When I was growing up Southern Baptist, we did not observe the liturgical calendar. In my mind, Lent was one of those strange things Roman Catholics did that seemed to involve lots of eating fish.
I didn’t become aware that there was any more to Lent (or any other season in the liturgical calendar) until I was an adult and chose to become Episcopalian. Perhaps because I came to it as an adult, I have found the observe of the liturgical seasons to be a rich source of meaning. It’s a time to focus on different modes of being in a special way.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” ~Albert Camus
I’ve run across this quote numerous times; the most recent was from a friend who posted it on Twitter with the hashtag #depression. It fits well with my experience of what depression is like.
The simple tasks and activities that most people take for granted as “normal” become tremendously hard work. Whether it’s meeting people for lunch or keeping the house clean or cooking dinner or running errands, these every day activities suddenly seem to take more energy than I have to give.
This post is the fourth (and last) in a series exploring living in curiosity vs. judgment. Part one was an introduction to this topic, part two explored what curiosity and judgment look like, and part three looked at ways to shift from judgment to curiosity.
Curiosity as a way of life
It’s one thing to see how valuable curiosity can be in the way we approach life, but how often are we genuinely curious about our lives and the patterns and themes that appear in our relationships and our choices? How often do we carry a non-judgmental spirit of curiosity into our daily interactions with other people? How often do we jump too quickly to judging ourselves or the people with whom we interact on a daily basis without engaging in curiosity?
This post is the third in a series exploring living in curiosity vs. judgment. Part one was an introduction to this topic, and part two explored what curiosity and judgment look like.
Shifting from judgment to curiosity
“Be curious, not judgmental.” ~Walt Whitman
For most of us, judgment comes naturally. We make judgments about ourselves, situations, and other people all the time—often without even being aware that we have done so. But this is was not always the case. If you spend any time with young children, you will have the opportunity to observe the spirit of curiosity in action. Small children are curious about everything. They are eager to learn about the world around them and are full of questions and open to exploring all kinds of new possibilities.
As we grow into adulthood, we learn to stop asking questions. We begin to assume that we know all there is to know—or at least enough to judge a situation or person. This means that the shift from innate curiosity to judgment is a learned behavior. It also means that we can learn to shift back in the other direction.
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.
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.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~e.e. cummings
I waited many years for someone to reveal that what was inside me was valuable—and I’m sure there were those along the way that tried, but there were always so many other negative voices, both within and without, that drown them out. And so I could not receive the message, even if it was there.
It was during a slow day at work late in the Spring when I found this book on my boss’s shelf. We shared an office at the time, and she had encouraged me to read her books when I had nothing else to do. (What can I say? I have a really awesome boss!) With my love for silence, the title, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, immediately caught my eye. When I realized that the author, J. Brent Bill, was a friend of hers and someone to whom she had once introduced me at a business meeting, I decided it looked like an interesting way to pass my time until she returned from an off-site meeting.
Interesting is not quite the right word this book. Absorbing might be a little closer. I don’t think I got another useful thing done that afternoon, and the first thing I did when she arrived in the office later that day was to ask for permission to take it home with me. I finished it the next day.
“Always ask yourself, in every situation, whether you’re just repeating an old pattern … or stepping up your game.” ~Marianne Williamson
As the pace of life has slowed for me and the level of stress has diminished over the last weeks, I am noticing that my ability to tap into my inner curious observer-self is increasing. I have finally reached a point where I have slowed and stilled enough that this self-observation is becoming second-nature almost without me realizing it.
I was writing in my journal earlier today about several situations and conversations that had provoked an emotional response from me. As I did so, I found that two phrases kept popping up over and over again.
“I am in a growth spurt. Another way to say that is part of me is dying. Another way to say that is that sometimes I feel alien, even to myself. But I know that to become my truest self, I must feel raw and foreign for a while. That’s the price of evolution.” ~Tama J. Kieves
I like the idea of this journey I am going through as a growth spurt; that feels very much like what I am experiencing. It seems like I notice changes and growth and shifts happening daily in the way I perceive, think about, and react to life. I notice long-held attitudes, habits and expectations shifting into healthier options. Old wounds are losing their control over me. New understandings and new ideas are blooming like spring flowers. I greet these signs of growth with great happiness and excitement. I celebrate their arrival with upswellings of joy.
At the very same time, I watch parts of me dying to make room for each new arrival of growth. Continue reading →