Curiosity and the Beginner's Mind
Curiosity killed the cat, apparently. This old proverb has been making us perceive curiosity negatively because this said cat approached a situation without caution and lost its life as a result. A more appropriate proverb would be saying that impulsivity, or lack of caution, actually killed the cat. I believe that curiosity is powerful and, in fact, central for improving our mental health. Curiosity is a state of openness and eagerness that can lead us to a variety of possibilities, and opportunities for growth.
In Zen Buddhism, they speak of “beginner’s mind”. It is a state of mind where we allow ourselves to experience every moment as being new and fresh. This simple stance allows us to see the uniqueness of every moment we live by soaking in everything that is detected through our wonderful senses and letting go of our pre-conceived notions.
We often greet new experiences by viewing them through the lenses of our past, where we hold assumptions, opinions and judgement. This mentality taints the way we perceive every new moment and make us focus solely on the evidence that confirms the notions we are holding on to from our past. Don’t get me wrong; this mentality is necessary because sometimes our assumptions are accurate but not always. That’s where curiosity comes in.
Imagine approaching every new moment with curiosity by letting go of our expectations of what this experience will bring and simply living the moment as it is. This stance leads us to gather all of the information and evidence detected from a scene. By doing this, we can start noticing every little detail, some of which we may have missed if we held onto our assumptions. Some of the newly gathered information that may or may not be be meaningful and relevant to us, or maybe not. Curiosity allows us to make that decision. Instead of closing ourselves to a possibility, curiosity lets us observe the option in a neutral way first and once we’ve opened ourselves to the entire experience then we can decide how we feel or think about it.
Curiosity means starting to pay attention to details in our surroundings and to say yes to new experiences. Be eager to notice all the little things you may have ignored, all the opportunities you may have missed and intentionally seek out the unknown.
Having a narrow mind often contributes to our mental health concerns because we ignore all of the beauty in our surroundings.
Here, I invite you to let go of what you think you know and open yourself to what you may not know. Stay curious.
By Catherine Gendron, Registered Psychotherapist