Volume 1, Issue 4, 8/23/07
Learning the Easy Way
I'm on retreat in South Carolina on 500 acres of virgin forest.
As I sit in the morning shade at an old picnic table on the edge
of Long Lake, a little alligator swims by. Beyond the lake is
the ocean. I'm here for a week, no schedule, and I'm watching
I've brought 18 books on my retreat, and several magazines. And
since arriving I bought a few books, so the total is up a little.
(I love books.) I'm watching myself to see what I can notice
about how I balance my need for rest and renewal with my love of
learning. (Will it happen?!)
Introverts tend to love learning. New technology in brain
scanning has let researchers watch the flow of blood in the
brains of introverts and extroverts. The extrovert pathway flows
to the areas where sensory processing happens. Extrovert brains
welcome lots of stimulation from the outside world and they
process it quickly.
The introvert path is longer, more complicated and focused
internally. It goes to the parts of the brain involved with
internal experiences like remembering and solving problems and
planning. Introvert brains are busy. They're constantly
comparing and contrasting what they're taking in with their own
Without enough input to fuel their thoughts, introverts can get
bored, frustrated. But too much input too fast can be
overwhelming - not enough time to do all that reflecting.
Meanwhile, extroverts are out looking for more experiences.
I do love learning and one of my favorite ways is through books.
The most exciting part of packing for the trip was choosing which
books to bring, especially with a whole week of open-ended time
ahead of me. But was my big book appetite setting me up for
being over-stimulated, even on an unscheduled retreat?
Here's what I'm noticing: balance is happening! On the
introvert/extrovert continuum I'd put myself quite a ways from
center on the introvert side. For one thing, that means my need
for peace-and-quiet recharging time is fairly high.
Early in the week the books sorted themselves out. A few came
as references and they've been helpful. A few more quickly
backed out of the picture - I could tell I didn't want to read
them this week. Some became "dippers", and a couple got the
job of "light bedtime". Five really grabbed my attention for
new learning. Of the whole pile, I have the goal of finishing
only one while I'm here, and it's short.
There's been lots of time for looking out on the lake from the
screened porch, listening to the ocean in the background. Quiet
walks in the forest. Unhurried cooking. Many rounds of my Aunt
Annabelle's hardest version of solitaire interspersed with my old
friend, the traveling electronic Yahtzee game. Trips to the
beach to jump in the ocean. Leisurely conversations with my
And even some extroverting sprinkled in - a few small
concerts and films here at the retreat center, some afternoon
tea times and one trip into town for lunch.
All in all, very satisfying - resting, learning, finding my own
pace in a beautiful setting. An introvert's delight, I might
End of food for thought, on to practical ideas:
A Practical Idea for Introverts
Assume you're out of touch with your natural pace (the world
runs on extrovert time) and spend a weekend being curious
A Practical Idea for Extroverts
Compare notes with an introvert in your life on your idea of
a great weekend.