Discovering the literature on Introversion and Highly Sensitive Persons (or “HSPs”), several years ago, helped me to understand many things about my own life. This was very powerful for me, and helped me to understand some of the reasons why I have experienced things the way that I have, and helped clarify many of my life’s experiences.
I hope to write more in depth about my life’s experiences vis-a-vis being highly HSP, an “empath”, and Introvert, in future posts.
Elaine Aron’s website on the Highly Sensitive Person – www.hsperson.com – is a highly informative resource and introduction to the concept of HSP (and the majority of HSP’s (though not all) are also Introverts).
But for those who are Introverts or HSP, or take an interest in these psychological profiles and already know a thing or two about them, I want to talk in this post about some recent personal experiences of my own – namely, in spending three and a half months in what I would characterise as a Highly, Highly, Highly extroverted volunteer community – that said, a very beautiful and purposeful community – working on reforestation in line with certain values of living (such as Veganism, Gift Economy, Non-competition, and Sustainability), operating in Auroville, in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India.
This community is called Sadhana Forest India – and their work resonates quite a bit with some of my own core values (I have been deeply interested in the philosophies of Gift Economy and of Selfless Service, or Seva (Sanskrit), which are core values of Sadhana Forest.)
I would like to share some of my experiences at this community from an HSP and Introverted point of view.
As there are many things to share, perhaps I will begin with the beginning of the day, and work progressively down.
Beginning of the Day – Wake up at 5:30 or 5:45 am, and attend the “Morning Circle”
Morning circle – this is a highly extroverted affair. Imagine being woken up by someone playing a guitar and walking around the community, at 5:30 or 5:45 am (changes seasonally). Then there are 15 to 30 minutes to arrive at a big circle, where the community’s volunteers (ranging from 25 to 70 volunteers during my time there), stand together, stretch, then sing a song or play a game, before breaking for a multitude of hugs, before striding off to the work of the morning (working in the forest, or cooking breakfast, or performing other sevas).
Eventually I learned to skip morning circle. Once I had been at Sadhana for several weeks, I had developed enough of a trust from the long-term volunteers, that they understood that my wishing to not partake in morning circle, was not an expression of laziness or hostility to other volunteers in the community – but rather, to start my morning in my own preferable more calm, peaceful, and personal way, prior to beginning the five hours or so of communal living and work (a work schedule already something rather stressful for an introvert).
Particularly the playing of games, sometimes involving bringing all of these bodies together, first thing in the morning, was something that an HSP or empath, made me feel uncomfortable to immediately wake up to every morning.
These sorts of activities would be highly enlivening and invigorating for Extroverts, who by virtue of their physiological constitution collect their energy from outside and from other people, (and indeed one did notice the great enlivening effect on the extroverts (who constitute an estimated two-thirds to three-quarters of most populations). However, I think introverts, and particularly HSP’s (who tend to often be “empaths,” who subtly pick up on the energy of other human beings, and have the feeling of it imposing on their own energy – will understand the feeling of this being one of the last things they would seek to do to start their day.
Introverts and HSP’s will tend to prefer a more calm and quiet beginning to their day. This particularly applies when there are several hours of – often extroverted – work scheduled before the common lunch.
- The common meals, noise in the main hut during meals
- Communal living – living very close together – eg., in the dorms. Solution to this: try and obtain a living space that is at least curtained off, and preferably as secluded as possible.
Another issue is simply being worn down over time. It greatly interests me to think about how over time my stamina and patience, and inner integrity, seemed to be steadily reduced and worn down.
Positives: a great learning experience. Learned to live with people in perhaps a far more intensive way than have ever lived before.
The few moments or times of seclusion were welcomed and appreciated far more.
Also, now that I have left Sadhana (albeit not for ever), I appreciate my own personal time so, so, so much more.