I know I know! ANOTHER workshop. With a spiritual ilk. Is this the Year of Fun, or am I just having an existential crisis?
Hopefully I justified my reasoning for these group-based activities a bit more last week, but if not: I'll elaborate.
When you work from home, when you revel in your alone time, and actually get a lot of that solo time... it's very, very easy to get stuck in the trap of introvert isolation.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, introverts need people too! And I don't just mean coffee dates with your closest friends or collaborators, which I do get plenty of.
I mean being in a group of people, small enough to hear everyone's name, but big enough to not remember them all, this kind of group exposure is really beneficial to all of us - not just the most gregarious extroverts.
May be it's because I was raised a church-going Catholic and regardless of my beliefs (or lack thereof) now, I still have something in me that craves elaborate ceremony and ritual in a communal space... but I actually think it goes deeper than that, and more universal.
Our ancestors did not operate alone. They lived in communities. They worked together, ate together, slept together. In a community, we feel safe. If we found ourselves alone - particularly for an extended period - we were likely in danger. We might have done something wrong and our tribe abandoned us - now, we're at the mercy of nature and sabre-tooth tigers.
It seems plausible to me that we still retain some of that primal fear and discomfort, regardless of whether you're an introvert or not. And yes, I think my tolerance for alone time is WAY higher than my extrovert counterparts, but it isn't limitless.
These experiments I've been having with groups have shown me a lot - not just about whatever subject we're focussing on - but about myself, and how I perceive others and how I judge myself in relation to others.
So even after one of these gatherings, I get a LOT to reflect on.
This particular gathering I found by searching the local events for group meditation. As you might know, i've been on the mindfulness bandwagon for several years now, but am the first to sa: I'm CRAP at it.
Like, really. And I know I know, you can't be crap at meditation, we're all learning, it's a process blah blah blah.
But I really, really suck.
OK, that said, I know it's value. I know what I'm like when I go without it for a few days, and I dread to think what I'd be like if I didn't at least attempt to practise.
This particular event checked all my introvert-Goldilocks boxes.
Sweet. I also invited a friend along for extra accountability and bail-proofness.
I didn't know much about the style of meditation, I knew it would be Buddhist but that was as far as I could tell. And that the word 'embodiment' was used, which is a word I've heard and sounds like something I could use to combat my very dominant head.
It was held at Anahata Health Clinic, a big yellow building in Brighton, and I was pleased to see a big open door. I often struggle to find entrances to places, so that put me at ease.
I walked into a room where a few people were kind of pottering around, making tea, rolling out mats and placing oddly shaped cushions and foam blocks around at random, and while everyone seemed equally friendly and non-plussed about my entrance, no one was clearly the lead teacher or facilitator, nor were they clearly attendees.
Needless to say, I felt a bit lost as I carefully placed my lunch contribution. It's a nice feature of some other Buddhist events I've been to: a shared lunch after practise.
I brought lentil chips, hummus and olives, because that was all I found in a nearby health shop that seemed appropriate.
At some point the very lovely Sheila entered, welcoming me warmly and showing me around the... small room. I instantly warmed to her and she only continued to go higher in my estimations throughout the morning.
Once we were sat around, myself and my accomplice chose to plonk down on those nice, firm meditation cushions, while others did the same or sat on chairs or lay on the floor.
This in itself I LOVED. There was a lot of encouragement from Sheila to DO WHAT YOU WANT. That there is no one right way and wrong way, and that particularly with the exercises we'd be doing, it's mostly about getting yourself comfortable.
I think this in itself is a great little lesson about paying ATTENTION to what YOU need. The rebel in me gets rubbed up the wrong way when I'm told to sit up straight and not move a millimetre, but at the same time the good-girl, type-A perfectionist strives to do what teacher says to show that I can.
It's a push pull that's caused me a great deal of stress in my life, and one I'm quite ready to drop in favour of MY needs.
OK so the exercises. I won't bore you with the details, but I'll link to some of the resources Sheila mentioned in the show notes. The aim with these were to get a sense of embodiment, and I take that to mean, getting more in touch with and aware of our physical bodies. As I've mentioned before, I have a real hard time with that, as someone whose mind is constantly whirring and who often forgets she has a body, let alone is able to use it.
We did one practise that involved alternate nostril breathing, which normally annoys me, but I for some reason found it really helpful with Sheila's instruction. I also liked her secular approach: whilst she acknowledged the idea of channels running down our back, which sound a lot like the Chinese meridian lines, there was no forcing this - it seemed like she was using it as a way to just get us to use our imagination to be a bit more aware of our bodies.
That was exactly what I needed. We ended with a visualisation I chose to lie down for, which involved us sinking into the ground, which I suppose if you have a fear of being buried alive might have been unpleasant, but I quite liked it and felt very chilled and content by the end.
The class FLEW by. I also loved the fact that Sheila acknowledged she forgot to get us to introduce ourselves (which is something I despise anyway) but did this at the end instead - which, actually works a lot better because after a couple of hours of meditation together, you feel a whole lot more comfortable with your group.
Then we had lunch together, I chatted to my friend and a couple of the other lovely attendees, and we said our goodbyes.
This was a really nice way to get my community fix - and to get a really good meditation practise that I would simply never make time for at home.
Dana helps driven entrepreneurs make more meaningful use of time by offering simple, easy-to-implement productivity hacks. At Branding Outside the Box, Dana draws from her experience helping hundreds authors launch their unique brands.
Another group activity today, this time: a Yin yoga workshop.
Why all the group activities, you might be wondering? After all, isn't this an INTROVERT'S Year of Fun?
