I’m a bit stuck today. It’s a rainy day and I’ve been doing the usual end-of-week pulling together of and following up on the different projects I’ve been working on. Being stuck, I asked my mother what I should write about, what she would like to know about curiosity. She proposed the subject: What was I curious about today?
That’s a good question. Here goes:
- The fragments of what I was dreaming when I woke up and what message that might have for me
- What was causing the drawer on my mother’s desk to stick and how to open it
- How my warmed up coffee from yesterday would taste (not too bad, amazingly)
- How to create a thread running through the course outline someone else designed and I have to deliver even though I am plagued by questions such as “Why did they put that subject in there?” or rejections such as “Do we really have to cover the topic of giving feedback again???”
It seems a small list for the better part of a day, but at least I was able to identify some moments when I felt the prick or pull that lets me know I’m being tempted into curiosity.
A couple of years ago I did a course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). One of the mindfulness exercises was eating a raisin mindfully, which was fine for me because I like raisins. One person though had long had an aversion to raisins and was skeptical about the benefit of eating even one raisin. He reported afterwards that it wasn’t as bad as he had expected. Apparently, using all his senses and seeing the raisin as an exercise helped him.
Well, we are having Salade Nicoise for lunch, which has anchovies in it. In the spirit of curiosity practice, I ate an anchovy mindfully, even though I’m the kind of person who doesn’t even want someone else’s pizza half with anchovies on it in the same carton as my half with other things. I decided to look at the situation as a chance to practice curiosity, to remain open and not judge. I focused on what I tasted rather than what my opinion was of what I tasted. The anchovy was just as salty and fishy as I remembered and it wasn’t a great pleasure to eat it, but approaching it that way did help.
And at the moment I seem to practicing curiosity in the unspectacular but practical way of trying to find variations on our standard dogwalks so that my dog doesn’t get bored.
I promised yesterday that I would try to get some photos of the art at the UN here. This is what I got:
A bit of a cop out, I think, but then I am very tired.
Today I did, for the most part, manage to be curious about and respond to my participants’ challenges. For the most part.
My work day started at about 7:00 this morning and proceeded without a break to about 1 p.m. at which point I had a bite to eat and went out with my dog. I got an awful lot of work done, but it was pretty intense. Then I came back for a conference call and the follow up associated with that.
Still, on our walk I managed to notice the mushrooms(!) that have sprouted in the park after just a few days of rain following on a very dry spell, and I noticed as we walked past a sidewalk café that most people were speaking English instead of German, although often with an Austrian accent. It may not have been curiosity exactly (I wasn’t rushing home to my mushroom field guide to find out what kind of mushrooms they were), but it suggests at least to me that I am learning to pay attention better. 🙂
It occurred to me that my last post may seem a bit strange. I wrote about genuinely trying to understand the other person and yet I’m writing in a book with no one else around. However, I notice myself that it makes a difference whether I write the questions as if they were the answers in a homework assignment (on auto-pilot) or whether I feel a sense of curiosity–what could that person be thinking of?–while I write. Obviously, it’s the latter state I am trying to achieve in my practice.