Creating Refuge for Introverts: Meditation and Qigong


My name is Nell Robinson and my partner, Jim Nunally and I have a band that is performing in Kansas City next week at the Folk Alliance International Conference. Jim and I also have a new music and arts company, Whippoorwill Arts, and an activist project called the Music Home Project. Howdy, nice to make your acquaintance!

We have an idea and a gift to offer to the community at this conference and for other conferences. Some ideas and resources for finding silence, meditation, Qigong in the midst of conference overload.

See if you can relate to how we came up with it: (or just skip to the end for links)

When we learned that we had been invited to do an official showcase at the Folk Alliance International Conference this year, we were so excited! What a wonderful opportunity to share our new work and perhaps meet some folks who would like to book us!

That is indeed the reason we musicians come to these conferences, to share music, meet folks, and make connections that will lead to paid performances- the gigs contribute to a creative life and also help make a living through the ticket sales and performance pay and sharing and selling our albums.

We have many friends to reconnect with, other musicians, the radio DJs we so love and appreciate, and the many hard-working folks who try to bring our music out into the world. So many of these jobs are challenging, especially if financial results are essential – and we know there are lots of folks at FAI who work tirelessly for the love of the music and appreciation of the artists who create it. Thank you agents, bookers, press, administrative, radio and all of you.

As the conference has approached, however, my anxieties have been building. Why? First of all, because we believe in our music, we are investing in it, therefore like everyone else paying our own way to the conference. OUCH. Still…it’s an investment we want to make!

Secondly, we have 25 minutes at an official showcase to knock it out of the park as busy people wander in and out of the short show. We normally get almost 2 hours to work our magic, engage the audience, relax and display the unique sounds, arrangements, lyrics and virtuosity that gives us such joy and that also delights the audience. This is especially challenging when your songs are original. When hearing new music, you really need to settle in to hear the story and lyrics, it takes time and set-up to get the meaning of a song you have never heard before. YOW. 

Lastly, I am an introvert and there are lots of people who will be extroverting all over the place into the wee hours. Friendly wonderful folks, talking non-stop. Introverts may be very friendly people (like I am) but introverts expend energy with social interaction.  We re-charge with quiet and stillness. Extroverts, on the other hand, re-charge with social interaction. They need quiet too but that can actually be draining and they will begin to crave the energy of interaction again.

So you can see what’s coming:  social overload, performance under pressure, etc., etc.

It feels like our health can really take a backseat. How can we be relaxed, healthy, eat healthy, get the rest and quiet we need, AND feel great and fully participate in a gathering of compadres, some of whom hold the purse-strings that will pay for house payments, rent, health insurance, kids’ college educations, and retirement?

Jim and I would like to offer some resources and practices that we use at home and on the road, our REFUGE for quieting our minds and staying centered.

We have been studying and practicing meditation through some online programs and teachers and also through a local meditation center, Spirit Rock in Fairfax, California.  In addition, we have been practicing Qigong, a gentle form of stretching and movement that works with releasing tension and opening up healthy energy, primarily focusing on your spine. We are so fortunate to also have access to Qigong teachers, both online and in-person at retreats, through the Chi Center in Petaluma, California.

Here are links to two free videos of the gentle, energetic practice of Qigong:

Here are two meditation applications that you can use with your phone:

  • 10% Happier Mindfulness & Meditation: Of the many options for this type of app, we love this one because the ironic curator, Dan Harris, asks lots of good smart-alecky questions and Joseph Goldstein is a great teacher.  The meditations come in flexible time formats from 1 minute to an hour.
  • Meditation Studio

I also read every day and knit and quilt madly as well … those are two refuges I’ve mentioned in other places.

See you at the conference and we wish you all the very best of luck with your performances and that you stay connected to what brings you and all of us such joy – the muse, the music, the story, the inner ache of love, beauty and catharsis.

suzanne sarto