Thought Catalog
August 6, 2014

How To Teach An Extrovert To Meditate

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What is the issue?
As part of an experiment to see what would happen when you teach an extrovert to meditate, I submitted myself to a six-week course of daily meditation and kept notes. The experiment had to be halted before completion due to problems with the patient. I found that I was unwilling to continue participation based on my developing opinion that the experiment was “damning proof of the enormity of my stupidity,” at least in regards to some of life’s more basic truths. For the sake of science, and for the benefit of the reader, I ignored the patient and went ahead and published.
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Shutterstock

Day 1:

Q: For the record, do you have any experience with meditation?
A: You ever tried to get an extrovert to meditate? You know, Dorothy Parker once said, “you can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” That’s my feeling about meditation. I am not proud of this attitude. It is what it is. I’m the dumb whore, in this pun. I’ve avoided meditation for most of my life. I say most because there have been brief stretches wherein it made regular appearances in my life. I’ve been known to use it to alleviate pain, or, in emergencies, to calm the mind. However, thanks to a strenuous effort on my part, I’ve primarily avoided meditation.

Q: Why is that?
A: It’s been difficult. I’ve been surrounded by the lifestyle. My ex-girlfriend is a yoga teacher and has her own studio. One of my best friends owns a yoga studio. I have a few friends who are yoga teachers, healers, body workers and meditation instructors. I read a lot of Taoist texts. Do you know how much I’ve had to resist it? It’s not been easy. There’s no way I can play dumb to the benefits of meditation. I’ve had to rely on my stubborn self-defeating nature to ensure that I do not learn how to meditate. At this point, it’s like a quasi-geo-political stance. It’s like, “look, you do what relaxes you … and I’ll do what relaxes me.” (Doesn’t matter to me that you have thousands of years on your side and I have like a few decades and some change. Whatever. Leave me alone, I have my book and beach.)

Q: Why do you avoid meditation?
A: Ah, for many reasons. One of the most difficult and frustrating things you will ever attempt to do is to get an extrovert to sit still and meditate. There are many theories about why this is. Some are just mean-spirited assessments of the poverty of our inner lives. But I’ll stand up for extroverts on that one. Purely through misinterpretation on their part, I’ve fooled many introverts, before they figured out that I’m an extrovert, they commented on the particular richness of my inner life. So, either they weren’t good judges of character or we’re all kinda the same, just expressed differently. (But what do I know?) I’ll say this to my fellow extroverts, it’s not that you lack a “rich inner life;” it’s just that, well… it could be endless things. Each extrovert who resists meditation has personal reasons why it sounds like “…a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

I think we can all agree that, due to what’s often described as our go-go-go attitude about life, to get an extrovert to engage in an activity that’s essentially doing nothing at all is a tough sell. No doubt.

You may read this and think to yourself, “Seriously, Zaron, bro, wtf? Why the hell wouldn’t you want to meditate? Do you suffer from the attention span of a squirrel?” And to such folks, I would say, “nah, brah.” It’s not my attention-span or the quieting of the mind. I’ve painted for hours in silent houses, staring at a wall. When you’re pushing molecules across a surface you can get to that Zen place real quick. I learned to quiet my mind with the best of them. (In case no one told you, manual labor is very spiritual.)

And yes, I get that it’s not meditation, painting’s just meditative. It’s like how surfing is also meditative. I see the difference because, like I said, I’ve meditated before. I know how it feels. Yet, for some reason, meditation feels like a total waste of time. (I am well aware of the fact, the preceding sentence is, likely, the single most ignorant statement that I have ever or will ever commit to print … but it’s honestly how I feel.) Selah.

I promised myself I’d give daily meditation a go. So, here we go.

Day two:

Still don’t see the point. It’s not torture, but I would much rather not be doing it.

Day four:

I find that if I listen to some Wu-Tang Clan first thing in the morning, I look forward to meditating. I’m still doing it to get it out of the way. That seems like a bad approach.

Day six:

Okay, for the last week, I’ve forced myself to sit still for nearly ten minutes each day. Mostly, it was in the morning. Seemed like the right time to do it. I did as was suggested. I focused on my breathing. (I counted that c.r.e.a.m like a baller stacking paper. The Wu has been a helpful entry into meditation, and it’s kept me amused.) It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. (This only makes me worry that others have been right about many things. Like, maybe I would enjoy a rim job, idk)

Day nine:

I’ve already noticed the first benefits from meditation. I tend to “heat up” when I get emotional. It’s pretty much “on or off” as far as feeling/expressing my emotions. But now, with this practice, I’m finding you can turn yourself down like a gas fireplace. I’m not trying to say I’m a changed man, or Buddhist master, but that’s a pretty fucking neat trick. Kinda handy on bad days.

