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Feb 052013
Teresa Francis at TEDxYouth@Winchester
Published on Jan 24, 2013

Do we all have to be extroverts to be successful? Does the best speaker always have the best ideas? Teresa invites us to imagine a world without the extrovert bias.

This is a followup to my earlier post: The Power of Introversion, which includes another Ted video by author Susan Cain.  To read about my own experience of being a strong introvert in an extroverted family and culture see that post.

In this video Teresa Francis, a young woman, focuses on the “extrovert bias” mentioned by Susan Cain.  In her discussion she points out that in our extroverted culture “Attention truly has become the world’s new limited resource”.  She also makes the very interesting observation that “We worship people who make millions doing nothing and don’t even know the names of people who make a real difference”. In conclusion she says that  “I am not calling for an introvert bias.  I’m calling for balance, a finer appreciation for the symbiotic relationship that is required from the introvert and the extrovert.”  Her presentation is excellent.  I highly recommend it to both introverts and extraverts, adults and youth alike.  It is inspiring to me to see this kind of insight and this kind of quality presentation from our youth.



Join the conversation! Add your comments and questions below so we can support and learn from each other.


Jan 172013

Making Our Practice Primary

I know what’s wrong with me:  I am not passionate enough.  I am not being aroused and lured into the sheer totality of me, which God desires with infinite desire to fashion out of the undreamed of and undeveloped potentialities of my being; and which Jesus has claimed and demonstrated to be not only realizable but imperative.  I am not completely in tune with the universe, with the universality of being, with Being itself.  If I am alienated, frustrated, and lonely, it is because I am out of touch with the center of things.  If I am out of touch with the center of things, with God, it is because I do not take God with unconditional seriousness; that is to say, I do not allow myself to be ruled and governed by one, pure passion.*

William McNamara, O.C.D. 

The River From The Mountain


I have experienced the profound growth and transformation and conversion of heart that comes from my spiritual practice.  It has changed my life in ways that are difficult to describe.  I know without question what I need to do to deepen my practice.  I know when I listen to my sacred inner voice I discover new and fascinating things about who I am, and who I am called to be by that Mysterious Other I call God.  I know too, that when I am obedient to that sacred inner voice and do the spiritual work to incarnate those discoveries into the details of my active life, the growth and transformation and conversion of heart continues.  I become more authentic and more spiritually mature.

I know all of that with the faith that comes when knowledge, experience, and awesome mystery come together.  I know all of that, and yet, like McNamara, “I am not passionate enough” about it.  “I do not allow myself to be ruled and governed by one, pure passion.”  What is it in me that causes me to pull back from that one, pure passion?  What is it in me that prevents me from making my practice the  primary commitment I long for it to be. There were times when I had all of the “good” excuses that come from the demands of an all too busy life.  Now I am retired.  There is absolutely nothing  preventing me from being consistent with my practice.  There is absolutely nothing insurmountable preventing me from incarnating what I discover in my time apart into the way I live my day-to-day life.  There is absolutely nothing preventing me from approaching my spiritual life with that “unconditional seriousness” and passion McNamara speaks of so powerfully.  Nothing external at least.  The blocks are in me.

There are many good reasons for me to overcome these internal blocks and continue to deepen my own practice and for me to encourage you to begin or to deepen your practice.  Maybe all of those reasons can be summarized into the single statement:  making a serious commitment to consistent spiritual practice will change your life.  It is a gift to you and  to others.

Time Apart
The Gift of Solitude

The dictionary defines solitude as “the state or situation of being alone: she savored her few hours of freedom and solitude”.   If there were no other reasons for making a commitment to taking time apart this “situation of being alone” would be enough for me.  I savor the “freedom and solitude” of my time apart.  I have a book entitled Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There and the title captures what is for me, the first and maybe the most basic gift of the my time apart.  This opportunity to move out of all of the busyness of my active life and just sit there, in and of itself, justifies my commitment to my time apart.  Before there is any centering, reading, meditation, prayer, or contemplation, before there is any spiritual practice at all, there is the gift of solitude—the gift of just being present to ourselves, to the Mysterious Other, or as one monk put it, “being present to what is”.

