Today was a holiday in Austria, and my dog and I went on a relatively long hike (a bit over 12 kms). What was special today was that it is in a part of town we almost never go to, an hour away from home. I also only briefly consulted the map at home and then followed the trail markers, which certainly at the beginning of the trail only showed up when we had to change direction. It was a little like practicing River or existential curiosity. We walked along without trying to control every step of the way, only responding to signposts as they turned up. A little practice, at least.
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. 😉
Many people have already heard about the study that showed that London taxi drivers (the ones who had to learn to navigate without GPS) have larger hippocampuses than a control group. (The hippocampus is the part of the brain believed to be responsible for memory and navigation processes.) Now there is a study that suggests that using maps rather than GPS to navigate can be healthy for our brains, especially as we age, and not just good for our curiosity practice.
Read more here, if you are curious 😉 about the study: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-11-reliance-gps-hippocampus-function-age.html
A Huna principle states that energy goes where your attention is. I had barely written my post for yesterday when I found myself steering towards a local store that sells a different seasonal and themed series of goods every week. Really. One week in summer it might be everything you need to go camping (LED lanterns, bug spray, solar-powered rechargers for mobile phones, etc.) and at the moment it is, of course, in this Catholic country Christmas items (table runners in red and green, candles, aromatic oils in cinnamon and clove, etc.). In any case, I had only just expressed my desire to really practice curiosity and found myself gripped in it and on my way to satisfy myself—What is on sale this week? That, too, is curiosity and can bring the benefits I wish for. 🙂
Perhaps you recall that the reason I started this blog was accountability. I wanted to remember to practice curiosity, and this was a method I hadn’t tried yet of reminding myself daily.
I’ve already mentioned that I carry around an A4 sheet of paper with the word CURIOSITY on it. I have written the need for more curiosity into my own commandments (#2: Meet what comes in life with curiosity). I have been making notes on my phone and in a curiosity notebook. What I forgot to mention was that, along with a few other habits I want to develop, I write “practice curiosity” on my daily to-do list in red ink. The red ink reminds me that these are items I cannot make up. If I don’t do them today, the opportunity is lost. (My neck and shoulder stretches, for example, are also on that list.) My curiosity practice still quite often got lost in the shuffle.
When I started this blog I was pleased to see that I was checking “curiosity practice” off every single day. After all, I was writing and posting something daily. A few weeks in, though, I realized I couldn’t in good conscience check off “curiosity practice” simply because I was thinking and writing about curiosity. Those two activities do not automatically constitute practice. So now I have an extra point on my list of “red-letter items”—“blog post” in addition to “practice curiosity”. And slowly but surely I am becoming more aware of when I do practice, when I don’t practice, and even in the moment of my desire to practice.
Remembering to do something is half the battle. (And, boy, does real change take time and effort!)