Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Quiet Girl

The name of this blog derives from one of Patanjali's yoga sutras, perhaps the most famous sutra of them all: YOGA CITTA VRTTI NIRODHA (Chapter I, Line 2). It is sometimes translated, "Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind," or "Yoga is the cessation of fluctuations in the consciousness." Basically, thought-waves, disturbances, ripples, blips, bloops in the steady stream of one's consciousness. The activity of the mind. Thinking. Spend some time observing your thoughts, and you'll see what I mean.

I don't live in a society that turns inward very often. We're quick to judge someone on the street muttering to themselves as "crazy," when really, we're all constantly chattering to ourselves all day long. We just don't manifest that behavior on the outside - the social awareness that restrains us from doing that is the only difference, really.

So, I'm new to New York City, the Big Apple, a.k.a. the Center of the Universe and Capital of the World (according to some). There's much to explore here, and along those lines, much to think about. I practice yoga, so I suppose part of the practice is the ceasing of the turbulent ocean of the mind, reaching stillness and inner peace. For me, I find myself wanting to write and express my experiences. And so, these are my "vrtti," my thoughts.

An issue I want to address is that of being a "quiet" person. It seems to be viewed as a somewhat negative trait to have, especially in professional careers where verbalizing and communicating thoughts quickly, effectively, and memorably is so vital. Yet I've been a quiet student all my life. I dislike the "quiet Asian girl" stereotype, and people are quick to point that out when they discuss this topic with me. I suppose on the outside that is what they see, and part of me wonders if it's my duty to try to dispel it. Luckily, one of my friends pointed out to me that stereotypes are not my problem - they're the problem of those who believe and propagate them!

I then talked to several of my acquaintance and close friends who I've basically grown up with, gone to school with, and experienced numerous stages of life with. More than a few of us are rather similar in this regard - we're introverted, quiet, find it difficult sometimes to jump into conversations, find it worse to try to dominate conversations, are always conscious of whether anyone's left out (and seek to include them, if that seems to be the case), don't really feel totally at ease in large groups, dislike small talk. And yeah, we're all Asian, of Chinese heritage. Maybe it's something to do with our upbringing? Could be. We talked about that. Usually Asian parents find it disrespectful if their children disagree with them. So usually you have an opinion inside you that you don't really show or share to others. It's easier to keep it inside, unless you want to be fighting all the time. One isn't really taught to be opinionated. It's actually sort of negative to be opinionated - a sign of a disagreeable personality.

Another common thread I picked up on was how we typically think before we speak, and realizing that it's not really a matter of concern for the whole group, not that important, or just a "waste of words," we end up keeping quiet. Yet in class, if you don't talk, the teachers wonder if maybe you don't understand what's going on, didn't prepare for discussion, or are just plain dumb.

I often think of the Eastern sages and yogis of the past (and present!) who took silent vows and led lives of contemplation. Sometimes that's more than a little tempting to me. I think in Western civilization it's difficult to grasp why someone would "shut themselves up" like that. What's the use of observing the inner world? Why keep everything bottled up?

I'm still deliberating this dichotomy myself.


  1. I keep thinking about this too, so I have been trying to be more vocal about things in general to dispel those misconceptions.

    I feel like being quiet in Western society is a gesture of reluctance to share ideas. That is why it is frowned upon so much in a professional setting, especially when collaboration is important.

    Then, there is the quiet to the degree of unfriendliness, which I don't think is a fair assessment in regards to quiet people, but it persists anyway.

    In this process of trying to open up, I come to this odd realization: there is a degree of balancing your inner self and your outer image, but then there's also the feeling that you're trying to please the people around you by being someone you're not. It is a very gray area.

  2. like like like!!! I hate how quietness is viewed in western society. To me it's an attribute, not a fault. Of course in many cases it is worth speaking up to get your voice heard, but there are many MORE times when I just don't see the need to say something. Also, I have always disliked how introverts in general are viewed... when, in fact, introverts make some of the best leaders and CEOs of companies. We aren't quiet, we are just reflective.

  3. YAY! I'm glad there are people out there who UNDERSTAND. ;)

  4. Hey I just came to your blog through IndiaMike. And i can def. relate to the whole "Quiet Girl" actually, in my case, its worst. I'm quiet and when I speak i have a voice that not a lot people can hear (which i need to work on). Anyway, what i mostly dislike is when people mix being quiet/shy with being rude. They just don't seem to understand that sometimes there are shy people who just find it difficult to throw themselves into a random convo.