I’ve been aware for a while that I practice a special kind of curiosity when I walk my dog. He loves to sniff around and, when he can, eat stuff off the ground. Usually it’s harmless, like someone’s old pizza crusts. At the same time, I can’t help being aware that there are people who put out poison or booby-trapped treats for dogs (treats with pins stuck in them, for example).
So, what’s this special kind of curiosity? I watch as he sniffs and try to let him sniff as freely as possible while remaining open to the fact that I may need to intervene and take something out of his mouth very quickly. It’s really quite an active kind of curiosity. No daydreaming, no letting the thoughts wander. I have to be there.
This evening I proctored an exam. Suddenly I got the feeling that my role is very similar to when I walk my dog. I’m keeping an eye on the students to make sure they don’t cheat, but I don’t want to intervene unnecessarily and break their concentration. The comparison brought a smile to my face.
A meeting with my financial advisor and a coaching session on building my business have left me feeling overwhelmed. To tell the truth, I woke up feeling as if someone had hit me over the head (the sudden heat, perhaps?) and never really got to feeling better in the course of the day.
All this is not conducive to practicing curiosity although consciously introducing a bit of mindful curiosity into my activities did briefly help me feel better.
Michel de Montaigne said (and this I remember because it was the topic of one of my college application essays) that the journey is more important than the arrival. Luckily, we managed to achieve both yesterday.
I was out walking with a friend and my dog along a trail we had not been on for a number of years and never very often and we simply explored. It was an exquisite day (although it did get a bit hot towards the end) and a beautiful place and so we walked without worrying too much about where we were going and how we were going to get there. It was incredibly relaxing and fun.
That may not have been exactly what Montaigne meant, but it worked for us.
Today I was talking to a friend about affirmations and in the middle of the conversation realized how a sentence I repeat to myself numerous times per day may be helping me practice curiosity. About two months ago I identified feeling safe as one of the factors that helps me enjoy the journey, one form of curiosity. I can imagine that feeling safe also helps me engage with other people more openly. The sentence is “ich bin sicher”. I use the German form because it can mean both “I am safe” but also “I am secure” as in “I am secure in myself.” Having repeated this sentence countless times in the last few years it finally seems to be taking effect. I feel immediately calmer–and more open–when I say it.
A friend of mine is coming to dinner (it’s to celebrate her birthday, which was in April), and I am cooking a couple of dishes I have never cooked before. I know I’m not supposed to do this, but when else would I try out new recipes?
The only thing is that I do find it hard to approach cooking the with curiosity under these circumstances. After all, I want them to turn out well as it is her birthday celebration. I am wedded to a particular outcome.
Ah, well. Better job next time.
Yesterday was a holiday, as I mentioned, and I did very little. (It was great.) At the same time, I have to say I did not do nothing. The workshop I ran on Wednesday went well, and I think a number of factors contributed to that, but there were still a few points I thought could have been better designed for this particular group and this particular occasion. Yesterday I found myself being drawn into a reflection on what else I could have done. Something like that is, for me, always connected with curiosity because it means thinking of various alternatives and trying to be creative about those and then imagining what would have fit the particular situation better. I did end up with an outcome, but the process–and motivation–definitely started with curiosity.
Today is, in fact, a holiday in Austria and after my long spell of intense work I am taking a day off from everything. Back tomorrow.