Friday, February 3, 2012

Not awkward -- socially different

Today I'm leaving for a two-week- long retreat. I'm not worried about the length of time -- although there are a remarkable number of things happening during that that timeframe that I'll miss (Bjork in New York!, the Superbowl, a child's 21st birthday). I'm anxious about the talking.

I've done a two-week silent retreat, and I loved it. Not being able to talk -- to make excuses or apologies or explain your actions -- tells you so much about the how you see you yourself. Not talking is not a problem.

This retreat, though, includes meditation and study -- and talking about what you study. It doesn't require silent, choreographed oriyoki meals; we eat in the dining room. At tables. Where talking is allowed. Where wondering which table to sit at is de rigeur. Where every other table seems to be having livelier or deeper conversation. Where I wish there was a silent dining room, as at the yoga retreat center I often go to, where it's OK to opt out, to concentrate on the food.

Fortuitously, there has been an explosion of conversation this week about introverts due to a new book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. On Friday, it was seventh on Amazon's book list, and Cain's been interviewed by seemingly every media outlet. (The book came out last week.)

Cain's point is that introversion is a personality style, not a problem. She tells NPR:

"Introversion is really about having a preference for lower stimulation environments. So it's just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action. Whereas extroverts really crave more stimulation in order to feel at their best. ...

"Many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial, and that's really a misperception. Because actually it's just that introverts are differently social. So they would prefer to have a glass of wine with a close friend as opposed to going to a loud party full of strangers.

"Now, shyness, on the other hand, is about a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted without having that particular fear at all, and you can be shy but also be an extrovert."

Not that is useful information.

Meditation has made me less shy. I've developed more confidence in and acceptance of myself, a sense of self value that was lacking before. I don't fear social judgments. But just because I'm not worried about what you might think about me when I head off for lunch by myself rather than joining the group doesn't mean that I don't wonder about why I don't want to join the group.

Now I know. I'm differently social. Nice.

And I don't dislike talking. But I like talking when there is something to talk about. I suppose Buddhism provides a lot I like to talk about (as my history with this blog proves.)


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