In the early days of this blog, on Day 058, I wrote about stopping for a moment to honor one’s achievements. This is perhaps less about curiosity and more about simply paying attention, but then my last post was also more about noticing things than about being actively curious.
Several people this week have made it clear that they think I need to stop more often and pay attention to what I have just accomplished, rather than rushing on to the next thing on the to-do list. My favorite reminder so far has been “Shall I open the bottle of champagne?” said by a friend who on principle keeps a bottle of sparkling wine on hand for special occasions.
A few days ago I wrote that I found myself in a state of openness on our afternoon dogwalk that was very close to what I mean by curiosity. (And it felt good!) The last few days, in fact, in spite of a ton of work and my thoughts going in far too many directions most of the time, I have managed to create/recreate this state of openness and am realizing that it is very closely related to simply being present in the moment. It’s a little like what I experienced many months ago, except the last few days I’ve been doing it (and managing to do it) more regularly.
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.
I’m not practicing much curiosity at the moment, as I think I have made clear over the last few days. 😉 This morning, though, I did manage—at least for a bit—to intentionally open up, pull myself out of my head, and pay attention to what was happening on our morning walk without judging or thinking too much. At least that is a little bit of success.
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.
I may have underestimated the opportunities to practice curiosity at the wine-tasting last night. Of course, one can–and should–practice mindful curiosity in the tasting process, but I also had the opportunity to practice desire-to-learn curiosity very actively.
I and two colleagues were at a table for four and were joined by a someone we didn’t know. She turned out to be fascinating–a graphic designer who tries to work according to the 26 principles of biomimicry, in which people designing solutions turn to nature to be inspired. (She gave me an amazing example of a German company that has created glass that birds do not fly into and therefore do not break their necks on. It emulates spider webs which, it turns out, have an ultraviolet color that humans cannot see but birds can. After all, birds don’t fly through spider webs.) From there we got into a discussion of how cultural groups relate to nature (by dominating, living in harmony, or giving in to) and learned a lot from each other.
The wine was good, too. 😉
One idea that came out of my recent analysis of seven posts was: Consciously engage all five senses.
I have been trying that out to see if it helps me move through my day with greater curiosity. For my own benefit here is my definition of curiosity again: A state of experiencing a situation … with openness and a desire to see what happens and without feeling the need to influence the outcome. (It’s so easy for me to lose sight of that.)
What I have discovered so far:
- After sight, hearing is, hands down, the sense I use most frequently. That is easy. In this case I try to do “wraparound listening” (as described here) to get a wider sense of what is out there.
- In this context my sense of smell is next in frequency. That is also easy for me to do.
- I could more consciously check in on how I’m feeling, inside and out. Test the air, so to speak, which does still have a hint of winter in it.
- I could also more consciously check in on taste. As I have mentioned before, that is the biggest challenge for me. It is the least awake of my senses unless I am actually eating or drinking something.
- Spring is a good time to work on this aspect of curiosity because there are so many tempting things, especially to hear and smell—birds singing ecstatically and grass, flowers, and trees coming out.
- Having something so concrete to focus on (ironically, perhaps) does help me be curious. It also helps, I suspect, that sounds, smells, and weather are things I wouldn’t expect to have any influence over. 😉