The Introverted Woman's Guide to Being More Present
"Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that." ~Alexandra Horowitz
I don't know about you, but when I go out, to write at one of my favorite cafe's, grocery shopping, to run errands, to work 2 days a week in my cubicle (one I actually like, might I add), there's usually a dichotomy of feelings I feel when I people-watch or look around.
On one hand, I see people very connected - conversing, looking each other in the eye, loving each other, connecting consciously, stroking each others' backs, holding hands.
On the other, I see disconnection - people avoiding simplistic conversation by pulling out their cell phone in an elevator lobby, looking at scrolling information screens on elevators, and noses buried in magazines while waiting their turn in the grocery line. Couples at tables on the phone the entire time, with no intimacy whatsoever, just "buy me what I want & let's go."
Up until recently, because of a book I'm reading, I wasn't as conscious or aware of the immense amount of disconnection social media and digital devices have brought into our society. And it makes me sad. Yes, even as an introvert who, supposedly the internet was built for.
But....as an introvert, I'm 100% guilty of doing all of the "disconnection" things that make me cringe when I see them. So, once I gained this knowledge and had some "aha" moments, I had a choice to make to engage in slightly different behavior in my life, to make sure I'm not part of the disconnection economy, but the connected.
To be clear, being an introvert doesn't make me disconnected because I don't want to be around 15 people all the time. I participate in disconnection when I have the opportunity to be present with what's in front of me, see someone's heart or intention, or have a conversation that could change everything for me and I make the decision not to participate in that moment.
“Life will break you. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
― Louise Erdrich
I just love that quote by Louise Erdrich. And in order to "taste as many as we can", there is a consciousness that absolutely has to become part of our lives, especially as introverted women. Because our natural disposition is to withdraw from connection opportunities, we have to decide to facilitate resolution by stopping the avoidance cycle.
What I'm really sayin' is sometimes we have to say 'yes' when we want to say 'no' and vice versa. And keep in mind that saying "no" to one thing is saying "yes" to something else - whatever that something may be. Are you even asking what that is, though?
I would argue that presence reigns over productivity (and perhaps even facilitates it), and intuition over information. (Click to Tweet)
That said, this guide is something I'm hoping you can revisit over and over again, to refresh your soul on what it might take to be more fully present and see the beauty in serendipity in your life.
Creativity's true power lies in presence. Without it, your creative mind is on lock down, begging to be let out and freed.
I love a quote by the powerful, beautiful Louise Hay (of Hay House Publishers). She says, "Your creativity is always in demand." This means that someone is always needing or desiring what you have to offer, and that includes your presence.
This creates a beautiful cycle - the more present you are, the more enhanced your creativity. The more creative you become, the more present you are able to be. (Tweet it)
William James said, "My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice, shape my mind." Another way of saying it is what some psychologists call 'selective attention', which basically means we curate and feel what we want to from the plethora of stimuli, information, and sounds coming at us every day.
When it comes to managing your energy as an introvert, this is wonderful (and often, an advantage). When it comes to constantly participating in this filtering as a human being, it can be unhealthy or dangerous because we can be sofiltering we miss out on so much of what is around us, there to teach or help make us a better human being. (Oh, the complexity that is, us!)
Here's what's important (and how you strike the balance): Remember that your consciousness is what creates meaning.
What do I mean?
When you're standing in a grocery line and feel tempted to pull out your cell phone, stop yourself and ask "why do I feel I need a distraction right now?" Instead of just doing it unconsciously. And just that question alone - whether you go ahead with the decision to pull out your cell or not (which is okay) - creates meaning in your life. You'll feel a little bit more aware than you did yesterday and satisfied that it was a conscious decision, not one that you just "always do." But if you never ask that question, you're just catering to constant, unconscious behavior.
