“She’s never where she is … she’s only inside her head.” Janet Fitch
We introverts love to wander. Our favorite destination for our quiet explorations is our imagination. No matter where we are, we feel called away by our own thoughts. The words of Anaïs Nin come to mind:
“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”
We grow restless in the here and now, so we let our imagination kidnap us for a while. We dim the front porch lights and go on a fantasy adventure. On the outside we look “zoned out”. Inside, we are bursting with bright ideas and dreams, like an internal festival of lights.
It feels good to wander the deep forests of our imagination. Sometimes, it’s a necessary coping mechanism. Going inside our head helps us avoid overstimulation. We might be in a crowded place, full of offensive sounds and odours. We zone out to escape the chaos.
Another reason we go mind wandering is because we are bored. Maybe, we’re in the middle of a conversation that is about as exciting as watching snails race. So, we check out.
It’s easy for introverts to live our whole life this way, half in the world, half out. In her monstrously famous book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert recalls the way a friend once described her introverted father. “Your father only has one foot on this earth. And really, really long legs …”
I chuckled as I read this, because it reminded me of my own introverted father. Then I (reluctantly) realized that I truly am my father’s daughter. After all, I’ve done my fair share of ‘spacing out’. My daydreaming seemed to peak in my teens. Nowadays, I still spend plenty of time in my head, but I try not to live there.
There are downsides to constantly being inside our head. The biggest one is that we are not truly present. It’s like we’re sleepwalking our way through life, stubbing our toes, and missing out on important moments. A famous Ferris Bueller quote comes to mind:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
This whole presence thing is all the rage nowadays. And I’m starting to understand why. To be truly present is to feel our breath, our body, and whatever sensation another person stirs in us. It is that feeling we get when we’re so immersed in the moment that we forget all our worries. For introverts who tend to overthink, a moment away from our noisy mind is bliss.
Usually, we are most present when we are children. Little ones pay closer attention to the world around them. They are more engaged with all the new things they see and feel. As adults, we tend to take our world for granted. Same old roads and sidewalks. Same park. Same insects. Same ocean. Meh.
How to be more present
To be more present, start experiencing the moment through your senses. Relish the feel, smell, and taste of what is happening right now. When your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the subtle or strong sensations of the moment.
If you are someone who tends to be in your head a lot, feeling your experiences through your senses won’t come naturally. You have to consciously practice the art of presence.
Start today by noticing how things feel on and within your body. Notice the texture of your clothing and how it feels against your skin. Bring your awareness to the pressure of the hot water on your body when you shower.
When you are with others, and your mind starts to wander, coax it back to the now by focusing on the sensations on your skin, or the gentle rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Over to you
Do you often feel called away by your own thoughts?
Have you become more present, or less present as you’ve gotten older?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.