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Are Introverts Better Meditators?

A long-time Sufi friend re-ordered a full set of my instructional DVDs to replace her worn-out cassette copies. She called to say, “Every time I do your videos I remember who I am.” There is pretty much no better story than that—remembering who you are. I empathize, because last week, out of the blue and all by itself, my daily practice returned, and I remember who I am. Anxiety had strung me up at night, blocking my dreams, depriving me of sleep, then practice scooped me up and in five days, an hour a day, my dreams returned, my sleeping is settling, and the anxiety attacks have subsided. Bonus: I feel lithe. Ancient-ness cracks off. The way that practice hauls me out of the muck makes me trust Dancemeditation (it sets me right), and trust myself (when my chips are falling down and down, my being will go where I really need to be.) Some of you may relate to this.

Two ideas here: recognition and remembering. Almost the same but not quite. In my observation over the years of teaching meditation, recognizing who you are means, initially, seeing your ‘story’—that interface of your personal history to date within societal context. ‘Story’ is how we grapple and resolve, consciously or unconsciously, our within/without equation in order to function every day. For many people that is all there is to life. Spiritual seekers, however, are always driven by this question, “Is that all?” and the answer for us is, “No, it isn’t.” We begin an experiential quest for consciousness, non-egoistic identity, and non-dualistic awareness. The Mystical Union, One-ness. Sufis call this ‘remembering’: we are, at the root of the self, spiritual beings (or being-ness) and Path is the journey of remembering this Truth.

Remembering who you are, recognizing who you are. I’ve been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and I recognize myself here: “Though there is no all-purpose definition of introversion or extroversion…today’s psychologists tend to agree…that introverts feel ‘just right’ with less external stimulation.” I like the less ‘external’ stimulation because, if other introverts are like me, we are tuned to a dynamic internal frequency where quite a lot is going on like, for instance, embodied awareness. I need to close my eyes and be with the hushed interior butterflies, mice, snakes, dragonflies of my body. They are light-footed and often invisible. When I spend time with them I feel less crowded. Their ways, though busy enough, have less friction than the noise of civilization. Just because others can’t see this doesn’t mean I’m not stimulated.

Cain goes on: “Introverts are relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame…Introverts may have strong social skills…but after a while they wish they were home in their pajamas. [Or in the meditation hall.] Many have a horror of small talk but enjoy deep discussions. Most are perfectly friendly.” Apparently one third of us are introverts in a society which over-values and extolls the mythical superiority of extroverts. But it turns out that when it comes to significant contributions to and great achievements within civilization, on average extrovert creative strategies, like crowd-sourcing, groupthink, teamwork, and networking, are no more effective than the introverts’ solitary toil and periodic sharing. We are not deadbeats or dough-brained cousins, and we find the hyping of extroversion oppressive. I found in Quieta refreshing permission to love what I love—move, breathe, sit, eyes closed and awake, alone or side-by-side in the meditation hall together alone, and then savor intimate, desultory interlocution about dreams and sensations and longings and ideas. Periods of undivided immersion in a spiritual and creative process yield the richest fruit of my being.


She lays out rusted iron bits dug up from the back garden, and a bright feather, a curious sliver of rock that shouldn’t have been where it was found. (Is it an arrow head?) She arranges these neatly on a table in basement shadows where, for days or months, they collect dust and spider threads. Once in a while she adds a curious, precious new bit then rearranges everything, a new order or design, intuitively impulsed. One night she bolts up, tossing her robe of self in a heap on the floor, and understands! She sees the connection. Two floating, niggling, bothersome-as-bees ideas have needed a missing bit of red ribbon to tie them together. She has the ribbon. She feverishly gathers it all. Ah! The whole beauty makes sense. Now she sweeps the junk lot off the table. Did it have anything to do with anything? Maybe, maybe not. Doors to the Alchemy are so odd…

I’m sure all you introverts have learned to get out there and play ball, thronging and milling, but you’ll probably always feel that you are a stranger in a strange land. It’s good to know you don’t have to pretend to love the yakkity, incessant buzzwhir of devices, or feel self-condemnatory because too much collaboration can drain, fragment, or impoverish you. Society loses enormously when it dismisses arenas or ways of doing in which introverts thrive. American culture is a big dull chunk of brash, boisterous, bombastic buy-and-sell about any old thing; I don’t see much respect or support out there for the quiet rumination typically associated with artists, scientists, mystics, and philosophers. We just have to recognize that we are valuable.

So, are introverts better meditators? Sure. It’s our home turf. Since the development of self-witness requires tolerance for protracted reflection and self-containment, introverts, who rely less on societal stimulation for comfort, have an easier time going inward to engage. However, the heavy lifting of Path will take any personality type beyond personality, beyond ego, and beyond what any of us recognize as ourselves. That is the destination—beyond self. We go from recognizing to remembering.

Savor the life of the spirit.
Embrace inchoate longing.
Search for meaning.
Ask the question ‘Why am I here?’
Many of you may relate to this.


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    1. David #

      I think I am a very introverted extrovert.

      July 4, 2012
    2. Ambivert?

      July 4, 2012
    3. Theresa #

      I am a confirmed extrovert but what I have experienced is that historically I only received positive reinforcement for my extroversion. Even extroverts can hit a wall and need to be in seclusion. Because everyone felt my extroversion was to be praised I never learned how to take care of myself when I did need to be alone. It has been a slow process to even be able to recognize when I need to be alone.

      July 12, 2012
    4. An interesting plight, Teresa.
      I’m sure we all need what isn’t most native to us and then have to learn to navigate in that foreign place.

      July 12, 2012
      • Theresa #

        Those places are where I have the most to learn. My introverted friends are among my most important teachers 🙂

        July 12, 2012

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