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Sunday, April 26, 2015

"TO RETREAT OR NOT TO RETREAT?"

Recently I attended a retreat in Sedona, Arizona. I'm not one to attend large social gatherings and admit my trepidation in attending made my stomach hurt. My whole body tenses when I put myself in an uncomfortable social situation.

Being an introverted personality, I can handle socializing but I have my limits. Rooming with three complete strangers and spending upwards of 14 hours a day in the same retreat room with 30 strangers unnerved me. I can handle many things but handling group settings for an extended amount of time is another story.

Buddhist Amitabha Stupa, Sedona, Arizona

Circumstances paved the way for this adventure in my life, and I found myself driving seven hours to beautiful Sedona and marveling at her red rocks. Driving down Highway 189A was awe inspiring, and listening to the creek at the Briar Patch Inn near my cabin brought an inner comfort and peace. Being honest with myself, I had a feeling this retreat was exactly where I needed to be. I just needed to push through the fear and embrace what gifts were meant to come my way.

 Sometimes we get hunches in life and it's up to us whether we're going to sweep the words of that still small voice under the rug or act on them. I count my lucky stars that I pushed through my fear of group gatherings and made an attendance at this retreat, because it opened the door to meeting new friends, a new spiritual peer group, and a wonderful spiritual teacher.

I cannot express in words the emotional growth, spiritual growth and deep affection of others I gained. My life is more clear, more balanced and definitely more focused. Had I let my fear of group settings control me, I would have missed out on a huge blessing being gifted directly to my heart. I would have missed out on meeting beautiful women that I relate to, women who showed me a love and acceptance I only dreamed of.

Attending a retreat is a perfect opportunity to retreat from negative fears holding one back from moving forward. It's an opportunity to let go of the noise around us and listen to our inner compass. It's an opportunity to step outside the tidy box we sometimes spend most of our time in. It's the wind that helps us take flight towards our dreams.

To retreat or not to retreat?

I say retreat into the warmth of our own hearts and share that warmth with others. Be the hearth that people gather around to share their stories and cry their tears. Be the hearth where people can warm their hands as they reach for ours. Give warmth to their backs as they find their way on their journey. Go within and warm yourself when you need it. And don't be afraid to accept the loving warmth someone offers us. It just may be the tipping point to our own healing.

Going on this retreat reinforced to me that LOVE is my Northern Star. So love with all your heart and don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Sometimes being vulnerable is the greatest gift we can give another.

And if we ever feel alone and need a gentle hug, attending a loving retreat helps find balance. That retreat was truly one of the best experiences of my life, and it's a community of beautiful people I hope to make a part of my journey moving forward.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

"INTO MY INTROVERT"

It is not often romantic when one hangs out with a toilet instead of a boyfriend. One day I had an ah-ha moment when I found myself, again, in the lavatory. The truth is, I am guilty of hiding out in the bathroom while in relationships, so that I can have alone time. Introverted personalities prefer to have alone time. “Hiding away” is common.

Does this mean there is something wrong with me?

It really depends on whom we're having this conversation with because people have different personalities. My observations are that it is egotistical to assume everyone should be like us. Our experiences throughout life help form our personalities. It is natural we would connect with one group and not connect with another group. The common misunderstanding lies in others guessing our personalities by thinking we are like them, or by judging our peers. 

I like to be alone. I have been this way since I was a child, and I am still the same person in adulthood. Solitude is joyful for me. In fact, my joy depends on isolating myself from others so I can enjoy my personal space. Although I am social, I need this separation to reflect on my view of the world.

This way of being works with the right friendships but makes romantic relationships a challenge. Being an introvert has led to unhappiness when it comes to romance; I can never find the right click to set off the fireworks. The expectations involved in nurturing the relationship steal from my alone time, leaving me unsatisfied. I have finally embraced that my love for alone time is too important for the trade off of a traditional relationship. Sharing a home with anyone is outside my comfort zone.

Being an introverted personality is more common than even I realized. I was floored and relieved to find I wasn't alone in my love of being alone. Finding a peer group of like-minded people took the weight off my shoulders. My friendship with other introverts has allowed me to embrace that my personality is normal. I have become more accepting of myself, my confidence has increased, and it’s easier to set social boundaries.

