The last few weeks I’ve been re-reading my blog from beginning to (not quite) end. I wanted to catch up with what I had written—and there were a number of things I’d completely forgotten—and also do some organizing of categories and tags. This has helped me get a better grasp of, for example, the helps and hindrances. Below the most common elements:
- Practicing: doing exercises but also just reminding oneself in everyday life
- Reminders: post-it notes, to-do list, A4 piece of paper with CURIOSITY written on it, friends and other readers of this blog, writing a blog on the topic 😉 and so on
- Taking time: clear, I think
- Travel: just a natural opportunity to explore new things openly
- Confidence: a counterpart to fear, which appears on the Hindrances list
- Interest: a natural pull in the direction of curiosity
Rather belatedly it has occurred to me that having someone to practice curiosity with could be a big help, for fun, accountability, and ideas.
- Anger and/or violent disagreement
- Fear and/or danger
- Pressure (I used this for time pressure and other kinds of pressure like performance pressure)
- Worry (milder than fear)
I also believe that having expanded my awareness of “Things to be curious about” (another category, in fact, I think the one I used most frequently), is a big help.
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.
Wondering what to write about today I realized that I was already practicing one of the forms of curiosity that comes most easily and naturally to me–I started reading a new book today. I’m reading Eva Hoffman’s “Shtetl” about “the life and death of a small town and the world of Polish Jews.” It’s the perfect way to travel in time and space and learn about a completely different world without leaving home. 🙂
There’s nothing like a natural phenomenon to stir up the old curiosity. Yesterday, New England experienced a more complete solar eclipse than, I believe, the year that I turned 12 (which was a long time ago!). This offered lots of opportunities to practice curiosity.
First, there was the search for details, mainly when. Then came the search for instructions on how to make a pinhole camera. Then there were the camera assembly and testing phases. Then there was the waiting. I had made a mental note that the start, at least in New York City–was at 1:23 p.m. and the peak at 2:44. Imagining that I would be able to see the moment the moon entered the sun’s light I was outside with my pinhole camera at about 1:20.
First hurdle: I couldn’t see any difference to the sun the first ten minutes or so and got impatient. Mainly, I thought my camera wasn’t working or my eyes weren’t sensitive enough and I was going to miss the whole thing. Finally, I thought I saw a difference. Then I knew I saw a difference. From then on, I was hooked. I didn’t watch without a break, but I did keep coming back to see the progress.
Some things I noticed:
- It got noticeably cooler as the eclipse progressed to its peak.
- The blue of the sky seemed less intense.
- The shadows seemed less distinct.
- The clouds, which had been moving at quite a pace, seemed to slow down.
- It got very quiet. The wind died. The birds and the insects stopped chirping.
Somehow I had expected the moon to go across the face of the sun horizontally and was surprised that it started at the top righthand corner and moved diagonally down. (That was one reason it took me a while to recognize that something was changing. I was looking in the wrong place.)
I had also thought that the moment the peak had been reached I would go for a walk with my dog. Instead I found the second half of the eclipse just as enthralling as the first half, and my poor dog had to wait.
All in all, it took two and half hours from start to finish (you cannot rush a celestial event). I consider that an afternoon very well spent.
Ten days to go on my blog, and I can’t think of a single thing to write so I will simply wish all a good start to the week.
The weekend. I could have been curious as I went shopping and had to figure out where to find certain things on my list. I could have been curious as I tried to replace the washer in my bathroom faucet. I could have been curious as I prepared a new recipe with an ingredient, quinoa, I have only used once before. I could have been, and I might have enjoyed the day more. Sadly, I wasn’t and didn’t. I was too intent in each case on achieving a certain goal in as short a time as possible. Ah, well.