It's true, as an introvert I do value my alone time. Oh boy do I value it. And if I don't get enough of it, yes, I become a grumpy, tired and all around unpleasant person to be around. Which works out because then I can have my alone time again.
But one thing I have become aware of in this Year of Fun (also, can you believe we're nearly half way through?) is that I ALSO get a lot from group activities.
That is, I get a lot from certain group activities. In fact my range of pleasure from group activities is incredibly limited, but it's also incredibly intense.
Like a laser beam of fun, rather than a ceiling light.
One thing that made me realise that I ought to give more group settings a try is being in ceremony back in Peru. I LOVED that intimate group setting.
Just being in a circle in a dark room that smelled nice probably did a lot for me.
However, you're also probably aware by now of some of the groups that haven't been to my liking, notably the intense and arguably unfriendly Charleston gang, as well as the happy clappy hippies of the holotropic breathwork. Not for me.
So this week I decided a yoga workshop, a yin one at that, would be more to my taste.
For one, it was an activity I was already familiar with.
For two, it was going to be in a small group, I had guessed less than 10.
Plus it checked off my classic introvert-friendly time limit of 2 hours. Perfect.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Caroline Van Kimmenade of the Happy Sensitive.
I’ve talked a little bit about being a hsp or a highly sensitive person on the podcast before, and you might be familiar with the term yourself. You might even consider yourself to be one - while not all introverts are HSPs, there is a good majority, something estimated around 70% of all introverts.
And you might have read the classic book by Elaine Aron, who I believe introduced the world to the term, or at least popularised it. But my go-to girl for practical advice and reassuring words is Caroline Van Kimmenade, also known as the Happy Sensitive.
My interest in the nature of the mind, consciousness and all things esoteric has been steadily growing since I was at university. That said, I wasn’t exactly scientific in my approaches to this exploration. A few space cakes won’t make you an existential philosopher, even if you think so at the time.
I found yoga and through that, meditation, in my early twenties and I literally don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t. I’m not sure if I’d have a life.
But I never dove in very deeply beyond some Youtube videos and may be the odd class.
That was until I made my way to Brighton, where I found a community - in fact a city - of people who LOVE to have the big, deep conversations as much as I do, and who can teach me a whole lot more than a Youtube video.
So where has this led me? Well, for one it led my to Peru, which you might have hear if you’ve been following along.
It has also led me down less adventurous, but arguably as powerful for some, practises such as today’s YOF adventure: Breathwork.
I’d only come across this term 6 months ago, and since hearing about it on a podcast or two, I let it sit on my to-do list, but didn’t really take it further.
Until, I got back from Peru and decided I need to start exploring this stuff further. Partly because I think there’s a lot more to this world than what meets the eye, and partly because I’m bloody dubious about many of the practises that are offered, and I want to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.
So last week, in the name of science, and fun, I tried a breathwork workshop.
When I first heard of breathwork, I just assumed it was some variation on the kind of stuff you might do in a yoga class. Breath of fire, lions breath - these are all different techniques that I’ve dabbled in, not without some resistance, when in a yoga class.
Much of a muchness, if I’m honest. But what I’d heard about this kind of breathwork, more specifically known as Holotropic Breathwork, is that it takes you a LOT further. And by further, I mean it doesn’t just calm you down for 10 minutes. I mean it can take you to places in your mind (or to some, other realms) and do as much work on your psyche as you could in an hour or two with a therapist.
Naturally, I went with an open but skeptical mind. (Yes, it’s possible to have both at once.)
To explain what I was getting myself into, i’ll read from the website that I booked the workshop through:
"What if there was something right under your nose that could change the way you see the world and offer you health, harmony and peace of mind? Wouldn’t you want to know what that was?
Alchemy of Breath is a system of breathing practices that restore your self-awareness, love and compassion. By working with Anthony you will discover breathing techniques that will have an immediate effect on your wellbeing, and can be incorporated instantly into your daily life, improving your relationship with yourself, and therefore with the world around you."
OK. Not bad considering breathing is free (though the workshop definitely was not.)
I’ll also point to Stanislav Grof, who you might be familiar with, but for everyone else: he's a Czech psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche.
And he is responsible for bringing holotropic breathwork to the wide world. Interestingly, he developed it as a kind of legal-successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960s.
According to a 2009 publication from the American Cancer Association, "Breathwork has no verified beneficial effect on health, although there is some evidence it may help relaxation. However, some people find its effects distressing.”
OK. Fine. I’ll take my chances I thought...
A somewhat gentler Year of Fun challenge from last week... but not without it's own risks of mild peril.
Candle making was something that wasn't actually on my Year of Fun bucket list, until a small brainwave I had a couple of months ago.
Two male friends on separate occasions expressed their irrational love for... candles.
Without going into any gender stereotypes, I'll just say that I was surprised. I like candles well enough, but really I'm more of an incense gal.
But these guys were very enthusiastic about the waxen light source. In fact one coughed up £30 for a candle that smelled of obscure trees. £30.
Pondering this mystery, the brainwave came to me.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Thea Orozco of Introvertology.
Thea started Introvertology four years ago, after talking to two frustrated people on Twitter who had been comparing themselves to others and feeling broken. It was clear to her that they weren’t broken, they were one of the 50% of the US population whose strengths aren’t shouted from the rooftops.
After working for a time as a life coach for introverts, Thea realised that she got a kick out of helping her entrepreneur clients. She also noticed a pattern with introverted entrepreneurs and thought leaders – that many of them couldn’t grow their business because they were approaching social media marketing like an extrovert, so they felt overwhelmed and burnt out and with a huge case of imposter syndrome.
So now she's here, helping introverted entrepreneurs make a difference in this world by authentically sharing their products and gifts and knowledge and ideas.