Tag Archives: practicing

Day 359 – Different kinds of curiosity revisited

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.



Day 315 – How is an Inquiry journal really Inquiry practice?

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.

Day 314 – The spirit of Inquiry

Not for the first time I’ve realized the danger of placing something like “practice curiosity” or “Inquiry journal” on my to-do list–it’s too easy to just do the activity mindlessly to be able to check it off. What I most appreciated at the end of my 10-day Inquiry challenge was that although I didn’t practice formal Inquiry very often at least I was noticing more quickly when I got into judgmental mode and was able to intentionally open up my mind somewhat.

This morning I was writing my usual entry in my Inquiry journal and I realized that I was doing it very much like an exercise in a language lab, automatically. That is the antithesis of Inquiry, which Senge & Co. define as listening to genuinely understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Right. Time that I pay attention to doing my Inquiry practice in the spirit of Inquiry.

Day 297 – A more nuanced picture

Warning–a long and fairly theory-rich post!

I found myself thinking about my tendency to see things in black and white terms–good/bad, desirable/undesirable, right/wrong. The funny thing is that I have always been able to see many sides to an issue, but I have also always known which side I came down on. And ultimately I reject the other side.

At the same time, I encourage my students and workshop participants to try to see actions or cultural dimensions in terms of advantages and disadvantages and preferences and priorities rather than good and bad, right and wrong.


Individualism (a cultural dimension)

A few advantages of individualism: personal freedom with all the associated advantages to that like living where you want to, studying what you want to, dressing the way you want to, and less responsibility to other people (like personally taking care of your aging parents).

A few disadvantages of individualism: a negative attitude to people who need support which can make it impossible for some people to reach a level where they can take care of themselves and their closest family members as well as an emphasis on doing everything yourself and taking care of yourself without help, which can lead to exhaustion, burnout, and failure.

Collectivism (another cultural dimension, the counterpart to individualism)

A few advantages of collectivism: community support for the individuals in the group–a belief in helping people up, a belief that you don’t have to be everything and do everything by yourself, and an acknowledgement of a person’s place in the group that does not end because the person’s usefulness is gone.

A few disadvantages of collectivism: a lack of freedom to determine your own life’s path, which means you may be expected to take over the family business whether or not you are interested in it, or to marry based on what fits with your family, or to contribute to community charities not necessarily based on your own personal interests.

When I talk about preferences and priorities I mean that groups (culture is always a group phenomenon) over the generations jointly build up a system of beliefs and values based on what works for the group. This system has at its core certain preferences and priorities. These preferences and priorities are handed on to new members through the process of socialization. Culture clash happens when these underlying preferences and priorities are not in agreement, like when my Austrian students–working from a collectivist standpoint in this situation–look at the fight against universal healthcare in the U.S.A.–in most things a strongly individualist culture–and simply cannot comprehend why anyone would not want to have something that in their eyes is so obviously humane and beneficial to everyone.

On a less theoretical, more fun note: I’ve been re-reading Alexander McCall Smith’s wonderful series set in Botswana, The Nr. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The “traditional Botswana values” his heroine, Mma Ramotswe, keeps referring to are a beautiful example of collectivism, and the culture changes she sees–and disapproves of–are almost invariably individualistic.


This morning it struck me that practicing this simple shift of seeing advantages and disadvantages rather than right and wrong is an exercise in curiosity and may open up a more constructive way of interacting with other people and with situations (part of my hypothesis, if you remember).

Although I’ve been doing this kind of analysis in the classroom for a number of years, I don’t do it very often in “real life”. In the context of writing this blog, I can imagine using it more often as a form of curiosity practice.

One final note: I’m not sure I would have reached this point if I hadn’t been writing this blog. This is the kind of progress that I hoped the daily commitment to writing about living curiously would help me make and I am very happy about this today.

Day  289 – Leaving the map at home

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.