An ongoing series of posts around Ways of Being that contribute to our becoming whole and healed in heart and mind, body and soul, that support wholehearted engagement with life: relationships, family, work, and world.
Curiosity is a quality of mind and heart that prepares human-beings to more easefully transform themselves into their highest possible selves, one of many tools of transcendence. Our curiosity is what leads us in the direction of what we seek to know and understand to a greater and deeper degree, far beyond recognition and affiliation. It is a state of mind and a Way of Being in the world.
Where and when in your life do you actively live the quality of curiosity? How are you curious? What piques your curiosity? What inspires a sense of awe in you? In what circumstance do you find that wonder is a constant companion? How do you welcome, work, and play with this wonder-ful companion?
One way to think about curiosity is as the opposite of certainty. We live and work in a culture in which certainty is expected and subconsciously rewarded, while uncertainty, the foundation of curiosity, is deemed as a weakness or a flaw, a discomforting state of being that few of us have developed the stamina for enduring. As a result, many of us are over-attached to, or over-identified with, certainty: we have definite opinions, which we present to ourselves and others as factual, along with particular preferences and aversions that drive our behaviors beyond our own awareness. We have entire areas of our life in which we have closed our minds and hearts.
The first step in strengthening the quality of curiosity is to begin to notice where it shows up, or is missing. To just pay attention and notice when I want to know more, when I have an interest that wants to be followed; to notice how I respond to uncertainty; to notice where I feel comfortable with asking questions and being open to learning.
One way this plays out in my life is with birds. We have created our small back yard/garden to be a sanctuary for wildlife, especially birds. I am driven to learn the names of all the birds that visit, what their food preferences are, what are their nesting habits? I am constantly noticing something new in their behavior, especially this time of year as they teach the babies to leave the nest, to fly, and only then teach them to find food and feed themselves…such the opposite of what I expected. I am pulled along by a thread of curiosity to notice, study, research, observe some more, and on and on with the birds. I have been intently following this web of wonder for more than ten years and it never gets old for me.
Conversely, I can notice when I am completely convinced or certain about something, and then see if I can allow myself, without judgment or criticism, to wonder how and why that is so. How come I am so convinced by or attached to this way, issue, habit, opinion, or belief? How did I come to be so sure? What would happen if I allowed myself to become a little bit curious about it? Can I let in just a bit of uncertainty and wonder?
Tomatoes: peel or unpeeled? Seems silly, but even though my husband and I have been married for more than 37 years, we still argue about this. In his home, you just sliced the tomato. In my home, the tomatoes were always peeled. We each stubbornly stuck to our childhood experience with tomatoes as being “correct.” One day I decided to ask my dad about peeling the tomatoes. He said, “I have no idea. My mother always peeled them. When I married your mom, she didn’t, but I let her know that that I wanted them peeled because that was just what I was used to.” Family tradition without meaning means is a sign to me to engage the issue with more curiosity. I have experimented and discovered that different types of tomatoes have different types of skins. Now, it depends on the tomatoes. The heirlooms we grow in our garden really do not need peeling, the skin is so thin (and fragile). The ones I buy from a local farmers market have a great flavor, but a very thick skin (which allows them to travel and keep better) that is hard to even bite through on a sandwich, so I peel them.
As you experiment with noticing your own relationship to curiosity and certainty, attend to how your respond in your body, mind, heart and soul? What happens when you allow myself to wonder about your convictions? What are the sensations in your body? What stories do you begin to tell and retell in your mind? How does your heart connect, open or close to this? In what ways do you sense your soul responding when you open yourself to wonder and curiosity?