One of the most interesting things to come out of this blog for me was the realization that I see distinct kinds of curiosity, and that this realization came so early, on Day 030, when I wrote about:
- Existential (or River) curiosity
- Mindful curiosity
- Desire-to-learn curiosity
- Interpersonal curiosity
Then, on Days 250 and 251, I realized that I had developed different exercises for practicing these different kinds of curiosity. This is something that I’m taking with me and will continue to use, I hope, to build my curiosity capacity. As of September 1st this year, “Curiosity blog post” will no longer be on my daily to-do list, but “Practice curiosity” will remain as a reminder. When I find I can’t practice in any big way—like exploring with Inquiry a viewpoint completely repugnant to me ;-)—I can turn to my list of exercises and do one just to keep my hand in.
In revisiting my posts preparatory to this final week, I realized that I had over the course of the last year identified certain nuances of curiosity that I wouldn’t consider different kinds: quiet, wraparound, and physical. Quiet curiosity is when it’s nothing dramatic but I am aware of a gentle curiosity. Wraparound curiosity is when I consciously explore what is all around me, not just in front of my face. And physical curiosity is when I feel my body opening up in a reflection of curiosity.
And, actually, I’d like to add social curiosity as described on Day 164. For me that is different from interpersonal curiosity in which I try to understand how the other person sees something. Social curiosity is more about trying to find out about the person–what he or she does, where he or she comes from, his or her favorite vacation spot, and so on.
Seven posts to go after this one. As I start the countdown I’d like to take a look at my definition again. At the beginning, I defined curiosity thus: A state of experiencing a situation, with any or all of one’s senses, with openness and a desire to see what happens and without feeling the need to influence the outcome.
At some point along the way, I questioned the use of the word “state” wondering if “attitude” or something else might work better. Today I look at that definition and find it works well for me.
I think curiosity is a state of being, rather than something else. I like the idea that it speaks to and uses all our senses. Perhaps the one thing is that I would now add that it speaks to and uses our cognitive functions, like thinking, learning, and analyzing, as well. The openness has been a major part of my quest from the beginning and the “desire to learn” expresses for me the active component that is one of the differences between mindfulness and curiosity for me. As to not feeling the need to influence the outcome—I have come to feel that this is not only a component, say, of existential curiosity but also the other kinds of curiosity I identified for myself: mindful, interpersonal, and desire-to-learn curiosity.
For me, my definition has worn well.
I’m having the chance to practice a lot of conversational curiosity at the moment. We’re staying with a friend, who is also a school friend of my mother’s (to get the generations clear). Years ago I gave up on hearing new stories. Each visit involved the same stories, some of which I didn’t enjoy all that much the first time. This time, however, it is as if she has opened a whole new trunk of stories and I find myself a good bit of the time listening with unforced curiosity. I would love to know how that happened.
Listening with interest is also a form of curiosity, and it is one I practiced intensively today. I tend to forget that it should count as curiosity practice because I have been doing it most of my life.
Sometimes the flow of conversation doesn’t make it easy to practice curiosity in an active way. That said, it can provide a forum for a gentle, ongoing kind of curiosity. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours talking with old friends (one of whom was the recipient of the somewhat failed birthday cake) in a lovely, rambling conversation, one topic leading to another. We listened to each other and asked questions in an unforced way. That, perhaps, too, counts as curiosity.
If I had called this blog “A Year of Living Mindfully” I would have found it a lot easier to describe my progress and successes, but that isn’t the kind of curiosity I wanted to practice especially.
Similarly, my life would be easier if I had undertaken to practice just desire-to-learn curiosity. That one more or less takes care of itself.
But, no. When I think back I realize that what I most wanted to practice in this Year of Living Curiously was interpersonal curiosity and existential curiosity, the two I have the hardest time with.
First of all, interpersonal curiosity. I want to practice interpersonal curiosity, especially in the form of Inquiry–genuinely trying to understand how other people see the world. Partly this has simply become a challenge to me. I have tried so long to achieve this and have made so little progress. It is bringing out my cussedness. I also happen to see this kind of communication and interaction as essential to the future of the planet. The way I see it if we can’t learn to engage with openness and a desire to understand other ways and worldviews we will at some point simply self-destruct (not to put too fine a point on it).
Second of all, River or existential curiosity. This is for my own personal well-being. I’m aware that I create a great deal of stress for myself by trying to control things (like whether I am curious or not ;-)) rather than meeting life with anticipation and an openness to what comes.
At this point, I guess I have to say that thanks to the last 285 days at least I have worked out for myself that I see different kinds of curiosity. Now I can spend the the remaining 79 days concentrating on making at least a bit of progress on the two kinds of curiosity that I feel need work.