, even ambitious. It’s another thing to be consumed by what David Whyte calls the “strategic” aspects of living. There is more than that to life and an enriched and enlivened and enlightened life requires setting aside the strategies sufficient so we can breathe our way into being.

Solitude and a mindful intention invites us into a space where we can enjoy the presence of life as it is without the busyness of doing. We will get it all done, just not in this moment. This moment is ours to enjoy and to flower with grace. It is ours to become lovely.

 

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