Practice Circle 4/14: New Attitudes of Mindfulness: Curiosity 

At Practice Circle, we have worked with Jon Kabat Zinn’s Seven Attitudes of Mindfulness: Acceptance, Nonjudging, Nonstriving, Letting Go, Patience, Humor, Trust, and Beginner’s Mind.  In their terrific training manual for mindfulness teachers, A Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness, Christina Wolf and J. Greg Serpa add three more: Curiosity, Kindness, and Gratitude and Generosity.  Over the course of the next two months, we’ll work with each of them, beginning this Sunday, April 14, with Curiosity.

As Wolf and Serpa write:

Mindfulness without curiosity is impossible. When we turn toward our present moment experience we do that in order to learn about it, to perceive it fully. We can explore how being curious changes our perception of the moment. It’s the antidote for autopilot and boredom. We can become curious about anything if we choose to, asking questions like: “What is here that I’m not yet aware of?” or “What is this?”

In the Mahayana tradition, “What is this?” is a koan said to lead to enlightenment. We are reminded that mindfulness practice is not simply a technique to induce some state of mind. Rather, it’s the quest to explore our mind and body, to examine the texture of our lived experience.  Developing curiosity about what’s going on with ourselves in the moment helps us conduct that exploration.

A popular meditation instruction invites us to check in with our own experience as if we were checking in with a good friend.  When you meet a friend you haven’t seen in a while, you’re naturally full of curiosity about how they’re doing and what’s been going on in their lives.  This curiosity is an extension of your affection for your friend, a gesture of closeness and connection. In the same way, developing the attitude of curiosity in our mindfulness practice is an offering of affection and connection with ourselves.  The reason that meditation can be so difficult is that we spend much of our lives trying to avoid our experience, which is often irritating, painful, or just plain boring.  Cultivating curiosity is a way for us to overcome our aversion and to become our own best friend.

Practice Circle is the SBA’s online practice community.  We meet every second and fourth Sunday of the month at 6 pm Pacific, 7 Mountain, 8 Central, and 9 Eastern time. Practice Circle is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.  You’ll find a link to our free online practice community here.