17 May Curiosity is Your Superpower!
“You have tried it the hard way
now try it the heart’s way,
the effortless way for awhile.
I have not come to burden you
but rather to free you of the notion
that you need to do anything to be your Self.
The Divine is not even an inch away from you.
It can never be apart from you.
It is the core of your very Being. — Mooji
I want you to raise your hand if you have ever been down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. C’mon you all know what I’m talking about . . this is when you look up the state reptile of Arizona and a couple of clicks later you’re learning that New York City actually has a forum for picking up roadkill on your local streets, then a couple more clicks later, you learn that the “Levitt Institute” was a fake organization created in 2009 solely for the purposes of (successfully) fooling the Australian media into reporting that Sydney was Australia’s most naive city . . . I know, right? and you’re like holy moly, how did I not KNOW this! LOL.
Did you know that there’s a study that revealed (not surprisingly to ANYone who has had children) that 4 year olds ask about 300 questions a day? By Junior High School all those questions drop to nearly zero per day and by high school all of those interesting, exploratory sometimes provocative questions that a 4 year old can ask, become “can I use the bathroom” and “will this be on the test.”
The sad truth is that for many of us, curiosity is beaten out of us by the systems that socialize us . . . churches, schools, work. In fact, as we grow older in that environment, we learn 2 things:
First is that we should limit our curiosity to practical matters;
And the second and more fundamental is:
It’s not our job to question, our job to find out what people in power, our parents, church leaders, teachers, or managers want from us. And as we become conditioned to leave all the questioning, all the curiosity to them it further limits our ability to learn and explore. We become “the sheep”. “Yes, sir, no sir 3 bags full sir” . . .
Curiosity is your superpower.
It activates so many areas of your brain. In fact, researchers in the US found that curiosity actually ramps up the dopamine activity in our brains, which actually strengthens our memory.
And a study of college students’ brains found that stimulating their natural curiosity in any subject helped them to make better grades in subjects even if they weren’t particularly interested in them.
And yet another thing curiosity does is it deepens your connection to everything in life!
Years ago, I was visiting a friend of mine in Phoenix. It was late, I was tired, and it was time for me to go, and I’ll never forget what she said, “You’re not tired, you’re just bored.” That stayed with me and later I understood what she meant.
In the early 90’s, I ordered and received a genealogy program called Brother’s Keeper. It arrived at about 2:00 pm on a Friday. By about 3:00 pm I installed it and began entering the data in my family tree into the program.
It was DOS program and a little clunky compared to current apps, but the more I learned about it, the more I read about my family, as I entered the data, the more engaged I became and guess what? I completely lost track of time.
I spent from 3:00 pm in the afternoon to a little after 5:00 am the next morning combining all this information I had on the backs of pictures, in mom’s family bible, and on sheets of genealogy paper.
I found it so curious, that I never ONCE got up from my seat to stretch, eat, take a bathroom break or even get a drink of water, which probably explains why I never took a bathroom break!
I do remember flipping on the light switch when it got dark, but I can tell you that it wasn’t until 4 in the morning that I became aware that came back into my body, so to speak.
That curiosity was the fuel that kept my brain engaged and kept me awake for those next 14-15 hours! I wasn’t tired . . . because I wasn’t bored.
I mean, How many times have you laid in bed, on the brink of sleep when you’re struck with inspiration. You jump out of bed, sketch that picture, write that chapter, remember where you put that list you thought you had thrown away.
Curiosity is our Life Force
My point is that as we get older, maybe it’s not our life force energy we lose, as much as our curiosity.
If our mind is excited to learn about something, it doesn’t matter if it’s going to turn into our future PhD thesis, or get us a promotion, it only matters that we’re learning.
But as a spiritual leader, one of my related interests is discovering more about what brings us together spiritually and emotionally. What is the thread that connects humanity?
That question led me to learn that depending on who you talk to, there are 20 or more world religions and those are religions that are practiced in more than one country on more than one continent and 100’s of belief systems.
