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Curiosity Helps Strengthen Mindfulness

Curiosity killed the cat - or so they say. The research into how curiosity supports well-being, mindfulness and overall health would suggest otherwise for us humans. Very early on in my mindfulness practice a mentor suggested that curiosity is the antidote to sleepiness when we're formally meditating. I didn't quite understand how that could be at the time. After years of practice I realize that curiosity isn't just the antidote for sleepiness in meditation - it's helpful across many different experiences in life and supports mindfulness in general.

Think of a young child, so full of questions, interest and wonder about the world. This quality of curiosity that is so easy to spot in children can be a leading quality of attention even as adults. Curiosity involves energy - it is not stagnant. It helps keep us open, inquisitive and turning toward life - rather than away.

Often when people meditate they'll tell me about an experience that isn't necessarily what they'd hoped to have. I often point them toward curiosity as a way to bring awareness to their experience. What is here? How does it feel in your body? What emotions or thoughts do you notice? As meditation practitioners inquire with the gentle clarity of mindfulness they practice seeing their experience less personally, gaining perspective and insight.

When we get curious - instead of resistant - when a situation surfaces that feels challenging we interrupt the tendency to simply react. Curiosity provides the fuel for a mindful exploration - for staying present and focused - even when our immediate reaction is to push away or get reactive.

To help support your curiosity you might practice asking yourself:

- What is here?

- What feelings are present?

- How does this feel in my body?

- What is most important to me in this conversation?

- If I zoom in what is here? If I zoom out what is here?

- What do I need?

- What am I not paying attention to here?

Mindful curiosity is not about asking why. Often our "why" questions take us down a personal, history-filled inquiry that isn't tied to present-moment experience. Although our tendency is often to ask why - practice dropping that question and inquiring with a genuine interest that isn't gripped to the root cause. What is here, is here - what can I learn about it right now?


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