‘A spirit of interest, investigation, and exploration’
(Shapiro et al 2015: 11)
In approaching a situation, our thinking, our beliefs and our past experience, can mean we think we ‘know’ what to expect, how it will be, what will happen. This can get in the way of seeing things as they really are, of finding new experiences in them. It can make us judgemental or prevent finding or attaining new outcomes.
By engaging our curiosity, our experience of the present is less based on our remembrance of the past, but our interaction with the present, discovering things as they are here and now, seeing things without any filters of thoughts, experiences, opinions, emotions and history.
Approaching things with an attitude of curiosity is about being open to new understandings ,and even possibilities and ways forward, about not simply repeating the past. Try to avoid analysis, or problem solving, or investigation. This is curiosity about what is, not about fixing or solving things.
This can also be regarded as a compassionate curiosity. Being interested in the thing, not blaming or judging in any way.
As well as being curious about a situation, we could also be curious about how our body is reacting to the situation, noticing in a curious way any tension, or knots or other sensations. We may also be curious about how emotions may change, of what thoughts arise or any impulses to react that may occur.
We may be curious about how a situation unfolds, what happens next, again not making judgements about it, just being engaged and interested. This can also help being patient, not reacting, or not striving to make things a certain way.
This is an interesting attitude in that it can impact on a range of other emotions. For instance, it is hard to be angry and curious at the same time. When facing a difficult situation, it can be easy to get caught up in catastrophising or running ‘what if’ scenarios or replaying last time something similar occurred; all of which can take us out of the moment, potentially add suffering, and sap energy.
This is an interesting attitude to bring to a breath and body meditation. Just be curious and notice, avoid moving off into an analysis of what we notice. Notice maybe what happens to the body when we go off on a thought trail; does anything change, maybe a tension arises through an impulse to act on a thought, or to change posture as an emotion is triggered. Or maybe just notice that the body stiffens if it sits for a time and what that is like, how far does it extent. Again, this is an interested and compassionate curiosity about what is, it is not about giving ourselves a hard time over what is happening or thinking we are doing something wrong.
It can also be part of the sound meditation. Here noticing when a sound arises, explore it for its qualities rather than its name, meaning or cause. We are not aiming to judge the sound, just to be curious about it’s timbre, length, tone, interaction with other sounds or other qualities.
Shapiro, S.L. and Carlson, L.E. (2015) The Art and Science of Mindfulness. London: American Psychological Association