QuoteThe cultural imperatives of acceptance, success, power, wealth, and pleasure fill our lives with all kinds of demands.  The culture would have us believe that even our pursuit of pleasure must be filled with doing.  We are encouraged to fill our “free time” with television, music, the internet, social networking,  shopping, and travel.  The latest “must have” technology such as multimedia computers, home theater, wide screen television, and smart phones fill our homes, our cars, and our pockets.  Multitasking encourages us to take our work home with us and our entertainment  to work with us.  Even the religious imperatives of belief, ritual, experience, community, service, and values can become just another way for us to fill our “free time” with busyness.  When these things do not come out of that inner solitude they too can become just another way to fill ourselves with sound, and images, and stimulation, or as one religious leader put it, “the illusion of a new or higher quality of emotion that accompanies what is merely a new object of emotion.”.

When we find ourselves alone with nothing to do and with nothing to entertain us we become restless, uncomfortable, and even disoriented.  Even the thought of this silence can become a major block to committing ourselves to taking time apart.  Yet, if we resist the temptation to “just do something” and just “sit there” for a time, the busyness begins to recede, and the culturally generated  need for sound, and images, and stimulation diminishes and we discover the gift of solitude.  The tension in our body begins to subside.  We discover that being alone in silence is a rewarding spiritual practice in its own right.

A few weeks ago the rest of my family went on a trip, and I found myself at home alone for a week.  I am retired so I did not have to go to work.  I had no appointments nor any chores that I had to do.  In the past I would have been apprehensive and uncomfortable thinking of spending a week alone, but I looked forward to the solitude.  My plan was to spend more consistent time apart and to focus on my writing.  What actually happened was a surprise.  When all of the busyness of getting everyone off was done, I found myself “just sitting” and enjoying the silence and the stillness.  I would not even call it prayer or meditation or contemplation.  I just found myself enjoying the quiet and the solitude.  During the week I did spend more time in my practice, and I did spend a lot of time with my writing, and I even spent time doing some chores that were on my to-do list.  But the truth is that over and over again I found myself “just sitting” and enjoying doing absolutely nothing, sometimes thinking and sometimes not.  During the week, tension I did not even know I had, left me.   I relaxed in a way that was deeper than I had experienced before.  That experience was a gift of solitude made possible by my practice.

A Gift of Presence

A Gift of Presence***

I know too that years ago I often missed opportunities to spend special times with my children.  Reflecting on that makes me sad.  I know it had a negative effect on them, and I know I missed some special times with them because I was not centered or paying attention and thus could not be present to them.  The other day, Rachel,  my eighteen month old granddaughter whom I affectionately call “Little Girl”, came into my room with a book.  She held it up and said, “Daddy Dick read!  Daddy Dick read!”  This time, however, I was paying attention.  I picked her up, sat down in the chair I use for my practice, and began to read to her.  She laid her head down on my shoulder and seemed very content.  All of a sudden she started wiggling and squirming like only an eighteen month old can and climbed down out of my lap.  I figured I had lost her, but then she walked over to my bed, put her arms up on the bed and said, “Up! Up!”  I picked her up, laid down on the bed with her, and she tucked her head in the crook of my arm, and I started reading again.  In about five minutes she was sound asleep.  She slept there in the crook of my arm for an hour and a half.  My arm went to sleep.  My body got uncomfortable.  I stayed put.  I found myself just watching her breathe, feeling the little twitches and movements as she slept, and just enjoying her presence.  At times I found myself counting her breaths like I sometimes count my own breath in meditation.  Finally she opened her eyes, looked over at me, frowned for a minute and then smiled one of those big smiles that took over her whole face, and said quietly, “Daddy Dick”.  This time just being there with “Little Girl” was another special gift of solitude made possible by my practice.

These two experiences, and others like them, are powerful reasons for me to reaffirm my commitment to continue and deepen my practice.

