Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Tweit & Riehl begin “Blog Duet”: How do we nurture ourselves and still nurture the world?

Susan Tweit, began our blog duet yesterday,Tuesday, February 12, 2008, with her post on "Community of the Land," titled "Finding your balance: outward and inward."

Susan J. Tweit telling plant stories in Colorado
Susan J. Tweit telling plant stories in Colorado

Janet Riehl performs “Big Butts Are Beautiful” for Comedy on Tilt 3, 2006
Janet Riehl performs "Big Butts Are Beautiful"

As a journalist, memoirist, blogger, and speaker I've known Susan through two organizations: Women Writing the West and Story Circle Network. We recently had such a lovely ongoing email conversation about "how to find a balance between an outwardly focused life and an inward one" (as Susan puts it) that we decided to move it onto our blogs in an ongoing Blog Duet.

Some of the questions we are holding and exploring in our dialogue/duet are:

--How do we strike a balance between "connection and stimulation on the one hand and solitude" on the other?

“Caught in the Web of Your Love” by Edna Patterson-PettyBus Run
(artwork by Edna Patterson-Petty)

--How do we find "our equilibrium between inward-focused spiritual and emotional work and the outward focus involved in creating new connections and tending existing relationships"?

-- If we're always connected, always tuned to other people, how can we hear our own inner voices? [See Susan's blog for how quiet time and periods of rest and anonymity help her listen to the voice of creativity and spirit.]

-- What are some places that give us "the comfort of the familiar without the demands of intense connection"?

bluffhouse2-weblog.jpggopher-hole-weblog.jpgRose Homecoming Journals
From left: Bluff House (my spot of ground on Evergreen Heights, hidey-holes, rose homecoming journals...my places of familiar comfort...sorting...and sowing.

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Susan says she's an extrovert-seeming introvert. Depending on the day you meet me, I might seem the same. I learned from taking The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator years ago that I'm in the INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) zone of the world. In fact, when I took the Meyer's-Briggs, I was told I was on the line between introvert and extrovert, and I could choose which side of the line I wanted to fall on, based on my own sense of myself. I chose introvert. While I enjoy social interchange, I require large amounts of down time to rest and recharge after forays out. I also learned someplace along the way that I'm a kinesthetic perceiver and learner, and highly tactile.

How does such a person step out into the world to travel...give workshops, talks, appear on panels and so on? Throughout my life I explore the answer to this question. I keep on stepping out of my cave and then diving right back in for comfort and days of low-stimulation, sorting, and sowing anew.

Marion Woodman and Robert A. Johnson, both Jungian psychologists, are two introverts who've successfully stepped out into the world to nurture it with their work, but who have done so while nurturing themselves. They have given me hope. Decades ago I read how Marion Woodman, mythopoetic author and women's movement figure, upon returning from forays out to speak and teach, went into solitude at home and required that. Reading of her way of working totally normalized my own need and experience and I was so grateful to see this in print.

Also, decades ago, I heard Robert A. Johnson speak at the DeJung. (Oops! That is to say, the deYoung Museum...I guess it was the DeJung Museum whilst Johnson spoke for Jung's ideas that day!) I loved it but didn't want to put it on the blog or cause you embarrassment! Museum in San Francisco while he was presenting a seminar. He was so brilliant. But here's what he did that really stuck with me: he announced as the break approached that he didn't mean to be unfriendly, but that he needed time to rest, and therefore during the break he'd be going to a quiet place to do that rather than mingling with people and visiting. What an inspiring model of setting boundaries and politely and firmly defying and confounding public expectations. I loved him for that moment, even more than all of his books that I'd read...and I really liked his books, too!

As an introvert having "connection" as my platform is tricky and potentially dangerous. Yesterday I asked my Wisdom Self for guidance, and received these words:

My instrument is tuned for the world to move through me.
I care for my instrument to keep it tuned.
I take care in how I place my instrument in the world.

This feels like a touchstone for me. So much information pours into my body and nervous system. I have to have time to sort it all, or I will explode/implode. As a kinesthetic who loves to go into the world full-heartedly, I've learned that it's also important to carry a cloak.

When I told Susan about my need to "carry a cloak," she told me a great story, and maybe, just maybe she might tell us on her blog for one of our duets. We'll see.

I was struck by Susan's analogy of quiet time to let the stimulation of other's emotions and thoughts subside, my thoughts clear like a pond going still after a rainstorm stirs it up. I use the image of a storm deliberately: what connection and conversation and the stimulation of being around other humans does is very like what a rainstorm does for a pond: it stirs up the bottom sediments, redistributing nutrients, changing the patterns of habitation and flow, and adding fresh water and nutrients as well as other lives washed.

Sogyal Rinpoche, the bestselling author of "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" often quotes a Tibetan proverb: Water, if you don't stir it, becomes clear. Similarly, the mind, if you don't stir it, finds peace. When we allow the mind to settle, then in that quiet we experience goodness, our true nature.

It seems fitting that for Susan, who views the land as our oldest community, that she would observe the pattern of the water in a pond and find the analogy to the mind.

Fade out for this first duet.

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4 Responses »

  1. Thanks Janet and Susan! This exchange is invigorating and inspirational! I've learned that I'm also an introvert and I have to force myself to go out and interact with people. I love interacting online, however, but find all the other distractions of being online so stimulating that my mind is constantly being 'stirred". Yet I thrive on the influx of information and stimulation. It's a hard balancing act sometimes.

    Looking forward to more of your duets!

    bobbi c.

  2. You are your violin! What a great analogy re: "instrument" for you to come to! Nurture carefully that the melody may come back, renewed, strengthened and beauteous!
    The duet is also a dance and the two of you, Susan and Janet, are delightfully in tune with one another. Thank your for the gift of deep insight and inspiration.

  3. Janet,
    I love the examples of the two Jungian psychologists who you take as models, and I'm fascinated by your inner wisdom giving you the metaphor of your instrument. That's a fruitful vein to follow and to let rest in your mind to see how it'll play (as it were!). I'm particularly touched by your quotation of the Tibetan proverb from Sogyal Rimpoche: "Water, if you don't stir it, becomes clear." And then you say, "the mind, if you don't stir it, finds peace." So wise, and so true. Remember though, that the pond needs to be stirred by that inflowing rush of rainwater or snowmelt, bearing nutrients and new life. Without that it becomes stagnant, sterile. Likewise, we need stimulation to keep our minds fertile and growing with new ideas and understanding. How much stimulation we each need is the question It's that balance between being stirred and allowing ourselves to still and find peace that we're exploring - all the time.

    Susan
    susanjtweit.com

  4. Another INFP, eh? Less than 3 percent of the population is estimated to be this Myers-Briggs type. Myers-Briggs was so helpful to me. It gave me a lot of freedom to accept who and how I am in the world. I've taken the type indicator twice, with a long interval in between. The second time I had learned to be more extroverted, but was still on the quiet side of the scale.
    I appreciated your stories of Woodman and Johnson, and your talk about how your work fits in a world they have helped you, in part, to define.

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