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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 3, Issue 12, 11/24/09

Walking Slow

Early this morning I was at the gym, going around the running track really slow. Nobody seemed to notice. By really slow I mean slower than a stroll. It's a pace that probably looks like Buddhist meditation walking.

It's slow enough that once somebody asked me if I was okay, as he passed me. Not sure what he was thinking - maybe I look like my battery's dying.

Years ago I studied tai chi. There was a period when I'd go out into my neighborhood doing an even slower walk. I quit that because I was afraid somebody really would turn me in for looking too strange.

Recently I got a note from an Introvert Energizer reader describing her slower pace (than her extrovert husband's). She said she finds it hard to get going in the morning. One thing she does about it is to sleep till she wakes up with no alarm and have breakfast before she showers.

I share her experience with getting going in the morning. One thing that helps me is to start the day by doing nothing. I lie in bed for a few minutes after I wake up, clueless (on purpose) about what I'm going to do next.

When I get up I follow my body around for a few minutes, letting it putter. Before long I seem to get my bearing, without trying much. It feels comfortable even when I have to be somewhere at a specific time. Starting the day not in a hurry.

Introvert bodies are designed for a slower pace. Maybe it's because, as brain researchers explain, our longer brain pathway requires more processing time than extroverts'. (But the reward is that it integrates complex intellectual and emotional information more easily.)

It's actually harder for introverts to move our bodies because we predominate on the side of the autonomic nervous system (the parasympathetic) that requires conscious thought. We have to decide to move. Evidently extroverts "just do it" :-).

And the key neurotransmitter in our brains (acetylcholine) works along the same lines - it says, "Let's think about it." No need to rush into something. (Versus the extrovert neurotransmitter, dopamine, which goes, essentially, "If it feels good, do it.")

I started my Buddhist walking workouts a few years ago as an introvert experiment. I think I was tired of decades of gearing myself up for aerobic exercise and curious about how slow I'd go if I wasn't pushing myself. It turned out to be pretty slow :-).

The experiment has turned into a habit. I feel a little guilty about my lack of aerobic exercise. (I notice the exercise experts aren't in agreement about it these days, though, so who knows what to think.) I don't really know what it's doing for my body to meander around the track. But I love going to the gym to slow down.

End of food for thought, onto a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts and Extroverts

Take yourself on a slow walk. See what you notice.

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