Monthly Archives: November 2016

Day 091 – Is it working?

Here I am, a quarter of a year into this exercise. Have the last three months helped me in any way on what one reader called my “curiosity quest”?

I notice two differences / improvements:

  1. I go into situations more often wondering with awareness what they will be like, rather than rushing in oblivious or with preconceived notions. This is similar to what I wrote about on Days 041, 049, and 090.
  2. I do catch myself more often asking questions in conversations so that I can better understand what the other person mean. This is similar to what I wrote about on Day 038.

I’m satisfied so far.


Day 090 – A brief report

Well, I don’t know if it’s only curiosity that’s helping, but in spite of snags and uncertainty this has been one of my less stressful trips in a while. I feel I have simply been more open and more willing to go with the flow, and that has helped. (One of the airline service reps even thanked me for my calmness and said he wished all his customers would be so patient!)  More soon.

Day 089 – Travel and curiosity 04: A challenge

I am flying back to Vienna today after four months with family in the USA. It is a different kind of travel from my road trips, which were meant to be fun and stimulating. This is bread-and-butter travel, potentially stressful for three reasons—the airline may be on strike, the weather may be bad (snow), and I am flying with a small dog at my feet.

Can I maintain an attitude of curiosity? And if I manage to do that, will it help make this “bread-and-butter” travel more enriching and perhaps less stressful? I’ll report back tomorrow, albeit somewhat later than usual, I suspect.

Day 088 – Can curiosity hibernate?

The easy answer to this question is “yes”. In fact, one reader wrote to tell me that the post on my curiosity slump was one of the most inspiring for her. In this case, I’d like to reflect on the why hibernation is a good idea and what might cause curiosity to hibernate.

One of the most interesting courses I have taken in a while was a course on reaching success with greater serenity or composure (“Mit mehr Gelassenheit zum Erfolg”, for the German speakers among my readers). One of the exercises that I remember best was working in small groups to discuss the basic emotions: anger, grief, fear, joy, and (the facilitator added) love. We were to discuss first of all the (evolutionary) reason we believed each of these emotions had developed and become universal. It had, perhaps stupidly, never occurred to me that emotions are there to serve a survival-related purpose, and I jumped into the exercise with enthusiasm.

Greatly simplified: we feel anger when our boundaries have been violated and the power of that anger helps us defend ourselves; we feel grief when we have lost someone or something dear to us and the sadness and lack of energy keeps us close to home where we are safe at a vulnerable time; we feel fear when we are in danger and it triggers the stress reaction which helps us fight, freeze, or flee as needed; joy was described to us as the engine of life (“Lebensmotor”), the force that gives us positive energy, makes it all worthwhile, and keeps us going; and love helps us build connections with other beings, without which we would die.

In this sense, what evolutionary purpose does hibernation serve? Rather obviously for animals, when times are tough, the weather is freezing, and there is no food to be had, hibernation keeps animals alive by dialing down their metabolisms and allowing them to hole up and live on what they have managed to store in body fat. They need no new nourishment until spring comes, when they emerge from their dens thinner and ready to forage again. (Actually, they emerge ravenous and potentially dangerous, but that is another story.)

When might it be a good idea to let your curiosity hibernate? When you’ve stored up enough nourishment, times are tough, the weather is cold, and you need a break.

I’m taking a break today. 😉

Day 087 – Curiosity and family occasions (2)

I realize my post yesterday may have sounded a little cryptic so I would like to assure everybody that we had a really nice family Thanksgiving. I’m aware, though, that I otherwise lead a fairly quiet life with a lot of one-to-one conversations but not a  lot of discussion around the dinner table with a number of people talking at once, so I need some help to keep up and also to not to get too exhausted at family get-togethers.

Curiosity helped. After almost three months of practicing curiosity and thinking more about it, I was able to call on a  state of openness just for the pleasure of finding out more about whatever the topic of conversation was, without feeling any particular need to influence  what the person was saying or the direction the talk was taking. I enjoyed our time together the way I would wish to and learned a lot about  what is going in various family members’ lives and minds.

Three cheers  for curiosity!

Day 085 – Curiosity and gratefulness

As today is Thanksgiving in the U.S., where I am at the moment, I thought I would share the following link to an article about how to feel grateful even when you aren’t “in a good place”:

The exercise described in this article by author Victoria Maxwell (quoted below) is about identifying how being grateful feels:

“1) Close your eyes. You probably already got this but don’t do this while you’re driving. Sit (or stand) somewhere when you have time on your own. It can be in your home, or while waiting for the bus even (I don’t recommend the grocery line, it can a bit unnerving for the cashier and other shoppers).

2) Take a deep breath in (and out in case you’re wondering).

3) Say or visualize the word ‘gratitude’ in your mind.

4) Focus on your body – watch, is there tension when you focus on that word?

5) Breathe and relax a little deeper.

6) Mentally review things, occurrences, people, places that you have experienced in the last 24 hours, the last week or two, or even the course of your life. Ask yourself what or who do you feel gratitude for? This is the tricky and sneaky part: let your mind review items you ‘think’ you are grateful for and then as you see the item in detail, see if that translates into inklings of gladness or some small bubble of positive emotions.”

It made me think of the exercise I mentioned earlier on being curious about one’s feelings. The first time I did what Maxwell recommends and mentally reviewed (with curiosity, goes without saying) the previous 24 hours, I didn’t have to go far . I remembered doing my daily Salutation to the Sun and immediately felt gratitude for my body being able to do, and get pleasure out of, that simple yoga exercise.