Other Topics In Reflection VI:

Freedom from the Turmoil: The Gift of Apatheia
The Discovery: The Gift of Self
The Incarnation: The Gift of Authenticity
The Connection: The Gift of Divine Union
The Science: Considering the Evidence
A Moral and Spiritual Imperative: Our Deepest Calling and Our Greatest Gift


Richard's Book


Excerpted from Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. 182-187.
*McNamara, William, O.C.D., Mystical Passion:  Spirituality for a Bored Society,  (New York:  Paulist Press, 1977), p. 6.
**Photograph by Drexel Rayford
***Photograph by Winnie Southworth

Dec 292012

“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”*

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati


― Ma Jaya Sati BhagavatiThe 11 Karmic Spaces: Choosing Freedom from the Patterns That Bind You from

Jun 152012

I often take walks around the neighborhood in the evening as a part of my spiritual practice. They might be called a type of “walking meditation”. One of the discoveries that has come from these times is something I have called “the silence behind the sounds”. Maybe it would be more descriptive to call it “the silence out of which the sounds seem to arise”, but then that would be too many words. Like many of the discoveries that come from the spiritual life, words seem to fail to really grasp the experience.

It has been a family joke that my maternal grandmother would often do this kind of silent whistle as she went about her daily activities. It wasn’t really a whistle. The only sound you heard was her blowing air out and sucking air in. It never quite rose to the level of a whistle. Unfortunately I have inherited that “gift”, and my family often gives me a hard time when they catch me doing it.

A couple of weeks ago I realized that I was doing this “whistle” as I walked around the neighborhood, and I realized I was doing this quite a lot. Harmless enough you might say, but from the perspective of spiritual practice it was a distraction that needed to be acknowledged and released so I could find that interior silence and openness that is so important to the spiritual life. So I began to treat this “whistle” like any other distraction that comes up in my time apart. I introduced my sacred word, and then I found myself synchronizing that sacred word with my steps and with my breathing. Each time I found myself “whistling” I would return to this sacred rhythm.

As the “whistle” began to subside I became aware of all kinds of other sounds I had not even noticed as I walked about the neighborhood with my whistle. There were different birds and insects singing their songs. As I acknowledged and released each of those I noticed the sound of a jet passing overhead, and the background of traffic on a highway in the distance. Then there was the sound of a car passing me on the street, and some children out late playing in a yard, and a couple of dogs barking. I noticed individual houses, each with different lights on, and some totally dark, and I wondered about the life stories behind those windows.

Tree Against Sky


I noticed the sound of my feet on the pavement, and that caused me to stop and be still. I looked up in the sky. There was no wind. There were trees silhouetted against the evening sky and clouds floating slowly and silently by. I gradually became aware of the stillness and the quiet. All of the sounds were still there. The sound of the traffic, the birds, the people. I was somehow aware of all of that, but it faded into the background, and the silence and the quiet behind it became “audible” and “visible” in a strange sense. We often talk about sounds penetrating the silence, but here it was the other way around. The silence seemed to actually penetrate the sounds, and their presence made the silence all the more powerful. And yet, and yet, the silence also made the sounds more audible, and the houses, and trees, and cars more visible. In a strange way I could see and hear the silence, and the objects, at the same time.

This has become a spiritual practice for me–this seeking the awareness of both the silence behind the the sounds and objects and the sounds and objects that rise up out of that silence. Might this just be an experience of that Mysterious Other we call God, present in the silence and in the people, events, and things all around us? Suppose we could live in that awareness? In the end isn’t that very awareness what spiritual practice is all about–discovering the silence and the quiet behind all of life, and at the same time discovering that all of life rises up out of that silence and quiet? What if that practice actually became the way we experienced all of life? What would life, lived in that awareness, look like? What would it feel like? My experience walking about the neighborhood calls me to seek that reality.

Jun 042012

Recently I attended a three day retreat entitled Unforced Rhythms of Grace at Eage Erie, a retreat center near Lynchburg, Virginia run by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.


As an off  the charts introvert I struggle with meeting new people, especially in group situations.  I am much more comfortable going with my wife or a friend, and I often let these other people do the “work” of introducing us and starting conversations.  This has been a significant handicap over the years preventing me from making friends or just getting to know new people.  With the publication of my book: Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, it has significantly handicapped me in my efforts to promote the book.  In my time apart that sacred inner voice has made it clear that this tendency to want to avoid social interactions with people I do not know is a place where I need to grow.  It is, as I have often called such things, an “opportunity to practice”.

