The Buddha Was an Introvert

Finding peace of mind in a hectic world

The Buddha Was an Introvert

A Personality-Based Approach to the Buddha's Psychology

This blog will explore a personality-based approach to mindfulness and the Buddha’s psychology. Introverts and extroverts come from different places and have different challenges in realizing the dharma and their liberative potential.

The Philosopher Pascal said, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” The Buddha would agree. He might have advocated a path that was solitary but not lonely. He promoted an exploration of the interior in the context of being connected to a community of like-minded people.

The Buddha was likely an introvert himself and he prescribed an introverted path for self-transformation for everyone. He taught a method for addressing the pervasive anxieties that beset humanity and this method is best realized in places familiar to the introvert: quiet, solitude, and reserve, as well as meaningful interpersonal connections where compassion, good will, and peace prevail. 

Introverts have a potential edge when it comes to embracing the Buddha’s insights due to their propensity for quiet, introspection, and solitude. The catch is that you have to get out of your head long enough to realize them. This can be a challenge because thoughts are sticky, compelling, and habitual. This blog will provide readers with introvert-informed mindfulness instructions that will help you to get out of your discursive mind and into the present moment. 

The aspiration is to be here, now. The extrovert misses the moment because he is too busy moving and talking. He can’t sit still. The introvert sits still, but she misses the moment because she can’t get out of her head. Too much talking—inside and outside.

Extroverts bring energy, enthusiasm, and élan. Introverts bring comfort with sitting still, solitude, and external silence. When the mouth and the mind are quiet, introverts and extroverts can find peace.

In this blog, we’ll explore how the Buddha’s psychological teachings can benefit introverts for coping with an extroverted world. We will examine the Four Noble Truths and look at the path the Buddha outlined in the fourth of the four truths: the Noble Eight-Fold path. We will also explore what the Buddha called the Wings to Awakening, which includes the Seven Factors of Awakening, the Noble Eightfold Path, and more. Mindfulness is a key element throughout.

As a card-carrying introvert, I recognize how important mindfulness is for helping me to cope with the demands of living in an extroverted world. Here are some of the benefits I’ve enjoyed:

  • When my energy has been drained from too much social contact, mindfulness practice helps me to restore that energy.
  • Mindfulness helps me to monitor my moment-to-moment, day-to-day energy, quiet, and solitude needs. This empowers me to be proactive and anticipate trouble before I am tapped out.
  • Meditation provides the time and space to go within and enjoy quietude from the activities of daily life. No multitasking, no social media. Just sitting with my own mind (and that brings enough of a challenge!)
  • The Buddha’s teachings on psychology have opened a window onto the world, basic things like appreciating cause and effect and the interrelatedness of phenomena gives me a foothold to meet a variety of challenges. They can be a comforting antidote when, for instance, I am feeling overwhelmed, overextended, or otherwise out of sorts.
  • When being among a lot of people and noise over stimulates me, mindfulness gives me an insulating, protective cocoon.
  • Mindfulness also helps me to deal with the distractions of everyday living. It helps me to create a space to re-engage in the next moment after an interruption as if it were no big deal. After all, this is what happens in meditation. We focus and get interrupted by thoughts. These thoughts can carry us away and we can always come back in the next moment.  

Mindfulness is working for me right now. I am writing this post in a crowded restaurant, yet I feel confident in my solitude. Instead of feeling beleaguered by the noise, I turn my ear towards it with interest. I have my laptop, which provides a shield of protection from intrusion. I carry within myself comforting, quiet solace. I feel myself to be fluid. Occasionally, I feel luminous.

We’ll explore research where relevant, mindfulness practice tips, and insights from the Buddha’s prolific cannon of teachings. I will draw from what I’ve learned researching and writing the Everything Guide to the Introvert Edge and new books I am writing on and for introverts.

Extroverts can benefit from Buddhist insights by developing their introverted qualities. This blog will show you how to maximize your benefits as an introvert and how to minimize the liabilities. I hope you’ll find these insights and principles helpful too. 

Arnie Kozak, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine and founder of the Exquisite Mind Psychotherapy and Meditation Studio.

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