Curiosity

‘I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.’

Albert Einstein

Some of the best mindfulness teachers are young children – with their open, fresh approach to life, their ability to become deeply absorbed in what they’re doing, the way they seem to live mostly in the present moment. One of the most distinctive qualities of young children, which can drive their caregivers slightly insane, is their insatiable curiosity. A UK survey of 1000 mothers of children aged 2 – 10 years found that four year old girls ask about 390 questions a day – that’s one question every 2 minutes and 36 seconds, or a remarkable 105 120 questions a year.

It would probably be a little odd if, as adults, we continued to ask questions every 2 minutes and 36 seconds. On the other hand, we can often go to the other extreme, becoming surprisingly incurious about other people, strange symptoms in our bodies, what our government is up to, our emotional state, and what plants are flowering in our street right now. We might not even be aware which birds regularly visit our garden, that our colleague looks distracted and a little upset today, that we’re once again feeling irritable, or that we’re speaking in a breathless and anxious voice.

A common meditation instruction is to ask ourselves – what is actually happening right now? To simply be attentive to what’s going on, without immediately going into ‘fix-it’ or condemning or denial or ‘I want more of this, please’ mode. During a body scan, we might tune into different parts of our bodies, such as our toes, and simply be curious about any sensations there – are they feeling warm or cold, are there any tingling sensations, can we notice the contact with socks or the floor? As we practise this non-judgmental, accepting and curious state of mind, we can then also apply it to other areas of our lives, which will be the topic of next week’s reflection.

Weekly practice idea:

Be curious about the change of season, whether it’s spring or autumn in your part of the world, and notice its effect on the plants in your neighbourhood, the behaviour of animals, the length of daylight or quality of light. Also, notice the effect on your mood – do you like this time of the year, or dread it in some way?

Anja Tanhane