Curiosity vs. Judgment

This post is the second in a series exploring living in curiosity and judgment. Part one was an introduction to this topic.

What is curiosity?

When we approach life with a spirit of curiosity, we approach it with an inquisitive interest. We are open to the possibility that there are things that we may not yet know about the person or situation we are encountering. The inquisitive nature of curiosity implies openness to learning about ourselves and others and a willingness to explore our perceptions at a deeper level.

Curiosity is often a challenging place to be because it causes us to live in a state of not knowing. It takes additional work on our part to ask questions, to explore possibilities, and to remain open to the unknown. The truth is that we never really know all there is to know about a situation or another person. So, cultivating curiosity is actually living more in alignment with reality even when it is not as comfortable as pretending that we have all the answers.

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Revisiting curiosity

This post is the first in a series exploring living in curiosity vs. judgment. I wrote this series some time ago for a different blog when I had been reflecting deeply on this topic for a paper I wrote in coaching school. I am noticing more judgment and less curiosity in myself of late, and I’m re-visiting this series as a way of jump-starting my own curiosity again.

The ways in which we view the world affect what we perceive. Our attitudes, beliefs, and previous experiences all function as filters that shape the way we encounter the people and situations that make up our daily lives. They even influence the way that we see and understand ourselves.

In fact, our mind works hard to try to fit the information it receives into our preconceived expectations. If we believe that life is difficult, our brain selectively catalogs all information it receives that emphasizes that reality. Likewise, if we believe that life is good and full of blessings, our brain selectively notices everything that emphasizes that reality. Therefore, the reality we experience is directly related to what is going on in our mind rather than being a true snapshot of objective reality.

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Baby steps are still progress

It’s precious to watch a young child (or a newborn animal) just learning to walk. They pull themselves up and stagger along on unsteady legs as they build their strength and learn to balance themselves upright. It often involves more than a few tumbles and moments of abrupt sitting down before their gait becomes natural and steady. And they must learn to walk before they learn to fun.

This process is not unlike my own process when it comes to learning a new way to approach life or replacing an unhelpful pattern with a new one. I begin practicing that new pattern (or new outlook) is unsteady ways that involve lots tumbles and shaky moments. Eventually, though, the new pattern becomes my new normal, and I can navigate it without effort.

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Selling your happiness

I’m choosing self-care tonight and recycling a post a wrote for another blog back in November 2011. It was a very good reminder for me today on the cost of my choices.

I recently came across a post on Tyler Tervooren’s Advanced Riskology blog called Happiness for sale that suggests that we tend to sell our happiness all the time. I highly recommend reading his post because he clearly describes this phenomenon and the ways it shows up in our lives. He has a follow-up post called Happiness experiments: Tipping the scale towards joy that talks about how we can change our behavior to stop selling our happiness that is also worth reading.

But for those of you who aren’t convinced to go read it yourselves right this moment, let me summarize his basic premise. He starts with the idea that every decision we make has an opportunity cost; choosing one thing means we are giving up the opportunity to do something else with whatever you are spending on that choice. For example, the fact that I am choosing to write this blog post right now means I cannot spend this time reading a book or vacuuming the floor. Choosing to spend money on eating out for lunch every day means I don’t have that money to spend on other things (like books).

Therefore, every time we choose to do something that does not make us happy, we are choosing to sell our happiness in order to have that choice. Yes, you read that right: every time you choose to do something that makes you unhappy, you are choosing to sell your happiness. And for what? Is it worth it?

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Measuring expectations against reality

I made an interesting observation today about expectations.

I was part of a conversation this afternoon with one of the seminarians where I work. He’s in the process of doing his “student pastoring” at a church outside of town, and he was reporting that it had been a rather intense few weeks. Someone had recently outed him (as gay) at the church, and there was a lot of uncertainty about how people would react to knowing this about him at that particular church. It turns out things have (so far anyway) gone very well, and he even took his boyfriend with him to a church function last weekend.

While I was very encouraged to hear his story, the thing that surprised me is that I did not in any way let on to him that I am also gay. I stayed quite firmly in the closet throughout the conversation despite the fact that he was openly out of his as he shared his story.

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Choosing to try again tomorrow

Today was one of those days that has left me really frustrated with myself. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but sometimes I have days that force me realize that I’m really not the person I want to believe myself to be.

I tend to be too judgmental, too controlling, too critical. I am often unkind, stingy, and impatient. I talk much more than I should, and I so often say things that I later regret (sometimes no sooner than the words are out of my mouth).

I make commitments time and again to listen better, to talk less, to be kinder and more generous and more tolerant. But if there is any change, it so often seems to be at a glacial pace.

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Waiting or working for miracles?

Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?

Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.

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The body knows

I’m a reasonably smart woman, and I tend to be rather more self-aware than average. But I am still very good at using that intelligence to fool myself and can get myself so focused on one thing that I remain completely oblivious to other things going on in my life of which I really should be aware.

But no matter how good I can be at fooling myself or at ignoring important input, my body always knows what my conscious mind is ignoring. And my body will continue communicating more and more loudly until it gets my attention.

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Returning to stillness

I’ve been slowly savoring Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives over the last few weeks. I’m reading it in parallel with Richard J. Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity because the two ideas (Sabbath and simplicity) seem to be intertwined for me right now. Both desires stem (for me) from a longing for stillness and peace in a busy world.

As I’ve read through this book about Sabbath and am reminded of the gifts that it brings, I have found myself considering ways to create a real Sabbath as an intentional practice in my own life—not just an occasional break, but a committed practice to take a day off every week from my usual chores and busy work and to-do lists to settle into spacious time for rest and renewal.

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