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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

The Colors and Seasons of Introversion and Extroversion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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“Minion Yellow is a custom colour designed to represent the sweet and subversive characters. An extroverted hue, it projects playfulness and warmth and is suggestive of intellectual curiosity and enlightenment.”

So says Pantone, makers of Minion Yellow. Interesting copy. Can a color be extroverted? Apparently so. I prefer orange. I suppose this bright yellow color does suggest loudness but I fail to see how we get to intellectual curiosity, let alone enlightenment.

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However we characterize color, it is likely based on stereotypes. Extroversion is red, yellow, and orange. Introversion is blue, green, grey, and brown. Maybe purple is in the middle? Seasons can reflect the differences between introverts and extroverts too, especially in the northern climes where the winter season is severe.

Fall into winter is the season of the interior. The days get darker, the leaves fall off the trees, and we turn within in preparation for the long winter ahead. With the exception of the often extroverted demands of the holiday season, we can look forward to (or dread) the long season of solitude ahead. The streets will be quieter, less people out walking. The sidewalk cafe´s closed.

The color of winter is white: solid, unified, and stark. It is also black during the long nights. It is also grey, as so many days are overcast (although this winter the frigid cold brought lots of sunshine).

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As spring starts to emerge, people begin to emerge from winter hibernation. Street life begins back again and it’s easier to get outside. We don’t need to layer ourselves in protective armor of fleece, Goretex, and down.

Winter into spring and summer are the seasons of exterior: spring cleaning, gardening, and reconnecting with the community at large. Of course and again, these are generalizations. For intrepid Vermonters like myself, winter isn’t a complete hunkering down. We remain active, engaged, and socialize throughout.

I like the metaphorical aspect of winter: the way it represents stillness, purity, and quiet. I am ready to say goodbye to winter, the longest one in memory and look forward to some extroverted color flowers poking up out of the ground soon.

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Whatever your seasons and colors, mindfulness can help you to be present to whatever is happening. You’ll find a wealth of thriving techniques in my book: The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World. Order your copy today.

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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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