Sunday, November 15, 2009

Five Tips on How Curiosity Can Change Your Life

My mother was fond of telling me that ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ which was her way of saying don’t ask, you’ll be sorry when you learn the answer. What most people don’t realize was that the original proverb wasn’t curiosity killed the cat. It was ‘Care killed the cat.’ In other words, if cat has nine lives, care would wear them all out and that makes a lot of sense. Care and sorrows will definitely weigh you down! Personally, I share the writer Dorothy Parker’s take on curiosity – it’s the cure for boredom. She also believed that curiosity had no cure!

In his book Curious? clinical psychologist and professor at George Mason University, Todd Kashdan describes curiosity as the ‘missing ingredient’ for a meaningful life and writes in detail about the psychology and the neuroscience behind it in his book Curiosity.
Curiosity is a driving force in my life. When feeling down, curiosity sometimes propels one toward laughter. After several unsuccessful attempts to finish an article I was writing, I was ready to indulge my own pity party around the theme of being useless. Going outside with a fresh cup of coffee, I letting my mind wander. It was windy, the kind of day that whipped up hair and skirts. The kind of day that had I been wearing a mini weights in the hem would have proven useful. I began to wonder how many useful inventions were there that had never made it to market. My then husband and I spent an hour laughing ourselves silly as we concocted special forks for eating spaghetti, and a special traveling carrier for our cat. In a better mood, and with an open mind, I was able to finish the article on time. (For a wonderful photographic review of crazy inventions with explanations go to You can become a fan of his on Facebook: Bez Bridge definitely has a curious mind!)
Curiosity led me to open an intriguing door to a hidden space in San Francisco’s Chinatown where I discovered a circle of several non English speaking women were shaping dough into dollar size pancakes. As I watched, they dropped them onto a large revolving metal disk adding a sliver of paper. At the other end of the assembly line, the pancakes came out folded into the shape of fortune cookies! The women were entertained by my curiosity, giggling and nodding. When I left they offered me a bag of fresh cookies. At home, upon opening the bag, I discovered the fortunes were specialized – the messages were naughty; something one would give as a joke or a party favor to good friends!

Curiosity becomes the mental ‘walk’ I take. I never know where curiosity will lead me. Following my curiosity, I created my blog. Curiosity is behind the questions that lead me to write about women helping women, matters of the heart, spirit, mind and body. Following the muse of curiosity, I’m able to go deeper; to learn more about myself and the world around me.

There are five very powerful ways curiosity can change your life for the better.

1. keeps the brain healthy; lighting up new circuits and reshaping the
2. brings pleasure – by finding out more about something you may discover
whole new world that you’re passionate about.
3. sparks creativity.
4. brings clarity and improves communications.
5. makes life’s experiences more meaningful.

As a story collector, a teller of stories, I’ve had numerous encounters that have brought new meaning to my life. Curiosity compelled me to follow through these ‘chance’ meetings. There was the older woman I met through D, who treated her with obvious reverence. When she invited me to tea, D encouraged me to go. I was busy, and could have ignored his advice, my curiosity won. That woman turned out to be Dame Freya Stark, renowned author, the first woman to climb and a traveler in the Middle East in the early part of the 20th century. The stories and the photographs and memorabilia in her library opened a whole new world for me. Her knowledge and experience of the Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran gave me a whole new perspective on what had shaped those countries during the 20s and 30s and on into the 40s when she worked for British Intelligence in Yemen.

From Freya, I was reminded that it’s important to keep an open mind.

There was the woman I met in Golden Gate Park while she was walking her dog. She’d given her house an Australian aboriginal name that meant Walk About. ( ) I accepted when she invited me over to visit. Once again, curiosity was golden. She told wondrous stories about rescuing and attending to children during WWII, Vietnam, the Cold War and finally Somalia. During those periods, she lost everyone she held dear – family, her fiancée and colleagues. Out of her home, she was running a center where she taught lessons in nurturing to young single mothers, and spend time working with the children of crack addicts.

At M’s I learned that courage can be a moment-to-moment decision to keep going no matter what.

To fire up your curiosity there are several things you need to remember:
1. Always ask questions. Why? Why not?
2. Start off the day with the intention of learning something new and finish by
writing what you learned in a journal.
3. Go viral: ask your friends or partner what they learned today.
4. Get rid of any preconceptions before you ask questions.

Being curious is my way of bringing my full attention to the moment. A ‘curiosity adventure’ is a Zen moment!

Albert Einstein once described curiosity as having its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. Taking a cue from Albert – it’s enough in life if one focuses daily on comprehending a little of this mystery.

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