Tools for a Mindful Life: Curiosity

Remaining open to life and what it can teach us

By Ashley Bovin

When we start to practice mindfulness, we’re invited to adopt some new tools and attitudes. One of the most important is curiosity. 

Have you ever heard the aphorism, “Interested people are interesting people?” 

I don’t suggest we should seek for others to think we’re interesting, but consider the alternative: “Bored people are boring people.” We’re complex beings with almost limitless ways of using our time if we get creative. To live an interesting life, it’s not required that we do daring things, like skydive or swim with sharks. We don’t even need to step too far outside our comfort zone.

We simply need to be curious!

“Mindfulness is not about having any particular experience; it’s about having the experience you are having with curiosity and equanimity.” Jack Kornfield

Certainty and Uncertainty

Do you know anyone who just doesn’t seem very curious about life? They live for their routine, and the routine is their life. Were you to suggest doing something different one day, the very thought of it might disrupt their sense of self and security. There are many reasons this could be, but we might wonder if this person’s sense of curiosity has gone missing. 

We are hardwired from birth to learn and grow. And most of what we learn, we learn by being curious. As adults, we may start to feel like we know it all—or at least most of what there is to know. We can become so sure of what we know that we’re unwilling to listen to others’ perspectives. We even create a sense of security in what we know.  

I’m so relieved when I hear others share my sentiment of “the older I get, the more I realize I don’t know.” But what’s really great about that is I’m also much more curious than I was when I knew everything.

Our inner and outer worlds are always changing; if we hold too tightly to what we think we know, we’ll miss out on what is there for us to discover.

Curiosity vs. Judgment

To be curious is to have “a desire to learn or know.” The opposite, to judge, means “to form an opinion about.” 

So, curiosity is an inclination to expand one’s knowledge, and judgment is one’s decision to see things a certain way. Though many people tend to live by their opinions, opinions are not facts. Curiosity allows us to explore more about how something or someone really is instead of judging based on what our opinion says.

An Exercise

Close your eyes and think about something that you judge about yourself. Notice what happens in your body. Do you feel open or contracted? Now think about something you are really curious about. Is your body open or contracted? 

Consider what it would be like to live in this open inquisitive way. Are you smiling?

If we can practice being curious and accepting toward our experiences rather than judging, resisting, or believing we have it all figured out, we begin to see situations for what they really are, and we can live with more ease.

 

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