Timid, haughty, withdrawn, aloof, arrogant…those are some of the words people use to describe introverts. Our celebrity culture looks with some suspicion on that quality of being which finds energy in solitary pursuits. It doesn’t mean introverts fear social occasions, but there can be a sense of acting a part when faced with the small talk and jostling for attention prized by an extroverted society. Certainly, it seems like a mistake to confuse shyness (and its associated anxiety) with introversion. I say this with some authority because I identify as an introvert, and the Meyers-Briggs test I took several years ago agrees. Many of us introverts grew up thinking that something was wrong because the stuff of daily interactions seemed to be harder for us than our extroverted friends. We thought we were socially deficient, rather than simply socially different. Of course, my much older and wiser self knows that it’s always a mistake to compare my inner self to your outer self.
Popular psychology and TED Talks have some good things to say about introverts these days. Reflective, non-reactive, observant…those are some of the positive attributes studies confer on introverts. They are people who crave authentic interactions and not ones built on networking and party banter. They are eager to dive into philosophical discussions, and though not very quick to share opinions, you can be certain that there is a constant inner-dialogue going on that is weighing the voices of past experiences with current knowledge, emotions and intuition.
But in reality, most of us are probably ambiverts – a convenient balance between extroversion and introversion that allows us to behave in ways we find comfortable, depending on our individual reaction to a particular set of circumstances. Living on the edges of behavior can be exciting or cautious to an extreme, but finding comfort in the middle just might be something to value more, especially in this world of loudly voiced opinions and shrilly proclaimed fake news and unconsidered reactions.
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I’ve lived with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” for a long time now. More than half my lifetime. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.