You and I have learned how to commit to rote activities and meaning in our lives, then wonder why we don't have deeper experiences. (Tweet that here)
If you and I want to be more present, we have to pay more attention to our own streams of consciousness - what are we paying attention to and why? This also brings a lot more meaning to our relationships - we're better able to know why we're connecting to people and less likely to connect with the wrong ones.
Recently, I looked up in my room and I had 4 devices surrounding me - 2 laptops, my Nexus 7, and my Galaxy SIII. I sighed. "Am I really allowing this?", I thought to myself. Is this healthy? Necessary? (There's that consciousness we talked about...)
That same day, I read in a book that Tiffany Schlain (founder of the Webby Awards) and her husband, partake in an old Jewish tradition called Shabbat, but they call it a "technology shabbat." They literally turn off everything - TV, phones, digital devices, noise, and anything else, light candles in the evening, and unplug the entire next day until after sunset - and they do this every single week, not just once or twice a year.
I wasn't only impressed; I was inspired.
While I'm not Jewish, I greatly respect Jewish traditions and history. Old tradition or not, I felt like she was onto something. She goes on to explain that our souls need to be reset, and we're simply not doing it. We are GLUED to our devices like our lives depend on them, and friends, they simply don't.
Supposedly, and according to hundreds of articles I've read online, the internet is an introvert's delight and, it was almost created just for us.
I disagree. However, I "get" the premise too - it allows us to interact on our own terms, when we want, how we want, and we can express more freely, which you know I love for you.
However, most of the introverted women I know and have talked to about this feel just as overwhelmed by it when they do log on as they do by the world we live in.
Scenario: A woman comes in from a full day of work (and people misunderstanding her), she turns on the lights that make her feel warm, throws down the mail she doesn't have the patience for right now, pours a glass of a wine or a cup of tea, has a snack, takes a breath, and opens her laptop, hoping for some pleasantries. Only to find that something she said pissed someone off on social media, she forgot to email back her family member (and now they're mad), and she has no idea where to start on growing her after-hours business for that day. Marketing? Blogging? Take this class? Enroll in that course? Hire that coach?
Is this ringing any sort of bell?
My god, all we've done is taken the too-busy, overwhelming world we live in and fit it into a 12" screen of digital pixels. And yes, I could simply close the lid, but the issues are still there - no different than the world I live in during the day. I'm still demanded to respond.
This scenario proves my point that, just like the 'real world', the internet has just as much power over our energy, and the internet isn't as often an "introvert's delight" as the media would like us to believe.
So, in order to remain present and astute to our own energy, those around you, and your own personal goals, there's a few things that can help:
- Scheduling time to be online (maybe even down to how long you can spend with each medium (i.e Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)
- Scheduling time to worry (yep, you read it here first - DO try this at home)
- Make a list before you log on to any device exactly what you're wanting to accomplish and why... (consciousness, remember?)
- Preserve unstructured time (time where you're not connected to social media, not working, not doing anything connected to any other outcome other than getting to know yourself better)
Meals with Others
This topic is a soft spot with many people. Some people have no boundaries when it comes to meals and dinners, lunches, brunches out and digital devices. Others have strict rules.
What I like to teach falls somewhere in the middle, and here's what I'd like to say on the matter of meals out with others. No one can convince me that sitting at a table with a device in your hand most of the time (for any reason) is being fully present. I just can't believe it. And people who are close to me know - I'm good with you taking a much-anticipated call, an emergency, or "checking us in" real quick on Facebook (then putting that thing away).
However, I know what it feels like to be on the other end of someone with their phone in their hand the whole entire meal, and my inclination has always been to get up and leave. I always want to ask people who do that, "why am I here?" It sounds rude, but it's a legitimate question - if you're going to have your phone out the entire meal, why did I get dressed to come? You could have just hung out with your phone. (Do you ever feel like asking this?)
Here's the thing: Eating together is a sacred thing that we have forgotten. When we sit down to eat with another individual, there's something ancient and sacred about it. Why do we think Thanksgiving and "The Last Supper" and holidays are held in such esteem with most people, and have remained a part of our heritage? Eating is a special time to commune with another individual.
