Curiosity and Shoshin
Why do some people shy away from new experiences, while others live for them? Why are some constantly looking for new adventures, and others fearful of them?
Curiosity, the driving force behind “why?” That recurring question has led to children nagging their parents, scientists findings the most unlikely phenomenon, and artists creating some of the most profound and beautiful masterpieces we have ever seen.
Curiosity helps us survive and helped our ancestors adapt to ever-changing environments and challenges. It has been shown to make us happier by stimulating the release of dopamine, one of the “reward” neurotransmitters in our brain. Curiosity leads to higher academic achievement and enjoyment in that process. It even increases our empathy so we may better understand others around us, including strangers. The effect of curiosity even helps decrease our frustrations and anger, while also strengthening our relationships.
It always amazes me that curiosity is innate to all infants and children. They are born with a desire to learn and explore. To immerse themselves in their present and not caring much about the past or future.
It seems, however, that many of us lose that hunger to know “why?”, as we move through life. Some call it being part of the rat race, others call it growing up. But, one thing is for sure, curiosity has some amazing benefits that have been shown to uplift us on many levels.
So, how can we awaken that hunger to know “why?” and return to our childlike amazement and living in the present? One way is to adopt the Beginner’s Mind or Shoshin.
Shoshin comes from Zen Buddhism and has been associated with Japanese martial arts. It means letting go of preconceived notions of what we know and always having an attitude of openness and eagerness to learn just as if we were at a beginner’s level, regardless of our station in life.
Our modern society and culture seem to value expertise, standardization, and influenced thinking. These, however, are all a facade. They bind the mind so it is essentially institutionalized. We go from exploring to regressing; from learning to regurgitating. And, thus is born a vicious cycle that ends in regret, anxiety, and frustration.
The beauty of marrying curiosity with Shoshin is their synergistic power to bring clarity and focus to one’s mind. How can this be done?
Stop trying to win every argument.
Shut up, and listen more.
Assume you’re an idiot.
These three tactics enable us to stop thinking everything is a zero-sum game; that our gain is always another’s loss. They open up space in our mind that allows learning of new things and the absorption of novel experiences. Try them for a couple of weeks and see how you feel!