Shaking Hands

Shaking Hands

So when my friend and pastor, Drexel Rayford, asked me to go to a retreat with him, at first I hesitated.  I fell into old patterns and began looking for excuses not to go.  After all, we were on vacation the week before the retreat, I was giving the  first session of an eight week series of talks on Developing Your Spiritual Practice at our church the Sunday before the retreat, and of course there was the money issue.  That all sounded like very good “reasons” to decline the inviatation.  Yet, Drexel and my wife kept encouraging me to go, and somehow it didn’t “feel right” to turn down the opportunity.  Being true to my committment to my own spiritual practice I took this question into my time apart.  That sacred inner voice I have come to trust made it very clear to me that all of my “reasons” were really excuses, and that the real reason for my hesitation was my introvered nature.  It was the old pattern just with new specifics.  Paying attention to that sacred inner voice I signed up for the retreat.

So then the Friday before the retreat Drexel informs me that something had come up, and he would be unable to go on the retreat.  He made a point to say that he really hoped I would go anyway.  Naturally my first inclination was to back out as well.  After all I had agreed to go with him subconsciously knowing that he would do that “work” I had such a hard time with.  “Unfortunately” when I took that question back  into my time apart that sacred inner voice did not let me off the hook.  The message was very clear, “you need to go!”  Again, being true to that voice I decided to go, with some considerable anxiety.

I did the “work” that I so often depend on my wife and others to do for me.  I introducd myself to the reatreat leaders and to several of the participants and had interesting conversations with them, both about the topics discussed in the retreat and about my book.  I made connections with some that very well might continue into the future.  Near the end  of the retreat the retreat leader announced that they were buying a copy of my book for each person on the retreat.  All without “help” from anyone I knew.  All of the anxiety and resistance was ultimately for naught.


The retreat itself was also something that spoke to me about something very important to my spiritual jourrney.  For all of my adult life I have struggled with church.  Church services just have never worked for me.  I have always left church with a deep sense of disappointment, of wanting something more, something different, and never quite knowing what that was.  Over the years I have gone to churches in a number of different denominations, some orthodox and some not so much.  Many of these churches had really different types for services, but they always left me with that same sense of disatisfaction, of wanting something more, something “deeper” and never really knowing what that would even look like.  Some of the things I struggled with had to do with the “busyness” of the services—the social activities, all of the standing up and sitting down.  I also struggled with all of the focus on theology, singing old hymns and the rout reading of scriptures that had lost their meaning for me, and sermons that often seemed to have no real connection with the rest of my life.  I know that there was seldom any real sense of “worship” or of “sanctuary for me, though those words were often bantered about.  I know that I longed for a sense of reverence and sacredness that I seldom found.  I sensed all of those things, but when people asked me what I was really looking for I never had a real answer.

The retreat was different.  The teaching and sharing times were intersperced with times of silence and ritual.  The ritual was different.  First of all it was quiet and there was a sense of a kind of sacred presence, with each other and with that Mysterious Presence we call God.  People would arrive at slightly different times, enter quietly, and sit in silence.  These times began with the the ringing of a prayer bowl that resonated with something deep inside of me.  That resonance continued as the sound dissipated into a time of deep quiet.  We engaged in some times of quiet chanting that seemed to build on that resonance.  There were quiet readings, sometimes of scripture, but often of other reflective texts.  All of this was intersperced with times of silence and built on that sense of sacred presence.  When it was over we just sat there in silence for a time.  Each person would rise quietly and leave when the time was right for them.  The only word to describe this experience is worship which is a word I would almost never use to describe my church experience.

The great insight here for me was that I left the retreat knowing what I was longing for that was missing from my church experience.  Even if this is not available regularly in my church experience, there is something very satisfying in just knowing what that ever present disatisfaction and longing was all about, and knowing there was in fact “worship” that could speak powerfully to me personally.

Interestingly, when I shared this with Drexel he suggested that we try developing a similar service in our church in the evening and see how it would work


When I teach and write about the spiritual journey I stress over and over again the importance of taking quiet time to listen to that sacred inner voice where that Mysterious Other we call God speaks to us and guides us and gives us strength and courage.  I stress the importance of paying attention to the various “opportunities to practice” that our active lives often provide.  I also stress again and again that the ultimate goal of the spiritual life is what the monastics call “divine union” which in its simplest turns is allowing that sacred inner voice to more and more guide us and all of the events that make up our active lives.  This retreat was a powerful reminder of the importance of these principles in my own life.