I hope we can pay more attention to these times, and relinquish the need to have a device in our hands.
Most introverts typically hate the phone. If you're like me, you have your days. There are some days I love talking on the phone - when I'm having a long conversation with my girl Jessica about psychology, business, human behavior or future plans, she and I can talk for hours (and do sometimes). Or when I'm touching base with my sister, sharing spiritual insights with one another.
However, I have to say it - most of us are horrible on the phone because we're multi-tasking like crazy. Making the bed, online reading an article, on social media, looking at photos, scrolling through our Instagram feed, or texting someone else. And I have to say it right now - I'm guilty.
This is one of the absolute hardest things NOT to do, yet so incredibly detrimental if we don't start paying more attention to it. And bluetooth technology, headsets, & speakerphones make this almost impossible (it would seem) to overcome.
One of the things I've found that helps me is to sit on the phone by a candle - if I watch and concentrate on the burning and the wick, there's something that keeps me engaged.
Something else that may feel strange at first, but you will grow into, is to take notes. You can list it as a prayer point for that person, or a meditation thought in your journal. This keeps you focused on what that person is saying and not on your dirty house or Facebook timeline.
Co-Workers & Colleagues
Everyone's boundaries with co-workers are different as well as their environments, so let me just say one thing here on co-workers & colleagues (even those you don't like).
You and I can never meet another human being we can't learn something from.
Let me be clear that I'm not asking you to befriend everyone you work with. I'm asking you to pay more attention - to the things you don't like and why you don't like them, the lesson another person's personality can teach you, the things you do like and why, and the lesson you can gain from those personalities you loathe.
Presence...is about mature observation and extraction for personal growth and well-being. (Click to tweet!)
No, they may not have earned or deserve your presence, but you deserve it - for what it can teach you.
There's no one better I can think of on the planet to be more in tune with than yourself. And somehow, as women, we are gifted with this beyond measure.
I did a post on this recently, where we looked deeper into how to listen to that intuition and gut feeling.
Many introverted women are also highly sensitive people (HSP's), so we are the ones who have been given an extra dose (if you will), sort of against our will. And so, sometimes it can feel like a gift and other times, it can be extremely frustrating.
There are days when I'd rather others not know and feel that I'm reading right through them or I can smell their true motives a mile away. That isn't always enjoyable - there are days I want to not be able to see and know things. (Can you relate?)
The more you strengthen this intuitive muscle, the more you will be able to discern between it and assumption too. And also between intuition and fear.
In my signature program, The Introvert Effect, I teach how to differentiate between the emotional and the rational brain, questions you can ask, and how to be less emotionally reactive. When you start learning this, you will come to the place where you'll welcome your intuition much more often, because you'll know when it's appropriate to act on a thought and when it isn't.
How would it feel for you to feel that fully present with your own intuition at all times?
"Part of normal human development is learning to notice less than we are able to. The world is awash in details of color, form, sound – but to function, we have to ignore some of it. The world still holds these details. Children sense the world at a different granularity, attending to parts of the visual world we gloss over; to sounds we have dismissed as irrelevant. What is indiscernible to us is plain to them." ~Alexandra Horowitz
Thus, how important is it to attempt even more to notice what they're noticing? What can they show you they see as interesting that perhaps over your stressful, jaded situations, you've deemed uninteresting?
Your children (especially young ones) have the power and ability, if you allow them, to help you be more fully present than the next person - to engage in their neophilia - the allure of the new and unfamiliar.
Now, I have an idea...
1. I'm seriously considering making this an e-guide of some kind, but I'd like your thoughts & input on some possible other topics I could include, if I decided to do so. What other places, scenarios or situations can you share with me to include?
2. Also - which one of these really resonates with you the most & how will you take action THIS WEEK on it?
As always, I'm deeply grateful for your presence here. Share this with your network this week. I believe this is a conversation introverted women really need...