So I asked Wikipedia when did the Episcopal church split from the Catholic Church.
The Anglican Church originated when King Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 when the pope refused to grant the king an annulment from Catherine of Aragon simply because she didn’t give him a male heir.
From there, the Anglican Church became the Anglican Communion which is made up of 40 independent churches across the world, one of which is the U.S. Episcopal Church.
So then I asked what the Episcopal Church had in common with the Catholic Church. Did you know that the Episcopal Church is often referred to as the “middle way,” because it contains elements of both the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches? Me either!
What else don’t we know?
So how can you be curious about something when you don’t even know it exists? I’m glad you asked!
In the coming weeks, months, and hopefully beyond, I’ll be working with our Board of Directors that we call our “Council”, to present speakers from religions, practices, ideas, and writings that you may or may not be familiar with. Not to change your mind, not to “lead” you anywhere, but to simply ask you to use your curiosity to weave that thread of humanity back into our lives.
How can we claim to be one humanity when we only know one teeny bit of it. So, let’s shorten the gap between what we know and what we don’t know.
I was thinking about our Egyptian Sufi friend, Farag Hawash the other day, and because of his religion, that led me to thinking about the Sufi Whirling Dervishes. They wear tall, conical felt hats, white robes with full skirts and big black cloaks. And they whirl in a beautifully graceful dance.
I knew nothing about it so down the rabbit hole I went. The hats symbolize the tombstones of their egos, white robes represent a person’s shroud, but the cloak represents the worldly life, so when the dervish cast it off as part of the whirling ceremony, it means he was turning his back on the world in order to get closer to God.
So, how do we discover those things? How do we discover the BEST way to connect with not only the Divine, but our environment, ourselves and the Divine? Yep, Curiosity.
Ramp up your own curiosity
Here are a few things you can do to stimulate your own curiosity. The best place to begin is with the people in your life.
Number one and this is most important and one I’m working on.
Listen without judgment. There are all types of judgments when you’re talking to others. One type of judgment might be when you try to “fix” someone. You know that just not your work. We all do it out of love, but it’s not your work to fix someone. You might be assuming something that isn’t true. So, you might start to say, “if I were you . . . “ but before you do that, I ask you to do one of two things, Either run to the nearest horse-trough and dunk your head OR simply say, “huh, that’s interesting, tell me more about that.”
Stay curious, and allow them their moment. Sometimes people just want to be heard and in those moments they find their own answers.
Live life in discovery mode NOT on autopilot. Honestly, for all of my life experiences, there is so much more I want to know, Why are they called Freshman and Sophomores? Why is it called football in Europe and soccer in the U.S. and WHY for God’s sake, WHY is a rugby ball called a “Gilbert”? These are things I really want to get to the bottom of.
Look for things to be curious about. When you’re doing your gratitude work, it’s really nice when you say, I’m grateful for my wonderful friends, but what do you know about them? Start asking questions and I guarantee it will open up a whole new world and a whole new depth to your gratitude work.
Engage in questions that begin Dialogue. When you interact with others, ask questions. Better yet, ask broad, open-ended questions. What if ….. ? What do you think about ….. ? Where do you think I could take this idea? Even the simplest questions can open a conversation.
When people are interested enough to ask me questions, I’m flattered. It tells me they want to know more about me and in turn, I actually feel like I AM interesting.
Isn’t it worth it to make someone feel like they’re interesting? And you just might find that you have some things in common, maybe you’ve both dreamed about finishing your BA in 17th Century French Literature, or you both have contemplated starting a book club to be able to discuss, theorize, question, and investigate new ideas in each book.
Whatever it is, at that moment, you have an incredible opportunity to listen to their dreams and goals and be present enough to encourage them. You might just be the person that convinces them that achieving their dream is possible.
Remember the oft-quoted words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
With much love, I’m Kimberly Kelley, Spiritual Director at the Center of Universal Light