“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” ——-Albert Einstein
I like to think of Mindfulness and Curiosity as best friends.
If Mindfulness is the quiet one noticing new things, Curiosity is the more energetic one willing to explore the details and play with every new discovery.
Sure, they could go their separate ways, but their relationship is enriching and enjoyable. They learn more together, and they have a lot more fun than they ever would on their own.
Mindfulness and Curiosity go hand in hand. The best approach to mindfulness is one that encourages the development of a hearty curiosity in all those novel stimuli that get noticed.
It’s no secret that lifelong learners are those who tend to be the most curious about the world, and it stands to reason that the ones who keep poking around are likely to learn more than those who are happy to rehash the same ideas repeatedly.
Besides helping you learn more and develop greater awareness of the world around you, the mindful/curious combo is likely to result in less prejudice, deeper engagement, and higher self-esteem. At least, that’s what the latest research tells us, and I tend to trust those Harvard folks on this one.
How does mindful curiosity reduce prejudice? It’s simple if you think about it. Being mindful of others who are different leads to a heightened awareness of our behavior and attitudes. This opens the door to curiosity, which can guide us to learn more about others and to find significant ways in which we are similar.
When we meet others with obvious physical differences–whether that’s race, height, weight, eye color, hairstyle, or fashion sense–we tend to first notice what is different. It’s like that childhood song, “One of these things is not like the other….” We see the differences FIRST, and that’s natural.
But that’s not the end of the story. Our mindful curiosity can help us find common ground. In the same way, others we see as similar to us become more fascinating as we get to know them better and recognize their unique qualities.
In other words, we need to see both the differences AND the similarities in order to learn the most and increase our awareness of others as well as gain a greater understanding of ourselves. The more we see ourselves as mindful, curious people with an interest in others, the more likely we are to continue to engage in the world around us with wonder and affection.
This is true for art as well as people. It has been shown that we like art or music that we have been instructed to notice. Of two people shown the same unfamiliar piece of artwork, the one instructed to notice three interesting aspects of the piece is far more likely to report later that they like it.
I love the beauty and power of this notion.
If all it takes to develop greater affection for a person, place, or thing is simply being instructed to find interesting aspects, then we need to start doing exactly that. By strengthening our mindful/curious quotient, we can ensure our continued development as kind, compassionate, generous, and happy individuals.
How curiously simple–and stunningly significant.