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Two Questions to Cultivate Curiosity

[February 2023 – Dharma Center Mindfulness Tip] 

When things don’t go the way we planned, or when we don’t get the answers we wanted, we often spin out into a variety of emotional states. We might feel anger, frustration, sorrow, despondency to name a few. If we dig into our experience, we discover the real culprit behind these emotions is the fear of the unknown.

When we confront this fear, we might get even more freaked out as we realize how little we know. A short ride down the rabbit hole reveals most of life falls on the spectrum of the unexpected!

We go to great lengths to cover up this truth. Our mind plays intricate games to keep us feeling secure. One of the biggest cons our mind pulls is that things are under our control. It does this by simply shielding our view from anything that doesn’t fit with our preconceived notions. These giant blind spots keep us protected, but they also limit our options. We can choose only what we can see. And eventually, the truth always wins out – something surprises us and the spell is broken.

Of course we can go right back to sleep, and let the habitual mind cover us with a neat little story that convinces us everything is under control. The hiccup – the glitch in the matrix – is now fixed, and we can go back to our dreams and schemes.

Or we can take the road less traveled. We can confront the fear of the unknown and learn to live with the uncertainty. The secret is honing our curiosity. There are two questions we can ask to cultivate curiosity: What and How.

Two Questions

1. What is happening?

Not just on the surface, but from all angles. We look at all the parameters present: the players involved, the environment, anything that has changed, and how our perception skews our view.

2. How does it work?

By continuing our examination into the fluid state, we see how the interactions of these different players, environments, and perceptions come together to produce an experience. In doing so, we see how the experience affects us, and in turn how we affect the experience, which then feeds back into how it affects us.

If we slip into judgment – which is likely! – we add it to the pile of what is happening. We embrace the persona of a child, open and curious. From this place, we discover the unknown is not quite as scary as we thought. We might even recognize it as a fun ride with an endless cascade of choices!

The spiritual path at its heart is one of exploration. If we let go of our need to find a specific something and instead cultivate curiosity, we give ourselves permission to greet whatever arises with a warm smile.

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Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness