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.
I have tended to be hard on myself when I catch myself offering excuses for my behavior. I think of excuses as attempts to justify bad behavior by refusing to take responsibility for my actions. I still catch myself doing that more often than I’d like, but I’m really working on trying to own up to my mistakes and accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. I think this is a good thing and a sign of continued growth and maturity.
I’ve learned over the years that I have pretty strict requirements for the amount of rest, downtime, and self-care I need in order to maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health. Compared to most people, this is fairly narrow range of tolerance for extra doing, decreased sleep, or missed routines.
This week has been extra hectic and stressful just because of the confluence of too many things all at once. I’ve been packing too much into my days, staying up too late at night, and skipping my morning pages some mornings to squeeze in a little extra rest. Missing my morning pages has left me feeling off-kilter during the day, which adds to the stress, and the lack of downtime and sleep has worn me down.
As I continue the process of listing my creative work on Etsy, I’m learning that knowing my craft well is not enough. In addition to continuing to improve my actual craft skills, I’m also having to learn how to write good descriptions, take good pictures, edit those pictures effectively, find optimal pricing, select effective keywords, optimize shipping options, determine how to best group items (when appropriate), and figure out effective marketing and advertising campaigns. It’s a bit overwhelming just starting out.
The place where I’m encountering the greatest challenge is in getting good pictures, and good pictures are really critical for selling things online. I’ve learned an incredible amount about picture-taking and photo editing in the last couple of months, but I’ve got a long way to go. I’m still often shocked when I download the pictures onto my computer for editing to discover that they look much worse than they appeared when I was taking them.
We’ve finished reading through the Pentateuch in my Introduction to the Hebrew Bible class this semester. It’s striking how much of instruction (torah) in these books is about how to actively live out one’s faith in the context of the world in which they found themselves at the time. While many of the instructions given for that time period in that setting no longer apply to our world today (like the animal sacrifices), it does make me think about how to best re-apply the fundamental concepts of loving God and loving neighbor in the world in which I find myself today.
As I look around me, I notice that there seem to be two primary ways that people go about this intentional practicing of their faith in the real world. Both have Biblical precedent, and both seem to be common approaches throughout human history.