November 3rd 2020
See this article published on the Just Breathe Project website. –
What is your relationship with curiosity? Do you dare to think expansively or do you shelter in what you know? Nick Hammond explains why we should be regularly feeding our curious selves.
I recently read an article about curiosity, quoting research concerning brain activity. It observed that we are ‘most curious when we feel the need to recall something that we are close to remembering.’ This is commonly known as the ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon.
On the flip side, we are seemingly least curious when we think we know something or we know nothing about it at all. The article suggests that ‘when we know nothing, we aren’t curious at all (or in-curious). We have nowhere to begin, and therefore no curiosity to drive us to acquire the knowledge.’
This might sound doom and gloom, but there are ways to find your C-spot.
Your curiosity spot, that is. Get your mind out of the gutter.
There are plenty of books that share tips and tricks to help us be more curious. And of course, we all know how important it is to be curious both from a professional and personal perspective. There is no doubt that curiosity has an important part to play in maintaining good mental health and supporting our relationships — with ourselves and with others too.
Something to consider in our current technology driven culture: Eli Pariser, activist and author of bestseller The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You, warned us of said ‘filter bubbles’ — where we end up in a state of intellectual isolation, exacerbated by algorithms that anticipate our preferences around online content and only show us what they think we’ll want to see. This bubble effect can stretch further than just the internet though — you can find yourself in a bubble by reading the same newspaper every day, going on holiday to the same place every year, or only ever socialising with the same group of friends.
The rise of in-curiosity is a real issue in the world today. Lacking interest in areas that we don’t know much about, we don’t like, or doesn’t interest us; is likely to make us less accepting of other perspectives. As an example, just take a look at Brexit and the current political divisions in the US.
Despite all the known benefits of curiosity, there is a genuine thread of ‘in-curiosity’ running through our world. This is evident in the blinkered life approach of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ , that many of us seem to live by. The unusual and powerful pressures that have appeared in 2020, have shone a spotlight on just how disconnected and segmented our society has become.
In general, we seek out the things we are comfortable with and those with which we have a pleasant association. There is nothing wrong with knowing what we like and what we don’t, but it’s helpful to be conscious of the consequences of our likes and dislikes, and how they affect our actions.
As the research above suggests, it may be that we are more likely to be curious at certain times and less so at others. However, I believe there is a way that we can become more curious and interested overall — this is through the practice of meditation and the pursuit of living mindfully.
My practice of meditation over the last few years has unearthed a real passion for the mundane.
The ability to pay attention to, and be interested in, everyday moments and activities; has not only helped me with my mental health but also made me more interested in the world around me.
This from ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’ (2017) by Linda Lehrhaupt and Petra Meibert: ‘A teacher of Korean Zen Buddhism, Seung Sahn Sunim was famous for continually reminding his students ‘only don’t know!’ and his answer to many questions was ‘keep don’t know mind!’. When we practice mindfulness, we cultivate a spirit of not knowing. It is not that we know nothing; rather, keeping a don’t know mind encourages willingness to meet whatever it is before us without preconditions or preconceived ideas. We try to experience it as it is, not as we think it is.’
This ‘not knowing’ is akin to curiosity, and the practice of meditation (and mindfulness) is all about ‘moment-to moment non-judgemental awareness’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn), or put another way — being curious and open to things we would normally ignore or take for granted. The practice of regularly focusing on ‘ordinary’ things — the breath, sensations in the toes or the heart beating in the body — trains our minds to be more curious in the meditation moment but also, in everyday life as well.
Put simply, if we can enjoyably and effectively pay attention to the slightest bodily movements and functions (one might say boring events), how much easier then to notice larger and, arguably, more interesting occurrences.
Through mindfulness we achieve a heightened sense of curiosity (not to mention a more relaxed mind) and there is greater chance we will positively engage with situations we may have ignored or avoided before.
Mindfulness and meditation teach us that ‘everything is interesting’ and it is possible to be curious about even the most mundane life events.
Here are 5 things we can do to pique our everyday curiosity:
1. Try Meditation :
Even if it is just for 5 minutes, closing our eyes and focusing on the breath is an excellent practice to spark curiosity. Headspace is a great place to start.
2. Walk it Out :
Go for a stroll, walking slowly for at least 5 minutes. If you think you are walking slowly , then go even slower. Pay attention to what surrounds you. Street Wisdom’s creativity ‘walkshops’ are a great place to go to boost mindfulness in an urban setting, and you can also now do them at home. If you fancy a more rural approach, then a bit of Forest Bathing is excellent fun.
3. Embrace the Enemy :
If you have a favourite magazine, newspaper or news website , read a different one. Preferably with views that you do not agree with. It’s okay if you don’t agree with what’s written, but being open to the possibility of different perspectives is fuel for our curious minds.
4. Tech Timeout :
Conscious of the significance of technology in our lives, it’s important to ground ourselves and find the interesting and curious parts of life that exist away from our phones and screens. To reduce temptation, place your tech in another room or out of sight.
5. Get Uncomfortable :
Learn to box, do stand-up comedy, become a public speaker or jump out of an aeroplane. When you push yourself to do things you’re afraid of doing, it helps you expand your sense of what you’re capable of.
Expanding your mindset and feeding your curiosity doesn’t have to be some grand thing, nor does it have to mean giving up your opinions and perspectives. It’s just about being open to other possibilities, being comfortable with not knowing everything, and seeking to learn more.