I am a fast processor, and I often attract fast-processing clients. People like us produce ideas rapidly. I also identify as a somatic person. I've spent a lot of time around people and groups that are intellectual and others that are somatic. Going through life as this combination creates dissonance. In somatic circles, I can be interpreted as disembodied. In intellectual circles, I can be interpreted as “out there.”
Internally, I feel congruent. When I observe misinterpretation, I notice it, feel a little disappointed, and reflect on how I truly feel inside. There is a temptation to get defensive. I want to explain myself. There is a misconception that you can’t be intellectual or a fast processor and simultaneously embodied.
The truth is, you can presently embody whatever you are. You can even presently embody disembodiment. Speed has just as much a place in the body as slowness. Some bodyminds love speed. These body-minds often don’t do well with seated meditation and require other types of contemplative practice vessels.
When you are choosing a contemplative style, choose one that feels good to you. White-knuckling through a 40-minute seated Zazen practice is not virtuous and misses the point unless your aim is to be present with limbic friction, which is also fine. Just be intentional that this is your aim. The point of a contemplative practice is to become present by repeatedly returning to a single focus. That could be a mantra or working on a Rubik's Cube.
Your contemplative practice does not always need to be done as “time set aside” like a timed meditation. You could decide to return to your breath, sensations in your body, or something else, over and over while cooking or hiking in the woods.
Doing focused timed practices is very helpful for learning presence and maintaining a strong connection to presence. If doing a timed practice is very irritating or brings up trauma, and that is not your aim, it's not time to have this as a part of your life. You may need some help from a therapist or spiritual person to work through your tangles inside.
Once you have more inner clarity, you will love your practice in whatever form you connect with. Try a different practice if it feels like a chore or a battle. It might not be you. The practice vessel may be a bad fit.
Types of Contemplative Practice Vessels:
What makes any of these practices contemplative is the quality of attention you bring to it. At first and in general, you practice keeping your attention on the thing you are doing. When your mind wanders, you bring it back.
Over time, your relationship to contemplative practice evolves. You may feel an affinity for one specific practice vessel. Your preference may change to different practice vessels over time. It's important to know that it is not about any specific practice vessel (including seated meditation). The practice through any vessel is presence in the here and now. That is all.
There is no aim other than this. The aim is not to “slow down,” “wake up,” “be better.” The aim is to be present and nothing more.
“How can that be helpful?” You might ask. “Why would I want even to try this if it's not going to ‘help’ me?” Well, try it and see what happens.
Let go of the mindful marketing out there that it's for this or that purpose, that you could become enlightened, or that you’ll be a better person. People have, understandably, used many tactics to convince others to do contemplative practices. They have used motivational and marketing hooks to get the job done. You may be reading this article because you want to be further convinced to practice. But why?
Underneath all the teachings and mindfulness click-bait, there is something else entirely. I will not try to capture the “thing” or “not thing” in words. I can’t, and no one can. Lao Tzu famously points out the issue:
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Try your hand at presence. Every time you do, invite total openness to what is. That is sensation, environment, inner experience, your life circumstances, the state of the world, that which you “know” and everything “you don't know,” and just see what happens next. If you're a fast processor or some other misunderstood type of person, don't try to “fix” yourself. There is nothing to fix. Be with who you are now and watch yourself become.