This is what I have learned regarding my introversion:  Once we embrace all our idiosyncrasies for what they are -- an opportunity to be authentic to ourselves -- choices come easier and joy flows. I am no longer under the thumb of people doing what they want me to do. This prior action led to being bored and frustrated. Today I have more time to pursue personal interests. There are only so many hours in a day. I am there for others when they truly need me, but I also step up for myself in the pursuit of happiness.

Do I have close friendships? Yes, I'm blessed with many dear friends. We are great friends because they don’t push me when I need quiet time. Likewise, I don’t push them either because I respect their limitations. We have an understanding of each other’s mutual beliefs. 


I communicate best via e-mail and I don’t enjoy phone conversations. Text messages and small talk are not pleasurable to me. Rather, I enjoy silence. I can sit in it for hours. I love the sounds of nature; the swirling wind through a tree’s leaves is soothing. The pounding of a thunderstorm is electrifying. While I enjoy conversations, they have to stimulate my attention or provoke my thoughts to keep me interested. I usually connect with people on a very raw level. 

Members of my family, and close friends, have extroverted personalities. They enjoy their sports and loud music, and often I will make a willing effort to enjoy it, too. Yet, when I say I am going home, then they need to respect my wishes. I love them, but I need my personal space. Being in relationships is taxing enough; it is often more than I can give in return.

My home is my sanctuary. I get to choose who enters my sanctuary—and who stays away. When you’re living with someone, you can’t say, “I am going home” with the desire to be alone. This is because that person, too, lives under the same roof. You know how many times I have tried to hide in my own house? Living with someone, also, invites other people into the home. That’s too much for me.

In addition, I don’t want to attend obligated family gatherings. What if I don’t enjoy my partner’s family? If they’re not nice people I will not be interested. It comes down to this: I don’t like to spend my time with people I don’t enjoy. It’s that simple. I don’t want to make exceptions because it can reflect my mood in a negative light. In retrospect, this is a big hurdle to jump over when you live with someone.

Some people may find this behavior selfish, but I look at it as being self-aware of my surroundings. Some may find this thinking weird, but I think it is different to live with one person the rest of your life. I think it is strange people stay together when they don’t like each other or spend time with their partner’s family—even when they can’t stand the sight of them. Why do that? I don’t get it and I don’t buy into it because it doesn’t work for me.

I am neither a half-life nor a hermit. To me, life is self-rewarding and full of quality alone time. In fact, quiet is an adventure. Some may say I have a dark personality, yet this is not true at all. I feel full of the light this world gifts me. Some may say I have personal issues. Why does an introverted personality have to be judged in a negative light? Maybe it is a way of being that is overlooked as acceptable when, in reality, it is normal for many people.

Introverts not finding joy in what a particular group enjoys does not make their perspective wrong. We are only different to the people that don’t understand our quirks. We are odd to the people that try to force their egos or belief system onto us instead of letting us be alone. I will take the buzzing of a hummingbird’s wing’s over a rock concert any day.

Perhaps things will change. Maybe some day a man will knock me over with his good heart and good looks. Maybe some day Cupid will shoot his fine arrow so far up behind my eyes that I’ll go cross-eyed for my beloved. Yet, the idea of sharing a dwelling space does not sit well with me. But, I do have a big heart that is open for the right person. I’m loyal and I am kind. I am just introverted and particular of how and when I am alone.

I believe in partnerships and I've seen some last a lifetime. I think that is beautiful. Do I crave companionship? Sometimes, yes, but I desire alone time more. Do I crave someone adoring me and loving to be around me? Absolutely I do. But, honestly, the perfect relationship for me would be a monogamous one where we own a duplex together, and he lives on one side, and I live on the other. I am an introvert and I only have limited social resources to give including to the people I love.

Marriage is a beautiful constitution and has left many fulfilled. But change is a part of life, and I believe it is becoming more common in our society to grow old outside the matrimonial equation. And, I also believe this concept is not only acceptable but it is enjoyable for many people. I'm not the Lone Ranger on this subject.

Besides, I bet the guy that falls in love with me will have his own house. In that sense, he won’t want to live with me, either. Well have walkie-talkies and meet in the middle for great laughs and good times. He will probably be an introvert, just like me, and probably be perfectly peachy with my way of thinking and wonder where I have been all his life.

But if finding a partner doesn't happen in this lifetime, I am okay with that as long as I am happy. Joy finds its way to us in different ways, and I am more than willing to let it flow freely.