I trust that these reflections will challenge you  to reflect on similar issues in your own spiritual life.

Read, Reflect, Enjoy


Apr 082012

Susan Cain is a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant — and a self-described introvert. At least one-third of the people we know are introverts, notes Cain in her new book, Quiet. Although our culture undervalues them dramatically, introverts have made some of the great contributions to society – from Chopin’s nocturnes to the invention of the personal computer to Gandhi’s transformative leadership. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments — but because of them.

Sometimes something appears in your life at just the right time to answer some burning question or need—it might be a book, a person, an event–and it is hard not to believe it was somehow put there by that Mysterious Other we call God just for you.  This video is just such a serendipidous appearance.  My daughter sent me a link to this “TED Talk” (from with a note that said, “Thought you might enjoy this.”  Enjoy was not the right word.  In her video “The Power of Introversion”, Susan Cain spoke to a burning question at the very heart of who I am as a person.

I have known for a long time that I was an introvert.  At the same time I have always seen myself as an outisder, never quite a part of the various groups I was in.  Even in family gatherings I struggle to participate in the clearly extroverted family activities.  I have compensated by arranging to take individual friends and family members out to eat so I could have “quality time” with them.  At the same time I have struggled with anger most of my adult life.  It was never quite clear what that anger was all about.  I could point to individual things I was angry about at any given time, but I never quite understood why I often had such angry responses to often seemingly minor events.

Through sustained spiritual practice much of the anger has subsided.  At the same time that spiritual practice led me to discover profound things about who I am and how I am called to live my life.  As I have worked to incarnate those discoveries into my active life it has brought profound changes in my life and my relationships.  Yet, it has also brought much struggle.  In some ways it seems that the very things I feel called to created more struggle as I have tried to impliment them in my life.

All of this has made that sense of being an outsider even stronger.  Yes, my practice has given me the ability to see these struggles as what I have called “opportunities to practice” and thus to navigate them in more constructive ways, yet that sense of being an outsider seems even stronger.  Now it seems that the real me, the person I have discovered in the deepest part of myself is still an outsider, maybe even more of one, and definitely a more personal one.

It has always seemed to me that this introverted part of me was something that was wrong with me, something that needed to be fixed.  But as I discovered my own sacred inner being I realized that much of it was a part of who I really am and who I felt called to be by that Mysterious Other I call God.  As I have struggled to actually become that person in the way I am present in my life I have realized that I am still an outsider, even when the anger subsides.

I never could quite put all of that together.  Then comes Susan Cain and “The Power of Introversion”.  Somehow it all made sense.  I really am an introvert trying to live in an extroverted world where introversion is seen as a problem that needs to be fixed, and where the introvert is marginalized, and really does almost inevitably, become an outsider.  As I watched this video I had an emotional reaction that I seldom have.  I realized in a powerful way that all of the anger I have struggled with all these years had its roots right here.  I was angry because I had never been able to really be who I am.  All of my struggles in trying to incarnate the discoveries from my spiritual practice had its roots right here.  Most important of all Cain confirms that being an introvert is not a bad thing.  It is not a disease.  It is not something that needs to be fixed.  It really is an integral part of who I am, and it really is ok to be me.  The culture really does fail to understand and accept introverts.  Cain’s message to me personally was a message of confirmation and encouragement.



I highly recommend this video to all of you introverts, Maybe even more, I recommend it to all of you extroverts who struggle with how to relate to your more introverted friends and family.  Maybe Caiin’s message will give you the understanding and encouragement to build on those relationships and find ways to accept the introverts among us and—well, I’ll just let Susan Cain finish that thought.

After watching this video a couple of times I bought Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. The book takes what Cain says in the video to a whole deeper level.  It provides the research that supports what she says in the video, and it goes in much greater depth on each point.  If you are touched by the video the book is a must read.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert it will give you much greater understanding of the culture.  If you are a leader of any kind it will make you a better one.  If you are a teacher or a parent it will give you a better understanding of the children you are shaping.

Please “Join the conversation”.  Share your reactions and thoughts with us.  Whether you are an introvert, an ambivert, or an extrovert, We would love the hear from you.  Share your journey with us.

Read, Reflect, Enjoy

To purchase Susan Cain’s book click on one of the links below.

*Quote and video origionally from Video inserted from


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