When we allow a calling whimsical or deep to take us, we revere the underlying movement of life.
Life beckons us as a flicker. A tendril. A corner of darkness. A bell. A spark of the soul. And curiosity propels us to follow. When we allow a calling whimsical or deep to take us, we revere the underlying movement of life. When we are moved by and move toward the unknown with a wholehearted yes, we trust our intuition. Ingrained as we are with a sometimes inexplicable desire to know and understand, we grow through curiosity.
Our growth happens over the course of a lifetime, and yet, we so often think of childhood as the only locus of learning. We invoke the phrase childlike curiosity in reflecting on the capacity for boundless wonder. And yet, we never lose this capacity. The action of opening — we open up to, we open our eyes, we open our hearts — grounds us in grateful living, and curiosity is the means by which we open. Questions embody our curiosity: What’s here? What’s happening? Why? How? What does it look, sound, taste, smell, feel like? Inextricable from acceptance, curiosity opens the door to life as it is and the possibilities therein. Without the capacity for open-hearted inquiry, we live as sleepwalkers, deadened to the world around us.
The Zen concept of beginner’s mind reminds us that we can strive to approach life without assumption, preconceived notion, and opinion, as though we have everything to learn and understand. Because we do. Even if we feel like we’ve experienced something before, we aren’t the same person now as we were then and we can never fully know anything. Endeavoring to stay curious, we humble ourselves in the face of mystery, opening up to both not knowing and — even in that space of uncertainty — deeper relationship with what is. We seek to know, holding the truth that we will never fully understand. And this perpetual inquiry keeps us alive — individually and collectively, figuratively and literally.
A flame greets the spark as the spark becomes a flame.
Looking again to the example of children, we see that curiosity takes shape in the form of learning, problem solving, play, and creativity, all of which feed each other. Honoring our inquisitiveness, we let our senses and our imagination guide us into the proverbial (or actual) blank canvas; we dance our way through questions and possibilities into the space of discovery and insight. A flame greets the spark as the spark becomes a flame.
We nurture our capacity to both thrive and survive by staying available to the sparks. In the realm of true aliveness, art, poetry, and dance exist alongside exploration, innovation, and evolution. We adapt and transform through the question what if? Consider all of the experimentation that has served our survival: figuring out foods we can and can’t eat; creating methods of lighting, heating, and cooling; designing effective medical treatments; better understanding how we fit within the universe as individuals, as a species, and as a planet. Our curiosity literally opens us to new ways of being.
We might pause here, remembering that such discoveries have sometimes come at high costs. Curiosity killed the cat. While perhaps a hyperbolic adage, we do find inherent risk in our pursuit of understanding as it pulls us into the unknown. But life itself is risk as life itself exists within the unknown. Safety is ultimately an illusion, and we must ask ourselves how much aliveness we’re willing to forego in the face of fear.
The trust of our inner voice that comes with deep listening can unleash us into greater trust in life.
Prudence can serve, especially since the outcomes of curiosity might sometimes (inadvertently) hurt or endanger not only ourselves but others. Through deep listening, we can create space for and cultivate trust in our inner voice as a guide, discerning when our desire to understand feels genuinely sourced, and if we follow it, when it has taken us far enough. While our curiosity needs no goal, we can gently hold the well-being of the whole as a standard for our actions.
The trust of our inner voice that comes with deep listening can unleash us into greater trust in life. While we endeavor to act mindfully, we also surrender since curiosity — bound as it is with not knowing — asks that we relinquish control. Yet we don’t need to muster courage to navigate this tension. Delivered into the unknown through attunement and inquiry, we simply arrive at courage. And so, our open hearts support us through life with all its ease and difficulty. We acknowledge we don’t know what’s to come — we never did — and that this space of possibility alone affords us a sense of profound abundance. We open to surprise and to the possibility that life will deliver us into beauty, into joy, and into the grace of tenuous understanding.
Practice: Exploring the Blank Canvas: A Practice