Mindfulness for Introverts

Mindfulness doesn't necessarily come easily to the busy introvert mind.

Posted May 05, 2011

Easier said than done.

You'd think that introverts, who spend a lot of time in their own minds, would be mindfulness gurus. But when you think about it further, maybe not.

After all, if your mind is spinning with interesting thoughts, you're not paying attention to what is actually going on around you.

Do you ever find that when you have something churning in your head--especially a worry--allowing yourself to just fall into the whirlpool of thoughts is easier than fighting them? That keeping thoughts at bay requires huge exertion?

Introverts may be quiet people in a noisy world, but we're also internally noisy, and that's not mindfulness. More like full-mindedness.

I've been practicing yoga for several years. At the end of every class is a five-minute relaxation, savasana. You lie on your back, in what some people call corpse pose, and let yourself completely relax.

Easy, right?

Yeah, except relaxing my mind. More often than not, my brain starts whirring furiously the moment we lie down, and the savasana ends before I'm even aware it's going on. In one class, my teacher leads us through a relaxation, but sometimes I can barely hear her over my own thoughts.

That's not mindfulness.

Same thing when I walk my dog. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and I'm looking at the ground, furiously thinking about whatever it is I'm thinking about.

I usually catch myself at some point during the walk. I'll take a breath, look around, feel the sun, try to be present in the moment.

It lasts for a few minutes. Then, before I know it, I'm back in my busy brain.

Letting your own thoughts interfere with being in the present is no better than letting outside noise intrude on your peace. In fact, it's a lot easier to turn off the TV or close the door on noise than it is to turn down the volume in your head.

No mystery why meditation is considered a discipline.

Actually, in loud, busy places, introverts often need to retreat inside our heads. It can be more peaceful there and less overwhelming. But spending too much time listening to our own thoughts yammering at us can be as exhausting as cocktail party chitchat. As proud as we are of our busy brains, we don't need to listen to them all the time.

I took a meditation lesson once and the instructor gave me some tips for dealing with my monkey mind. My favorite was her suggestion that I think of my thoughts as kids in a playground--running, shouting, jumping, laughing, yelling--while I am sitting still and quiet nearby. This separates my quiet mind from my busy thoughts, and I've found it works pretty well for a while. 

As we become more aware of how busy our introvert minds are, we also need to think about managing that energy--harnessing the power for our own good, and calming it when it gets too frenetic. And yes, you can be frenetic even sitting alone and silent in a quiet room. (Especially if you're also in front of a computer, which is the biggest yammerhead in the world. It never shuts up.)

So. Right now. Stop reading. Look up. Look around you. See what you see, hear what you hear, and get out of your own head for a bit. Be mindful instead of mind full. It feels good.


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