Day ten:

Elaborating on yesterday, I clearly have a stronger sense of my center. Like, I can get back to a calm place when my mind starts racing with ideas or unwanted thoughts or feelings. That’s rad. And that’s all just from focusing on my breathing. Doing thirty minutes a day.

Day twelve:

What the hell exactly was my problem that I refused to sit still and try this?

Day twelve (later in the day):

Holy fuck. What other terrible decisions have I been making based on comfort and outmoded preferences? Did my first hour-long session. Wow.

Day fourteen:

I didn’t take any notes yesterday, because all I would have typed was:

I AM A FUCKING FIRST-CLASS, OVERNIGHT EXPRESS MORON … MY KINDA STUPIDITY COSTS EXTRA

I guess my only consolation is that I’m glad there are no children regularly in my custody.

Day fifteen:

Meditation has changed me. I just breathed through my feet.

(I was am such an idiot.)

Day sixteen:

You’re breathing. Your breathing. It starts there. That’s it. It’s so simple you miss it at first. The focus you gain — it’s the difference between gazing up at the moon with your bare eye or through a telescope.

Day seventeen:

Okay, I’ve fully accepted that I was/am/will be an idiot. That only took a couple days. Luckily, or perhaps, ironically, I find that acceptance is much easier now that I’ve been doing this experiment. However, it’s criminally embarrassing that it’s taken me this damn long to start meditating.

Shit. I can’t publish this…

Yesterday:

The experiment has been cancelled.

I had a long talk with the patient. I argued that if I can convince just one person, not to be like me, it’s worth it to reveal how irretrievably stupid it was of me to avoid daily meditation. The patient has accepted this as more important than any sense of public shame.

Here are my notes in summation:

It seems clear that introverts are enjoying certain modern advantages. The culture has swung from being very extroverted, based around cars, bars and “going out,” to being very introverted, based around the Internet, food delivery and “staying in.” Not only does our online world favor introverts, when you factor in the widespread adoption of practices like meditation and yoga, the whole world looks to be tilting in greater favor towards introverts. Meditation seems like their idea of a good time. They love doing quiet, calm, comfortable things like sitting still for forty-five minute and breathing. (I’m kidding, introverts.) This isn’t an us-versus-them dynamic. This is a matter of expanding minds, doing better and personally evolving.

For an extrovert, to be told: you need to sit still, not talk, not think, just focus on your breathing, that’s like telling an elephant to do a backflip. We have difficulty imagining how that would occur, exactly. So…

Here’s how you teach an extrovert to meditate:

1. Ask them if they want to go to a pizza party. They will most likely say yes. (If they are the rare extrovert that doesn’t enjoy pizza offer them something they would like such as a Game of Thrones marathon, some chocolate and/or sex.)

2. Once they agree that they’d like some pizza (or GoT marathon, chocolate and/or sex) promise you’ll take them to get pizza … once you meditate.

3. They might get upset and claim you pulled the “ol’ bait-and-switch.” They may claim they were tricked or lied to. Ignore their accusations. Ask them to find a comfortable place to sit down. If they refuse to sit down, get them to sit down by telling them “no sit, no pizza” (or chocolate and/or sex).

4. Ask if they’re comfortable. Being an extrovert they will have an answer. Listen to what they have to say, so that they feel heard. (If their answer grows tiresome, you can stop actively listening, but continue to smile and nod; they will most likely fail to notice the difference.)

5. Once they’re done talking, kindly ask them not to speak. For awhile. Tell them to listen to the sound of their breathing. (They might make a strange face at this suggestion, as if you are somehow mentally impaired. Ignore this.)

6. Suggest to them that as they listen to the sound of their breathing, if they have a thought they should acknowledge it, and then they should let it go, let it drift away, as they return their attention to the sound of their breathing; listening to the air emptying from their lungs, as it mixes with the world around them, and then, listening to the nose-flaring inhalation, as air rushes into their nostrils, and the fresh air is drawn deep, down into their lungs, fulfilling a complete cycle of breathing.

7. Tell them to continue focusing on their breathing. Perhaps, recommend that they count the duration of the inhale. Then count the length of the exhale. A good way to balance the cycle is to count six on the inhale and count six on the exhale. After a few minutes of this, tell them, “Congratulations, you just meditated!”

8. After that, take them out for pizza (or give them chocolate and/or sex) to celebrate.

9. If they seem willing, curious, or the least bit inclined, try this again the next day. Only, tell them there will be no pizza this time.

10. To keep their spirits up, point out that if they keep meditating, they will learn new ways, like for instance, they can breathe through their feet. That’s as real as it gets right there. (I’ve been breathing through my feet at least twice a day.)

There are many schools of meditation. Lots of ways to meditate. Pick whatever method you gravitate towards. Try a few. Here are some styles to get you started:

You really ought to make meditation a daily practice. If you do, the rewards are ridiculous.

(Extroverts, we gotta get in on this! Pass it on.) TC mark