Over the years I’ve been told I ask too many questions, I go too deep, I think too much. They’re probably all true. I do ask a lot of questions, it’s partly my job, but I’ve always had an insatiable desire to understand other people.
As a teenager I worked a summer in a psychiatric hospital as a recreation coordinator. The ward I worked on was for those whom, I was told “would never get out”. Part of my time was spent reading files so that I had a background of the patients I was working with when I took them out to play sports and on community outings. I was fascinated by their backgrounds and spent hours trying to understand how they got there. Most suffered a debilitating mental illness that made them unable to function at best, and commit serious crimes at worst. I realized it was so much the luck of the draw that determined how our life goes, and none of these people deserved the judgements that society put on them.
This became even more clear when my father, a high-functioning academic, was admitted to the same ward 30 years later when he suffered a untreatable depression after my mother died. It’s never ‘us and them’, we are all ‘them’.
Everyone comes about their shit honestly. Trace it back and you will soon find out why someone behaves the way they do. Unmet needs, a trauma, shame, grief left unexpressed: they all come out in other, strange ways.
I really am truly curious about what makes us tick. And, more importantly, what makes us tick in ways that are obviously not helpful or healthy. When we can get to the root of it, everything makes sense, every time.
Curiosity is the opposite of judgement, and the antidote. #mindfulness #selfcompassion Click To Tweet
My curiosity has led me to explore extremes. What is it like to live in abject poverty in India? What is it like to suffer extreme trauma? What is it like to live in a big city or a small town? What is life like for the homeless, drug-addicted people? How on earth did they get there? In recent years it has been the question of what is truly helpful in the ease of human suffering.
When we are curious, the world opens up. It keeps us alive and interested. And it also makes us happier. We find out we are unique, and we are also not alone in our suffering.
Stay curious about yourself: Here’s the million dollar question…
What makes you truly happy and gives your life meaning? Is it truly working hard, having a big house or successful children? What gives you a sustained sense of deeper joy?
Take a few minutes to ask this most important question. Is it what you want or what others say you should want?
What are we judging ourselves for? Can you look back and see why you would behave the way you did?
Stay curious about others: What is really going on?
We don’t have to like everyone, but it feels better to understand them.
Who do you judge and why? Is your opinion any more worthy than theirs? What do you suppose their motivation or unmet need is?
(I have personally been stumped by why a President would tweet out provocative statements to the world at 4am, but there’s clearly some motivation or need there.)
When you answer the questions above, you might start to say “No wonder…..” (I am like that, they did or said that).
Curiosity opens us up to love. Only without judgement can we love people for who they truly are, not who we think they should be. Only when we are curious and accepting of ourselves, and understand why we do or did things the way we did, can we be open-hearted, forgiving and compassionate towards ourselves. Only when we begin to see ourselves and others in the light of understanding and curiosity can we then end the war of judgement within us.
Who or what will you be curious about today? What questions can you ask to understand better?
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I’d rather stay curious than slowly stop living. Life never stops surprising me.
Now, if you are curious about what I’m discovering lately as a way to stay open, happy, healthy and peaceful, join me this Friday at a Breathe to Heal workshop. See all the details below and email me to save you a spot.